The Amazon wildfires can be seen from space. Image: NASA

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Our biggest rainforest, Amazon, is on fire right now for the 19th day. The wildfires - roaring in an area of around 2254 sq. kilometres - are so big that columns of smoke can be seen from space. The Sky in São Paulo went dark on Monday at around 3 pm as the smoke from the fires reached the city. Residents have not experienced a similar phenomenon before; not even in the darkest days of the rainy season.



There has been a rising number of fires in the Amazon, to the extent that earlier this month the Brazilian state of Amazonas declared a state of emergency. According to the Global Fire Emissions Database 8,668 fires have been detected in the Amazons since Monday.

At the same time, forests in Siberia are on fire too. In Russia the unusually hot and dry summer caused the forests to start burning now for the third month in a row. The smoke from the fires is affecting the health of the local citizens. Due to poor air quality in the near cities and regions, many people have visited hospitals for hacking coughs, stinging eyes and other related symptoms. Scientists have also warned that the soot from the fires can deposit on Arctic ice and speed up the melting process, witch could lead to faster rising of the sea levels.

Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical forest on Earth. It produces 20% of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and is often called “The lungs of Earth”. Amazon has long been fire-resistant due to it’s natural moisture and humidity, so, according to NASA, the cause for the wildfires are assumed to be drought and human activity.

Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro is being accused of harming the forest and indigenous people in order to help loggers, miners and farmers who supported him in the elections. INPE (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais) published data showing an 88% increase in deforestation there in June compared to the same month a year ago. Bolsonaro accused INPE’s director of lying about the scale of deforestation in the Amazon and trying to undermine the government.

People around the world who are worried about the environmental effects of human activities and the resulting fires are spreading awareness and expressing their opinions on Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. Just this week the hashtag #PrayForAmazonia trended on twitter with more than 150 000 references to the fire. The far-right president is criticised and accused for the wildfires in social media. His name pops up in almost every post with the fires related hashtags. Celebrities are also making posts about the topic.

Even tough there’s hardly anything that can be done for the wildfires now, they can be prevented in the future. If you want to help, please spread awareness or give a donation. Here are some sites you can donate and get more information about Amazon rainforest:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/places/amazon 
https://amazonwatch.org/ 
https://www.worldlandtrust.org/ 


Tara Kouros - HT

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