ART BY SHIRLEEN KWONG
Picture this: beneath the cool of thickets of the Amazonian trees, you see an endless sea of green. Unexpectedly, you see smoke in the distance, and in an instant, you and the lush forest around you are engulfed in flames.
Last month, I was privileged enough to have traveled to the most renowned rainforest on our planet, the Amazon. It was everything I envisioned it to be: lush plants, beautiful scenery, and most importantly, remarkably framed with biodiversity. Little did I know, it would only take less than a month for what was once a beautiful, green paradise to transform into an actual living nightmare.
To put in perspective, the Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and stretches into the northwestern countries of South America. But in the past couple months, there has been a surge in the number of fires reported, almost 80,000. With the outskirts of the rainforest ablaze, some climate scientists believe that the regional climate can be permanently altered. As the tragedy within the Amazonas rages on, the question is brought forth: how far will our government, leaders and society go to preserve our beloved environment?
But to grasp the intensity of the subject at hand, we must first understand its effects. The fire raging in the Amazon threatens the reserves and territories of the continent’s aboriginal people as well as thousands of yet undiscovered species.
Yes, the fire is a widespread phenomenon that has nearly burned 80,000 acres of land. However, it’s important to ask whether this fire was an act of nature or human intervention.
On Aug. 21, environmental minister, Ricardo Salles, tweeted that the fires were ultimately caused by dry weather, wind and heat. However, according to CNN meteorologist, Haley Brink, the fires were “definitely human-induced.” In other words, the cause of the recent devastations were not solely based on natural occurrence, in fact, a huge part of the fires’ origins were due to human interaction.
In a recent tweet by NowThis News, the media company alleged that United States investment firm led by CEO Stephen Schwarzman, a top-donor to President Trump and Mitch McConnell helped facilitate a boom in agribusiness in the Amazon by financing a transit port and commercial highway that runs deep into the rainforest. By doing so, it allows for the export and transport goods from the area to enhance farming and mining. As this results in an almost automatic agriculture surge, it simultaneously drives the destruction of the Amazon. While more of the rainforest is being burned to ultimately make room for growing crops, the investment company, on the other hand, booms with incoming profits. Tragic, isn’t it. Essentially, Schwarzman and his ilk have gutted the rainforest, displaced its inhabitants and massacred thousands for their own personal gain. What’s more is that these companies believe they are helping the environment. When asked, Blackstone made the argument that since the port allows farm exports to be transported to other places by boat instead of trucks, which cuts carbon emission, their investments are being utilized as a source of “responsible environmental stewardship.”
Then again, if Blackstone’s main intentions were solely to “save the environment” while simultaneously adding more fuel to the fire, they definitely hit the nail on the head.
Consequently, the public went ballistic when they heard the motives of Blackstone, calling out poor government and leadership nationwide. As a matter of fact, the Brazillian government rejected $20 million in aid from G-7 leaders to fight the respective fires, in taking a stand to fight against potential manipulators and government predators.
Besides Blackwell, other nongovernmental groups were also responsible in fueling the fire, in an apparent retaliation to funding cuts. From a public standpoint, we are able to see the dramatic ego that certain groups possess, and what they are willing to do to get what they want.
Despite all the controversy and deception, one of the main outlets that played a huge role in keeping up with the Amazon fires was social media. Starting in mid-August, social media users worldwide rallied around several trending hashtags such as #ActForTheAmazon. People around the globe also took to the streets in protest, demanding action to stop the fires. Not to mention, foreign leaders began to speak out on social media to develop legitimate plans to help out out the fires.
As we all know, the power that media has today can make a global impact in ways that can shape the world and our society for the better. In our current generation, using social media to speak out on certain issues and topics has become a prominent trend in our culture. The power we have when we use our voices to stand up for what we believe in in this day and age is so crucial in strengthening the betterment of our society. From donating to rainforest alliance organizations to getting more involved in environmental activism, doing your part will not only contribute to preserving the Amazon, but will also result in a domino effect in saving the planet.