The lungs of our planet has been burning for weeks now and just the thought of what has been lost and what more we could lose can make your blood run cold.
The 55 million-year-old Amazon rainforest that is responsible for 20% of our oxygen has been burning for three weeks and the devastation is enormous. According to the BBC, it is the largest rainforest in the world but more importantly, it is the vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming - something we desperately need.
There is a reason the Amazon ecosystem is called the "lungs of the planet" - because it absorbs millions of tons of carbon emissions every year. When those trees are cut or burned down, not only do they release the stored carbon but we lose a tool to absorb those emissions.
“Any forest destroyed is a threat to biodiversity and the people who use that biodiversity," says Thomas Lovejoy an ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-at-Large, according to National Geographic. He adds that "the overwhelming threat is that a lot of carbon goes into the atmosphere."
While wildfires are common in forest areas, this was the worst one ever seen. Thousands of fiery infernos raged across the Amazon rainforest, wrecking the tropical vegetation, trees, and fauna it houses. Since the start of the fire on August 15, more than 9,500 new forest fires have started across Brazil, primarily in the Amazon basin, according to Science Alert.
In fact, the fires were so bad that not only did the heavy smoke cause a daytime blackout more than 1,700 miles away in Brazil’s largest city São Paulo, it was so bad that NASA reported that it could be seen from space.
Josélia Pegorim, a Climatempo meteorologist, told Globo, “The smoke did not come from fires from the state of São Paulo, but from very dense and wide fires that have been going on for several days in Rondônia and Bolivia. The cold front changed the direction of the winds and transported this smoke to São Paulo," reported Express UK.
Officials mentioned that the Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate, reported CNet. According to the news outlet, earlier this month, Brazil had declared a state of emergency over the rising number of fires in the Amazonia region.
So far in this year, scientists have recorded more than 74,000 fires in Brazil. That's almost twice 2018's total of about 40,000 fires. This surge marks a whopping 83% increase in wildfires over the same period of 2018, Brazil's National Institute for Space Research reported, according to Business Insider.
Losing the Amazon can have a drastic impact not just on the area surrounding the rainforest or the people but on the whole world itself.
1. The increase in carbon monoxide that is released during the fire can cause several health issues such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. The worst-case scenario is death.
2. Climate change is already here. Losing the Amazon would affect it on a global scale and we won't be able to battle it, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change mentioned in the National Geographic article.
3. The Amazon is home to more than 2,000 species of animals - 427 mammal species, 1,300 bird species, 378 species of reptiles, and more than 400 species of amphibians. We could lose all of it.
4. 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species have their home in the forest and they could be all wiped out.
5. It is also home to one million indigenous people. Need we say more?
According to Mirror UK, INPE researcher Alberto Setzer said, "The dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident." However, many are pointing at Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, reportedly citing that since he entered the office, there is an increase in deforestation.
With regards to the Amazon rainforest burning, the news outlet mentioned that Bolsonaro brushed off criticism, claiming it was the time of the year of the "queimada" or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land which then leads to cattle farming. "I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada," he told reporters.
Currently, there is a petition going on for the conservation and protection of the rainforest under the title, #PrayforAmazonia, according to Common Dreams. There is also a barrage of outraged tweets at the state of the ecosystem.
#ICantSleepBecause The Amazon has been burning for 3 weeks, and I’m just now finding out because of the lack of media coverage. THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ECOSYSTEMS ON EARTH. SPREAD AWARENESS #PrayforAmazonia . Let's save it. Retweet to spread the information. pic.twitter.com/N5MhWz5DDp— Dominic Onderi Nyabuto (@HonDommy) August 20, 2019
The Amazon rainforest has been burning for 3 weeks! We are on the verge of losing it completely if the fire isn't put out.— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) August 20, 2019
The loss of trees, the loss of biodiversity is what is accelerating CLIMATE CHANGE.
THIS IS AN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY. This is a CRISIS.#SaveTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/EDx1bub5AZ
Pray for Amazonia!