‘Wildfires rage throughout the Amazon rainforest’, Bryan Dyne, 23 August 2019
“Satellite imagery reveals that at least a quarter of the Amazon rainforest is on fire or covered in soot and ash across the four Brazilian Amazonian states: Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Pará.
A combination of dry summer heat exacerbated by climate change, planned burnings and expanded deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has sparked at least 9,507 new wildfires in the region in the past week, for a total of more than 74,155 wildfires in the Amazon since January. According to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), this represents an 84 percent increase in Amazon fires from last year and the highest number of wildfires in the region since the agency began its records in 2013.”
“While wildfires are a part of the life cycle of the Amazon, the massive increase in the number of fires this year is a direct result of the policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Since coming into office, Bolsonaro has sought to increase the exploitation of the rainforest so that Brazil’s agricultural and mining industries can better compete on the global market, including an increase in logging and burning and a massive reduction in monitoring and oversight of these activities.
These policies are guided by “the new hopes for the Homeland: Brazil above everything!” a slogan uncovered in documents recently leaked to the online news site democraciaAbierta. They reveal that one of Bolsonaro’s major initiatives will be the so-called “Triple-A” project, which states, “it is necessary to build the Trombetas River hydroelectric plant, the Óbidos bridge over the Amazon River, and the implementation of the BR-163 highway to the border with Suriname.” Bolsonaro has also previously stated that he plans to bring nuclear power into the rainforest.
All of these projects will require major inroads into the Amazon, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest. They also represent an attack on the one million indigenous people who live in the rainforest and have relied on it for millennia, whom the Brazilian president has specifically targeted for forced integration into capitalism, even if it means their extermination.
Bolsanaro responded to the wildfires in typically fascist fashion, by claiming without any evidence that they were started by nongovernmental organizations supported by foreign powers opposed to his policies. In an interview given at the entrance to the Alvorada Palace, the official residence of the president of Brazil, he stated that environmental protection NGOs are trying to discredit his government after he cut funding to the Amazon Fund. During the same interview, he also threatened to use Brazil’s military to catch the supposed arsonists.”
“When pressed about destruction currently underway, Reuters reports that Bolsonaro responded, “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame.”
“The deforestation of the Amazon as a whole, which began in the 1970s, has potentially catastrophic implications for life both in South America and across the globe. The rainforest is responsible for 20 percent of Earth’s atmospheric oxygen and typically absorbs 1.5 gigatons of carbon a year, a major factor in regulating Earth’s atmosphere and climate. The region also contains an estimated one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.
“It is also home to hundreds of recorded species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, thousands of different birds and fishes, tens of thousands of different plants, millions of insects and countless lifeforms that have yet to be discovered. To date, a quarter of all pharmaceutical drugs have been derived from ingredients found in the Amazon rainforest.
Moreover, research has shown that deforestation is not a linear process and is poised to cascade. While current deforestation of the Amazon stands at about 17 percent, if it reaches between 20 and 25 percent, the entire ecosystem will begin transforming into a savannah or desert, essentially killing off the most biologically diverse region on Earth.”
Bolivia Orders World’s Largest Air Tanker to Combat Amazon Fires, August 22, 2019, telesurenglish.net
““We are no longer forced to submit to ‘international aid’…we can respond ourselves immediately’
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales announced on Wednesday that Bolivia had contracted a Boeing 747 ‘Supertanker’ to help extinguish huge forest fires in the Amazon have that spilled over from Brazil. By Wednesday evening, the government confirmed that the tanker is arriving in the country and will be operational on Friday.
The ‘Supertanker’ can carry more water than any other aircraft in the world, capable of flying with 115, 000 liters, equivalent to a 100 regular air tankers. Prior to the tanker’s arrival, the military will fly planes over the region to assess where exactly the tanker should focus.”
“The new measures by the government come amid calls by right-wing opposition candidate Carlos Mesa to allow foreign aid to help put out the fires.
Nevertheless, Bolivia’s government has long rejected calls for outside intervention for natural disasters, arguing that Bolivia’s economy has developed enough to provide sufficient resources to cope, and must deal with issues internally to protect sovereignty. Speaking earlier in the year when flash floods hit the Department of Beni, Vicepresident Alvaro Garcia Linera said “Bolivia has the resources…the era of begging [to outsiders] has passed, leave that to Carlos Mesa”.
Some have pointed to how international ‘emergency aid’ from the US often leads to militarization and occupation, such as that which took place in Haiti, following devastating earthquakes. There, relief operations were led by the US military’s Southern Command, and scholars have illustrated the subsequent role of USAID in working with US corporations in creating patterns of dependency in the country. One academic has described it saying. “USAID used the occurrence of the January 2010 earthquake tragedy to accelerate in Haiti the implementation of a neoliberal agenda congenial to the business promotion of multinational investors, particularly US multinational corporations.”
“The recent fires in the Amazon started in Brazil, though exact causes are unclear, organizations in the Amazon blame loggers and landed elites allied to President Bolsonaro, for deliberately starts fires to clear land for cattle ranching. The European Union’s satellite program, Copernicus, showed how the fire then spilled over into Bolivia and Peru. The fire has devastated almost half a million hectares of Bolivia’s Amazon rainforest, largely affecting the historic Chiquitania area.”
(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)