Media Scrambles to Cover Impact of Amazon on Fire

After public outcry erupted across Twitter, media outlets have pursued consistent coverage of the fires raging across the Amazon rainforest, which have caused Amazonia to declare a state of emergency.

The fires are reported to have been mainly started by farmers looking to clear land for development. There are also cases of illegal loggers and miners starting fires to burn the evidence of their work. This comes at a tremendous cost to indigenous communities, biodiversity, and global ecological systems.  

Currently, 400 indigenous tribes inhabit the Amazon rainforest and have been at odds with loggers in the past. According to The Guardian, fires broke out in 131 indigenous reserves from for five days in mid-August.

Unlike other fires in the Arctic and in Africa, those occurring in the Amazon are not natural. The source of the fires are reportedly connected to man-made climate change, which can exacerbate the effects of the fires, as heat and dryness allow the blaze to spread much more rapidly. July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded. Heat evaporates moisture from trees and soil that would otherwise stifle the spread of the fires. While fires occur every year during Brazil’s dry season, they are particularly bad this year.

Assessing blame for the devastating fires racing across the Amazon is complex, but it is clear that they have been made possible by Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro recently declared the Amazon as “open for business,” and made it clear that preserving the Amazon was not a priority of his administration. The Bolsonaro regime has cut down drastically on seizing illegal timber and lowered fines levied for illegal deforestation and mining by 34%. President Bolsonaro recently rejected $22 million offered by G-7 countries to combat the fires.

This new strategy of opening the Amazon for business has come at a tremendous cost to indigenous people, the ecosystem and irreplaceable biodiversity. Multinational corporations who continue to do business with logging companies pillaging the Amazon have been singled out as complicit. It has recently been revealed that Blackrock is the world’s largest investor in deforestation. Companies like investment management giant Blackrock are profiting off of irreparable destruction to the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous people that live there.

Editorialists who claimed Bolsonaro’s environmental policies would be “good for business” and whitewashed the detrimental effects to indigenous communities and multiple levels of the ecosystem are also complicit. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board endorsed Bolsonaro for the Brazilian presidency in a piece titled “Brazilian Swamp Drainer.” CBC published an article in October 2018 titled “What a far-right Bolsonaro presidency in Brazil means for Canadian business,” which stated: “Miners could benefit from relaxed regulations, as environmentalists fear growth plans will destroy the Amazon.”  

Major media networks that ignored the threat Bolsonaro represented in an effort to highlight the potential business benefits his presidency could bring bear a degree of responsibility in the face of the Amazon fires.

While the crisis of the Amazon fires has received plenty of coverage from global news networks, discussion of the culprits of the fires has received much less attention. Many journalists have highlighted Bolsonaro’s connection to the illegal industries causing the destruction of the Amazon, but far fewer have attributed blame to others who made this environmental disaster possible.

Powerful voices in the business journalism community, who touted support for Bolsonaro, and multinationals that profit directly off of the destruction have received less than their share of the blame from the media. A quick Google News search for “Amazon fires” reveals over 11 million results. If “Blackrock” is added to the query, the search reveals less than 2 thousand results.

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