① Smoke obscured the skyline of Sao Paulo on August 19 as fires were raging in the Amazon rainforest 1,700 miles away. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said that the Amazon region accounted for more than half of the 72,843 fires in the country this year - an 80% increase year on year.
② Home to an eclectic mix of flora and fauna, the Amazon produces 20% of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere and acts as a counterforce to global warming. It is not without reason that the Amazon is called the “lungs of the planet.”
③ A senior scientist at INPE said 99% of the fires are caused by humans. Environmental groups have called into question the Brazilian government’s attitude towards the largest rainforest on Earth. However, President Jair Bolsonaro assigned the blame on NGOs whom he suspected of having spread the fires to tarnish the government’s international image.
④ During his campaign last year, Bolsonaro had promised to fix Brazil’s economy by tapping into Amazon’s natural resources. Upon assuming office, he relaxed environmental regulations and gave free rein to miners, loggers and farmers to exploit the rainforest to a greater extent. If this aggression continues unchecked, the Amazon could turn into a dry savannah and start releasing instead of absorbing carbon – the biggest driver of climate change.