Fires are spreading throughout the Amazon forest, not only in Brazil but also in neighbor countries. Last August 19th, the sky of Sao Paulo turned black around 3pm. Suddenly, Instagram was full of shocked citizens asking ‘what the hell is going on?’ ‘Is it the apocalypse?’. The explanation would come few hours later, when experts said that winds transported the smoke from the North to the big metropolis, and that the cold air helped to paint the dramatic landscape.
To contextualize, this is dry season in most part of the country, when fire in the vegetation are a normal scene, being due to natural causes, accident or initiated by farmers who want a cheap and fast way to clear the land for crops or cattle. However, data from research centres show that the number of fires are 83% higher than what was recorded up to the same period last year. What can indicate a bigger help from farmers in this process.
The president continually denies these data, following his ‘guru’, Trump, he often blames the media and has also insinuated that NGOs could be behind the fires, in plot undermine his government. Since his campaign Bolsonaro is well know to be aligned with big famers, encourage more use of land, mining in the North, and so on. So, it is not a surprise when eniinronemtalists blame him for the increase in the deforestation. These fires are happening a month after Bolsonaro fired the Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) director, over the institute’s data that showed an increase of the Amazon deforestation during 2019. These data showed that more a thousand km2 of Amazon were deforested only in first had of July, 68% more than in July 2018. Bolsonaro was not pleased with the numbers and questioned their reliability.
Now, calls for demonstrations pro amazon and against Bolsonaro are being spread all over social media. The claim is that Bolsonaro’s rhetoric is leading to a disaster, encouraging lodgers to deforest protected areas. Also, the current government is trying to pass more flexible laws to allow for more land to used for farming, and Bolsonaro has said that during his government no more land will be destined to indigenous peoples. The hashtag #prayforamazon is trending on Twitter, with lists of cities that will hold demonstrations increasing every minute.
Meanwhile, on the right-wing side of social media, users claim that these fires occur every year, and Bolsonaro is not to blame for them, and that opposers would claim his is guilty of every-single-thing that goes wrong in the country. They are partially right. Data from the #globalforestwatch graphs show that fire alerts in #Brazil up to August 2019 are 103.146, whilst until august 2018 they were 72.836. Although this is almost double, it is not our record, in 2005, for example, there were 199.733 fire alerts up to August.
Yes, this is not our worst moment, but we haven’t reached the peak of the dry season yet. That is still a lot of time for the forest to burn. So, yes, a lot of forest can still bur only this year, and next year, and so on… until some day the numbers decrease simply because there is not much forest left anyway.
So, let’s see if all the online commotion will turn into street presence in the following days. One of the first of such demonstration is to be held tomorrow (August, 23rd) in Brasilia, where I am located.