We, the people of the earth, have a big problem. Like the middle child in a six person family screaming for attention, science has tired itself fighting for prevalence in today’s society. Now, faced with the biggest and most detrimental sign of them all, the Amazon Fire, the world and its leaders show their true colors, activists or ignorance.
The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest. It spans eight countries and covers 40% of South America, nearly two-thirds of the size of the US, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Fires have been burning for close to two weeks and started picking up news and social media presence between August 19 and 23 when Twitter users began posting photos and videos of the Amazon Rainforest burning, outraged at the lack of large news coverage.
As Twitter and Instagram users continued to post photos, videos and apparent ‘facts’ about the spreading fire, the world was eager to point fingers. In the wake of worrying events pointing to climate change including the California fires, continuous ‘record breaking’ temperatures, random snowstorms, tornados and hurricanes, many looked to the detrimental effects of deforestation.
Who is to blame?
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has stated the blame for the wildfires to fall on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) but could not provide any evidence. Despite no evidence, Bolsonaro suggested that NGOs started the fires in order to embarrass him, “Maybe — I am not affirming it — these (NGO people) are carrying out some criminal actions to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil,” Later, when asked about proof, the president retracted said allegations, stating that he was only voicing his suspicions. He also stated that the Brazilian government would be investigating the source of the fires. Meanwhile, NGOs and academics who study deforestation have placed the blame on the president. Others blame “Big Oil” companies who have breached the rights of Amazonian tribes to gain access to oil. In May of 2019, the Waorani tribe won the legal battle against the Ecuadorian government for “not properly consulting with them before opening up their territory to potential oil exploration.” In turn, many believe the fires were intentionally set as backlash from these oil companies over their loss.
Response around the world
In terms of international response, the G7 Summit proved to be a circus. Our president chose to not attend the working sessions on climate change, excusing himself due to time conflicts for meetings with Germany and India. However, ironically and not at all surprising for Trump’s previous behavior, photographs of the meeting show, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sitting at the table, next to Mr. Trump’s empty chair.” More disagreements arose as debates continued and the disorganization of our world leaders truly became apparent. No one seemed prepared to be able to handle a catastrophic event such as this wildfire. Eventually, the leaders at the table came to an agreement for the amount of aid they would send to countries fighting the Amazonian fire. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would give $15 million to help combat the fires. A separate commitment of US$20 million was also made by the G7 conglomerate. In light of this amount, more highschool drama ensued at the table of world leaders. Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian President, turned down the aid, seeing this as an attempt to undermine Brazil’s sovereignty. An argument between Bolsonaro and Macron broke out over Brazil’s lack of response to the Amazon being on fire and Bolsonaro retaliated by bringing up an insulting Facebook post about the French First Lady. Since this altercation, Bolsonaro has stated he will consider accepting the aid, on the terms that Macron apologizes for his words. Meanwhile, a Trump spokesperson stated that Trump never agreed on the amount for the aid. Which makes sense as it would be impossible for him to agree with a decision in a meeting he did not attend.
Where is our money going?
The amount of aid also came under scrutiny as social media cited less dramatically damaging as the Amazon burning. “The US has spent over $100 million on Trump’s golf trips,” journalist Jordan Uhl tweeted.” This one is particularly damning for the US as our leader didn’t even show up for the meeting. but also, this is not the first time Trump’s golfing addiction has been mentioned. Other criticisms come from the discrepancy between the amount of aid provided for the Notre Dame when it tragically burnt down and the amount of aid for the Amazon Rainforest. “Let me get this straight: $1 billion is immediately pledged when an old church burns down in Paris,” Twitter user Tom Talisman wrote. “A global catastrophe on the other hand, one that poses a threat to every living being on this planet, is met with $20 million from nations with a combined GDP of $40 trillion?” Many thought that the Amazon fire deserved more international governmental action due to its hazardous impact on the environment and many are using this as yet another example of our world leaders ignoring the signs and the science of climate change.
Why is all of this important? What kind of effect does this have on the world? Scientists explain that large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to the warming of our planet. In turn, strange weather patterns and events are more likely to happen and the destruction of our O-Zone layer. Some environmentalists believe that increased deforestation in conjunction with other ecological conditions could cause the Amazon to become a source of CO2. “Before the recent fires, the Amazon released up to 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year due to deforestation, according to the World Wildlife Fund.” In short, the amount of oxygen emitted is decreasing, while carbon dioxide balloons into the atmosphere and the Amazon is no longer able to do its job.