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Fires are destroying  Amazon rain forest for the last three weeks with nearly 75,000 fires ravaging. According to Brazil’s National Institute of for  Space Research(INPE).  there has been a increase of 80 % fires compared to last summer.  Three football fields of land in the Brazilian Amazon are deforested every minute. This week, the intensity of fires is so high  that the capital city, Saint Paulo  located  2,700 km away  turned completely  dark  during mid day shrouded by dark clouds of smoke.   Reports of  Brazil’s National Institute  for Space Research indicates that in July  this year  there  has been an increase of fires by 80 %  up by 39 % compared to  last year and Amazon forest shrunk by  1,345 km. Many of these fires have been started by  loggers and farmers to clear vast tracks of forest  for  cattle ranching, agriculture or  mining.  Fires accelerated rapidly during the last few months after  right wing  Jair  Bolsonaro  became  Brazil’s new President, who  actively opened the Amazon to corporate exploitation, a key plank of his election campaign

Amazon rain forest is  vast, over 26 lakh square miles, spread over Brazil, Columbia, Bolivia, French Guyana, Surinam and Venezuela,  occupying nearly 40 % of Brazil. Amazon is the largest rain forest located on the catchment area of mighty Amazan river and is the largest of the other two rain forests-  Congo and  Bornia (Indonesia).    Rain forests are considered lungs of the planet as  they absorb Carbon dioxide from atmosphere during photosynthesis and release Oxygen. Amazon alone  emits 20 % of Oxygen that sustains life on our planet. But the blaze in the Amazon, which absorbs 25 % of the  2.4 billion tonnes of  carbon from the planet’s atmosphere is removed every year. A satellite picture of NASA, above  the Amazon released recently by Brazilian Space Research Institute showing  burning red patches  and indicating concentrations of atmospheric carbon monoxide (CO) above 1200 parts per billion. CO is an indicator of burning in progress. Ironically, annoyed with release of technical details, the very next day President  Bolsonaro has sacked the Director  of Brazilian Space research Institute.  Deforestation and subsequent  increase in Carbon dioxide in to atmosphere  substantially rises  temperatures and brings climate change. Apart from Global warming and melting of  Antarctic an ice, deforestation  also disrupts monsoons.  Unseasonal rains  coupled with floods  and  droughts are a consequence of deforestation.  Deforestation has been  displacing millions of indigenous Panara and other Red Indian tribes living in the  Amazon forests. Deforestation  reduces genetic diversity, loss of  biodiversity and disappearance of number of plant, animal, bird and other species. Amazon is the home for nearly 30 % of wild animals  and bird habitat. Heart wrenching to watch  on TV screens how  scores of distressed animals and birds  running helter skelter aimlessly to escape from encircling fire.

Why  Amazon is burning?

Nine months in an year  it rains continuously ( annual rainfall  250 to 350 cm) and that’s why  they are called rain forests. Unlike dry forests of California or Australia rain forest with a cloudy and rainy weather don’t get  fire easily. Fire is used in the Amazon as a technique to clear land for agricultural use. The practice is often illegal. According to the World Bank report, cattle ranching has fueled up to 91% of deforestation since 1970. In addition, one of the main crops grown in the rainforest is soybeans used for animal feed. Rich European farmers and major agro business multinational firms such as Cargil and Nestle   own  lakhs of  hectares of cattle ranches. Soybeans are cultivated in the  deforested lands  to feed  lakhs of cows raised. Everyday nearly 67,000 cows are exported  to major fast food  multinationals such as Mc Donalds, Burger King, Subway and others for  cooking meat burgers in their  restaurants. For example Mc Donalds located across  100 countries with thousands of restaurants  catering to millions of  people everyday. In a word  Deforestation of Amazon rain forests is  caused by  major multinationals  for easy and high profits but on the expense of  environment. The spike in deforestation is depressing, but hardly surprising with right wing  regimes pursuing neoliberal economic policies and facilitating big agro business firms  by  violating and  dismantling nearly every environmental policy. Annual Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)  during 2018 stood at 730 US bln Dollars mainly from Agri business and US mining industry.

The flames are not confined to just Brazil but also to neighboring countries. Unlike his Brazilian counterpart  President  Bolsonaro,  neighboring  Bolivia ‘s Leftist President  Evo Morales,  actively sprang in to  fire fighting to arrest the devastating blaze and even  put his re-election campaign on hold temporarily. He welcomed the foreign aid to fight the fires.

Very apt to  refer Karl Marx  in this context, on how  Capitalism alienates man from nature, plunders it’s resources and commodifies them for the sack of  profits. He  clearly explains how  capitalism inherently abuses nature for accumulation and commodification and  systematically alienates human labor away from it (John Bellamy Foster, Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000).  To protect nature and environment  we should get away with  Capitalism and build  the  socialist society which  alone is capable to sustain  life on our planet away from destruction and maintains  the organic  link between nature and man.

Dr Soma Marla, Indian Council for Agricultural Research( ICAR) New Delhi


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