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The Amazon Burns

By: Martina Isaksen, 11º

Photo Credit: The Washington Post

The current situation in the Amazon has become a worldwide crisis, and yet for over two weeks, from the fourth of August to the 20th,  there was no media attention around it. While the excuse that the size of the Amazon made it hard to realize the true scope of the situation might have sufficed for one week, or even ten days, the perpetual silence of the world's most recognized news outlets after the information went viral on social media leaves a lot of questions.  

The fires began on August 4th, but only started circulating social media around August 20th, with many calling it fake news due to the little to none coverage from reliable sources. Many also argued that wildfires are common this time of year and it was simply a natural cycle from the forest. A yearly occurrence to be expected. And while part of that is true, the scope in which it is happening in 2019 has made the situation an international emergency. The National Institute for Space Research has been tracking similar wildfires of the season over the past five years and has reported an 84% increase in them. That's almost double the number of wildfires registered last year. This is deeply troubling when it is taken into account that the new government favors a slash and burn system to clear cattle grazing areas, which often eats into the Amazonian rainforest and gets out of control. CNN stated that “While the country's farmers and cattle ranchers have long used slash-and-burn techniques -- when blazes clear land to ready it for other purposes -- an 80% rise in deforestation since last year signals a disturbing shift in a political ethos.” This dramatic increase in deforestation is directly linked back to a relaxation in the country’s legal sanctions of environmental damage that began with Bolsonaro’s presidency.

Photo Credit: Greenpeace

The devastation and general deforestation went unnoticed for a while, until the area caught fire dramatically and the indigenous communities started asking for action. Even then, it took some time for the rest of the world to become informed about the situation. When finally the story started to circulate on social media, most reliable sources of information remained quiet on these platforms, creating a huge problem in regards to the credibility of the crisis. Like most items that go viral on social media, it was very hard to discern fiction from reality, and it was made even harder by many of the pictures being outdated or from fires across the globe. This made it very hard to identify what exactly was the crisis and the best immediate course of action. Yet, sources like the BBC kept their silence across their social platforms, posting trivial things like the net worth of popular actors like Dwayne Johnson or the hilarious video in which twenty inflatable beds started flying away in California, due to the rough winds. To many who only trust the word of world-renowned sources, like the BBC, the most important news of the hour was Dwayne Johnson’s wallet. Even though most of these world renowned news outlets finally posted some useful information after several days had passed of the dreadful news, important organizations like UNICEF and the UN remain silent about the crisis to this date. 

The problem with this lack of information on the wider-reaching social media of these news outlets is that they completely change the priorities of what is being broadcasted, subsequently lessening the conversation which is vital when it comes to action. If we, as world citizens are not informed, what can we do about these critical moments in our world’s history? How can we react in the best way possible to help protect our heritage?

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