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article imageBolsonaro caves — Sends troops to fight Amazon rainforest fires

By Karen Graham     Aug 24, 2019 in World
Bowing to increasing pressure to act from leaders around the world and protesters in the streets, President Jair Bolsonaro sent Brazil's military to fight forest fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.
Brazilian armed forces were expected to deploy for one month on Saturday to border areas, indigenous territories, and other affected regions in the Amazon to assist in putting out the fires, according to a presidential decree authorizing the use of the army.
Farmers and loggers are suspected of starting the blazes, while the Brazilian government's "hands-off" policies are being blamed for the fires by many people in Brazil and around the world.
Bolsonaro spoke to the nation on Friday as thousands of protesters took to the streets in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Brasilia demanding action from the government. CNBC is reporting that people in their homes banged on pots or pans - a customary means of protest.
Demonstrations were also held at Brazilian embassies around the world, while social media was ablaze with calls for action from governments and everyday citizens from around the world.
Bolsonaro has previously described rainforest protection as an obstacle to the country's economic development - campaigning on a promise to allow more clearing of the vast rainforest for agriculture and mining. Experts and campaigners say his administration has given a green light to rainforest destruction, according to the BBC.
However, in his televised address on Friday, Bolsonaro changed his tune, saying: “The protection of the forest is our duty. We are aware of that and will act to combat deforestation and criminal activities that put people at risk in the Amazon. We are a government of zero tolerance for crime, and in the environmental field it will not be different.”
"Almost 20 percent of the Amazon has already been deforested," said Thomas Lovejoy, a George Mason University environmental scientist. “I worry that the current deforestation will push past the tipping point leading to massive loss of forest and biodiversity,” Lovejoy wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
"Fires are directly burning into the Amazon rainforest and that releases the carbon stored in those trees,” said Doug Morton, a NASA scientist. “The carbon then enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or methane, where it contributes to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change, bringing us a warmer and a drier planet.”
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