The Amazon rainforest fires have reached record-breaking levels, surpassing more than 75,000 fires since the start of the year. In the 48 hours leading to Thursday, August 22, more than 2,500 fires were seen tearing through the Brazilian rainforest. Satellite images snapped by NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite show pockets of raging fire in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. The Amazon rainforest covers an area roughly half the size of Europe, stretching approximately 2.1 million square miles.
The Amazon sits across much of northern South America and is found in Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Suriname.
Approximately 60 percent of the rainforest is found within the borders of Brazil, where the Amazon has fallen prey to legal and illegal deforestation.
Conservation groups like Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have claimed the rainforest is being burned to clear land for agriculture.
Critics have also accused Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro of failing to appropriately address the fires.
In some cases, critics have accused the Brazilian President of facilitating the destruction of the Amazon for farmland.
Danicley Aguiar of Greenpeace Brazil said: “Those who destroy the Amazon and let deforestation continue unabated are encouraged in doing so by the Bolsonaro government’s actions and policies.
“Since taking office, the current government has been systematically dismantling Brazil’s environmental policy.”
The WWF has accused cattle ranchers and soy farmers for clearing land in the Amazon.
According to the WWF, Brazil and the US account for approximately 80 percent of the world’s soy production.
The conservation group said: “The fires are a direct result of soaring deforestation rates to clear or prepare for agriculture and cattle farming.
“We’ve seen a massive increase in the number of fires in 2019, and half of these have been in the last 20 days.
“While natural wildfires are not unusual at this time of the year, the sheer scale and intensity of these fires is exceptional, and the direct result of increase in deforestation rates by farmers going largely unchecked by Brazilian government.”
However, President Bolsonaro has denied any culpability for the ongoing fires and instead shifted the blame away from his Government and environmental policies.
On Thursday, the President suggested NGOs could be to blame for the fires.
He said: “The Indians? Do you want me to blame the Indians? Do you want me to blame the Martians?
“Everyone is a suspect but the biggest suspect are NGOs.”