While raising awareness of a climate emergency is definitely a noble cause, some people have apparently resorted to misinformation in doing so, whether deliberately or not.
Some of the luminaries spreading the word about the burning Amazon rainforest have shared photos that were taken during previous fires, some of them not in Brazil at all.
For instance, a photo of the burning forest shared by French President Emmanuel Macron and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, was actually taken by a National Geographic photographer who died in 2003, reports AFP news agency which spotted it in the Alarmy photo library.
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019
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#Regram #RG @IamNickRose: Terrifying to think that the Amazon is the largest rain forest on the planet, creating 20% of the earth’s oxygen, basically the lungs of the world, has been on fire and burning for the last 16 days running, with literally NO media coverage whatsoever! Why?
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was quick to accuse Macron of “sensationalism” and attempting to score political points with a photo that is at least 16 years old.
“I regret that President Macron seeks to instrumentalise an internal issue of Brazil and other Amazonian countries for personal political gain,” he tweeted in Portuguese. “The sensational tone with which he refers to the Amazon (appealing even to fake photos) does nothing to solve the problem.”
- Lamento que o presidente Macron busque instrumentalizar uma questão interna do Brasil e de outros países amazônicos p/ ganhos políticos pessoais. O tom sensacionalista com que se refere à Amazônia (apelando até p/ fotos falsas) não contribui em nada para a solução do problema.— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) August 22, 2019
Another widely-shared image, posted by tennis star Novak Djokovic, YouTuber Logan Paul and rapper/actor Jaden Smith, shows a wildfire sending a thick wall of smoke billowing over the Amazon.
amazon rainforest: how can i help? need advice on how i can actually make a change here; these pictures are breaking my heart... this is one of the most important ecosystems on earth. is there a fundraiser, a call to action, anything i can leverage my audience for on this? pic.twitter.com/s3RcbZbMr0— Logan Paul (@LoganPaul) August 21, 2019
In fact, the photo was featured in a photo gallery in The Guardian, devoted to the devastating 2007 Amazon fires. According to the caption on the newspaper’s website, it was taken 30 years ago, in June 1989.
Some of the most heart-breaking images as of late were those of a charred rabbit and a monkey that appears to cry out after her baby collapses.
The monkey was actually caught on camera in the Indian city of Jabalpur in 2017. The photographer, Avinash Lodhi, said in an interview with The Telegraph at the time: “This picture is very close to my heart because throughout my entire photography career I have never seen anything like this.”
However harrowing, it does not appear to be linked with any fire at all.
The ‘burned rabbit’ picture, also widely retweeted, was identified as coming from last year’s Woolsey Fire in California.
The Planet's 'Green Lungs' Burning
Brazil’s space and climate-monitoring agency (Inpe) has recorded nearly 73,000 forest fires throughout the country from January to August, the highest number since records began in 2013. Most were in the Amazon.
It marked an 84 percent hike from 2018, when just under 40,000 fires were recorded in the same period.
Environmentalists claim that the fires are human in origin and policies of Jair Bolsonaro’s government, which has opened the Amazon region to farming and mining.
Brazil’s conservative president has drawn international backlash over the Amazon situation, with Germany suspending millions of dollars in funding for local forest conservation projects and Ireland and Finland
Bolsonaro, a major climate change sceptic, suggested in turn that the fires are being set by environmental activists seeking to embarrass his government.
Earlier this month, Bolsonaro sacked the head of Inpe, calling the agency’s satellite data on Amazon deforestation “lies”.