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Here’s who to blame for the Amazon rainforest inferno

Amazon fires 15-22 August 2019. Image credit: Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview, Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) data from NASA EOSDIS, and data from the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED). Image source: https://www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145498/uptick-in-amazon-fire-activity-in-2019
Amazon fires 15-22 August 2019. Image credit: Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview, Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) data from NASA EOSDIS, and data from the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED). Image source: https://www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145498/uptick-in-amazon-fire-activity-in-2019

A confusing tangle of allegations made it difficult to figure out who was at fault for the wildfires consuming Brazil’s Amazon rainforest this summer.

President Jair Bolsonaro has famously blamed environmental organizations for setting the fires, claiming that they are disgruntled after he cut off their access to foreign funds.

One ruralist — the cattle rancher Nair Brizola, in the state of Pará — even claimed that Brazilian national parks employees set the fires.

Ruralists are a powerful Brazilian political faction that wants to open the Amazon to further industrial agriculture.

Yet it seems that the ruralists are themselves to blame for this summer’s devastating fires.

Prosecutors said that the environmental enforcement agency IBAMA had known ahead of time that “A Day of Fire” was coming — it had been planned and publicly announced by radical ruralists — but didn’t act on the knowledge in time.

In their own defense, IBAMA officials say they had gone through the proper channels to request help from the National Public Security Force, but to no avail.

The fires went ahead as planned, with the ruralists secure in the knowledge that they would not be stopped or punished.

Ruralists favor fire as a quick and easy way to remove excess vegetation from areas they want to develop, either agricultural plantations or cattle pastures.

Ms. Brizola has since been charged with setting fires in a protected Amazon region.

Sources: The Guardian (U.K.), Mongabay

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