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Saturday, August 24, 2019 - 02:12

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  • Geopolitics. Macron and Bolsonaro collide with the weather and the fires of the Amazon
  • Science. The UN expresses its alarm about the fires in the Amazon: "They worry and affect the entire world"
  • Data. The keys to fires in the Amazon
  • Album. Amazon fires: a visual chronology of tropical agony

The boatman showed us the paradisiacal islands of Paraty, colonial city cultural and natural heritage of Humanity, located between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Then, he pointed to the coast, in the distance: "And there, in Angra dos Reis, is the nuclear power plant." The nuclear power plant? We asked strangely. «Yes, I don't know why they planted it there. They could have already put it in the Amazon ».

That the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, is a vital carbon reserve that slows global warming does not matter much to some in Brazil, the country that hosts 65% of its totality . It may be ignorance, but it cannot be denied that it was known that President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January promising to open the Amazon rainforest to the agro-livestock and mining industry, deregulating environmental and protection laws of indigenous communities, and surrounded by denialists who, like Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo believes that climate change is a Marxist hoax.

These days the Amazon rainforest, home to three million natural and animal species that provides 20% of the planet's oxygen , is burning in record time. Since Thursday of last week 9,500 forest fires have been detected, according to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE). This body has registered an increase in fires of 85% in 2019 compared to last year.

For the Brazilian Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles - who considers global warming as something "secondary" - "dry weather, wind and heat caused the fires to increase greatly in the country." He said so on Twitter. However, both NGOs and academics and scientists agree that, given the dimensions of fire, the hand of man is behind.

Because although fires are frequent in Brazil during the dry season, they are also deliberately started in order to illegally deforest land for livestock. This has happened recently, when the local newspaper of Novo Progreso (state of Pará) convened last week a Dia do Fogo (fire day), in which dozens of farmers set fire to their properties to show their support for President Bolsonaro, according to the investigations that are being carried out. "The coordinated action caused the number of hot spots to increase by 300%," explains Rômulo Batista , of the Greenôace Amazônia campaign.

According to the INPE, data on fires throughout Brazil up to this month are the highest in seven years. "The current controversy is due to the extraordinary growth of deforestation in July 2019. Although it is too early to know if it is a trend, the variation is so great that it explains the consternation", in the words of Carlos Góes , chief investigator of the think tank paulista Mercado Popular Institute.

"This is not a revenge of nature, it is something very very human," says Nurit Bensusan of the Environmental Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes conservation and indigenous rights, whose populations reach one million people here.

According to Greenpeace Brazil, in the Amazon, fires are one of the tools for clearing. From 2000 to 2017, an area similar to that of Germany was lost, that is about 400,000 square kilometers, according to the University of Oklahoma.

Image taken from satellite of fires in the Brazilian state of Pará.HANDOUT

Since Bolsonaro came to power - The Economist alerts - the trees have disappeared at a rate of two Manhattans per week . "Since taking office, he has practiced a true dismantling of the country's environmental policy and his statements, in addition to much international shame, only encourage criminal practices against the environment and cause damage to the country," Batista explains.

The Brazilian president, however, holds NGOs accountable. It's not the first time. Before dismissing the INPE director at the beginning of the month, the engineer Ricardo Magnus Osorio Galvao, after the agency responsible for overseeing deforestation in Brazil released data "that do not match the truth" - in Bolsonaro's words - accused him of "being at the service of an NGO".

This week the Brazilian president suggested that the “oenegeros” were the main suspects of unleashing the fires. On Thursday, when asked again, he said that "anyone can be suspicious," including farmers, and, although he acknowledged having no evidence, he added: "NGOs lost money from Germany and Norway. They are unemployed. What do you have to do? Try to collapse .

The "money from Germany and Norway" refers to the millionaire resources that both countries - 1.2 billion euros from Oslo and 68 from Berlin - contribute to the Amazon Fund, created in 2008. Donations are paralyzed this year after the Brazilian Government unilaterally dissolved the organizations that manage the fund, conditioned on "verified results of deforestation reduction".

However, the consequences of the current government's environmental policy could still have greater economic repercussions. Figures from the agribusiness sector have already warned that they could ruin the historic trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union, as France and Ireland pointed out yesterday. With appeals in Europe to the boycott of Brazilian products, "it will cost Brazil dearly to regain the confidence of some international markets," Valor Marcello Brito, president of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, acknowledged 20% of the Brazilian GDP

Since Bolsonaro came to power the trees have disappeared at a rate of two Manhattans per week

The Economist

Given the pressure of the sector - key support of Jair Bolsonaro - and international consternation, as expressed by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres , Bolsonaro summoned eight of his ministers on Thursday night at an emergency meeting, asking them to they will adopt "the necessary measures to combat the outbreaks of fire for the preservation and defense of the Amazon rainforest, national heritage," according to O Globo .

«What is within our reach we will do. The problem is (having) resources, ”said the president, who said that the“ tendency ”will be to send the Army to contain the fires. But the damage is already done, because «in the place closest to the fires, the destruction of the forest, the death of animals and the loss of some species at the local level are already taking place . In addition, there are so many fires near cities that a large amount of smoke has invaded several, increasing the number of people seeking hospitals for respiratory problems.

In addition, Batista adds, “at the regional level, with the fire and deforestation, the rainfall regime will mutate, which will affect agricultural activity. Globally, the biggest problem is the worsening of the climate crisis , in Brazil 46.13% of greenhouse gases are emitted by changes in land and forest use, deforestation and conversion and subsequent burning », concludes

Smoke invades an area of ​​the Amazon rainforest near Humaita.REUTERS / Ueslei Marcelino

Food security depends on the forest


The people in charge of the UN have shown their alarm about the magnitude of the fires in South America and have reminded the international community of the consequences of the loss of the Amazon. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has called for the world's largest rainforest to be protected. "I am deeply concerned about the fires in the Amazon jungle," said the head of the United Nations in a message posted on his Twitter account. "In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford to damage one more of our sources of oxygen and biodiversity," added the Portuguese diplomat.

For its part, the president of the UN General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa, said that fires "concern and affect the entire world" and warned that the Amazon rainforest and forests are "priority" to promote biodiversity, Conservation and food security.

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