The Amazon is burning. Nearly 75,000 fires have started in the iconic Brazilian rainforest this year to date, an 84 percent increase from the year before. Since August 10, a spate of intentionally set fires have been raging in the Amazon. But Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, let them burn for two weeks before sending firefighters to put them out following an international outcry.
Damage from the raging fires will change the face of the planet. The rain-forest is home to 10 percent of the species on Earth, including many types of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else.
"The loss of the Amazon's biodiversity will be beyond devastating for the planet," Dahr Jamail wrote in Truthout, noting that many scientists consider the Amazon to be the Earth's most important site of biodiversity."An International Crisis"
French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted, "Our house is burning. Literally," and exhorted, "Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days!" Bristling at Macron's exhortation, Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter, "The French president's suggestion that Amazon issues be discussed at the G-7 without participation by the countries in the region evokes a colonialist mentality that is out of place in the 21st century."
In light of Bolsonaro's refusal to provide resources to extinguish the fires, Macron threatened to block the Mercosur-European Union trade deal. Bolsonaro capitulated. He allocated $7 million and sent 44,000 troops and military aircraft to the burning areas.
But that falls short of what is needed to put out the fires and save the Amazon. "We're talking about battling what will be hundreds of fires burning simultaneously, beyond any road network, distributed across thousands of miles," according to Douglas Morton, head of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "It's quite a challenge to mobilize resources for one of these fires, but to simultaneously track down and put out a number of these sorts of fires " demands essentially a full press," adding, "You really do need thousands of people."
The countries in the G-7 the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada donated $20 million to help fight the fires, but Bolsonaro refused to accept the money unless Macron apologizes. Bolsonaro is playing games while the Amazon burns.
Donald Trump, who skipped the climate meeting at the G-7 summit, later said he hadn't agreed to contribute to the $20 million because of lack of coordination with Bolsonaro.
Moreover, even if accepted, this money would not be sufficient. Rick Swan, of the International Association of Fire Fighters, told The Washington Post that, by comparison, to extinguish the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Northern California, "the costs alone were $100 million."
In other words, a massive international effort is needed to end the Amazon fires.Bolsonaro's Appeal to Anti-Colonial Politics Is Deeply Cynical
Those who are critical of ongoing colonial and neocolonial dynamics but who are not entirely familiar with the context of the fires in Brazil may at first be skittish about backing international efforts to pressure Bolsonaro to end the fires. In truth, however, Bolsonaro's appeal to anti-colonial politics is deeply cynical and should not deter progressives with anti-colonial commitments from backing international endeavors to end the fires.
The cynicism of Bolsonaro's anti-colonial appeal is evident in the context of widespread popular protests in which Brazilians have marched holding signs with messages, such as "The Amazon belongs to the world, and we need the world's help right now" and "SOS." Protesters took part in some 30 demonstrations across Brazil last weekend, and thousands of demonstrators marching in Rio chanted, "The Amazon stays, out with Bolsonaro."
Indigenous peoples in Brazil have also made clear that they hold Bolsonaro's government responsible for the destruction of the Amazon. The Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) issued a statement expressing "extreme concern about the rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest, home to our families and to all the resources we need to live." COIAB stated, "The related record rates of deforestation and outbreaks of fire are a consequence of the anti-indigenous and anti-environmental genocidal speeches of this government."