16:52 GMT28 January 2020
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    The raging Amazon fires are caused by capitalist environmental policies aimed at obliterating the rainforest and opening the excavated land up for agribusiness, Fred Magdoff, professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Monday.

    The Amazon, responsible for producing 20% of the world’s oxygen, has been on fire for the last three weeks, causing widespread global concern among environmental experts and citizens alike. 

    According to satellite data provided by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), there has been an 84% increase in the number of wildfires in Brazil between 2018 and 2019.

    “What has happened is basically an acceleration of deforestation in the rainforest,” Magdoff, who co-authored the book “What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism,” told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker. “Burning is part of the process that people use to clear large areas of land. The fires may have started by accident, but I think most of them were made by humans in order to basically quicken or accelerate the process of conversion into agricultural land. So, this is happening on a huge area and a very important part of the world, as climate goes.”

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic, has claimed that the fires were started by nongovernmental environmental organizations in retaliation for budget cuts under his administration. 

    Although drought is certainly playing a role in the Amazon fires, many scientists claim that the Bolsonaro administration’s anti-climate policies have promoted land clearance. Bolsonaro in January declared that he would allow commercial mining and farming on reservation lands – an initiative slammed by the nation’s indigenous community and environmentalists, Sputnik reported.

    Many indigenous people in the region have blamed miners and ranchers for the blazes.

    ​“Look what they’ve done to our reservation. For two years we’ve been fighting to preserve this land, and now those troublemakers come here and set fire to our village,”  said Célia Pataxo, an indigenous activist from the Pataxo community, in a now-viral video, according to Democracy Now. “As if it were not enough, the Vale mining company kills our river, our people, our source of life, and now they’ve come and set fire to our reservation. We won’t stay quiet! Tomorrow we will close the road, and we want the media to defend us!”

    “In the near term, you are spewing a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of the forest. Basically you’re pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So, that’s the immediate effect. Particulate material also goes off in the forest, which has detrimental effects on breathing. For long term effects, you have the issue of this land not [being] able to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce oxygen, because one of the things that plants do is produce oxygen that we all breathe,” Magdoff explained

    According to the National Geographic, “rainforests help to stabilize the planet’s climate. Its lush, green vegetation regulate global temperatures by absorbing massive amounts of radiation from the sun,” as well as absorbing and then converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

    “When you make decisions in a capitalist society, the only thing that counts is if you can make money out of it and how much can you make. And other issues about what happens to the ecosystem - and by the way, what happens to the people also; there are people living in the rainforest; there are indigenous tribes that are there as well as non-human animals, and the biodiversity of the tree species are also important - but those things can’t be taken into account,” Magdoff explained. 

    “If you can make money, the de facto answer is, ‘Yes, let’s do that.’ That’s the way of operating in capitalism unless there is some very strong regulations that stop it. This is how decisions are made. All the other issues for all practical purposes are irrelevant,” he noted.

    The INPE has recorded nearly 73,000 forest fires throughout Brazil from January to August, the highest number since records began in 2013. 

    Bolsonaro declared Friday that he would be sending 43,000 troops to put out the Amazon fires.

    “You need massive mobilization … I have no idea what magnitude of mobilization would be needed [to stop the fires], but I’m sure it’s more than what they [the Bolsonaro administration] are starting with,” Magdoff told Sputnik. “I don’t know what effort is needed, but it’s certainly massive.”

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    Jair Bolsonaro, environment, capitalism, wildfires, Brazil, Amazon
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