The Amazon Rainforest Is Burning at an Alarming Rate

The fires are reportedly burning the fastest they have since officials began tracking them in 2013.

Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is on fire. 

The fires are burning the fastest they have since officials began tracking them in 2013, according to the National Institute for Space Research.

More than 72,000 have erupted in the forest just this year, an over 80 percent increase from this time last year. Some are arguing the fires are being lit by farmers and ranchers in attempt to utilize the land.

“The fire that we’re seeing today is a fire that’s directly related to deforestation,” Ane Alencar, the scientific director of Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental Research in Amazonia), told Mongabay. “They cut the trees, leave the wood to dry and later put fire to it, so that the ashes can fertilize the soil.”

The drastic change poses very serious risks to the planet. The Amazon, also the largest rainforest on Earth, provides 20 percent of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s essential to slowing down the process of global warming. 

It's also home to various indigenous groups, as well as thousands of species of plants and animals. Two-thirds of the world's plant species can be found there. 

Activists across Brazil are blaming the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, and calling out policies they allege are encouraging deforestation in favor of farmers and miners. 

Bolsonaro, in turn, alleged that the recent statistics finding that deforestation was up were “lies.”

The president also fired the director of Brazil’s National Space and Research Institute (INPE), Richard Galvao, a few weeks ago after those numbers came out.

On Monday, the smoke from the fires was traveling 1,700 miles, per the BBC. NASA also captured images of the blazes from space. 

In Sao Paolo, the skies have been photographed with dark clouds as a result of the smoke and there have been reports of black rain, rain tainted by fire residue.

Earlier this month, the state of Amazonas declared a national emergency because of the flames.

But Bosolnaro said Thursday that the government doesn’t have the resources to battle the fires. Recent budget cuts of $23 million have deeply affected the country’s environmental enforcement agency. 

He said, however, that it is the time of year that farmers use fire to clear land.

"I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada," Bosolnaro told reporters.