People are praying for the Amazon as the number of wildfires in Brazil soars. The hashtag #PrayForAmazonas was trending at No.5 early this morning on Twitter.
The number of forest fires in Brazil has grown 82% in the nearly eight months so far in 2019, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. And while the country’s populist president Jair Bolsonaro is a notorious backer of burning the Amazon the ground, to make way for soybean plantations and cattle ranches, not all of this can be entirely put down to him, tempting as that might be to some environmental NGOs, and anyone with a working brain.
The report has caused concern for many people — sentient people, anyway, that educated, informed part of the population that doesn’t fall for populists — who worry about the Amazon rainforest and, just as importantly, the indigenous people who live there.
“The world is increasingly worried about the future of the Amazon rainforest,” an NPR op-ed column warned this past weekend. “Deforestation there has soared since Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January.”
Jair, sim, but there’s more to it than that.
The Amazon crisis reflects a larger issue: The twin effect of worldwide climate upheaval — the ice melt in the Arctic has reached the point that even the most pessimistic scientific projections predicted wouldn’t happen until the year 2070 — and unchecked population growth. The world’s human population has now tipped past 7.5 billion and is growing all the time, especially in the developing world, those regions most affected by climate change.
Inevitably, overconsumption and the global demand for a lifestyle equal to or better than that of the Boomer generation is taking an ever-bigger bite out of our planet’s ever-dwindling supply of natural resources.
Researchers say the Brazil fires — virtually all of them — are the direct result of human activity, not lightning strikes or other natural causes that can be put down to the cycle of life. Some of the fires are accidental, many are deliberate. They share a common theme, though: They destroy everything in their path and their effects are likely to be measured not in years or even decades but generations.
The fires are exacerbated by drought, increased heat, and expanded use of the land for logging, industry and farming. Bolsonaro’s policies of deforestation, driven by both the local economy and overseas investment, are robbing our planet of its most important, effective carbon sink. Rainforests absorb carbon and help counter global, worldwide carbon emissions; we lose the rainforests at our peril. And the Amazon is the largest, most biodiverse and important rainforest of them all.
It’s a no-brainer. These days, though, brains seem to be in short supply, especially among those who vote for populists like Bolsonaro and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, another leader of another nation state in the tropics buffeted by the climate crisis and misuse of natural resources, everything from pollution, illegal mining and logging to deforestation, dynamite fishing, coastal erosion, mass extinctions and the illegal wildlife trade.
#PrayForAmazonas, yes — but perhaps it’s time for another hashtag, too: #StopVotingForAssholes.