Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Fires have been engulfing many parts of the world recently, from the West Coast of the United States to the Amazon rainforest. However, while the fires in the U.S have been at the center of media attention, the Amazon fires have comparatively gone under the radar.
In 2019, the Amazon rainforest saw an 84% increase in the number of fires than in 2018. In response, organizations began to utilize social media to raise widespread awareness of the issue, although news outlets were much slower to cover these stories.
The widespread attention encouraged some countries and politicians around the world to offer aid and assistance. For instance, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered to send $15 million and water bombers to fight the fires in the Amazon last year but Brazil refused. While those who offered assistance were praised, many other billionaires were called out for the lack of donations and for being more concerned about the Notre Dame fire. Many Twitter hashtags began trending such as #ActForTheAmazon and #Pray forAmazonas. This led to action being taken and assistance being offered, but now, many are likely under the impression that the Amazon fires have been eradicated since much news has not come up about the issue since last year.
Contrary to this belief, the Amazon rainforest is still on fire. According to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, the number of fires have increased by 28% from 2019. Many of the fires are started by locals clearing the forests to develop the land. They are trying to clear the land to extract minerals from the ground, build agribusinesses (agriculture using advanced technology), and turn the converted land into cattle ranches. Because of last year’s worldwide response, Brazil placed a 120-day ban on man-made fires in July of 2020, but this law is not being respected. The decree holds no accountability or enforcement measures to stop the Amazon from being set on fire. The institutions that are supposed to hold the arsonists accountable have been dismantled. It is simply there to please the public.
While smoke continues to fill the cities of Brazil, the country’s president, Jair Bolonsaro, is still denying all allegations of the new Amazon fires despite satellite data, images, videos, and eyewitness accounts of the ruthless fires. “They won’t find any spot of fire, nor a quarter of a hectare deforested,” he said. He also said “ The story that the Amazon is going up in flames is a lie and we must combat it with true numbers” despite loads of evidence. He claims that Brazil does not need help preserving the Amazon as the forest cannot catch fire because it is wet.
Traditional media outlets from the US have been publishing articles on the fires now, but it is nothing in comparison to last year’s global outrage. Millions of people around the world went to social media to bring attention to these dangerous fires and urge those in power to take action. This year did not have as big of a social media response. Brazil’s government was widely criticized for the way they handled last year’s rise in fires. This led to political leaders choosing to move away from or stalling trade deals with Brazil in order to prompt a stronger response to the Amazon fires.
Now, with many environmental non-governmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, raising concerns about the fires in the Amazon, these concerns are often being met with a lot of indifference. Currently, social media has been actively raising awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement and the fires on the West Coast, specifically in California and Oregon. These movements are at a very prominent note right now, resulting in less awareness of the fires devastating the Amazon. Due to this limited coverage, political leaders have found it unnecessary to demanda response and are taking the word of President Bolsonaro.
According to a study, deforestation has burned over 9205 square kilometers since Bolansaro took office in January of 2019. On this path, the rainforest that is responsible for recycling around 5% of the world’s CO2 emissions, will soon be reduced to a plain that opens the door wide for global warming.
Through Teen Lenses: Have you heard that the Amazon is still on fire? What do you think about the fact that there has been very little coverage on it?
“The Amazon Rainforest is still burning! I can’t believe I haven’t heard about it till now. Indigenous peoples are still clamoring for their voices to be heard by the international community as well as the communities of Brazil. This tragedy strips them of the lands they call home to be exploited later on by farmers and ranchers. This unfair and illegal practice must end for the future of humanity to be secured.” O.J., 12th grader at Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, Georgia
“Over the past few days I saw some awareness and posts regarding the fires happening in the Amazon. I thought it was great that awareness was being spread and people were helping a good cause. But recently, I haven’t seen much of it anymore and it’s saddening that people just stopped caring about it.” Sudeep Orvoy, 10th grader at Chantilly High School, Fairfax, VA
“I think that the lack of knowledge surrounding the continued burning of the Amazon can be attributed to the 24-hour news cycle as well as Western-centric news reporting—we’ve been conditioned to “tire” of world issues regardless of whether or not they’re resolved.” Lailitha Aiyar, Princess Anne HS, 17, Senior, Virginia Beach, Virginia
“The world is facing so many issues where one issue may be suppressed than another for the sake of performative activism. This is why we need leadership to combat some of these global problems. This is also why it is important to listen to organizers on the grounds of these communities, and constantly inform information that may be outside of our realm.” Zamir Ticknor, George C Marshall HS, 17, Senior, Falls Church, Virginia