A state of emergency in the Amazon

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By AMAYA ROTHROCK

 

The lungs of the earth are on fire and people have no idea how to handle it. There have always been normal forest fires in the Amazon rainforests, but there has been a drastic increase of fires within the past few years. According to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, there has been over an 80% increase of fires in the Amazon over the past year. It has been said by Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s Environmental Minister, that the fires are caused by dry weather and wind. However, people are beginning to believe the increase of fires are a result of human activity. 

The Program Director of the Amazon Watch believes that the fires are being caused by farmers and ranchers clearing the forest with fire, but sometimes the human-lit fires begin to go out of control. Once they go out of control, it is difficult to stop them due to heat and wind. 

“The majority of the fires we’re seeing are because of deforestation… We reduced deforestation by almost 65 perecent in the past. We proved we could do that and now we’re going backwards,” the Director of Science at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, Ane Alencar said.

According to National Geographic, many people are putting a lot of the blame on the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro decided last year when he was elected that he wanted to increase agriculture in Brazil by clearing parts of the Amazon in order to get more land. This resulted in a lack of prevention of illegal logging. Since these factors came into play, over 700 million square miles of forest has been cut down, 25 percent more than last year. 

As more of the forests are cleared, the more fires have started. This has led people to notice a connection between the extreme amount of deforestation and the amount of fires. According to National Geographic, scientists have marked where the land has been cleared and where the fires have been. Their data showed that the majority of the fires happen to be where the most land was cleared. 

These fires are a major deal. The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, so it contributes the most to taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and it releases oxygen. However, without the forests, the carbon dioxide is no longer being taken out of the atmosphere therefore the oxygen is not being produced. According to the World Wide Fund, another important role the Amazon plays is recycling water into the atmosphere. It incorporates about 7 trillion tons of water into the atmosphere every year and it recycles about 50%-75% of rainfall into the atmosphere annually. 

The Amazon is also home to many unique species that contribute to creating different medicines, foods, and beauty products. According to National Geographic, many plants in the rainforests have been used to make medicine such as Calanolide A, which is currently being created to treat HIV. Other drugs including anti-cancer drugs have been made from plants in the rainforests. 

The Amazon is home to over 30 million people that rely on the resources there for clothing, food, and agriculture. According to the World Wide Fund, it is also home to many endangered species such as harpy eagles, jaguars, pink river dolphins, and sloths. 

It is important that people are aware of the major effects of losing parts of the Amazon so they can try to help. People can help by learning about the fires and become informed about the the rainforests.