Fires in the Amazon

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There's something about the Amazon fires that doesn't quite tally up.

Submitted: August 25, 2019

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Submitted: August 25, 2019

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There are fires burning in the Amazon! They’re even talking about them at the G7 conference, and of course climate change activists are into it like a pig into truffles. As for me I don’t want to see a square inch of the forest burning! But something doesn’t quite add up because the forest can’t be burning, and here’s why. The Amazon rainforest is wet, it receives on average of over two metres of rain annually. Of course the amount of rain varies in different parts of the basin, with some areas receiving six metres, which means there’ll be some areas receiving significantly less than two metres, but they are still wet areas and forests won’t burn if they’re wet. Compare it to our rainfall, which is less than half a metre but still, there might be only two or three days in a year suitable for a controlled burn.

I’ve checked the weather records of the Amazon and sure enough the driest month is September and although the temperature is very even throughout the year, the two warmest months are September and October. So what’s burning? It seems logical that its the areas that have been logged, so they must be burning logging slash which is easier to burn than damp, standing forest. The sun can get into cutover and dry the fuel out. And to the Brazilians’ credit, from the pictures I’ve seen on TV, they’ve constructed firebreaks (or perhaps they’re roads which function the same). It’s just a guess but I’d say the slash they’re burning is two, maybe three years old, otherwise it probably wouldn’t burn. The burning is also probably a little earlier than usual because of seasonal fluctuation, but damp fuel creates a lot of smoke, which is exactly what they have.

Traditionally Amazonians clear a small area for their dwelling and probably fuel, they hunt and utilize the environs for a year or three and move on. All perfectly sustainable. The area they cleared and burnt so will regenerate quite quickly. The logged over areas are a different matter, but if left,  those areas may well regenerate too, but if those areas are converted into farms, then the forest is lost and I have to say I’m totally against that. There are techniques for sustainable harvesting but it would be a can of worms and transparency may not be trusted.

Norway did the responsible thing by paying the Brazil government not to harvest trees from the Amazon, which would have been my approach too, but the new Brazil president gave the middle finger, took the money and restarted logging anyway. Norway’s response was to (rightly) stop the payments, so obviously the president fella has become snotty. But this will be a developing story. So welcome to the world of capitalism folks, if you want Brazil to stop logging the Amazon, then don’t buy their timber or their beef! USA, China, Netherlands, Italy and Argentina buy Brazilian timber and Russia, Hong Kong, Venezuela and Egypt are Brazil’s largest customers for beef. But like all primary production, middlemen make the dollars! Therein lies another tale.  Its plan and simple, if the Brazil government won’t cooperate, the way to stop the fires in the Amazon and halt logging too, is people power, don’t buy their timber or beef!

Our minister for the environment in a recent speech with an eye to the Amazon fires, said violent and erratic weather, droughts, floods and wildfires proved that climate change is well and truly upon us. Not true. Some random information to make the point; in the year 1000 the rivers of Europe dried up, 1123 parts of the Rhine dried up, 1303 and 1304 the Rhine, Loire and Seine ran dry, 1821 more than 200 000 French people died from the heat. All of these events represent a dynamic world climate, which is arguably less so at the present time than it has been in the past.

I’ll stay seated firmly on my hobby-horse! There’s no denying the world has become filthy because of our waste, which impacts on our health and wellbeing. Cleaning it up the mess is in the hands of people, people like you and me.

 


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