The Amazon inferno: Crisis or necessity?

Christopher Rinner is a first-year criminal justice major. He is a guest writer for the Newswire from Cincinnati.

As anyone who uses social media can tell you, the burning of the Amazon Rainforest is something that should be talked about by the major news outlets and should be a major concern. But as most people have seen, it has received little coverage until the last few days. Even now, it does not get much coverage.

Some large news outlets, such as Fox News and the Washington Post, have done stories on the fires raging across the Amazon and South America but did not spend much time on it. Most of the “news” covering the fire, however, are blogs and social media accounts.

Now, why is that? If the burning in the Amazon is so bad and such a crisis that needs to be dealt with, why would it not be covered? Well, as with most things, there’s a logical explanation. The reason that there is very little actual coverage of the fire is that the fires burning in the Amazon aren’t really a disaster. In fact, the damage from the fires isn’t that high compared to some of the previous years. According to the Global Fire Emission’s Database, years such as 2003, 2004 and 2006 saw far more fires. That brings up another point. The fires burning in South America are not a new phenomenon by any means. They burn every year, for most of the year in fact, just like other places throughout the world.

Not only does fire burn practically the whole year, scientists studying the fires through the use of satellites found that the fires were primarily burning on agricultural land, where the forest was already cleared. According to the New York Times, this is a common agricultural practice. So, not only are the fires not as big of a crisis as social media has made them out to be, a lot of the fires are controlled fires used for agricultural purposes.

Speaking of social media, a rather large part of the “crisis” that is the Amazon burning comes from a video that went viral on social media and made many believe the fire was a product of arson. That video was of a woman making claims that the forest was set on fire to cause destruction. However, this video was proven to be fake as it was made two months prior and around 2,000 miles away, as in not in the rainforest, according to AccuWeather.

To further drive home that the Amazon fires are not as bad as people think, there is also the scientifically proven idea that fires, especially controlled ones, are actually good for the ecosystem of a forest, especially large forests.  Controlled fires and pruning get rid of dead and dying plants, especially things like shrubs, and open up room for new plants to grow. These processes also create space between plants. If the plants get too close and dense, it leads to more problems than good, especially if the trees become too dense and block out the sunlight, thereby slowly killing off the plants on the ground.

Heck, Smokey Bear, the biggest spokesman for stopping forest fires, admitted that “Fire can also be an important part of maintaining diverse and healthy ecosystems. This can trigger a rebirth of forests, helping maintain native plant species,” according to AccuWeather. Seriously, Smokey Bear and scientists agree that fires can be beneficial to forest ecosystems.

So, in summary, the fires burning in South America, including the ones burning in the Amazon Rainforest, are by no means the crisis social media would have you believe. As stated above, fires can be essential to the continued survival and thriving of an ecosystem, and most of the fires burning in and around the Amazon Rainforest are not even the forest burning but rather agricultural land that’s being burned on purpose. Also, like the fire database mentioned above and NASA concluded, the fires in the Amazon are below average and less severe when compared to reports from previous years. In other words, the burning of the Amazon is no crisis whatsoever, but, in fact, perfectly normal.