"Nero fiddled while Rome burned."
According to historians, in the year 64, as a six-day conflagration that decimated Rome began, Roman emperor Nero was at his Antium villa 35 miles away. He supposedly returned immediately to initiate relief efforts, but by then the already unpopular leader had lost people's trust.
The part about him fiddling while Roman citizens suffered is probably apocryphal; however, the insouciance it conveys may be appropriate since some suspect Nero was behind the fires so he could clear land for his Golden Palace and "pleasure gardens."
Fast forward 1,955 years.
There is a new Nero among us.
Their names are Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.
"It's not often you can pinpoint one person as the culprit for something on this scale, but the midday darkness is the direct result of the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the country's presidency last year. Bolsonaro, who has told people, supposedly ironically, to call him 'Captain Chainsaw,' campaigned on the theory that his country's economic development had been limited by the world's affection for the Amazon, and he made clear that those who wanted to cut it down had little to fear from his administration. He even fired the head of the federal agency tasked with monitoring by satellite the extent of deforestation, when he found that deforestation was increasing."
Because of its size and therefore capacity to absorb most of the atmosphere's carbon dioxide, the Amazon is known as the "world's lungs."
Writers, environmentalists, historians, politicians, and documentary filmmakers have chronicled its destruction for decades.
What is happening to it now, though, could literally result in an accelerated planetary demise.
It's that serious.