Our home on fire: UMKC professors share thoughts on Amazon rainforest fires

July and August are typically the most humid and wet months for the Amazon rainforest, but a considerable amount of it is turning from lush green to dark ash right before our eyes.

The Amazon rainforest is commonly called “the lungs of the earth,” housing nearly 20% of our oxygen supply. It is also home to around 10% of the world’s species and absorbs and stores 25% of the carbon dioxide we exhale. 

Forest fires are often the byproduct of intentional clearing, set ablaze to pave the way for agricultural practices.  

“Regarding the fires in the Amazon, I am under the impression that it could have been set by the NGOs because they had asked for money,” said Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. This claim has yet to be proven by governmental officials.

Caroline Davies, director of the environmental studies program and associate professor of the Geosciences Department at UMKC, believes human action caused the raging fires. 

“The satellite imagery is definitive that these fires are started by humans [based on] location, size and area,” Davies said. 

Whether these fires were started at the hands of those furious with Brazil’s president or by those who intended to use the land for farming, an uninhabitable living situation is left for the indigenous population.

UMKC Sociology Professor Stephen Christ contends that, “After losing so much, the indigenous populations may be forced to flee for safety and may not be able to return to lands they and their ancestors have called home for generations.”

The fires have been burning for three weeks, and it is apparent many natural resources are being lost.

“Besides the loss of plants, animals and their unique genetic makeup, 25% of U.S. pharmaceuticals still come from rainforest plants,” Davies said.

As for the rising global temperatures, the continuous burning of the Amazon has added more carbon into the already-thinning atmosphere.  

“The climate system is global and what happens in the Arctic, Antarctic, Pacific or Amazon impacts the global system,” Davies said. 

The harsh reality is that the Amazon may never recover from the widespread devastation. 

Charlene Badami, a student in the sociology department, first noticed the Amazon fire while scrolling through Twitter. 

“I was shocked [to read] that these fires have been going on for a good amount of time, and nothing was being done,” Badami said.

Although the average UMKC student may not be able to assist those affected by the Amazon fires, there are still things we can do. 

“Eat less meat, drive less, carpool, ride bikes, walk, turn off the lights and computer,” Davies said. 

By using our voting power and encouraging others to do so, we can demand change for our environment. The earth is our home, and by implementing small steps to reduce the carbon footprint we leave, we can pass off our home just as we found it.


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