Large swathes of the Amazon rainforest are burning and the fire is suitably chilling ~ an unavoidable contradiction in terms ~ as to be accorded the uppermost priority at this week’s G7 summit in France. The French President, Mr Emmanuel Macron, has appropriately set the tone of the meeting, exclaiming that “Our house is burning.”
More accurately, international pressure may be the only way to stop the Brazilian government from taking a “suicide” path in the Amazon, as the world’s biggest rainforest continues to be ravaged by thousands of deliberate fires.Visuals are chilling. The serial conflagrations ~ set illegally to clear and prepare land for crops, cattle and property speculation ~ has prompted the state of Amazonas to declare an emergency. The giant smoke clouds have drifted hundreds of miles, and sparked international concerns about the destruction of an essential carbon sink. Ergo, the fire in the Amazon is closely intertwined with global warming.
The trend has been worsening for several years, but it has accelerated under Jair Bolsonaro, who has weakened the environment agency and expressed support for miners, farmers and loggers. His agenda is a travesty of the certitudes of environmental management. It would be gross understatement to aver that the response of the Bolsonaro government has been less than adequate. Not to put too fine a point on it, the government in Brasilia has failed with miserable effect.
It is a grim paradox that the failure has now prompted Bolsonaro to sabotage conservation efforts in the Amazon, according to leaked documents. Given the context, it sounds incredible but nonetheless is true that the government intends to build bridges, motorways and a hydro-electric plant in the jungle to “fight off international pressure” to protect the world’s largest rainforest. Alone in Europe thus far, France has let it be known that it will block a European Union trade deal with Brazil because of the country’s handling of fires in the Amazon rainforest. Concerns about the deteriorating situation have prompted protests at Brazil’s embassies.
The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, has also urged Brazil to take action. “In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected,” he tweeted. For the past week, Brazil bears witness to a cauldron bubble and the withers of the country’s farright President, Jair Bolsonaro, remain unwrung.