Amazon rainforest fires threaten native communities and wildlife

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More than 70,000 fires have broken out in the Amazon rainforest since the start of 2019, according to a report by The Washington Post. 

The Amazon rainforest spans eight countries, making up about 40 percent of South America. While there is no definitive explanation as to why the fires started, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research alleges the fires were started by order of President Jair Bolsonaro for development purposes.

Near the Amazon fires, approximately one million residents who live in the Brazilian part of the Amazon basin are sick, worried and angry. The fires are affecting people and nature, in a tragedy harming all aspects of humanity.

Dr. Bonjun Koo, professor of environmental science, said the Amazon is the most bio-diverse terrestrial place on the planet. He emphasized that the population in the surrounding area is not the only thing that will be affected.

“The outstanding bio-diversity in the Amazon isn’t only important for the natural ecosystems; it also provides many benefits to us humans. The plants and animals there are used for food, research, medicines and textiles,” Koo said. “For the thousands of mammal, reptile, amphibian and bird species that live in the Amazon, the wildfires’ impact will come in two phases: one immediate and one long-term.”

Despite the disturbing amount of destruction, Koo said he is confident the rainforest will be restored within time. Koo estimated that 28,000 hectares of degraded areas will be restored under the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program by 2023. 

However, restoration will be a long process — one that will continue long after this generation.

“For the landscape to truly regain its native identity it will take a lot longer  — up to 4,000 years,” Koo said.

The effects of fires in the Amazon rainforest region often referred to as the planet’s “lungs” are being felt all around the world. Brazil is one of the world’s leading suppliers of soy and beef. The fires are said to have caused a shortage of both products, resulting in increased prices.

Dr. Bob Namvar, professor of economics, gave an economic perspective on the issue. Namvar expressed the urgency of the situation and said the fires will have a negative impact on imports, exports and the job market.

“The fires are affecting the countries exports, which will affect their economy. When the job market is failing, there are not enough people to produce exports, which causes a lack of spending,” Namvar said. “It is a cycle. Less employment leads to less spending, (which) leads to less production, less jobs and so forth.”

Rachel Toenjes, junior liberal studies major, said she was concerned about the fires not being covered enough in the media.

“It is a major issue and environmental concern that should be more publicized in our media,” Toenjes said. “I don’t have any personal ties to the Amazon, but knowing how much of our wildlife and ecosystems it has an effect on, it hurts my heart that it is dying.”

Organizations around the world are working to raise money for the Amazon. The Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit organization, has saved more than 23 million acres since 1988.

Namvar said the key to helping contain the fires and prevent future deforestation is better technology. He is confident the economy will fix itself in time.

Natural regeneration is going to be an automatic solution for the Amazon. However, this solution can only be fulfilled by collective aid and support of  countries from around the world.

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