Why is the Amazon rain forest so important?
You’ve heard it, it’s all over the news: the Amazon rain forest is burning. While forest fires are always tragic, fires in the Amazon are even worse. Here’s why.
The Amazon forest
With more than 6 million square kilometres in 6 countries, the Amazon rainforest is the biggest forest in the world.
Brazil, where there are the most forest fires, has 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon rainforest is often referred to as our planet’s lungs because the trees produce 20% of the oxygen we need.
Sadly, within 20 years, if things don’t change, up to 120 billion tons of CO2 will be released in the atmosphere as a consequence of the Amazonian deforestation. This will increase global temperatures by 1.5 Celsius degree.
In the last ten years, 500,000 square kilometres of forest were destroyed to make room for pasture and soy fields.
This is truly a tragedy because the current Brazilian government shows no intention of slowing down the deforestation, which is the largest and fastest of the planet.
Deforestation this year
This year, under the new government, there has been more deforestation than in the three previous years combined.
Efforts need to be made to protect this land from both legal and illegal deforestation. A government that values its economic development over its people’s rights and the environment can only mean one thing: things will get worse before they get better.
Deforestation by 2040
Right now, a fifth of the Amazon rainforest forest (20%) has been destroyed.
By 2040, if nothing changes, it could be as much as 40% of the forest permanently lost. This is by far a conservative estimate, as there are more alarming percentages out there as well.
The deforestation is also a human’s right issue for the indigenous people living in it. There are still people in that forest that haven’t been in contact with modern civilization.
The new 2019 government of Brazil made it legal for the ministry of Agriculture to regulate territories that belong to native people, which means these people could lose their homes and their ways of living.
If the argument of oxygen didn’t convince you about the importance of saving the Amazon rainforest, know that it is also the most unique, bio-diverse place on Earth.
Just in terms of plants, we’re talking about at least 40,000 species endemic to the region!
In terms of animals, there are 2.5 million species of insects living in the forest.
There are also 3,000 species of fish, 1,294 bird species, 427 mammals, 427 amphibians and 378 reptiles.
2019 forest fires
Right now, there are 9,000 different fires raging in the Amazon rainforest. That’s more than ever before.
The smoke from these fires covers up to twice the size of France. That’s a lot of smoke!
Comparison with the USA
If all the Brazilian Amazon rainforest fires were in the US, the entire East Coast would be on fire.
That’s how important this is. 900 square kilometres of Amazon rainforest have gone just in the month of August alone.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is the one who first shed light on the inaction of the Brazilian government.
He brought this environmental crisis to the G7 meeting of August 24, 2019, in order to get some support from other countries to pressure Brazil to act.
A month before acting
It took the Brazilian government very long to respond to these fires. The army was sent a month after the fires started, and international help was finally accepted on the 28th of August.
On the 25th of August, two C-130 Hercules planes were dispatched to fight forest fires. They can each contain up to 12,000 litres of water.