The Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest forest of its kind, is rapidly deteriorating, burning at the highest rate since the country’s space research center began tracking fires in 2013.
The Brazilian jungle, which plays a major role in regulating the earth’s climate, is often referred to as the lungs of the entire planet because of the significant amount of oxygen it produces, generating more than 20%. The Amazon also consumes more than two billion tons of carbon dioxide in a normal year.
If the rainforest, roughly half the size of the United States, completely deteriorates, the drinking water, wildlife and farms would be gravely affected. Instead of being a source of oxygen, the rainforest would begin emitting carbon, the major driver of climate change.
According to Al Jazeera, the fire has cost some families “everything.”
The smoke, which currently hovers over nearly half of Brazil, has reached all the way to Sao Paulo, Brazil, more than 1,700 miles away. Neighboring Peru and Paraguay have also reported darkened, smoke skies due to the fire. The blaze
expanded so much that the fire smoke can be seen from space.
On August 9, the state of Amazonas declared an emergency in its capital of Manaus and the state of Acre, bordering Peru, also put out an environmental alert days later.
Resident Ivaneide Bandeira told Al Jazeera how the “weather is constantly dark,” as hospitals are filled with people with respiratory problems due to breathing struggles.
CNN reports fires in Brazil have risen more than 80 percent this year, and activists are blaming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for encouraging deforestation for economic gain.
On Wednesday, Bolsonaro, who has been outspoken about his anti-indigenous views, said that the increase of Amazon fires may have been caused by nongovernmental organizations to embarrass him. He blames NGO’s for trying to incite international criticism of his administration after he cut their funding.
“Crime exists,” he said during a Facebook Live broadcast. “These people are missing the money.”
In fiery responses to his unfounded claims, followers took to social media with the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas on Wednesday. It was the world’s top trending topic on Twitter.
As global awareness spreads, here’s how you can get involved and help stop the fires.
Followers can submit donations to programs including Amazon Watch, an initiative that fights to protect the rainforest and Indigenous rights and the Rainforest Alliance, which supports an alliance of farmers and consumers devoted to more sustainable living.