Fires in the Ama­zon rain­for­est

Cam­paign calls for com­pa­nies to stop sourc­ing prod­ucts linked to de­for­esta­tion.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

Fires are still rag­ing across the Ama­zon and will only be ex­tin­guished by the rains start­ing in Oc­to­ber, but al­ready 2019 has be­come one of the dead­li­est in re­cent years for the de­struc­tion of the world’s big­gest rain­for­est.

Whilst fires are the norm dur­ing the dry sea­son, the num­ber and scale seen this year has been alarm­ingly ab­nor­mal.

There were about 30,000 fire hotspots in the Ama­zon in Au­gust alone, al­most triple the 10,421 fig­ure recorded in Au­gust 2018.

Re­searchers in Brazil be­lieve that de­for­esta­tion in the Ama­zon is on course to rise by 20–30 per cent this year, and on track to ex­ceed 10,000km² for the first time in more than 10 years.

The fires that are started il­le­gally to clear the for­est for crops, cat­tle and prop­erty spec­u­la­tion have in­creased un­der the con­tro­ver­sial far-right Brazil­ian pres­i­dent Jair Bol­sonaro, who has weak­ened en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion laws. Brazil’s equally con­tro­ver­sial en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Ricardo Salles be­lieves that the way to save the rain­for­est is to ‘mon­e­tise’ the Ama­zon and open it to com­mer­cial devel­op­ment. “We want to show that, if in­vest­ments come, and if we dis­trib­ute those in­vest­ments to the peo­ple who live there, they will keep the rain­for­est and not en­gage in il­le­gal min­ing or log­ging,” Salles said in a re­cent in­ter­view with the Fi­nan­cial Times. Richard Ge­orge, Head of Forests at Green­peace UK re­jected these claims: “Monetis­ing the Ama­zon would only achieve fur­ther devastatio­n, de­for­esta­tion and dan­ger for the peo­ple and wildlife liv­ing in the rain­for­est.”

In the ab­sence of con­crete plans from the Brazil­ian Gov­ern­ment to halt the de­struc­tion of the Ama­zon, efforts are now be­ing fo­cussed on ex­ert­ing eco­nomic pres­sure on pres­i­dent Bol­sonaro.

Green­peace has re­cently launched a global cam­paign ask­ing fast-food giants Burger King, KFC and Mc­Don­ald’s to stop sourc­ing prod­ucts, in­clud­ing soya and beef, linked to en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion in the Ama­zon and across Brazil.

FIND OUT MORE

BBC Ra­dio 4’s Cost­ing the Earth – Fire in the Ama­zon: bbc.co.uk/pro­grammes/m0008hwy

Fire is used to make way for agri­cul­ture in the Ama­zon rain­for­est. Below: Brazil­ian pres­i­dent Jair Bol­sonaro.

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