The Amazon is burning and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is to blame.
That's the general consensus from observers and green groups who say the right-wing firebrand's anti-environmental policies shoulder the lion's share of the responsibility for thousands of fires across the rainforest, known as the world's lungs
The fires, as writer Wendi Muse pointed out on Twitter, aren't spontaneous, but are believed to be set by farmers and others looking to clear the land for development.
"Just a gentle reminder that the fires in the Amazon are intentional," said Muse. "It's not a forest fire type situation. It's an intentional setting ablaze of the forest by the fascist Brazilian government, agrobusiness, and ranching oligarchs."
Just a gentle reminder that the fires in the amazon are intentional. It’s not a forest fire type situation. It’s an intentional setting ablaze of the forest by the fascist brazilian govt + agrobusiness & ranching oligarchs. Wording matters. Don’t hide who is doing this & why.
— Wendi Muse (@MuseWendi) August 21, 2019
350.org founder Bill McKibben made the connection between the fires and the Bolsonaro government explicit in a column for NBC Think Thursday:
It's not often you can pinpoint one person as the culprit for something on this scale, but the midday darkness is the direct result of the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the country's presidency last year. Bolsonaro, who has told people, supposedly ironically, to call him "Captain Chainsaw," campaigned on the theory that his country's economic development had been limited by the world’s affection for the Amazon, and he made clear that those who wanted to cut it down had little to fear from his administration. He even fired the head of the federal agency tasked with monitoring by satellite the extent of deforestation, when he found that deforestation was increasing.
Bolsonaro has taken to relying on baseless conspiracy theories that the blazes are the result of aggressive NGOs targeting his government as well as swiping at the Amazon's indigenous population who have fought the destruction of the rainforest for decades.
"The Indians, do you want me to blame the Indians?" Bolsonaro said to reporters, according to the BBC. "Do you want me to blame the Martians?... Everyone is a suspect, but the biggest suspects are NGOs."
Bolsonaro also said his government was unable to fight the fires.
"There aren't the resources," he said. "This chaos has arrived."
The Bolsonaro government has drastically increased the rate of deforestation in Brazil, as Common Dreams reported in June.
In a statement, Amnesty International secretary general Kumi Naidoo said that no excuses were sufficient to dodge the facts.
"The responsibility to stop the wildfires that have been raging in the Amazon rainforest for several weeks now lies squarely with President Bolsonaro and his government," said Naidoo. "They must change their disastrous policy of opening up the rainforest for destruction, which is what has paved the way for this current crisis."
"We must stand together behind the Indigenous communities and leaders across the Amazon region—from Brazil to Ecuador and beyond," added Naidoo. "For them the Amazon is more than the lungs of the world, it is their home."