Nation Other News 24 Aug 2019 Ring of fire: Amazon ...
Bengaluru environmentalist and director of Eco Watch

Ring of fire: Amazon is burning, we’re to blame

Published Aug 24, 2019, 3:20 am IST
Updated Aug 24, 2019, 3:20 am IST
A vast majority of the fires across the Amazon are anthropogenic an because of the invasion of its pristine lands.
Many people don't realised, for instance, that the Amazon forest produces close to 20 percent of the world's oxygen, the planet's lungs, so to speak.
 Many people don't realised, for instance, that the Amazon forest produces close to 20 percent of the world's oxygen, the planet's lungs, so to speak.

Enough has been said about climate change - thousands of debates, analysis reports and presentations are available for anyone who wants to understand the subject. It scarcely makes a dent in practice, however, for it seems we are well past actually repairing the damage.

Recently, a funeral was held in Iceland on Sunday (Aug. 18, 2019) to mark the world's first loss of a glacier to climate change. Nearly a hundred people that included the former President, Mary Robinson, attended the ceremony on top of a volcano. This was to commemorate the Okjökull glacier, the first lost to climate change.

 

Now, the world is currently witnessing one of the worst ever forest fires - the Amazon is burning. It is said that these wildfires blazing in the Amazonian rainforest were set by cattle ranchers and loggers who desperately want to clear and utilise the land. It's also being backed, according to media reports, by Brazil's far-right president, Bolsonaro.

A vast majority of the fires across the Amazon are anthropogenic an because of t he invasion of its pristine lands. Wildfires were rare, even during the dry seasons. This is because the Amazon is a humid rainforest and is, to a certain degree, immune to accidental and minor blazes. This is further proof, then, that the current forest fire is manmade, artificially created to encroach upon what remains  of some of the most fertile and productive lands on earth. In fact, farmers and ranchers often use fires to clear vast tracts of land and could be blamed for the unusually large number of blazes in the Amazon today.

The Amazon rainforest sprawls across nine countries and is the largest rainforest in the world. It is about half the size of the United States and home to some of the most endangered and threatened species of plants and animals.

Unfortunately, this forest has been burning at a record rate, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, with more than 74,000 fires in Brazil alone this year, nearly double the total for 2018.

According to the Brazilian space research centre (INPE) it is observed that the number of fires in August 2019 are 75% higher than compared to last year. And more than half of these are located in the Amazon region spelling huge disaster to the pristine ecological systems across the region. It is also studied that nearly 95% percent of the fires are due to human actions which could either be on purpose or by accident.

The areas burnt in these rainforests can range from a small-scale agricultural patch to a large area to accommodate mechanized and modern agri-business projects and schemes.

We have lost vast chunks of some of the world's most ecologically rich, fragile and highly productive rainforest, even before we could fully understand its potential. Many people don't realised, for instance, that the Amazon forest produces close to 20 percent of the world's oxygen, the planet's lungs, so to speak. If these trees are destroyed, carbon sequestered in the soil will be released into the atmosphere. It will aggravate climate change and its effects across the world.

Although difficult to quantify precisely, scientists estimate that wildfires have been emitting nearly 8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year for the last three decades. A study by the International Energy Agency says that in 2017-18 alone, the global carbon emissions almost crossed 34 billion tons due to various anthropogenic activities.

The loss of more forest area could have a disastrous and a long lasting effect in many ways. The trees that help pump water from the soil into the atmosphere, carrying much-needed rainfall to other areas will be affected, which will in turn severely affect the global climatic conditions. These fires will also reduce the resilience of the Amazon forest to future droughts and climate change when, in fact, these forests actually mitigate and reduce the same threats.

The same is the case with our own Western Ghats & North-Eastern Himalayan forests, which are equally, if not more important than the Amazon rainforests.

If these ecosystems are under threat, humanity is at a greater risk in the days to come…

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