Brazil rejects $20 million G7 aid to help fight Amazon crisis
Fires continue to rage across the world's largest tropical rainforest, the backlash on social media has been swift, with people condemning the destruction of "the lungs of the earth"; an indispensable resource in the fight against climate change.
Per BBC News, forest fires are quite common during the Amazon's dry season - which runs from July to October - and can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as lightning strikes. However, the Daily Mail reports that several experts believe the ongoing blazes were likely to be started by people.
Christian Poirier, a program director for conservation non-profit group Amazon Watch, reveals that cattle ranchers and farmers regularly set fires to rainforest land in order to clear it for grazing and agriculture. And according to Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), roughly 99% of the Amazon's fires are started by people, "either on purpose or by accident".
President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, initially seemed to bow to international pressure, and gave the go-ahead to Brazil's armed forces to use warplanes to dump water on affected tracks of the Amazon. Bolsonaro - a contentious figure even prior to the infernos - has largely been held responsible for the destruction by global parties, as he has previously encouraged efforts to speed up the destruction of forestry.
Now, the Brazilian government has rejected an offer of $20 million (£16 million) in aid from the G7 countries to fight the fires.
The chief of staff to the President, Onyx Lorenzoni, told French President, Emmanuel Macron, to take care of "his home and colonies".
"We appreciate [the offer], but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe," he continued to the G1 news website.
"Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site," he added, referencing the blaze at Notre Dame cathedral, which occurred back in April. "What does he intend to teach our country?:
“Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron.”
Bolsonaro later confirmed the comments to Agence France-Presse.
The G7 countries made the offer at a summit, held over the weekend, in the French city of Biarritz. It was chaired by Macron, who had put the wildfires high on the agenda.
Brazil's environmental minister, Ricardo Salles, had previously told journalists that the nation welcomed the G7 funding (which has been slammed by some environmentalists as "chump change") but after a meeting between Bolsonaro and his ministers, the government evidently changed tack.
Tensions have continued to rise between Brazil and France after Macron took to Twitter to state that the Amazon fires were an international crisis, and should be discussed as top priority at the G7 summit. Bolsonaro responded by saying that Macron has a "colonialist mentality".
Almost 80,000 fires have broken out in Brazil since the start of the year - and just over half are in the Amazon basin, which regulates a substantial amount of the Earth's climate and carbon cycle.
Per the Guardian, speaking on French television on Monday, Macron addressed the issue once again. "We respect your sovereignty. It’s your country. But the trees in the Amazon are 'the lungs of the planet'," he said. "The Amazon forest is a subject for the whole planet. We can help you reforest. We can find the means for your economic development that respects the natural balance. But we cannot allow you to destroy everything."
He did, however, acknowledge that Europe - by choosing to import Soya from Brazil - was "partly complicit" for the agricultural pressure on the Amazon.