Thousands of fires are ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil – the most intense blazes for almost a decade. The northern states of Roraima, Acre, Rondônia and Amazonas have been particularly badly affected.
International pressure may be the only way to stop the Brazilian government from taking a “suicide” path in the Amazon, one of the country’s most respected scientists has said.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has urged Brazil to take action. “In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected,” he tweeted.
“Our house is burning,” also tweeted the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who called for emergency talks on the subject at this week’s G7 summit.
But the response to the crisis has been mixed: while Norway and Germany have halted donations to the Brazilian government’s Amazon fund, the EU has recently signed a trade deal with South America, and the UK spent this week focusing on post-Brexit business with Brazil.
The world’s largest rainforest, which produces about 20% of earth’s oxygen, is often referred to as “the planet’s lungs”, spans eight countries and covers 40% of South America , according to the World Wildlife Fund.
More than 30 million people live in the Amazon, which is also home to large numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, most of them unique to the region. A new plant or animal species is discovered there every two days.
Forest fires are common in the Amazon during the dry season, which runs from July to October. They can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as by lightning strikes, but also by farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or grazing.