RING THE ALARM
Brazil is dealing with a record number of fires.
Word of the Day: August 23, 2019
verb | CHIV-ee
Definitionto move or obtain by small maneuvers
Whoa. What's going on?
The South American country has had more than 74,000 fires this year, an 84% increase from last year. That's the most since the country started keeping tabs in 2013. More than half of those fires have been in the Amazon, which is an especially big problem for the environment.
And that's because…
It's crucial in the fight against climate change. The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest (about half the size of the US), and home to about 10% of the world's plant and animal species. It's sometimes referred to as the planet's lungs since it produces about 20% of the world's oxygen. And without it, climate change could move faster.
What's going on with the fires?
Before we get into that, let's rewind back to January, when Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office. He campaigned on exploring economic opportunities in the Amazon – something that got him support from farmers. And ever since taking office, he's rolled back protections for the environment – including giving less money to Brazil's environmental protection agency and making it harder for the agency to hand out fines. During the past few months, deforestation has skyrocketed in Brazil.
So that's to blame?
Well, a lot of these fires were reportedly started by loggers, who may have burned the land for things like agricultural use and let those fires get out of hand. And the fires have been going on for a couple weeks. Critics of Bolsonaro – including NGOs and environmentalists – blame him, saying his policies have made it easier for loggers to do this. But if you ask Bolsonaro, he'd say 'blame it on the NGOs.' Without providing evidence, he said he thinks they might have caused the fires to make his government look bad. Interesting to note: the head of the country's space agency was fired after his agency reported that deforestation increased 88% this June compared to a year earlier.
Bolsonaro has only been in office for about eight months and his changes to environmental protections are already starting to show. Environmentalists and countries worldwide are worried about the danger of prioritizing business and development over the environment. And these fires don't seem to be going away anytime soon.
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