The past few weeks have offered a saddening reminder of how much, as Sir David Attenborough said in his UN speech last year, we have lost touch with the natural world.
NASA has confirmed that 2019 has seen the highest number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon in nearly a decade, with a year on year rise versus 2018 of 85%. So far this year, around one million hectares of forest has been affected by the fires, emitting 228 megatonnes of Carbon Dioxide. To put that in perspective, that’s an area half the size of Wales, while the amount of carbon dioxide released is the equivalent to that produced by 38 million people (over half the population of the UK) in an entire year.
Globally, our forests are rapidly disappearing for a number of reasons – to create space for agriculture, due to mining, because of development and infrastructure projects and as a result of unsustainable forest management.
Half the world’s rainforests have already been lost in the past century. Every year an area of forest the size of England and Wales might be destroyed. In just 40 years an area the size of Europe could be wiped out and at the current rate, our rainforests could be gone altogether.
According to Global Forest Watch, “If tropical deforestation were a country, it would rank third in carbon dioxide emissions behind only China and the USA.”
At the time of writing, the latest on this global catastrophe just scrapes into the top 20 stories on the BBC News’ website. The top six stories focus upon Brexit, while articles about the takeover of Bolton Wanderers’ and ex-footballer Dean Saunders being jailed for drink driving take precedence.
It’s a similar story (or not) on the websites of The Guardian and The Independent, while no obvious mention can be found on The Times’ or the Telegraph’s homepage.
Time to look a little harder then. A search for ‘Amazon fire’ using our search engine of choice, Ecosia (fantastic environmentally by the way – do download and use it as they plant trees using their profits) brings up a page of results dominated by deals relating to the Amazon Fire tablet. In fact, none of the top five results relate to the Amazon fire we should be more interested in and deeply concerned by. Searching via Google, the results are more 50:50.
This is impossible to understand given the vital role of trees, so often described as “the lungs of our planet”. Trees provide us with Oxygen, store Carbon Dioxide and remove pollution from the atmosphere, improving the quality of our air and our everyday health. According to the Rainforest Alliance, more than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest. Generally speaking, one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people and store several tonnes of Carbon Dioxide in its lifetime.
Perhaps just as galling is that within days of the recent Notre Dame fire, billions of dollars had been pledged to restore the historic landmark. The story was breaking news, time and time again. Granted, there aren’t many man-made structures that are over 850 years old still standing and the incident is, of course, a very sad one. But contrast that to the Amazon Rainforest, which is 55 million years old and just about the most biodiverse place on Earth. Surely our priorities are all wrong?
We’ve deliberately omitted politics as this shouldn’t be about nations, politicians and their games. We’re already in time added on and the whistle is about to blow.