“Our house is on fire,” declared French President Macron, describing the fires burning across Brazil’s vast interior. Satellite imagery revealed clouds of smoke from the thousands of fires obscuring large portions of South America, including the skies of Sao Paulo on Monday, August 20. News outlets described the Amazon forests as the “lungs of the planet,” and articles warned of the Amazon “tipping” from its present forested state to one in which only savannah ecosystems could survive. Blame for the fires was laid at the feet of President Bolsonaro, whose anti-environmental, pro-development policies were encouraging rampant conversion of forests to agriculture, mining, timber, and cattle operations.
Fires in Brazil, August 11 2019
President Bolsonaro’s position on the use of Brazil’s natural resources has been clear: Brazil, not the international community will determine their best use. Concern regarding the ongoing Amazon fires was highlighted at the just-concluded G7 meeting in Biarritz, where President Macron had declared them a “global emergency,” and the G7 agreed to provide funding to fight the fires and aid in reforestation. (The Guardian, August 26, 2019) However, in a tweet, President Bolsonaro appeared to reject the G7 proposal, asserting that the G7 was treating Brazil as a colonial entity. A further exchange of tweets between the French and Brazilian leaders ensued, which did little to ease the situation.
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