How long has Amazonia been on fire?
While the exact date of the fires starting is not known, the general knowledge is that the fires started in early August or late July. Currently, there are more than 2500 active fires in Amazonia.
How did the fires start?
It appears the majority of these fires were started by loggers and cattle ranchers. Although the Amazon is a wet and humid region, the dry season starts in late July, peaks in September, and tends to end around early to mid-November. Fires often naturally (or accidentally) occur during the dry season.. However, these fires were purposely started to clear more land for cattle ranchers.
Why would ranchers and loggers start the fire?
The simple answer is Brazil is the world's largest exporter of beef. By clearing out Amazonia via fire, cattle ranchers will now have more land to raise cattle. More land= more cattle= more beef to export $$$.
Who is being held responsible?
Much of the blame is being placed on Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. The far-right leaning president has come under fire in the past for not doing enough to protect "the lungs of the planet", with his policies leaning towards economic prosperity at any cost. However, he has deflected responsibility for the fires, blaming NGO's (non-governmental organizations) despite saying he has no evidence to backup his claims. Some countries (such as Ireland) have threatened to place sanctions to Brazil's beef exports. Brazilian federal prosecutors have now opened investigations into the fires; what will come of it remains to be seen.
How does this affect the general public?
The Amazon is often referred to as "the lungs of the planet", producing more than 20% of the worlds oxygen. The fires not only could mean less oxygen, but, also, more carbon dioxide is being emitted into the earth's atmosphere, potentially speeding up the process of climate change. Not only do the mass fires have an affect on climate change, but the smoke from the fires have already started to drastically decrease the air quality of surrounding populations, producing an immediate impact felt around much of South America. Sao Paulo, for example, is covered in smoke during the day, creating an eerily dark daytime. Another factor is many modern medicines are derived from the flora and fauna of the Amazon. Rampant destruction could indirectly affect health care.
How much longer will the fires be burning for?
Currently, world leaders are discussing what actions to take to put out the fires. The G7 summit is being held in France from August 25th-27th, and one of the main talking points is expected to be the Amazonia fires. World leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have acknowledged the urgency of a solution. Bolivian President Evo Morales has contracted a Boeing 747 to douse the fires with water to help stall the spreading of the fires.
How you can help protect Amazonia-
It is difficult for the average citizen to solve this immediate crisis as its unlikely you have enough money to contract your own Boeing. The best thing we can do currently is to help protect Amazonia from future clear-cutting and fires. Some amazing non-profits include Protect An Acre, where you can donate to 'buy' an acre of land for it to be protected, or the Rainforest Trust, which has a similar mission.
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