Last month, Brazilian officials predicted that the Amazon rainforest would burn just as badly this summer it did last summer. And now, there’s new data proving that it’s already happening — and then some. In July of this year, the Amazon reportedly experienced far more fires than it did in the same month last year.
According to satellite images captured by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, in July 2020, the amount of fires in the Amazon rainforest increased by 28 percent as compared to July 2019, as Deutsche Welle reported. The agency recorded a total of 6,803 fires in July 2020, compared to 5,318 in July 2019.
And according to Greenpeace data via Phys.org, in July 2020, fires increased by 77 percent on Indigenous lands and by 50 percent on protected nature reserves as compared to July 2019. A burning Amazon has negative impacts on the entire planet — but it clearly hurts the Indigenous people who live in the Amazon the most.
The Indigenous people who live in the Amazon rainforest have far lower environmental footprints than the wealthy development companies who are setting the rainforest on fire to make money, the Brazilian politicians who are letting it happen, and the world’s billionaires who have achieved their wealth by polluting the planet. These fires are disproportionately hurting Indigenous communities the most, and are just another example of environmental racism.
The worst day of the entire month was July 30, 2020, when INPE’s satellites recorded a whopping 1,007 fires in the rainforest.
"More than 1,000 fires in a single day is a 15-year record and shows the government's strategy of media-spectacle operations is not working on the ground," Greenpeace spokesman Romulo Batista said as per Phys.org. "On paper, the fire moratorium prohibits burning, but it only works if there is also a response on the ground, with more patrols. Criminals aren't known for obeying the law."
64 percent of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil, meaning the bulk of the responsibility to protect the “Earth’s lungs” falls on the South American nation. However, preventing fires in the Amazon is not a priority for the country’s leadership — namely, for President Jair Bolsonaro.
Since taking office in January 2020, Bolsonaro has continually worked to roll back environmental protections for the rainforest — not only that, but he has also expressed intentions to continue developing the Amazon. Unfortunately, developing the Amazon is actually one of the leading causes of the devastating forest fires.
In the Amazon, it’s common practice for developers to set land on fire to clear-cut trees, so they can use the land to raise cattle (which is responsible for more than 80 percent of Amazon deforestation, as per the WWF); to grow soybeans to feed livestock, lumber, and palm oil; and for mining. Translation: they set areas of the rainforest on fire so they can make money at the expense of the planet.
The health of the Amazon is vital for the health of the Earth. After the devastating 2019 fires, people all around the world were hoping the Brazilian government would have a change of heart and start protecting the rainforest and the 1 million Indigenous people who live in the Amazon, but it’s already evident that the problem is only going to be worse this year.