terrifying numbers of fires ablaze in the Amazon rainforest

‘Wildfires rage throughout the Amazon rainforest’,
Bryan Dyne, 23 August 2019

“Satellite imagery reveals that at least a quarter of the Amazon rainforest is on fire or covered in soot and ash across the four Brazilian Amazonian states: Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Pará.

A combination of dry summer heat exacerbated by climate change, planned burnings and expanded deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has sparked at least 9,507 new wildfires in the region in the past week, for a total of more than 74,155 wildfires in the Amazon since January. According to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), this represents an 84 percent increase in Amazon fires from last year and the highest number of wildfires in the region since the agency began its records in 2013.”

“While wildfires are a part of the life cycle of the Amazon, the massive increase in the number of fires this year is a direct result of the policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Since coming into office, Bolsonaro has sought to increase the exploitation of the rainforest so that Brazil’s agricultural and mining industries can better compete on the global market, including an increase in logging and burning and a massive reduction in monitoring and oversight of these activities.

These policies are guided by “the new hopes for the Homeland: Brazil above everything!” a slogan uncovered in documents recently leaked to the online news site democraciaAbierta. They reveal that one of Bolsonaro’s major initiatives will be the so-called “Triple-A” project, which states, “it is necessary to build the Trombetas River hydroelectric plant, the Óbidos bridge over the Amazon River, and the implementation of the BR-163 highway to the border with Suriname.” Bolsonaro has also previously stated that he plans to bring nuclear power into the rainforest.

All of these projects will require major inroads into the Amazon, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest. They also represent an attack on the one million indigenous people who live in the rainforest and have relied on it for millennia, whom the Brazilian president has specifically targeted for forced integration into capitalism, even if it means their extermination.

Bolsanaro responded to the wildfires in typically fascist fashion, by claiming without any evidence that they were started by nongovernmental organizations supported by foreign powers opposed to his policies. In an interview given at the entrance to the Alvorada Palace, the official residence of the president of Brazil, he stated that environmental protection NGOs are trying to discredit his government after he cut funding to the Amazon Fund. During the same interview, he also threatened to use Brazil’s military to catch the supposed arsonists.”

“When pressed about destruction currently underway, Reuters reports that Bolsonaro responded, “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame.”

“The deforestation of the Amazon as a whole, which began in the 1970s, has potentially catastrophic implications for life both in South America and across the globe. The rainforest is responsible for 20 percent of Earth’s atmospheric oxygen and typically absorbs 1.5 gigatons of carbon a year, a major factor in regulating Earth’s atmosphere and climate. The region also contains an estimated one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.

“It is also home to hundreds of recorded species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, thousands of different birds and fishes, tens of thousands of different plants, millions of insects and countless lifeforms that have yet to be discovered. To date, a quarter of all pharmaceutical drugs have been derived from ingredients found in the Amazon rainforest.

Moreover, research has shown that deforestation is not a linear process and is poised to cascade. While current deforestation of the Amazon stands at about 17 percent, if it reaches between 20 and 25 percent, the entire ecosystem will begin transforming into a savannah or desert, essentially killing off the most biologically diverse region on Earth.”

Bolivia Orders World’s Largest Air Tanker to Combat Amazon Fires, August 22, 2019, telesurenglish.net

“We are no longer forced to submit to ‘international aid’…we can respond ourselves immediately’

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales announced on Wednesday that Bolivia had contracted a Boeing 747 ‘Supertanker’ to help extinguish huge forest fires in the Amazon have that spilled over from Brazil. By Wednesday evening, the government confirmed that the tanker is arriving in the country and will be operational on Friday.

The ‘Supertanker’ can carry more water than any other aircraft in the world, capable of flying with 115, 000 liters, equivalent to a 100 regular air tankers. Prior to the tanker’s arrival, the military will fly planes over the region to assess where exactly the tanker should focus.”

“The new measures by the government come amid calls by right-wing opposition candidate Carlos Mesa to allow foreign aid to help put out the fires. 

Nevertheless, Bolivia’s government has long rejected calls for outside intervention for natural disasters, arguing that Bolivia’s economy has developed enough to provide sufficient resources to cope, and must deal with issues internally to protect sovereignty. Speaking earlier in the year when flash floods hit the Department of Beni, Vicepresident Alvaro Garcia Linera said “Bolivia has the resources…the era of begging [to outsiders] has passed, leave that to Carlos Mesa”.

Some have pointed to how international ‘emergency aid’ from the US often leads to militarization and occupation, such as that which took place in Haiti, following devastating earthquakes. There, relief operations were led by the US military’s Southern Command, and scholars have illustrated the subsequent role of USAID in working with US corporations in creating patterns of dependency in the country. One academic has described it saying. “USAID used the occurrence of the January 2010 earthquake tragedy to accelerate in Haiti the implementation of a neoliberal agenda congenial to the business promotion of multinational investors, particularly US multinational corporations.”

“The recent fires in the Amazon started in Brazil, though exact causes are unclear, organizations in the Amazon blame loggers and landed elites allied to President Bolsonaro, for deliberately starts fires to clear land for cattle ranching. The European Union’s satellite program, Copernicus, showed how the fire then spilled over into Bolivia and Peru. The fire has devastated almost half a million hectares of Bolivia’s Amazon rainforest, largely affecting the historic Chiquitania area.”

(cross-posted from Café Babylon)

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wendy davis's picture

(aside from the folks claiming that it rained yesterday and put out 40% of the fires!!! thank you god; we prayed!! all with the same photo of a rain squall...)

(and aside from the grifters like rainforest alliance, wwf, and others who want you to send them money.)

and a tussle over nasa v. scientific american in the subtweets:

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Eagles92's picture

@wendy davis

"If we don't want to save our own planet, then we don't deserve to live on it."

Agreed. Although, of course, the only ones who actually have the power to save it, won't, because they're people like Bolsonaro.

This story breaks my heart.

8 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture


the reason i'd put it up is that it's exactly how i feel, and that this is just the coup de grace blow to the death of the planet. on lookout's recent 'hope, despair, or something in between?...i went with 'almost no hope, but why despair?' and made my case in a longish comment of evidence near the end of the thread. no need to go into it all on this occasion, i'm sure.

and of course the underlying cause is capitalism, as the indigenous eco-socialists in the global south have known for decades, which makes all this even more tragic: it didn't have t be this way, except 'we' were this way (h/t john trudell).

but today it makes me sad again that so many compromised NGOs and new bidnesses are popping up to profit from it all, with trillion-dollar techno-solutions and more of the same past 'market' non-solutions.

meanwhile, imo, we should put our efforts into protecting the world's most precious commodity: water! Mni Wikoni! Water is Life! by shutting down pipelines (they always leak), stopping all uranium, gold, and lithium mining, ending fracking (a million gallons of water per hole, adding even more methane to the melting permafrost), and creating solutions that will mitigate the coming disasters as much as we can.

meanwhile, there are seven vases of gorgeous flower arrangements from our wee garden on the tables in this small room, and they're all the more precious to me in these perilous now runaway climate chaos days.

best to you, eagles92, didn't quite mean to rant so... but there it is, eh? ; )

on edit: or as lookout had said:

I see the situation as a reason to treasure every day and find and generate as much joy as I can.

i do as well, although i don't generate much joy online, but i do try...in the 'real world', or at least...generate giving and sharing.

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Eagles92's picture

@wendy davis All very relevant and true. And I agree.

Thanks for re-posting lookout's wisdom, which I'd missed because I also missed the essay in which it appeared. I do like the philosophy of treasuring every moment and trying to generate joy. Same here about not doing that much online -- I guess I gotta vent somewhere -- but I do also try to embrace those things IRL. And I think I'm going to try harder given this news of the Amazon.

I cry for new parents with young children, and for those children themselves.

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wendy davis's picture


thinking had surprised me (at the link above), thus his advice i'd pasted in above on edit. and i haven't even mentioned a boatload of indicators that it's pretty much been written: there's no hope for run-away climate chaos including the self-reinforcing methane feedback loops (save for miracles like benevolent other-worlders having pity on this once blue-green ball of a planet). the planet herself, not humanity. plastic particles are now in very water we drink, in the rain, glyphosates similarly are everywhere... but let's do more Green Capitalism to save ourselves!

but christ in a canoe, even mt. everest's glaciers are melting, and along the way exposing the bodies of dead climbers, and i reckon all the trash they leave on that gorgeous mountain.

but sure, mainly online we're here to critique evil (though many disagree as to what that means, of course), and feature good news when...there actually is any. thanks or coming back; i'll know you'll spread the help and joy in RL as you're able, eagles.

as to this: that's why i'd featured the moody blues as one of the closing songs (wish it were more andante than allegro, but...it is what it is. ; )

best heart to you,

2 users have voted.
Eagles92's picture

@wendy davis The two are so complementary! /s

(Although, maybe in the distant past, they might have been. Too bad no one had the patience to wait for the potential, earth- and humanity-friendly dividends).

I'm a long-term recovering Catholic, and though I will never return to the institution/Church, there are certain things that ostensibly inform the faith that I will always identify with. Here's a good example (from Matthew 23:25-26, for anyone interested, and really, I don't spend time reading the bible!)

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean."

"Green" capitalists are hypocrites. In the distant past, they may not have been. Today, they're just cleaning the outsides of their dishes.

2 users have voted.
Wally's picture

I don't have anything to add.

6 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture


add anything, amigo. that's a satellite image, for chrissake. remember when the planet really was a big blue-green ball and looked like this from a distance? think how much smaller the carbon PPM without the US military footprint? and of those nations who build stronger militaries to protect themselves from the US and NATO/Africom?

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snoopydawg's picture

Article about the Nebraska SC decision. Horrible.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

wendy davis's picture


i'll read what 'nebraska will pass' means. but you're calling it 'horrible' does give the flavor away, goddammit.

2 users have voted.

close to being accurate, a quarter of the Amazon up in flames is a massive story.

And will CNN and MSNBC take a pause in their political horserace coverage to give it a few minutes? And if they do, will they give Bolsonaro a pass?

5 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture


mention 40% in flames? bryan dyne had written: 'While current deforestation of the Amazon stands at about 17 percent, if it reaches between 20 and 25 percent...', but i don't know if he'd meant before these massive numbers of fires...or by now. telesur had written: 'The fire has devastated almost half a million hectares of Bolivia’s Amazon rainforest, largely affecting the historic Chiquitania area'.

mapping fire burns usually takes pretty sophisticated equipment, and may be why the EU had offered this (never mind, too many new tweets to begin to fin it, but here's CNN, just for you, wokkamile:

dunno why it wouldn't embed; let's try:


The Amazon is burning because the world eats so much meat’, Eliza Mackintosh, CNN (as does PETA on that hashtag):

sure and it's brazil's beef, but this is hilarious:

‘An alarming report released last year by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, said changing our diets could contribute 20% of the effort needed to keep global temperatures from rising 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Namely, eating less meat.
Still, global consumption of beef and veal is set to rise in the next decade according to projections from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).’

less meat equals that fix. but it's not US beef and meat, oh, no, nor the vast numbers of concentrated animal feedlots in the US, poisoning water with antibiotics, bacteria, and tra la la. it's brazil! some CAFOs even spray the raw manure back onto the surrounding animal feed fields. yum.

2 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture

2 users have voted.
wendy davis's picture

now remember, this was recorded in 1971:

Listen to the tide slowly turning
Wash all our heartaches away
We are part of the fire that is burning
And from the ashes we can build another day
But I'm frightened for your children
And the life that we are living is in vain
And the sunshine we've been waiting for
Will turn to rain...

and as hope dwindles, reality and climate catastrophes set in, this reminder from john trudell who knew his ride was about to come for him and humanity as well:

enjoy life as you can, and appreciate all you have now; love and make community with those you can. good night, all. peace be with you.

2 users have voted.


Scientists studying satellite image data from the fires in the Amazon rain forest said that most of the fires are burning on agricultural land where the forest had already been cleared.

Maybe they have wised up and are making biochar like their ancient ancestors:

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