Fires Ravage Largest Tropical Rainforest in the World


During the week of August 13, several large fires spread across the largest tropical rainforest in the world.

The Amazon rainforest, which covers nearly five million square miles, has caught fire in recent weeks, destroying vast amounts of land caused from effects such as deforestation and land expansion.

“It’s actually very sad because these fires are preventable,” said A.P. Environmental Science and Biology teacher Ms. Anderson. “A wildfire here could be sparked by lightning. However, in the Amazon, the tropical rainforest is full of moisture, so these fires would not start easily and humans are 100% to blame for this,” Anderson said.

In the past year, the Amazon rainforest has been disappearing quickly. According to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), nearly 73,000 fires have destroyed the tropical forest, along with deforestation, taking nearly 20,000 square miles of forest per year.

“It’s really unfortunate that this is taking place, especially with how little is being done,” senior Burke Thompson said. “The Amazon does so much for our ecosystem so to see nothing being done to help it is a bit confusing,” Thompson finished. 

The causes of this fire came from farmers and ranchers using fire to clear land. However, many organizations and activists have blamed Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro. 

During Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign for Brazil’s presidency he vowed to revamp their economy by using the Amazon rainforest as the center of focus. However, instead of preserving the wildlife, he has encouraged manual labor workers to use slash and burn techniques as they please. 

“Slash and burn agriculture has been an issue in the developing world for quite some time; however, we have never witnessed it on this scale,” Anderson said. “Bolsonaro’s campaign promise was based on the economic potential of the natural capital: timber and land for farming and ranching. We are seeing the consequences of a promise without a plan,” Anderson finished.  

Brazil’s environmental issues in recent years have increased at an alarming rate. These environmental tragedies can help the United States as well as other countries create plans to help prevent widespread forest fires.

Senior John Campbell, who has successfully completed AP environmental science and follows the many environmental issues our world faces currently.“While it is tough to prevent actual fires from happening in such large areas, we can combat fires from spreading quickly with these effective methods,” Campbell said. “One possible method to prevent the spread of fires is to airdrop fire suppressing foam on the fires through air tankers like the Global SuperTanker, a converted Boeing 747 jet, the largest jet in the world,” Campbell finished.

According to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), more than one and a half soccer fields worth of the rainforest are being destroyed every minute.

“While the oxygen production would decrease, the bigger concern is the loss of a carbon sink. Plants take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into sugar during the process of photosynthesis,” Anderson explained. 

If photosynthesis does not occur, Anderson also noted that climate change could become worse than it is. 

“Without this vegetation, carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere and it continues to trap heat, which would exacerbate climate change,” Anderson finished. 

Due to the many risks these fires present, a spike in climate change could be detrimental to the atmosphere. 

While Anderson talks about the cons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Campbell expresses the concerns about methods such as deforestation in contained areas. 

“While we can cut down areas of land to help cease the spread of fires, it is not a feasible option due to the rainforest being very dense with lots of plant and organism life,” Campbell said.

The fires throughout the Amazon rainforest have not been treated as a serious manner, but the devastating after effects could have life-altering consequences for the country of Brazil if not dealt with now.