Sending water bombers won’t solve Amazon rainforest fires, Canadian researcher says
Jenny Peng, The Star, Aug. 27, 2019
VANCOUVER—A researcher who has spent decades working in the Amazon rainforest with Indigenous Peoples says sending water bombers to Brazil would be a mere Band-Aid in the face of systemic problems.
Late last week, Brazil’s National Space Research Institute revealed that a total of 76,720 wildfires have burned across the country this year; a little over half were in the Amazon region. The institute says it doesn’t have figures for the area burned, but deforestation as a whole has accelerated in the Amazon this year.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $15 million and the use of Canadian water bombers to help combat the ongoing fires.
Barbara Zimmerman is the director of the Kayapo Project at the International Conservation Fund of Canada, a charity that aims to preserve biodiverse areas around the world. Though she applauds the Trudeau government’s announcement and his efforts to bring more attention to the Amazon fires, she says the measures are short-term solutions.
“The entire problem is the lack of enforcement of Brazil’s laws, and as long as that continues, this will happen every year,” said Zimmerman, who is based in Toronto.
View of a burnt area after a fire in the Amazon rainforest near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, on August 25. Brazil on Sunday deployed two C-130 Hercules aircraft to douse fires devouring parts of the Amazon rainforest.
Critics like Zimmerman say the large number of fires has been stoked by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has encouraged farmers, loggers and ranchers to strip away the forest. Facing international pressure, Bolsonaro has now vowed to protect the area.
Fires in the rainforest are mostly man-made, said Zimmerman, contrary to Canadian forest fires, which are mostly natural during dry seasons. Last year, B.C. saw more than 2,100 wildfires burn a record-breaking 1.35 million hectares of land. Most were sparked by lightning, but roughly a quarter were started by people.
In the Amazon forest, naturally occurring wildfires are rare because the trees and vegetation hold an enormous amount of “living biomass” or water that lessens the chance of fire, even in the dry season, according to Zimmerman.