Planet In Jeopardy: International Row Erupts As The Amazon Burns To The Ground
As the world's largest rainforest burns at a record rate, a vicious international row has erupted with Brazil refusing international help.
At least 10,000 new fires have ripped through the Amazon in the last week alone, the smoke so thick it can be seen from space.
So far, this year alone there have been 75,000 fires in Brazil, nearly double that of last year. The damage is catastrophic and unprecedented.
And, with the peak dry season still to come in September, there are growing fears about the long-term effect it will have on the planet.
The Amazon isn't just a rainforest, often referred to as the "lungs of the planet," it produces 20 percent of oxygen in the world's atmosphere.
When the trees burn, they release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere where it contributes to climate change.
President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro has admitted that Brazil simply doesn't have the resources to control the blaze, but has refused a helping hand from world leaders.
Experts warn that if a solution isn't found quickly, the planet could be in jeopardy.
"I’m deeply concerned by the fires in the Amazon rainforest," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted on Friday. "In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity."
French President Emmanuel Macron has called for immediate international action to help save the rainforest.
"Our house is burning. Literally," he Tweeted on Friday morning. "It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days."
It was a statement that was backed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hours later, who said that it was vital to act for the amazon and the planet.
"Our kids & grandkids are counting on us," he said.
President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro issued a warning not to interfere and accused Macron of using the catastrophe for personal political gain.
"The sensationalist tone with which he refers to the Amazon (appealing even to fake photos) does nothing to solve the problem," he tweeted just hours later.
"The French President's suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset in the 21st century," he followed up with a second tweet.
He then took to Facebook Live, angry about what he regards as international meddling.
“These countries that send money here, they don’t send it out of charity. ... They send it with the aim of interfering with our sovereignty,” he said in a Facebook Live broadcast.
The outburst came after Bolsonaro admitted that farmers could be illegally setting the rainforest ablaze.
Authorities in Brazil are now investigating whether there has been reduced monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections.
They're also looking to claims an ad was printed in a local newspaper urging farmers to participate in a "Fire Day" which would "show Bolsonaro their willingness to work".
Conservationists and climate activists, meanwhile, have laid the blame solely on the president, criticising his environmental policies.
"This devastation is directly related to President Bolsonaro's anti-environmental rhetoric, which erroneously frames forest protections and human rights as impediments to Brazil's economic growth," Amazon Watch's Program Director, Christian Poirier said in a statement.
Bill Laurance, Professor and Director of the Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science at James Cook University, agreed, claiming that Bolsonaro was the most "aggressively pro-development and authoritarian leader in living memory" who would brand anyone who opposes him, a liar.
"Bolsonaro is effectively declaring a broad-based ‘war on the environment’ and on indigenous peoples and their lands in his efforts to spur unbridled mining, logging, dam and road development in the Amazon," he said.
Bolsonaro has vowed to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring concern over increased deforestation.
The Amazon lost an area more than twice that of Tokyo through deforestation alone last month.
If there is too much destruction, the rainforest could be transformed into a savannah-like habitat which, in the process, would release billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.