At first glance, any news about fires in the Amazon rainforest are automatically cause for alarm. This is especially true because the area is such an important part of the planet – a planet that admittedly hasn’t been taken care of as well as it could’ve been.
Pictures have been circulating rapidly and leading many to believe the famous rainforest is melting down in a raging inferno. Some make the jump to say that the common fears about a hotter planet are to blame for the trees igniting, and that it’s further evidence the leaders of the world must get involved and take control of environmental efforts.
However, an aerial view of the fires shows that most of them aren’t taking place in the actual forest. They’re taking place in agricultural areas near the forest. According to scientists from the University of Maryland, this isn’t just an intentional process – it’s completely normal and happens every year.
These fires are known as are “prescribed burns,” because they’re done on purpose to help clear out the land for next year’s crops. By burning off plants that are already growing, and ridding the land of existing insects and weeds, farmers increase the chance of a good harvest in the future.
This doesn’t mean the fires in the area don’t pose any problems. While it is true the forest itself isn’t being engulfed in a raging inferno due to climate issues, there are other problems to worry about. Namely, deforestation. With land being used for manmade planting rather than the natural growth of the forest, there’s somewhat of a power-grab going on that puts parts of the area at risk.
Nearby smoke and of course the threat of fires blowing onto the actual forest also pose hazards. So, while the fires aren’t the crisis that some politicians and celebrities are making them out to be, they’re still presenting some problems. However, NASA has shown that the number of fires burning on the planet have decreased by 25% since 2003.
Though a lot of areas around forests that have been turned into gardens, ranches, or other types of properties, the rate at which this is happening is far lower than the rate at which new trees are being planted. The last 35 years have seen a burst in reforestation, not deforestation.
While the world’s rising temperature is often blamed for environmental problems, warmer temperatures coupled with wetter climates have worked to help the growth of forest in areas that were once considered nearly barren.
Attempts to link the Amazon issues to climate change have largely backfired, with many calling out the alarmism as pictures circulate, with some not even being an accurate representation of the current situation. Though climate change has increased fire risk in some areas, it isn’t responsible for what is going on in the Amazon.
Given the reports and satellite images, the best course of action now may be trying to distance farmland from the forests, so fires don’t spread, and smoke damage doesn’t damage the plant life outside of farm boundaries.