While the world was mindful of the Notre Dame cathedral catastrophe within three minutes of its first fire, it came to know about the horrific Amazon fire after almost three weeks of it burning.
Regardless of the forest burning down areas the size of a football field each moment, the incident did not receive much of the coveted media attention that it deserved at the beginning.
The fire stood no chance of being extinguished despite the fact that the Amazon woodlands absorb a large amount of carbon dioxide each year, and are essential in controlling a dangerous atmospheric deviation.
The truth is that this is legitimately an ecological catastrophe. The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and is considered to be the lungs of the planet, not only those of Brazil or South America. The forest is essential for the survival of the entire world population.
Rainforests purify air and water that affects every single inhabitant on Earth. We all will suffer the consequences if they become permanently damaged.
The Amazon rainforest has been dying slowly for a very long time, almost without anyone noticing.
Right now the things we are witnessing, the apocalyptic images of black smoke covering the entire sky of Sao Paulo resulting in a black out, is the result of our long-term ignorance.
What is more concerning is that we probably will not learn from this incident. The fire is burning now, and hopefully it will be put out, but there is no guarantee that such an incident will not be repeated in the future.
Moreover, once rainforests are destroyed, they cannot be replaced. An ecosystem can be destroyed overnight, but it cannot be rebuilt overnight.
The policies that Bolsonaro is carrying out and the rhetoric that we’re seeing actually translate into an assault on the Amazon.
For the purpose of clarity, this did not start with Bolsonaro. The previous administration showed similar tendencies. The assault which accelerated under Bolsonaro’s term, began when he was not even elected.
His agenda was to make sure that indigenous residents no longer get entitled to their lands. As a president, he could not properly enforce the existing norms and laws in Brazil, and instead, tried to implement new policies in a hurry.
The enforcement of certain laws could stop the deforestation in the Amazon, but they are not happening anytime soon. There is a direct and visible effort to weaken these laws before the Brazilian Congress. Many of the ministers appointed by Bolsonaro are in denial of the importance of climate change.
In many ways, the policies have been anti-climate and anti-indigenous as the minister of the environment is also in the deniers’ camp.
The policies were adopted after the authorities claimed that the news of deforestation was fake. They then fired the head of the Brazilian Space Agency, and most recently, they blamed their NGOs for having started the fire.
We can definitely describe this as an assault on the Amazon forest.
There have been some attempts to provide support. For instance, there is an Amazon fund that receives significant assistance from the Norwegian and German governments, as a sort of potential model for cooperation to support projects in the Amazon.
However, these countries have recently withdrawn their funding partly because of the tension with the Bolsonaro administration, which wanted to change the structure of the project.
There are existing ministries or entities within Brazil who can help with the Amazon fire. For example, those working at the IBAMA, (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), are the environmental police—people who are expected to work to end any sort of illegal operations around the country.
In addition, international governments should support the existing structures in Brazil. However, their power and budgets have been significantly cut in recent years.
In this situation when the world is praying for the Amazon, the role of the nine countries in South America is of utmost importance. Two-thirds of the forest is in Brazil but the rest lies in other countries like Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.
Therefore, there should be a high level of cooperation among the Amazonian countries.
Nevertheless, looking at their current activities, whether the international leaders will be able to put an end to this ecological catastrophe and cover up the loss, remains uncertain.
Md Sharif Hasan is a lecturer of International Relations,University of Rajshahi.