Amazon rainforest fires: Expats on ground speak

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Published 2019-08-28 12:54

It has been more or less a month since the Amazon rainforest fires have started. While fires happen in the rainforest every year, it has been reported that there are more than 80, 000 fires which is 85% more than what was recorded last year. So, what do expats on ground have to say?

Twenty percent of the world’s oxygen supply. This is what the Amazon forest represents. The forest has been subject to massive fires over the past month and this has attracted significant media attention from all around the world. Protests have been organized in front of Brazilian consulates all over the world, the hashtag #ActforAmazonia has been trending and world leaders are releasing funds and sending help to combat the fires.

In Brazil, too, things are escalating and this week, 44, 000 members of the armed forces have been deployed to overcome this crisis. “Just yesterday the smoke had completely darkened the sky in Sao Paulo”, explained Marty, an American expat living in Foz do Iguacu in Brazil. “I only know as much as I read. Here in Foz do Iguacu, we are concerned, the Amazon feeds into the Pantanal which feeds into the headwaters of the World Heritage Iguacu Falls. The Amazon and the Pantanal are the major living sources for Brazil”, explains Marty. But over and above that, expats are also worried about the quality of the water. “The chemicals resulting from the burning can run into the water and contaminate it”, fears Marty.

Expats are, indeed, worried about what the Amazon fires could mean for public health but also about what it means for the environment and Brazil’s economic prosperity. Indeed, Al, who is in Manaus, Amazonas does not live in the vicinity of the active fires. However, the American expatriate worries that the fires will give way to greater use of the forest grounds for commercial purposes. “This is the burning season every year in the Amazon, when farmers burn off their fields- and many burn public lands illegally to plant more or to raise cattle. Last year, the fires were much closer to Manaus. We could often see them from the city, and woke up to find smoke in the air many mornings. The state government launched a big public information campaign to convince people to report illegal burning. This year, the fires are worse but much farther away, and there is no public information campaign that I have seen. The silence is disturbing, and ominous,” explains Al.

On the other hand, others are worried about the impact the fires could have on Brazil’s economy. “We worry that there might be economic sanctions to Brazil which is still in recession,” explains Montgomery, an expatriate living in Rio Grande do Sul.