One of many forest fires that involved various areas of the Amazon Rainforest


Summer 2019 saw our world in flames. The fires that ravaged the Amazon – with an almost 80% increase in the number of fires in Brazil over the previous year – sped up the rate of deforestation in that country (over 60% of the entire rainforest) and added carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, accelerating climate change and destroying important allies for the reabsorption of emissions.
Even more loss is expected under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. The history of the deforestation and exploitation of the Amazon has deep political roots that began well before the Bolsonaro presidency (which has definitively institutionalised illegality). In September 2019, Brazil’s President informed an incredulous United Nations General Assembly that the Amazon is not a world heritage site and accused foreign countries wanting to sanction Brazil of having a “colonialist spirit”. He added that the Brazilian portion of the rainforest is “virtually intact”, refuting satellite and scientific evidence. Researchers argue that human activities over the last 20 years have caused the Amazon atmosphere to “dry up”. And, if this continues, the forest could reach a point of no return: it would no longer be able to regenerate or self-sustain itself, and would become a veritable savannah.
A few months earlier that same year, fires destroyed 4.3 million hectares of forest in Siberia, emitting more than 166 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, a worrisome situation because of the production of black carbon, i.e., soot, that could be blown to the Arctic and settle on the ice, lowering the albedo (reflective capacity) and encouraging the absorption of heat. The environmental crisis is a matter of complex, sometimes unpredictable interrelationships.

Andra Meneganzin