This NASA image from August 20 shows the cross country smoke resulting from the wildfires.

Is Deforestation or NGO Arson to Blame for Amazon Wildfires?

Wildfires are currently burning so intensely in the Amazon rainforest that smoke from the blaze has covered nearby cities in a dark haze.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported a record 72,843 fires this year, an 80 percent increase from last year. More than 9,000 of those fires have been spotted in the past week.

National Geographic says the size of the fires is still unclear, but they spread over several large Amazon states in northwest Brazil and can be seen from space.

Environmental experts cite deforestation as the primary cause but Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro says non-governmental organizations may be setting fires in the Amazon to embarrass the Brazilian government after it cut their funding. Bolsonaro has provided no evidence to support this claim.

On August 21, he said on Facebook Live that “there could be…, I’m not affirming it, criminal action by these ‘NGOers’ to call attention against my person, against the government of Brazil. This is the war that we are facing,”

Greenpeace blames Bolsonaro for the Amazon’s plight, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land, creating a deforestation crisis. More forest has been cleared this summer than the last three years combined.

Previous rainforest fires have been related to a lack of rain, but this is not the case this year as conditions have been moist, underscoring the belief that these recent, large-scale fires have been caused by deforestation. Or angry NGOs, depending on who you choose to believe…

Aside from the danger and catastrophe of the fire itself, a secondary result is that large and potentially harmful amounts of carbon will pollute the atmosphere.

Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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