“Lungs of the Earth”: A Necessity for Life or for Economy?


United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

A picture of a forest fire, similar to those that are happening in the Amazon. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Kage Blakeney, Editor

Almost daily, fires spread across the Amazon basin in Brazil, a rainforest that has been called “Lungs of the Earth” by French President Emanuel Macron. So far, 4.6 million acres of the Amazon have been consumed and destroyed by these flames, all of it irreplaceable. Because of these fires, São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, has been putting its citizens in hospitals for respiratory distress. In August alone, 36,000 of this years 77,000 took place on the northwestern edges of the rainforest, mostly in the states of Roraima, Acre, Rondônia and the Amazonas.

Why is this happening? According to The Week, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is using the Amazon to boost the economy especially in the soy and beef industries, as soy is Brazil’s biggest export at $26 million a year. Along with that, he is trying to move the indigenous people out of there to make them ‘actual people of Brazil.’ Ever since he took office in January, he has moved all responsibility for the indigenous territories from the Justice ministry to the Agriculture Ministry, which is focused more on farming and ranching than taking care of people in the forests. He has also “slashed staff and funding for IBAMA, the agency responsible for enforcing environmental laws, firing 21 of its 27 state heads. Since he took office, the number of fires in the rain forest has risen by 84 percent” (The Week Staff). However, with the clearing of the vegetation and the trees, the soil is extremely nutrient-poor making it utterly useless after just a few growing seasons and making farmers and ranchers burn and use more of the forest.

Junior Xoshil Alas-Felipe, an AP Biology student, is astounded by this. “It’s going to affect the ecosystem, and the Amazon is a really important factor to the homeostasis of the earth. The biodiversity is going down and the species living in the forest are in danger.” She’s right according to The Week, the Amazon creates atmospheric “rivers” of moisture that regulate rainfall by pulling fresh water from the ground and cycling it into the air. The species that live in the Amazon, such as the sloth, the jaguar, the Amazon River Dolphin, all endangered or vulnerable to extinction, are going to lose their homes, and most of the destruction may end their species. As for Jair Bolsonaro’s thoughts about the indigenous people and the economy, Alas-Felipe says: “How do you expect to boost the economy by destroying the Amazon? Global warming continues to go up, and there will be no economy boost due to the destruction of lands. The Amazons are a part of Brazil, and it’s just bad in general. It’s their home, and they’re taking away the lands of the natives.”

Multiple people have  been working on how to save the Amazon without destroying it. Even the indigenous people have been trying to work with the government, proposing to open the lands for medical research and ecotourism. Xoshil says that “By finding a different way to meet their needs, we can still use the Amazon without destroying it. We can increase production, and help the economy and the Amazon.”  Hopefully, people will listen, and the Amazon can be saved.