Horrifying picture shows true devastation of Amazon wildfires

Horrifying picture shows true devastation of Amazon wildfires

It doesn’t take an expert on global warming to see that wildfires are a problem. Whether it’s discussing the destruction brought to California in 2018, or the thousands of individual infernos currently tearing through the world’s most important rainforest, the reality of a burning planet is beginning to dawn on everyone. In this regard, nothing can replace lived experience. But, thanks to the power of photography, audiences around the world can get a sense of exactly what is unfolding in the Amazon. 

A terrifying photo from ecological organisation Global Forest Watch has revealed the full extent of the damage being done to one of earth's most vital natural resources. Using satellite data, the group has created a mock up, highlighting how around 9,500 individual fires have spread across the Brazilian states of Roraima, Acre, Rondônia and Amazonas, punctuating what was a uniform, green blanket with red pockmarks. 

According to data provided by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, more than 75,000 individual fires have already been recorded in the country across the first eight months of 2019. Though fires are part and parcel of life in the Amazon during the annual dry season, this figure is the highest since 2013. 

While it is not yet clear exactly what is causing the spike in wildfires, environmental activists have laid the blame squarely at the feet of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. A man known for his far-right political opinions and scepticism of climate science, Bolsonaro has been outspoken in his belief that protections over the Amazon have long been holding back the country’s economic potential, seemingly ignoring the essential role that the rainforest plays for life on planet earth. 

As countries around the world struggled to get to grips with the scale of the current crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to call out Bolsonaro directly. Ahead of this week’s G7 summit in France, Macron tweeted, "Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rainforest - the lungs which produces 20 per cent of our planet's oxygen - is on fire."

Bolsonaro soon responded, writing, “I regret that Macron seeks to make personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries. The sensationalist tone he used does nothing to solve the problem." He went on to try and blame indigenous people and climate agitators for starting the fires themselves in an attempt to make his government look bad, according to reporting by the BBC.

Despite Bolsonaro’s refusal to acknowledge the root cause of the current crisis, the fires in the Amazon are impossible to ignore. The National Institute for Space Research revealed that around 519 square miles of trees were lost in July alone - the most for a single month in recorded history.