The cost of the Amazon wildfires

Leaders of the Group of Seven nations this weekend pledged to help Brazil battle fires burning across the Amazon region and repair the damage.

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While exact damage costs of the Amazon rainforest fires are still in flux, the ecological and economic devastation is imminent. President Trump said via Twitter that the U.S. is ready to assist.

"I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand by ready to assist!" Trump said on Twitter Friday evening.

According to reports, around 40,000 blazes are currently burning and already a quarter of the rainforest – the size of Texas -- is gone.

"This is not just a forest that is burning," Rosana Villar of Greenpeace told CNN earlier this week. "This is almost a cemetery. Because all you can see is death."

Since the news of the wildfires broke, Earth Alliance, an environmental group supported by Leonardo DiCaprio, has dedicated $5 million to the preservation of the Amazon rainforest.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

#Regram #RG @rainforestalliance: The lungs of the Earth are in flames. 🔥 The Brazilian Amazon—home to 1 million Indigenous people and 3 million species—has been burning for more than two weeks straight. There have been 74,000 fires in the Brazilian Amazon since the beginning of this year—a staggering 84% increase over the same period last year (National Institute for Space Research, Brazil). Scientists and conservationists attribute the accelerating deforestation to President Jair Bolsonaro, who issued an open invitation to loggers and farmers to clear the land after taking office in January.⁣ ⁣ The largest rainforest in the world is a critical piece of the global climate solution. Without the Amazon, we cannot keep the Earth’s warming in check. ⁣ ⁣ The Amazon needs more than our prayers. So what can YOU do?⁣ ⁣ ✔ As an emergency response, donate to frontline Amazon groups working to defend the forest. ⁣ ✔ Consider becoming a regular supporter of the Rainforest Alliance’s community forestry initiatives across the world’s most vulnerable tropical forests, including the Amazon; this approach is by far the most effective defense against deforestation and natural forest fires, but it requires deep, long-term collaboration between the communities and the public and private sectors. ✔ Stay on top of this story and keep sharing posts, tagging news agencies and influencers. ⁣ ✔ Be a conscious consumer, taking care to support companies committed to responsible supply chains.⁣ Eliminate or reduce consumption of beef; cattle ranching is one of the primary drivers of Amazon deforestation. ✔ When election time comes, VOTE for leaders who understand the urgency of our climate crisis and are willing to take bold action—including strong governance and forward-thinking policy.⁣ ⁣ #RainforestAlliance #SaveTheAmazon #PrayForAmazonia #AmazonRainforest #ActOnClimate #ForestsResist #ClimateCrisis 📸: @mohsinkazmitakespictures / Windy.com

A post shared by Leonardo DiCaprio (@leonardodicaprio) on

U.S. IMPACT

Experts estimate 25 percent of the pharmaceutical drugs sold in the U.S. are derived from 40 Amazon plants, while 40 percent of all drugs sold are extracted from flora in the forests (particularly drugs like aspirin, heart medication and cancer treatment taxol).

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The U.S.-Brazilian trade relationship is strong, as Brazil was the 17th largest supplier of goods in 2018 -- totaling $37.5 billion, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Meanwhile, Brazil imported 1.2 percent of U.S. imports in 2018. Agriculturally, Brazil exports coffee for around $934 million, as well as produce juices, red meats, tobacco and essential oils.

Many of these oils are key ingredients in cosmetics, rubber and cleaning products.

TROUBLE IN BRAZIL

Many blame Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro for the mismanagement of the crisis and that catalyzed this path to destruction. Bolsonaro, who has been dubbed “Captain Chainsaw” feels the criticism of his rule delegitimizes Brazil’s sovereignty.

Prior to the fires, internal reports revealed Bolsonaro planned unpermitted development and land grabs from the indigenous people’s reserves, while the environmental regulatory agency in the country has issued fewer fines than at any point since 1995.

His plans had also included developing energy sources on the Amazon River's waterways, which would benefit all of South America, but his ambitious infrastructure plans would potentially contribute to further deforestation of the Amazon – up to 40 percent.

PARADISE LOST

While the some wildfires naturally occur, these fires represent an increase of 84% from the past year, indicating a potential deliberate source. The Tropical region accounts for half of the world’s land-based biodiversity and deforestation endangers two-thirds of animal species.

Though contested in the days since the news of the fires, 6 percent of the world’s oxygen comes from the forest’s trees, according to Jonathan Foley, former executive director of the California Academy of Sciences and founder of Project Drawdown, a research group focusing on climate change.

FUTURE OF THE FORESTS

Experts believe that as the rainforest disappears, the atmospheres in the region will dry increase in temperature, converting it to a dry savanna-like ecosystem. At this time, it is unclear when the fires with stop and when damage can be assessed.

With Bolsonaro at the helm, who has pushed back against environmental conservation policies, the forests and their situation will remain in Brazilian control, but the impact will be global.

"The Brazilian Amazon is a heritage of our people, who will protect it from the threats of those who harm the forest with illegal actions and will react to those who intend to violate our sovereignty," Bolsonaro’s said.