French President Emmanuel Macron says the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest are an international crisis—but his Brazilian counterpart thinks Macron, and the rest of the world, should butt out. President Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday that foreign powers should not interfere, even though he admitted that Brazil did not have the resources to fight the fires by itself, Reuters reports. He said Macron's suggestion that the crisis be discussed as a matter of urgency at the G7 meeting this weekend was evidence of a "misplaced colonialist mindset." Earlier Thursday, Macron tweeted: "Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest—the lungs which produces 20% of our planet's oxygen—is on fire." More:
- "A new level." Thousands of fires were deliberately set by farmers to clear land, but Bolsonaro has claimed, without evidence, that non-governmental organizations started the fires to discredit him. BBC analyst Daniel Gallas sees a "new level" of dismissal of international concerns. "Others before Mr. Bolsonaro have dismissed international NGOs and European leaders as foreign meddlers into national affairs," he writes. "But Mr. Bolsonaro has taken this to a new level by suggesting NGOs may be responsible for encouraging wildfires to sabotage him."
- Concern from Amnesty, UN. Amnesty International blamed the Brazilian government for the fire, saying land invasions and arson attacks had been documented in the region earlier this year, the AP reports. "Instead of spreading outrageous lies or denying the scale of deforestation taking place, we urge the president to take immediate action to halt the progress of these fires," says the group. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called for the Amazon to be protected, saying that "in the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity."
- Emboldened by Bolsonaro. Indigenous leaders say loggers and farmers, emboldened by Bolsonaro's call for more development, have been invading protected areas. They say animals are fleeing the rainforests as the fires rage. "We saw wild pigs, tapirs, armadillos, anteaters, snakes in larger numbers than we are used to," Adriano Karipuna, a leader in Rondonia state's Karipuna community, tells the New York Times. "We saw the forest covered in smoke, and the sky darkened. Our eyes became red due to the smoke."
- A "suicide of the Amazon." Carlos Nobre, a senior researcher at the University of Sao Paulo, tells the Guardian that most Brazilians want to protect the rainforest, but international pressure may be the only way to get the government to change course before a "tipping point" of irreversible destruction is reached. "The agriculture sector in Brazil is very concerned that European consumers won’t buy Brazil produce," he says. "This may be the ultimate way to stop the Brazilian government from a suicide of the Amazon, which will have terrible consequences for the climate and for Brazil."
- The scale of the fires. The National Institute for Space Research says that according to satellite data, there has been 85% increase in forest fires in Brazil this year compared the same period last year, the BBC reports. More than 75,000 fires have been recorded in the area, and neighboring countries are also dealing with a large number of fires: Around 26,000 fires were recorded in Venezuela, and 17,000 in Bolivia.
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