GP Insights # 130, 24 August 2019
Since January this year, Brazil witnessed more than 70,000 forest fires with most occurring in its Amazon forests according to official data. French President Macron has termed this an 'international emergency' and called for a separate meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit. Various responses from the international forums and stakeholders mark grave threats engulfing the Amazon rainforests.
What is the background?
Brazil in 2019 has recorded an 84 per cent rise in forest fires so far. Brazil's National Space Research Institute has pointed to the drastic increase in forest fires as compared to 2013. Dry weather conditions usually see frequent forest fires every year. However, the unusual surge in Brazil is attributed to deforestation and Government's pro-corporate policies.
Ironically, the government data points also to alarming rates of deforestation. Brazilian President Bolsonaro has refuted official reports and expressed Brazil's incapability to tackle the problem citing lack of resources. In addition to this, he has blamed NGO's and 'illegal farmers' for the forest fires.
At the international level, there is a friction between Bolsonaro and the pro-Amazon leaders like Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In a tweet, the UN general secretary Antonio Guterres said "I'm deeply concerned by the fires in the Amazon rainforest. In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected".
What does it mean?
Brazil's pro-corporate policies and the President's skewed preferences have caused a global uproar in this regard. The aftermath of this incident could yield dire consequences to local populations and indigenous communities. Its exploitative approach must transgress to a multi-dimensional one taking into consideration a holistic set of factors.
Secondly, economic interests and domestic problems such as poaching, overexploitation of resources and drastic demographic changes in the amazon basin have led to complexities in managing natural stock. The presence of arable lands and practice of sustenance farming provide for conversion of forests into agricultural fields. Rocketing of consumer and commercial demands has developed exploitative market equations. While these pose parallel problems, those above could very well escalate to human-induced environmental problems like forest fires.
Thirdly, the countries around Amazon must take collective responsibility in constructing policies concerning the Amazon rain forests. On a positive note, Bolivia is using the 'Boeing 747 Supertanker', a firefighting mega plane to stave off forest fires in its part of Amazon. A collaborative effort by nations will go a long way in securing livable futures.
Fourthly, the political narrative surrounding Amazon forests in addition to Trump's view of the Paris Accord worsens the climate debate. This also goes to highlight parochial avenues undertaken by nations in balancing critical matters. The rise of populist entourages has disrupted the process of rational decision making.
Apart from Amazon, forest fires in Siberia and Gran Canaria are crucial reminders to rejig environmental economy and create healthy economic models in order to foresee coherent futures. Amazon's status as one of the most crucial carbon sink is indicative of the attention attached at this moment. On a concluding note, this incident must pave the way for inclusive policy debates and global actions on climate-related issues.