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Amazon Fires Catch the World's Attention

Even amid disagreement over just how bad they are
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2019 10:20 AM CDT
This satellite image provided by NASA shows several fires burning in the Brazilian Amazon forest.   (NASA via AP)

(Newser) – It's the dry season in Brazil, meaning wildfires are burning all over the country, including in the Amazon rainforest. In fact, the Brazilian agency in charge of monitoring fires—the National Institute for Space Research—reports that a record 74,155 blazes were burning as of this week, up 84% from this time last year, reports the AP. The three states most affected—Mato Grosso, Para, and Amazonas—all are in the Amazon region and account for 41.7% of those fires. The stats have conservationists outraged at the policies of the pro-development president, Jair Bolsonaro, who dismisses the criticism. Coverage:

  • Conservationists: They blame the fires on farmers and loggers and say Bolsonaro has encouraged them to clear land at a dangerous pace. "The fire that we're seeing today is a fire that's directly related to deforestation," says Ane Alencar of the Institute of Environmental Research in Amazonia, per Quartz. "They cut the trees, leave the wood to dry, and later put fire to it, so that the ashes can fertilize the soil."
  • Bolsonaro: "I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame," he tells Reuters. "But it is the season of the 'queimada,'" or burn. He even suggested environmental critics might be to blame for the fires. "Maybe—I am not affirming it—these (NGO people) are carrying out some criminal actions to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil," he told reporters.

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