We need to talk about the Amazon fires

If you have been watching the news or scrolling on the timeline of your favorite social media account, then you might know that something devastating is happening: the Amazon is burning.

Brazil itself has been burning for a while too; the fires aren’t new. According to scientists at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, there have been almost 40,000 fires across the Amazon and 74,000 across Brazil and the number is significantly higher than last year’s.

These fires are alarming for several reasons.The primary reason these fires started are political. Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, who once said that environmental issues mattered only to “vegans, who eat only vegetables,” has rolled back numerous environmental policies and has allowed loggers to roam free without punishment. Naturally-started forest fires are rarely the reason for large wildfires and environmentalists says these fires were human-made, probably started by loggers and ranchers empowered and emboldened by Bolsanaro’s pro-deforestation policies.

The effects these fires will have on humans will be weighty. Several indigenous tribes, many of which who live in voluntary isolation, are being displaced and their homes are being wiped out right in front of them. This reality is equally threatening to people outside of Brazil, too. The Amazon has served as a haven of protected and revered biodiversity. The rainforest is home to thousands of species of insects, plants and mammals, and has the highest biodiversity of plants in the world. It’s regularly called “the Earth’s lungs” as it produces 20% of the atmosphere’s oxygen and serves as a massive sink for carbon dioxide. This place is extremely vital.

The wildfires are foreboding in nature: we are in a time of rapid change that is threatening our existence. Coupled with actions of deforestation, harmful waste management and emission of chemicals and substances that erode our ozone layer, our environment is suffering. Temperatures are always scorching, ice caps are melting and the Amazon rainforest has experienced three major droughts, considered “once-in-a-century events.”

It’s hard to talk about solutions for another country when we America aren’t so great at solutions ourselves. The years from 2014 to 2018 were the hottest years ever recorded in the last 139 years that they have been recording temperatures, and our government dilly-dallies on environmental issues so much that by the time they get it together, we’ll all be melted and gone. In fact, President Trump was absent from Monday’s G-7 climate meeting in France where leaders from around the world gathered to discuss how to stop the Amazon fires and reduce carbon emissions.

Still, we must take action. Those with the means and power should devote their resources to the cause. Global meetings like the G-7 summit must continue. Celebrities should donate money to reputable causes– Earth Alliance and Leonardo DiCaprio has pledged 5 million to relief efforts.

The rest of us have a responsibility too. We must do all we can in the fight for environmental repair. The Amazon fires aren’t just a wake-up for us. This trend of environmental destruction and inaction is being felt everywhere and is no longer unavoidable.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.