Amazon fires are the result of deforestation efforts

Approximately 9500 fires have been detected since Thursday in the Amazon Rainforest, highlighting the staggering 84% increase in wildfires in 2019.  Often referred to as the lungs of the earth, the rainforest produces over 20% of global oxygen. The impact of the fires could prove catastrophic for the rapidly worsening climate crisis.

In an interview with CNN, meteorologist Haley Bring emphasised that the fires are definitely man-made, and that this year’s burning fits into the established seasonal agricultural pattern of the region.

"It's the best time to burn because the vegetation is dry. [Farmers] wait for the dry season and they start burning and clearing the areas so that their cattle can graze. And that's what we're suspecting is going on down there” she said.

The current burning however, is unprecedented, an increase which many are attributing to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s encouragement of famers to exploit and burn the forest.. Many local media outlets are reporting that farmers in the region coordinated a “fire day” for simultaneous burning of land for agriculture after words of support from the President.

Fires being used as a deforestation technique is not a new occurrence in the Amazon region. In 2004 the World Bank published a paper “Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon”, which pointed to the dramatic increase in deforestation in the recent decades, a large portion by fire. The paper cited that up to 91% of deforested land in the Amazon is being utilised for animal agriculture.  

Program director at Amazon Watch Christian Poirier also stated that the fires are likely the cause of coordinated deforestation efforts, and warned that the repercussions of such drastic burning are extensive.

"The Amazon is incredibly important for our future, for our ability to stave off the worst of climate change," said Poirier. "This isn't hyperbole. We're looking at untold destruction — not just of the Amazon but for our entire planet”.

Sonja Duncan