Fires in the Amazon are a Global Emergency yet Brazilian President Bolsonaro Refuses Aid

(Photo: Evaristo Sa/AFP)

The Amazon rainforest provides approximately 20% of the oxygen on Earth. Now, fires rage through the forests in Brazil, fires so devastating that the smoke can be seen from space. The effects of these fires could have devastating and lasting consequences for global climate, but the far-right Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, is rejecting aid from Europe over petty reasons.

While climate change is responsible for devastating fires in recent years, these current fires were intentionally set. Dictator President Bolsonaro has called for that region of the rainforest to be cleared and developed for agriculture, which prompted farmers to set the fires, hoping to clear the land for agricultural ventures. Instead of one region being cleared (which in itself is a disastrous intention), the fires in the Amazon are greatly contributing to the global climate crisis. Not only are the fires threatening local wildlife and over 400 indigenous groups that live in the Amazon, but also the entire planet. The fires are spewing carbon into the atmosphere and preventing trees’ ability to absorb carbon in the future.

(Photo: João Laet/AFP)

The blame for the fires lie entirely with Bolsonaro. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Bolsonaro tried to “paint a positive picture of Brazil’s environmental stewardship” by inviting investors to destroy Brazil’s environment. It’s the companies and business leaders that answer Bolsonaro’s call that further the destruction and deforestation of the Amazon, only to generate short-term profit. As Bolsonaro said, “the Amazon is open for business.”

As much as Bolsonaro would likely want us to, the fires in the Amazon cannot be ignored and something needs to be done. Unfortunately, Bolsonaro’s ego is getting in the way of action. At this year’s G7 summit in Biarritz, French President Emmanuel Macron said that the group consisting of France, the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, and Canada would donate $22 million to help fight the fires. France also offered military support in the amazon. The Brazilian government initially declined the offer, with Bolsonaro accusing France and other European nations of treating Brazil like a colony, and his chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, having the nerve to state that the money would be “put to better use reforesting Europe.”

(Photo: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)

Bolsonaro has gone on to say that he would accept the aid but only if Macron apologizes for criticizing his handling of the fires, to which Macron responded by demanding an apology from Bolsonaro for a comment he made on a Facebook post mocking the French President’s wife. So, while the Amazon burns, causing irreparable damage and jeopardizing the planet, these two men are engaged in a petty squabble that is delaying potential aid to fight the blaze. Ever the small man afraid of losing power, Bolsonaro says that the idea of an international alliance with the aim of saving the Amazon would be treating Brazil like a colony, and called it an attack on the country’s sovereignty. The only one treating Brazil like a colony in this is Bolsonaro himself, who continues to allow corporations to destroy the Amazon with no care for the consequences, so long as it makes a quick buck.

The eyes of the world are on the Amazon, but little is yet to be done to stop the fires. Protecting the Amazon and all it holds needs to be our top priority. Many things can be done to mitigate the fires themselves, but if we want to stop the destruction and deforestation of the Amazon from continuing any longer, we need to hold the governments, corporations, and financiers that are pushing for this destruction accountable.