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Why This Matters: As the world’s largest wetland, the Pantanal is home to key biodiversity. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Pantanal is 10 times larger than the U.S. Everglades and reportedly one of the most biodiverse places on Earth — it has “more than 4,700 plant and animal species, including threatened ones like the jaguar.” And, as the Pantanal Observatory noted, the fires pose an immense danger to people abutting the wetlands, as “fires cause respiratory problems, eye irritation, and allergies.” The fires, which are caused by both “criminal activity” and “climactic factors”, according to the BBC, must be mitigated to protect the people, as well as the plants and animals of the region.
Challenges to Fire-Fighting
According to Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, “challenges loom large” in fighting the fires. Salles noted, “The atmosphere is very hot, very dry, with strong winds and high temperatures,” making fire-fighting more difficult. This effort has also been “complicated” by COVID-19, which effectively limits the people who can safely work together to address the fires.
A Catastrophic Scenario
Now, the Pantanal has seen a 200% increase in the numbers of fire in June and July from last year to this year. As Vinicius Silgueiro, territorial intelligence coordinator at the Instituto Centro de Vida, told Mongabay, “We are facing a scenario now that is catastrophic.” In June and July, NASA satellites recorded 9,048 fire alerts in the region.
The situation is made more catastrophic by the geography of the Pantanal, with some areas being “completely inaccessible” by land. As Mongabay reported, firefighters have been forced to work on containing the flames rather than actively putting out fires. However, even natural barriers like rivers may “fail to stop the advance” of the flames.
In addition to physical access, access to resources is also impacting Brazil’s ability to fight the fires. “Dwindling resources” provided to environmental agencies are impeding their abilities to fight fires. As we have reported before, under President Bolsonaro deforestation rates in the first half of 2020 went up 25%, and Bolsonaro has dismantled many environmental laws. While state and federal authorities have worked to “reinforce” burning bans, according to MongaBay, early signs suggest these measures are not enough to mitigate the fires in Brazil.
Yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the rollback an Obama-era rule that would have, as the Washington Post reported, forced coal plants to treat wastewater with more modern, effective methods in order to curb toxic metals such as arsenic and mercury from contaminating lakes, rivers, and streams near their facilities. The rollback is in line […]
by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer Recent research in Geophysical Research Letters has revealed that “back-to-back bad snow years are likely to become much more frequent in the not-too-distant future,” Alejandra Borunda reported in National Geographic this month. There is now approximately a 7% chance that typically snow-filled regions in the Western US will “get […]
Why This Matters: Children with elevated levels of lead in their blood are more likely to have learning disabilities and increased behavioral difficulties — it causes irreversible damage to children’s development, according to the report. Lead is unsafe at any level. It’s time to get the lead out of our environment.
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