Online Originals: Fires blaze through Amazon in Brazil

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For the last three weeks, parts of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil have been burning.

Smoke has traveled 1700 miles away to Sao Paulo. They experienced a black out during the middle of the day earlier in the week due to the smoke.

The smoke can be seen from space, according to satellite images.

So far in 2019, almost 73,000 fires have been detected.

That’s a staggering 80%t increase from the same time last year.

Conditions are not abnormal.

“It’s slightly dryer right now, but generally its about normal,” said Scott Curtis, a professor in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment at ECU. “It’s not like a drought situation like they’ve had in the past.”

Brazilians are blaming president Jair Bolsonaro because of looser environmental restrictions, but he blames non-government organizations (NGO’s) saying its because of a decrease in funding.

Experts say the fires are mostly started by humans.

“So what happens is, these fires are used to clear the forest for ranching and for agricultural purposes,” said Curtis.

On some social media sites, it appears as though a large contiguous portion of the forest is on fire, but this is actually not the case.

“It’s actually these smaller pockets where people are doing this for their own economic benefit. For their own livelihood. To increase their ranching or farming,” said Curtis.

Despite this fact, the increase in fires from 2018 is concerning.

The Amazon is sometimes described as the lungs of the earth.

“Kind of the opposite of our lungs,” said Curtis. “We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. They do the opposite. They do help bring down that level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and they give off oxygen which we all need to live.”

9 On Your Side will continue to monitor the fires and update over the next several days.

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