What is Happening in the Amazon?

Shane Mamerow

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by Shane Mamerow

People have recently become aware of the massive amounts of fires that are occurring within the Amazon rainforest. What is happening is a very tragic, and as of now, it is good that the issue is receiving the publicity it needs. But, it seems that people only know about the forest fires, and not the causes to them. If we are going to find a solution for this problem, then we need to understand the background of this incident. That is, what is truly happening, why it is important, and what can we do about it. 

The first question that needs to be answered is, why is this an important issue? To establish its importance is the gateway to understanding the rest of the conflict.

 Some articles claim that the Amazon produces about 20% of the earth’s oxygen, but this is false: the actual number is about 6-16%, according to Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. While the oxygen produced may not be as high as it is thought to be,  that still does not mean that the number is low either; 6-16% is still a relatively high number for a rainforest.

What else is important about the Amazon? Its wildlife and the tribes who live within it. The Amazon is land to many native tribes, as well as a lot of indigenous animals, and destroying their home is not productive for the environment. About 1 in 10 of all animal species on the planet inhabit the Amazon, and it is said that all these species will be drastically affected by the fires, including much loss of life and habitat.

Another big issue is climate change. The Amazon plays a big role in pulling greenhouse gases out of our atmosphere, and without the rainforest, climate change speeds up. 

Why is this happening? It all has to do with Brazilian politics. Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, has established a campaign to increase deforestation of the Amazon in order to expand agriculture and Brazilian industries. Since his election in January, there have been 80,000 forest fires, which is about an 80% increase from the previous year, according to Brazil’s National Institution for Space Research. The question of these being man-made or not is still being heavily debated, but  given the increase, as well as Bolsonaro’s statements, it is not hard to imagine that this is the truth. 

So what can we do about it? Given that Brazilian politics seems to be the root of the issue, it may be difficult for anything to change. However, it seems that some effort is being made. The mass world publicity has caused changes in the Brazilian government’s treatment of the fires, with Bolsonaro setting a recent ban on man made fires in the rainforest, as well as deploying military troops to help control the fires. Bolsonaro is also reconsidering a deal with major economies on funding for aid against the given fires. But while the fires may begin to stop, damage has already been done, and it will now take a very long time for the rainforest to restore itself to what it once was.