Two weeks ago, a small local newspaper in Brazil reported that farmers in the area were planning what they called a “burning day” when they would set fires in and around the Amazon.
The report from the Jornal Folha do Progresso appeared to be some of the first evidence of the fires that would rage across the Amazon rainforest, which environmental experts say are almost entirely man-made by farmers and loggers looking to clear land. The report identified that the local farmers were planning on August 10 to light fires to clean and clear pastures. They believed that the efforts were supported by recently-elected President Jair Bolsonaro, who ran on a campaign promise to open up the Amazon for development and to spur the Brazilian economy.
As CNN reported, environmental organizations say that the hundreds of fires now raging in the Amazon were set by cattle ranchers and loggers looking to clear the land for development and logging. Lincoln Muniz Alves, a researcher at The National Institute for Space Research’s Earth System Science Centre, said that these man-made fires are particularly difficult to tackle.
As NBC News reported, many believe that Bolsonaro’s calls to ignore environmental concerns in promoting logging in the Amazon is a direct factor in the hundreds of fires now raging across the rainforest.
“It’s not often you can pinpoint one person as the culprit for something on this scale, but the midday darkness is the direct result of the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the country’s presidency last year,” the report noted. “Bolsonaro, who has told people, supposedly ironically, to call him ‘Captain Chainsaw,’ campaigned on the theory that his country’s economic development had been limited by the world’s affection for the Amazon, and he made clear that those who wanted to cut it down had little to fear from his administration. He even fired the head of the federal agency tasked with monitoring by satellite the extent of deforestation, when he found that deforestation was increasing.”
Many have pointed out the lack of media coverage for the Amazon fires, which have reportedly raged for close to three weeks but only just started to attract mainstream media attention in recent days. This timeline would mean that many of the fires would have started by the time the Jornal Folha do Progresso report identified the “Fire Day” that local farmers were planning. However, it does appear to have identified the source of the fires.
The report garnered some viral interest online as news of the Amazon fires spread, with many taking to social media to share the local news account that appeared to predict the wildfires that would follow.