This week, Amazon has been in the news for not very good reasons. This tropical rainforest is the world’s largest and covers Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and other South American countries.
The Amazon Forest is rich with the biodiversity of plant, animal and human life. But it is the events since last week that have escalated discussions to the level of G7 in Biarritz, France.
First, Amazon is a major constituent to the existence of mankind. It gobbles up 20 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide. It produces up to 20 percent of the world’s oxygen, as plants take in carbon dioxide and discharge oxygen through photosynthesis.
This is especially important when many countries push the agenda of industrialization, as a result, factories producing waste that harms human existence and contributes to global warming. The Amazon has been seen as a major mitigate to global warming and reduction of climate risks. Possibly this is why it is referred to as the lungs of the planet.
Secondly, environmentalists allude to the Amazon being the home to 10% of the known species in the world. This is an amazing figure for a forest that covers an area of some 600 million hectares. It is important to note that, this landmass is 25 times bigger than Great Britain.
Conservationists explain that the Amazon is home to more than 1500 of the bird species, over 40,000 different plant species and approximately 2.5 million insect species. All these components of the ecosystem benefit from thousands of rivers that traverse the forest, including the powerful River Amazon.
Over one million indigenous people also reside in this forest. Therefore, it is now a shame that Amazon is producing carbon dioxide in big magnitude owing to more than 77,000 reported fires across Brazil and neighboring countries. Simply put, it is our life on fire. The extent of these flames can be seen in the form of smoke over many cities in Brazil, sometimes affecting flight traffic.
The whole matter had gotten a new political angle. On one hand is President Jair Bolsonaro, newly elected into office, who believes there are external hands into the whole afforestation concerns affecting the Amazon. He suggests NGOs are working in cahoots with other forces to destabilize his environmental policies especially with his reduced funding to some of the conservation groups.
There is also the divided opinion on Brazil’s afforestation policies. Bolsonaro believes that the country has sufficient environmental framework to safeguard the vast forest resources. However, a number of renown scientists and environmentalists blame the increase in a land clearing on Bolsonaro’s aggressive development statements and policies, including the promotion of farming and mining on protected land near the forests. Most farmers seem to agree with his policies. These farmers are associated with the recent fires as they till the land. However, they have no capacity to control the huge flames.
The geopolitical nature of Amazon also is a major factor in this dispensation. The fact that Amazon touches several countries, hence a shared resource, calls for a common stand. President Macron must have considered this material when France issued threats to block EU trade with South American countries if measures are not taken to not only control the fires but also up the conservation efforts for the Amazon. It is agreeable among most European countries and Macron’s stand is not isolated thinking, closely supported by conservation groups across the continent.
Whichever way you view it; we have a problem. In fact, an international crisis. So as the Brazilian government rejects $22 million pledged by the G7 nations to help tackle fires in the Amazon forest and sends her military to handle the issue, we still have work to do. Soon, the lungs of the planet might switch off.