As the rain forest burns, Russell Jones looks at whether this is a Brazilian or worldwide issue

So we’ve just had the hottest August Bank Holiday on record and I don’t know about you, but I had a brilliant Bank Holiday weekend, enjoying what was stunning ‘Mediterranean’ weather for the UK.

But while I was relaxed and enjoying the fantastic sunshine, I couldn’t avoid the news coming from the other side of the world and the devastation being caused to the Amazon by uncontrolled fires.

As the largest rain forest on the planet, the Amazon is known as the ‘lungs of the world’ because it absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen. It acts as a huge and vital carbon store that helps to slows down the pace of global warming.

The majority of it falls within Brazil and it is home to over 1 million indigenous people and an estimated 3 million species of plants and animals.

We seem to be facing a global competition between nationalism and internationalism.

Russell Jones Russell Jones Content and communications manager

Ignorance is not bliss

I know we are still in the holiday season and we all deserve a moment to switch off and relax, but there are some topics and certain times where it is no longer possible to ignore things and think “it doesn’t concern me”.

The climate crisis is one of those things that it is no longer possible for anyone to ignore.

Whether it is unseasonal storms, floods and mudslides, super long heatwaves, or yet another species on the brink of extinction, we are all living through a momentous time for our planet.

The uncontrolled fires consuming vast swathes of historic and un-replaceable rain forest is happening right now and is something that none of us can afford to ignore.

National versus International

For me, we seem to be facing a global competition between nationalism and internationalism. 

In Brazil, for example, the President Jair Bolsonaro, has been ignoring calls from other leaders to tackle the uncontrolled fires and has so far rejected an $22m offer of aid from G7 countries.

He sees this as a national issue, when G7 leaders recognise the global importance of the Amazon.

Critics of the President have accused him of making deforestation worse in the rainforest through his anti-environmental rhetoric and whilst wildfires are often seen during the dry season in the country, satellite data has shown an 80% increase this year.

Analysis by the BBC also shows that this record number of fires has coincided with a sharp reduction in the fines that Bolsonaro’s government are handing out for environmental violations.

‘Meating’ the need

Brazil is the world's largest exporter of beef, accounting for nearly 20% of all global trade, so there is pressure on the Brazilian government to support cattle farmers, who make up a considerable part of the nation’s economy.

There have also been suggestions that some of the current fires have been started deliberately to clear land for more cattle, to ensure that beef farming continues to grow, year-on-year, helping safeguard the economy and national interests of Brazil.

No planet B

And this comes back to my central point about national self-interest over the interests of the planet.

Whether it is the UK, choosing to leave a large and globally influential group to ‘go it alone’ with Brexit, Brazil ignoring the impact that both wild and deliberate fires have on the ‘lungs of the world’, or the US, Russia or China pursuing self-focused nationalistic campaigns, we won’t develop the urgency we need to fix the climate crisis until and unless we work together.

All is not lost

I’ve written before about the things we can all do as individuals to make a difference and whether you choose to lobby politicians or support environmental pioneers such as Greta Thunberg, there’s one simple thing you can do today that will make a difference – Cut out beef from your diet, or at least reduce it significantly.

Who knows, if enough of us do this, there may be less need for the Brazilian cattle farmers to find new land for their herds.

Russell Jones is content and communications manager for Mitsubishi Electric Living Environment Systems in the UK