Don’t ignore Amazon fires

Jonathan Pressley Photo by Lianna Hubbard

By Jonathan Pressley

Originally, it took 18 days before mainstream American media started any real coverage on the record breaking fires in the Amazon rainforest earlier this year. 

And just like that, the coverage disappeared, despite the still prevalent fires.

There have been nearly 73,000 fires in Brazil this year and counting. More than half of the Amazon’s area burned, according to Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais.

That is more than an 80% increase compared to this same time last year. It’s important to note that the Amazon has fires every year, but this year, its different.

“The biggest impact right now is deforestation,” explained Jonathan McKenzie, a FSW professor of environmental sciences.

Deforestation is big business in Brazil. The worth of wiping the Amazon out right now is $8.2 billion.

“It’s a yearly event,” McKenzie said. “When you enter the dry season, the farmers burn it down because that’s how you put nutrients into a depleted soil.”

The ash from the burnt trees provides some nourishment for plants which is part of the deforestation process.

“It’s important to limit Amazon forest fires if we are considering levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or biodiversity. The Amazon is estimated to store about 25% of the world’s carbon as biomass,” said Michael Sauer, a FSW professor of earth science.

Sauer explains exactly how that works.

“Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas which contributes to keeping the planet warm. Carbon storage in the Amazon rainforest is about 25% of the world’s capacity. Losing the storage capability through deforestation both releases the carbon dioxide in plants to the atmosphere while limiting the rainforest’s uptake of carbon dioxide. This means that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will rise as a result increasing greenhouse effect and warming.”

This is where we get the common assumption that the Amazon is the world’s lungs.

“It’s also going to impact the climate, by having trees and everything else, you help suck up the carbon dioxide,” McKenzie elaborated. “So it is basically our lungs because those trees do reduce the carbon dioxide.”

The first step is bringing awareness, and then action. Our atmosphere is connected with everyone on this planet.

Julie de Sa, a FSW student and volleyball player, is a native of Brazil and believes we are all in this together.

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