Amazon rainforest fires
August 21, 2019 - There have been more than 72,800 fires in Brazil this year, with more than half in the Amazon region -- an 80% increase compared with the same period last year -- according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, is roughly half the size of the United States and produces 20 per cent of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Brazil’s Amazon has lost more than 344,500 hectares (1,330 square miles) of forest cover between January and June, according to INPE. That’s the destruction of an area equivalent to a soccer field every 40 seconds of every day.
Activists blame Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, for the deforestation. Since he came into office in January, Bolsonaro has steadily criticized protected lands in the Amazon. “Let’s use the riches that God gave us for the well-being of our population,” he proclaimed in June.
Bolsonaro has also cut the budget of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or IBAMA, by 24 per cent.
Christian Poirier of the Washington-based NGO Amazon Watch says that the industries that Bolsonaro wants to boost are “highly destructive” to the Amazon. Cattle ranching, in particular, he says, is “the principal driver of deforestation.” But other threats include logging, open pit or other large-scale mining, dam construction, and the clearing and burning of rainforest to grow crops such as soy.
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