Amazon Rainforest fires continue to burn in Brazil

Amazon Rainforest fires continue to burn in Brazil

Volunteers walk past an area scorched by fires in the Chiquitania forest on the outskirts of Robore, Bolivia, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. While some of the fires are burning in Bolivia's share of the Amazon, the largest blazes were in the Chiquitania region of southeastern Bolivia. It's zone of dry forest, farmland and open prairies has seen an expansion of farming and ranching in recent years. (Juan Karita/AP)

While most Americans are worried about Amazon Prime shopping, scientists are worried about the rapidly growing Amazon Rainforest fires. 

Brazil has suffered from a recorded 72,000 fires this year alone. Great concern comes with these fires, as the rainforest provides about 6% of the Earth’s oxygen. 

Dr. Thaddeus McRae, associate professor of biology and environmental science, had much to weigh in about the fate of the Amazon Rainforest and what these fires mean for the future of the world. 

“You could argue that [this] is a case of the tragedy of the commons,” McRae said. “It seems like fires in the Amazon are almost entirely human-caused.”

CNN meteorologist Haley Brink revealed that the fires were “definitely human-induced,” and since her statement, the Brazilian government issued a burning ban. Despite the ban, almost 4,000 fire outbreaks have occurred over the past two days. 

Researcher Alberto Sezter, like Brink and McRae, seeks to eliminate the popular belief that the fires began due to the current dry season in the Amazon. Setzer is a researcher with Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

“The dry season creates favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident,” Setzer told Reuters news agency.

Millions of animals call the rainforest home, and environmentalists are worried about their safety. As the fires blow through, they are eliminating habitats in their wake. 

“Animals can move so it’s not those who are actually caught in the fires that I am most concerned about,” McRae said. “It’s the loss of habitat. When the fires are gone, even if the animals have successfully escaped, one of the few survivors come back to, what?” 

Animals are not the only ones suffering from the burning of the forest. With the burning of trees comes the accretion of carbon dioxide. The Amazon Rainforest plays a key role in the absorption of carbon dioxide, but since the fires have started, the forest is failing in its role as a CO2 sponge. 

“Climate change is driven by this increase in CO2 in our atmosphere,” McRae said, “and photosynthesis, which is what plants use to grow into their bodies, literally pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere to build the bodies of those plants—including trees. It stays in the bodies of those plants for as long as they are alive.” 

McRae’s biggest concern does not involve the massive release of carbon dioxide but instead the loss of biodiversity. 

“Personally, the biggest loss and the problem I see coming from it, as far as the earth and natural systems, is the loss of biodiversity,” McRae said. “The Amazon is not one continuous big habitat. It would be very easy in a fire this big to have some of those sub habitat types that are unique and don’t grow other places to hit a tipping point where, after the fires, they can’t fully recover without massive external help. Whatever grows back is something that’s fundamentally different.”  

CNN and other news outlets have reported that celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio are donating millions to Amazon relief organizations.

McRae believes college students could help not just the Amazon, but also the world, in ways they probably have never considered before. 

“I would say to Lee students today: look at how you’re living your life, look at the decisions you’re making, ask yourself, what would happen if everybody did this?” McRae said. “Am I, in my small sphere of influence, moving the world in a direction that makes it a world that I would want to live in?” 

Claire Johnson, a member of the Creation Care Club (CCC), encourages others to keep the rainforest in their prayers.

“As brothers and sisters in Christ with those living in the rainforest, we should first and foremost keep them in our prayers,” Johnson said.

Johnson also cites the CCC as a place to to learn more about broader environmental problems.

“If Lee students have a passion to learn more about problems like this facing our planet, the Lee Creation Care Club meets bi-weekly to discuss these problems and our role in them as Christians,” Johnson said.

To donate to Amazon relief and keep up with the fire progression, click here.

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