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Brazil's Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate

Fires are raging at a record rate in Brazil's Amazon rain forest, they are burning at the highest rate since the country's space research center, the National Institute for Space Research (known by the abbreviation INPE), began tracking them in 2013, the center said Tuesday.

There have been over 70,000 fires in Brazil this year, with more than half in the Amazon region, INPE said. That's more than an 80% increase compared with the same period last year and the highest since at least 2013.

Brazil's Amazon rain forest is considered vital in slowing global warming, and it is home to uncountable species of fauna and flora. Roughly half the size of the United States, it is the largest rainforest on the planet.

Dramatic images and videos on social media show giant plumes of smoke rising from the greenery and lines of fire leaving blackened waste in their wake.

Many news outlets reported the smoke had reached all the way to Sao Paolo, more than 1,700 miles away. Images from the city show the sky pitch black in the middle of the afternoon, the sky and sun blanketed by smoke and ash.

The European Union's satellite program, Copernicus, released a map showing smoke from the fires spreading all along Brazil to the east Atlantic coast. The smoke has covered nearly half of the country and is even spilling over into neighboring Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

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, despite offering no evidence to support the claim.

But conservationists have blamed Mr Bolsonaro for the Amazon's plight, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land.

Marcio Astrini from Greenpeace said that the increased deforestation and burning are a "result of his [President Bolsonaro] anti-environmental policy."

The fear is that increased deforestation in concert with other ecological conditions could cause the Amazon to become a source of carbon dioxide instead of a "sink", some environmentalists believe. (The amount of oxygen emitted decreasing while carbon dioxide balloons into the atmosphere.)

However, some people, including one of Brazil's leading environmental journalists believe that media coverage of the fires has been misleading. It was under Lula and Marina Silva between 2003 and 2008 that Brazil had the highest incidence of burning, Leonardo Coutinho told Michael Schellenberger of Forbes. But neither Lula nor Marina was accused of putting the Amazon at risk.

Dan Nepstad, one of the world’s leading Amazon forest experts, said about the widely used claim that the Amazon is the lungs of the world: It’s bulls***, there’s no science behind that. The Amazon produces a lot of oxygen but it uses the same amount of oxygen through respiration so it’s a wash.

Regardless of opinion, the broader point is that there is an increase in fires in Brazil and something should be done about it.

Additional Reading:

Conversation topics:

  • How are big fires like this being fought?
    The military was deployed to help battle the fires and 44,000 troops were sent to six states. In addition, warplanes were dousing flames.
  • Do you think the Amazon's fires affect us?
    The Amazon is a "weather engine," and studies show further deforestation has the ability to destabilize rainfall patterns and threaten food production.

Did you know?

  • In 2007, a man named Martin Strel swam the entire length of the Amazon river! Martin swam for up to ten hours a day for 66 days!
  • The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest. Covering over 2.1 million square miles, it’s so big that it would cover half of the United States!

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Ages 6 to 8

This is not good... The Amazon rainforest burns in many places!

It is well known that forest fires can change the climate. Researchers have found that fires in the Amazon rain forest, which is in Brazil, are burning at the fastest rate yet. There have been more than 70,000 fires in Brazil alone this year. The smoke is so strong that it traveled to places over 1700 miles away.

This is a big problem. The Amazon produces 20% of the oxygen for the Earth. As humans we need oxygen to breath and live. Also, fires creates a gas called carbon that warms the planet. As the planet warms different animals and plants can no longer survive.

Many people feel that the president of Brazil has allowed loggers, miners and farmers to take down too many trees called deforestation. If trees were able to grow naturally the ground would hold more water thus, decreasing fires.

Did you know?

Due to the thickness of the canopy (the top branches and leaves of the trees), the Amazon floor is in permanent darkness. In fact, it’s so thick that when it rains, it takes around ten minutes for the water to reach the ground!

Important Words:

  • Researchers
    Scientists who check information and facts
  • Logger
    A person who fells trees for timber; a lumberjack
  • Canopy
    The top branches and leaves of the trees

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Please let the adult know you're ready for this article and have them enable the quiz.
Ages 8 to 10

Brazil's Amazon rainforest is burning faster than ever!

Fires are raging at a record rate in Brazil's Amazon rain forest, they are burning at the highest rate since the country's space research center began tracking them in 2013.

There have been over 70,000 fires in Brazil this year, with more than half in the Amazon region. That's the highest since at least 2013. The smoke is so strong that it traveled to places over 1700 miles away.

Brazil's Amazon rain forest is considered vital in slowing global warming, and it is home to uncountable species of fauna and flora. At roughly half the size of the United States, it is the largest rainforest on the planet.

This is a big problem. The Amazon produces 20% of the oxygen for the Earth. As humans we need oxygen to breath and live. Also, fires creates a gas called carbon that warms the planet. As the planet warms different animals and plants can no longer survive.

Many people feel that the president of Brazil has contributed to the deforestation problem by allowin loggers, miners and farmers to take down too many trees.

Did you know?

Due to the thickness of the canopy (the top branches and leaves of the trees), the Amazon floor is in permanent darkness. In fact, it’s so thick that when it rains, it takes around ten minutes for the water to reach the ground!

Important Words:

  • Fauna
    The animals of a particular region
  • Flora
    The plants of a particular region
  • Canopy
    The top branches and leaves of the trees

Ready for the quiz?

Please let the adult know you're ready for this article and have them enable the quiz.
In what country are most of the current Amazon rain forest fires?
United States
Bolivia
Peru
What gas do humans need that trees produce?
Nitrogen
Carbon Monoxide
Carbon Dioxide
How did Martin Strel travel the Amazon river?
Kayaking
Walking
Canoeing

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