What is Going on in the Amazon Rainforest?

If you watch the news you may have seen large fires burning throughout the Amazon rainforest. You also probably heard about slash-and-burn agriculture, but you might’ve not understood what it all meant and the effects it’s having on the planet. 

Starting from the basics, the Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world located in Brazil. It is said to produce 20% of the worlds oxygen. It is also the home to the habitats of a diversity of many animals and plant life. The Amazon houses one of the world’s largest rivers (by volume). With the fires interfering with the river’s ecosystem, it’s also causing issues with the fish population. In a study done by Leando Castello he found that there is a major link to the loss of fish/fish population and deforestation. 

The Amazon doesn’t naturally burn due to the high amount of moisture in the air, but with the increase in greenhouse gases and climate change it’s making it much more susceptible to catch and burn more quickly. One of the major causes of the fires is due to something called slash and burn agriculture where farmers/ranchers intentionally start fires to clear land to grow crops and raise cattle. The nonprofit Rainforest Alliance states that 80-90% of the deforestation in the rainforest is due to cattle ranching, soy production, and illegal logging. The reason the fires have been so aggressive this year can be linked back to climate change making it so that these intentional fires are becoming less and less controllable.            

Though this form of clearing has been going on for years the 2019 fires were some of the worst ever recorded. Based on satellite research by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research, they found that there was an 84% increase in fires since 2018 and they have detected around 72,000 fires since January 2019. The fires were so large the smoke emitted reached to São Paulo darkening the sky. When asked about climate change and the Amazon fires Olivia Knauer, a senior at Allderdice stated, “I think it’s a huge issue that’s not getting the attention it needs. People pretend to care about the environment, but they don’t actually do anything to help it.”

Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, is also a factor in the increasing Amazon fires. Conflicts between Bolsonaro and environmental activists have brought many questions about his Amazon policies and where his funding is going.            

A major group of people affected by these fires are the indigenous people of the Amazon. Benki Pyãnko a representative of the Ashaninki people and someone who has fought hard against the deforestation is his community told TIMES in an interview this September, “Deforesting was one of the greatest catastrophes that happened in our territory. People felled our forests, and that made our rivers very dry. There were many species of fish that disappeared, as the forest has been cut down, many kinds of animals also disappeared, or disappeared from that region at least.” Not only is the deforestation of this forest affecting the ecosystem, its affecting the people who live there, and it’s affecting us and the air that we breathe and the world we live in

A major way that people have been attempting to reduce their impact on the fires is lowering their beef consumption. When asked her final thoughts on the fires Knauer responded with “I think we all need to just come together and work for the future.” For more information on the fires and what you can do you can visit www.rainforest-alliance.org.