The Amazon rain forest is burning, and it’s burning fast. In fact, according to CNN, “Since the beginning of 2019, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research has reported up to 80,626 fires in the country as of August 25th, with more than half of these in the Amazon region.” These fires made international news and caused a massive uproar on social media that is still going on today. I’m just kidding, the frantic Instagram posts, Snapchat stories, and angry Twitter rants only lasted about a week before the Internet moved on to the next thing like it always does. I have no problem with memes going in and out of style every so often since there is such a surplus of ridiculous content to be explored. However, unlike the memes that we see nearly every day, there is only one Amazon, and the speed that it was tossed aside should, in my opinion, be of great concern. Now, the most common statistic about the Amazon was that it gives Earth 20% of all of the oxygen in the atmosphere. While this isn’t factually correct, the panic is justified due to oxygen’s “arch-nemesis,” carbon dioxide. The Amazon, while not being “the lungs of the Earth” that everyone says, still absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide into its leaves through photosynthesis. Now that the trees are ablaze, all of that carbon dioxide is getting dispensed back into the air, speeding up the greenhouse effect and causing our climate to warm even more.
Even without the idea of global warming, the Amazon’s destruction should still be a big deal due to the protection of animals, as well as human rights issues. Besides being one of the limited safe havens for animals such as jaguars and spider monkeys, The World Wildlife Foundation states that the Amazon “contains one in 10 known species on Earth, 40,000 plant species, 3,000 freshwater fish species, and more than 370 types of reptiles.” Besides putting countless species in grave peril, the Amazon’s crisis has also affected the native tribes that live in the forest’s lush greenery. Many of these tribes have fought for the right to keep their land, and many have won, with nearly 1.5 million acres of land being declared an indigenous reserve in 1996. The problem with these rulings is that they are being ignored by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro. According to CNN, “When Bolsonaro was running for president, he made campaign promises to restore the economy by exploring the Amazon’s economic potential…encourag[ing] ranchers, farmers, and loggers to exploit and burn the rain forest like never before with a sense of impunity. Often times, these ranchers ignore the courts’ rulings in order to preserve the Brazilian economy. This can lead to the harm of many tribe members just trying to protect their home. CNN reported that “In July…miners illegally invaded the nearby village of Mariri and killed 68-year old chief Emyra Waiapi…people had violently stabbed Emyra all over his body, including his genitals.” Bolsonaro is allowing the murder of his citizens for economic benefit at the cost of the global environment as well. When I interviewed AP Environmental Science teacher Mr. Flowers about the situation, he said that in ignoring Bolsonaro’s subtle resource exploitation and destruction of biodiversity, “we are tying one hand behind our backs while fighting.” He is right. If we want to fight for the preservation of our only home, we need to call out those who ignore the rest of us for personal gain. Until we quit looking at memes and get that hand out from behind our backs, the Amazon and the rest of the world will continue to get worse as more and more of its resources are taken and poorly distributed. If we do not act, we are all doomed. Fighting for the forests is fighting for our lives. If we do not face this problem, our futures will all go up in smoke.