Fires of Amazon

The world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon spans over eight countries and covers around 40% of South America, an area that is nearly the size of two-thirds of the US, according to the World Wildlife Fund. A new plant or animal species is discovered there every two days. The Amazon forest, which produces about 20% of earth’s oxygen, is often referred to as the planet’s lungs. Today, an inferno in the Amazon, ⅔ of which is in Brazil, endangers the rainforest ecosystem and this threatens to affect the entire globe.

Recently, it has been brought to the world’s notice that South Americans are deliberately starting fires in the Amazon rainforest to illegally deforest indigenous land for cattle ranching. Currently, as it stands, the Amazon is the world’s deforestation front which is controlled by 9 developing nations (Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Equador, Chile, Peru Guyana, Suriname) which means that each country in this region is trying to use their natural resources to improve their economic development and living conditions. Roughly, 20% of the Amazon rain forest has been cleared so far to make room for livestock. This may not seem like too much, considering the size of the Amazon. However, if the consequences of cutting the Amazon down in one go is so terrifying, then burning it down may worsen those consequences. 

 

Suppose that 100% of the Amazon is indeed cut down without control… what would the consequences be? 

 

Primarily, we would have to cover 5,5000,000 square kilometres and approximately cut 390 billion trees down. Once, the trees have been cut down, they would have to decompose over time. When organic materials decompose, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Now, if we wipe the Amazon out, the trees would decompose and release around 140 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air which is almost 3-5 times what we emit annually (worldwide). This would drastically increase the amount of CO2, making it harder for us to breath even if the process of growth and decay is (almost) equal. The sudden increase in CO2 would also affect the oceans as increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would translate into more dissolved CO2 in the ocean water. Thus, decreasing the pH level and turning the water acidic. This would damage sensitive marine ecosystems such as corals and would lead to bleeding and “mass die-offs” (where large masses of organisms are killed). Not to mention, the trees aren’t the only organisms living in the Amazon. This rainforest has the world’s greatest collection of life on earth which means that once the Amazon is cleared we will lose 40,000 plant species, 2,500,000 insect species, 1,300 bird species, 400 mammals and 400 amphibians species all gone!  To top it all, the Natives who live and rely on the Amazon rainforest for their survival. 

 

If we now look at the impacts of the missing rainforest, the land in South America would experience drastic degrees of erosion as there would be no more trees holding the soil together. As the rainforest is situated in the largest drainage basin, the water would collect and carry the infertile soil (which we need for agriculture) as there are no plants to help absorb the water. 

 

The destruction of the forest would also affect the South American countries’ economy as the rainforest aids as a factor of production for agriculture and labour. It also is a tourist attraction, so jobs that rely on the forest would collapse and force the people residing in the countries further into poverty. 

 

However, the most drastic change in the world would be the Earth’s weather system. There is a process that plants undergo called transpiration (also known as evapotranspiration). It is a process of photosynthesis where plants release water vapour from their leaves (due to the transpiration pull) into the atmosphere. This water vapour floats up to become clouds and becomes the rain. The rainwater isn’t negligible as plants actually use very little of the water that they take in. Plantlife on Earth accounts for 10-15% of all the water in the atmosphere, the rest being provided by the ocean which is an enormous amount of water. Thus the forest virtually makes its own rain, as water evaporates and forms clouds, this process is what preserves the ecosystem in the rainforest. If we take these trees away, there will be less transpiration, but if we take all of the tree’s away, there won’t be any more rain. Consequently, this would lead to the world experiencing droughts, these droughts can, in turn, cause forest fires and worse.   

 

What an indigenous woman have to say, from the tribe Pataxó:

“These assholes came in and burned down our reservation… I want all of the media here to see this. For 2 years we’ve fought to preserve our reservation & these assholes came in & burned it down. They are killing our rivers, our sources of life, & now they have set our reserve on fire. Tomorrow we are closing the roads & I want all the media here to see this. We need action, we need now, we need to take those ones to justice and take President Jair Bolsonaro to respond to this too, we need people to wake up that being a conservative it’s not the same as being a stupid retrograde-image Indigenous people, animals and nature are screaming in pain for help.” from “Quebrando o Tabu” and Sunrise Movement on Twitter


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