Brazil’s Amazon Fires are the Worst in a Nearly a Decade

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According to official figures released by the government, the Brazilian Amazon is experiencing the worst forest fires in almost a decade.

The space research agency INPE recorded 32,017 fire hotspots in the Brazilian Amazon in September alone — a 61% leap from the same month in 2019.

“We have had two months with a lot of fire. It’s already worse than last year,” Ane Alencar, science director for Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), told Reuters. “It could get worse if the drought continues. We are at the mercy of the rain,” Alencar added.

Vast sections of the Amazon are receiving much less rain than they used to because of the changing climate. A study by the Stockholm Resilience Centre reports that rainfall in roughly 40% of the forest is now at a level where the rainforest could be expected to exist as savannah instead.

Many are blaming the country’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro’s vision of economic development. His policies essentially turn a blind eye to illegal loggers, cattle ranchers, and miners, undeterred by the obvious destruction of the land and the environment.

Bolsonaro remains fixated on the country’s economic growth.

In August 2019, Bolsonaro blamed the Amazon’s sweeping fires on pro-conservation N.G.O.s. “This is the war we face … We are going to do whatever it takes to contain these criminal fires,” he said at the time.

The Indigenous community has lobbied for the government to stop the demolition of their sacred lands. Again, Bolsonaro shrugged off their pleas.

“Indigenous people don’t lobby, don’t speak our language, and yet today they manage to have 14 percent of our national territory … One of their intentions is to hold us back,” he barked.

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