The Amazon rainforest provides the world with more than 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe. But more than 75,000 fires have decimated the rainforest since the start of the year, with ongoing fires and smoke visible from space. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who last flew over the Amazon onboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016, took to Twitter to share his shock over the wildfires. The astronaut reminded his 5.6 million followers how impotent the Amazon rainforest is for the survival of the human species.
Mr Kelly tweeted: “Deforestation changes the face of our planet.
“Between my first flight in 1999 and last in 2016, I noticed a difference in the #Amazon. Less forest, more burning fields.
“The #AmazonRainforest produces more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. We need O2 to survive!”
Alongside his call to action, the astronaut shared a photo of the burning Amazon taken from space.
Amazon rainforest fires: Astronaut Scott Kelly called to action over the Amazon fires
Amazon rainforest fires: The rainforest produces 20 percent of the world’s oxygen
The Amazon rainforest is a major carbon sink and producer of oxygen that has been dubbed “the lungs of the Earth”.
We need O2 to survive!
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) conservation group, the repercussions of the ongoing fires are “devastating”.
Vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest are being cleared for agricultural reasons, primarily, for crops and cattle farming.
The effects of climate change and global warming are further believed to worsen the Amazon wildfires.
The WWF said: “The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and a key ally in fighting the climate crisis. It’s meant to absorb carbon, not produce it.
“The trees in the Amazon contain up to 140 billion tonnes of carbon. That’s the equivalent of what humans produce in 100 years.
“Put simply, there’s no way we can fight the climate crisis without stopping the destruction of our forests.”
Since the start of the year, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has recorded more than 75,000 fires in the Amazon.
Amazon rainforest fires: The NASA astronaut has previously expressed concerns over deforestation
Amazon rainforest fires: The Amazon fires and smoke are visible from space
The shocking figure marks an 84 increase on the number of Amazon fires recorded in 2018.
Environmental groups have blamed Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro for facilitating the ongoing disaster.
President Bolsonaro’s environmental policies have opened up the rainforest to commercial interests, allowing significant portions of the forest to be destroyed for farming and logging.
The move has threatened the one million indigenous people who live in the Amazon, alongside the 10 percent of the world’s wildlife that lives in the rainforest.
In response, environmental protesters heckled Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles on Wednesday.
But the Brazilian president has attempted to shift the blame from his Government and pointed the finger at NGO groups, who he accused of starting the fires.
Mr Bolsonaro said: “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame.”
The smoke from the Amazon fires has completely chocked out the skies over Sao Paulo in these terrifying images.
Mr Kelly previously shared a warning message about the Amazon in May 2017, when he tweeted the same picture of the burning rainforest.
The astronaut said at the time: “Over the span of my four spaceflights from 1999 to 2016, the area of Amazon £deforestation equals the size of Kansas. #EarthVitalSigns #COP21”