A few months ago, news about the fires consuming the Amazon Rainforest was all over the media. Since the peak of the fires in August, the rate at which the Amazon is burning has fallen by about 35%, and coverage has taken a similar dip, but the crisis is far from over. Even at the current decreased rate, there were 19,925 individual burning fire sites still burning in September according to Physics.org.
While the recent decline in fires has provided a brief respite for the Amazon ecosystem, the problems that caused the Amazon fires initially are far from resolved. Widespread deforestation efforts in the beginning of the year created an excess of dried lumber on the forest floor that was easy fodder for early-stage fires. Fed by this multitude of fuel and aided by the fact that the months preceding August were the hottest ever on record, small, naturally-generated fires and fires started to clear crop land quickly grew out of control.
After the fires received national attention in August, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro banned controlled burnings for the purpose of clearing forest for crop and livestock grazing land for 2019, but failed to address the growing dangers deforestation presents to the rainforest. Bolsonaro argued that the Amazon fires were “merely part of the yearly queimada [controlled burning for land]” but aerial photos show that the fires were greatly worsened by deforestation. According to various international conservation agencies, Bolsonaro’s temporary ban on agricultural burning has done very little to stop the current rainforest crisis (in reality, the drop that has occured in fire rates since August has more to do with the beginning of the rainy season, according to BBC) and will have a negligible affect on future forest fires.
By Julianna Baldo
Environmental experts say that to successfully decrease the likelihood of deadly fires in the future, South American leaders must create policies that discourage the deforestation process at its source rather than simply implementing emergency policies once an environmental crisis has already begun.