Heart Earth

Opinion columnist Madison Warman breaks down the potential effects of the Amazon rainforest fires. 


There has been a growing discomfort around the globe concerning the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest, leading to plenty of speculation and misconceptions that should be cleared up.

At the same time, it's also encouraged necessary discussions about Earth’s largest tropical rainforest.

This isn’t solely Brazil’s problem, though. Rather, this is a global issue that should be taken more seriously.

Often, there is political strife and citizen backlash when outside countries try to have a say in how the land is being treated. Although the land primarily belongs to Brazil due to historical reasons of possession during colonization and land proximity, the rainforest touches eight other countries and affects the filtering of carbon dioxide for the entire globe.

The majority of the rainforest resides in Brazil, but it branches out to Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Much of the world believes the wildfires to be an issue for Brazil and its president, Jair Bolsonaro, who during his presidential campaign promised to increase agricultural development by reducing environmental protection.

Reducing environmental protection can mean an increase in logging, mining and slash-and-burn techniques ⁠— a form of deforestation for farming.

And while the slash-and-burn tactic is a necessary technique used by farmers to put nutrients into the soil, farmers have increasingly violated the controlled fire laws within the past year.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported a record 72,843 fires this year, an 80% increase from last year."

Farmers are starting a majority of these fires, and very quickly they become uncontrollable, thus turning into wildfires. This spike in wildfires is where the controversial conversations about the climate and land come into play. 

Agriculture laws must be stricter for farmers and citizens living in the Amazon, but also law enforcement must be taken more seriously. Critics of Bolsonaro are concerned that his policy positions will hurt the Amazon Rainforest and the rest of the world for years to come.

Many believe the burning of the Amazon will take away a majority of Earth’s oxygen supply. This is wrong. The first danger we should be concerned about is the massive increase in carbon dioxide being released when the Amazon’s trees and organic materials are burned. This is harmful because it alters the already changing climate by warming the Earth. Even after the fire has been extinguished, the chemical emissions from the dead wood still release carbon dioxide.

The second danger continues to involve the burning of trees but also the tropical species living within and below the rainforest. The trees protect the understory, which is "the vegetative layer and especially the trees and shrubs between the forest canopy and the ground cover." Not only is the Amazon losing unique plant species found on the ground floor, it is losing the animals dependent on this land. These plant and animal species offer resources to both scientists and the people living there.

The third danger is the destruction of Indigenous communities. It should go without explanation that we should respectfully pay attention to the land where other groups of people are living, and have been living for thousands of years.

Wildfires like these aren’t solely happening in the Amazon, but in Siberia, California, and other places around the globe. Although these wildfires may not be happening at home, they are still an issue we should care about and attempt to understand.

General comprehension can help encourage discussions about our wildlife and the changing climate at hand. Although the Amazon rainforest seems far away, its problems are persisting. Challenge yourself to understand not only the physical and scientific problems but also the political ones. How is President Bolsonaro’s attitude toward environmental protection allowing farmers to actively undermine agriculture laws in Brazil? How are the United States and other global powers helping to alleviate these wildfires, if at all?

The Earth is powerful, but it adheres to how we treat it. Understand that this is not only Brazil’s issue to solve but that we are all on the same team.

Madison Warman is a senior from Kansas City, Missouri, studying English and Spanish.