The raging wildfires in the Amazon rainforest continue to remain a major global concern. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been called into question for his dismal environmental policies and the amount of time he has taken to find solutions to douse the fires. After world-wide pleas from leaders, the president finally took action and authorized military operations to combat the blazes in seven different Amazonian states.
Warplanes are currently dumping water on the state of Rondonia in an attempt to quell the fires. The nation has also prepared 44,000 troops in the northern Amazon, though the details of what they plan to do, and when, remains unclear.
Bolsonaro has refused to take any ownership over the fires and its causes (which experts have confirmed is due to deforestation and human intervention). He went as far as placing the blame on non-governmental, environmental organizations for starting the fire. In a conference, he said: “On the question of burning in the Amazon, which in my opinion may have been initiated by NGOs because they lost money, what is the intention? To bring problems to Brazil.” His claims have no evidence to support them.
It is known that many of the fires are said to have been started by those clearing land for farming and logging. The initiative itself was begun by Bolsonaro, who wants to use the rainforest for industrial activity.
Brazil rejects $22 million aid from the global community
The G7 leaders pledged roughly $22 million toward fighting the fires but Bolsonaro rejected the funds claiming that they would be “put to better use reforesting Europe.” French President Emmanuel Macron, the host of the G7 summit of the world’s largest, called the fire an international emergency. He said, “The Amazon forest is a subject for the whole planet. We can help you reforest. We can find the means for your economic development that respects the natural balance,” he said. “But we cannot allow you to destroy everything.”
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019
Bolsonaro and Macron lock horns
Soon after, Bolsonaro accused France and other European nations of treating Brazil like a colony. He claimed that they were using the chaos surrounding the wildfires as means to get control over Brazil. After Macron’s comments, Bolsonaro announced that he would be open to discussing G7 aid for fighting fires in the Amazon Emmanuel Macron “withdraws insults” made against him. “Mr. Macron must withdraw the insults he made against me,” Mr. Bolsonaro told reporters in the capital Brasilia. “To talk or accept anything from France, with the best possible intentions, he has to withdraw these words, and from there we can talk.”
Over the past week, both leaders have exchanged harsh remarks with each other, with Bolsonaro even going so far as to attack Macron’s wife. The on-going spat seems to be taking away from the extremely pressing issue at hand.
Are the wildfires impacting travel in Brazil?
The fumes of the fire have reached many cities in Brazil, darkening skies and causing panic. The blazes generated smoky skies in Port Velho which led to the closure of the international airport for nearly two hours. Last week, dense fumes completely blanketed Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo.
Despite this, officials have stated that there have been no major cancellations reported. “We do not have any official travel cancellation figures for Brazil,” said Embratur (Brazil’s Tourism Board). “It is noteworthy that the issue of fires happens worldwide and not only in the Brazilian Amazon region. Other countries surrounding the Amazon region are also suffering from these fires.”
The number of wildfires has significantly increased this year. Greece and Central Africa are presently battling large scale forest fires of their own.