What are our priorities?

When the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral burned, I was heartbroken – to see walls filled with history, culture, and years of human nuance being devoured by red flames was a sight to make the eyes burn.

The world was in an uproar, pictures of the beautiful church were everywhere, hashtags on social media were immediately trending. The media talked of nothing else.

Now, over 7,200 square miles of the Amazon have been burning since July. As a  result, 131 Indigenous communities are turning into ash, and  3 million different species of plants and animals are suffering. It took the world three weeks to pay attention. It took the media three weeks to talk about it.

But still, leaders from the G-7 Summit offered up to $20 million US towards aid for the Amazon. And yet, the offer was refused by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, because of a feud with the French president and summit host, Emmanuel Macron. Bolsonaro insisted that in order for there to be ‘talks,’ Macron should apologize. I would call this disturbed priorities from the leader of a country in a crisis.

My questions are directed towards the journalists. I understand that the Notre-Dame was caught on video and happened in one of the most populated areas in the world. But the Amazon is called the lungs of this planet. Why did it take three weeks?

The rainforest is the world’s biggest terrestrial carbon sinker and is now at risk of becoming dry land. I can’t help but feel that had the world known earlier, we could’ve acted earlier – maybe even prevented this.

“Scientists say the Amazon is approaching a tipping point, after which it will irreversibly degrade into a dry savannah,” journalist Jonathan Watts wrote for the Guardian. “At a time when the world needs billions more trees to absorb carbon and stabilise the climate, the planet is losing its biggest rainforest.”

Carole Pires wrote in the The New Yorker that Bolsonaro said more land in the Amazon should be used for farming, mining, and logging. Much like Trump, Bolsonaro is known for caring little about the environment. His campaign was fueled with racism, discrimination, and the incessant need to commercialize the entire country. His priorities have always been towards the green – just not the right one.

In what was the most environmentally ignorant act I’ve ever heard, Brazil’s president encouraged deforestation. Brought to us by Bolsonaro, Aug. 10 became Fire Day – a day when loggers intentionally set fire to clear the land for agriculture. According to Pires, Brazilian space satellites caught surges of wildfire soon after, and three weeks later a smokey apocalypse filled the skies of Sao Paulo – thousands of miles to the south. However, on Aug. 29, Bolsonaro issued a fire ban – for 60 days.

The problem didn’t start with the fire, and it will not end in 60 days. The problem is the fundamental misplacement of our leaders’ priorities. It’s a deep lack of ethical and moral values. It’s that we are not claiming responsibility, because it is ours. Was it not the majority of us who elected them?

The Amazon burning is a symbol that represents the casualties of greed. Burning rainforests, the loss of indigenous homes, climate change… All of these world problems have one dominant factor: prioritizing businesses and material gain at the expense of our Earth’s well-being.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Leaders and environmental groups react as the Amazon continue to burn

Spanning eight countries and more than 5 million kilometers squared, the Earth’s largest rainforest is still ablaze. Earlier in August, day turned to night as smoke from the fires darkened the Sao Paulo sky.

The record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest are mobilizing environmental groups and spurring debate about the forest’s Indigenous population. According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, the number of active wildfires in the Amazon rainforest increased by more than 80 per cent since last year.

Sustainable Concordia is concerned about the wildfires and deforestation. Their mission statement advocates sustainability through “acting locally and networking globally.” In a statement to The Concordian, Sustainable Concordia emphasized the economic link between deforestation and the fires.

“The fires (at least in part) are being set on purpose, driven by an exploitative capitalist system that values products and profit over people,” wrote Emily Carson-Apstein, Sustainable Concordia’s External and Campaign Coordinator.

Environmental group Greenpeace Brazil also blame deforestation. Márcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s Policy Coordinator, denounced in the Mongabay the practice while linking it to the thousands of fire hotspots.

“Deforestation only damages Brazil’s economy, the planet’s climate and endangers wildlife and the lives of thousands of people,” wrote Astrini.

In an interview with The Concordian, Christian Poirier, Program Director of Amazon Watch, said the cattle and mining industries are the most significant contributors to deforestation. Amazon Watch is a California-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting the rainforest and Indigenous rights. According to Yale University’s Global Forest Atlas, 450,000 kilometres squared of deforested land now are used for cattle ranching. He said removing trees for cattle ranching is often achieved by intentionally setting fires but this year’s increase is unusual.

“Fires are an annual phenomenon to clear parcels of land, but this year it’s an on an unprecedented scale,” said Poirier.

Like Sustainable Concordia, Poirier is concerned about economic incentives that encourage deforestation. In a statement, Poirier said that President Jair Bolsonaro encouraged farmers to light fires, with anti-environmental rhetoric.

“Farmers and ranchers understand the president’s message as a license to commit arson … in order to aggressively expand their operations into the rainforest,” wrote Poirier.

The fires attracted international attention at last weekend’s G7 summit. Leaders from around the world offered technical and financial support. According to AFP, the G7 pledged $20 million. Bolsanaro initially refused the aid. He has since agreed to accept foreign assistance as long as Brazil controls the funds.

Following the G7 summit, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed $15 million to fight the wildfires and praised international collaboration. However, Poirier said Canadian-owned mines are part of the problem, referring to Toronto-based and traded Belo Sun Mining Corporation.

Belo Sun operates the Volta Grande Project, a proposed open-pit mine in the Amazon located on a 160,000-hectare property. According to Environmental Justice Atlas – an organization that tracks global environmental conflicts – the project seeks to open Brazil’s largest open-pit gold mine. Mining operations often require massive amounts of deforestation and mineral extraction – two detrimental procedures to the forest’s sustainability.

Last July, Reuters reported on Belo Sun’s numerous legal challenges in Brazillian courts over construction permits. State and Federal Court cases have left the project on hold. On Jul. 12, Belo Sun released a statement lauding a Federal Court of Appeals ruling in Brazil’s capital, Brasília. However, the judgment was described as a “procedural win.”

With legal disputes ongoing, uncertainty surrounds the Volta Grande Project and the Amazon’s future. Despite international outcry, wildfires continue to burn in the world’s largest rainforest. For now, what effect these fires will have on the Amazon and the world-at-large remains unknown.

Student Life

The Amazon is on fire: Here’s why

The Amazon is on fire and it has been for the last few weeks.

There has been an uproar around the world because it’s a horrible thing happening to such an important ecosystem on our planet. People were lashing out at news outlets and organizations because of the lack of coverage.

In just a few days’ time, though, increased coverage of the topic took over social media and became something everyone was talking about. Countless news outlets were covering the story and #PrayforAmazonia was trending on Twitter as early as Aug. 20.

What people need to understand, though, is that fires in the Amazon are nothing new. Human-created fires are set every year during the “season of the queimada,” which is “when farmers intentionally set fire to the forest for agricultural purposes,” according to complex. This period usually lasts from June to December, which is when the Amazon Basin dries out, according to National Geographic, thus making it more susceptible to fires. The difference is that they are usually controlled fires that occur after trees are cut down in a certain area and the fallen trees, after being left to dry out, are set ablaze to clear the area.

The difference between this year and previous years is that there was an 83 per cent increase compared to the same time period in 2018, according to Business Insider. As of Aug. 21, a total of 72,843 fires took place.

One of the reasons for humans setting fire to the Amazon is the development of agricultural crops. These crops could be anything from soybeans to palm oil, or the land can be used for cattle farming – considering Brazil was deemed the world’s top exporter of beef in 2018, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The same source says that the cows, for which there’s an estimated headcount of 232 million, primarily eat grass. That’s why land is being converted from forest to grazing crops. In a Global News article, it was said that deforestation in the Amazon for the purpose of cattle farming led to the forest losing 17 per cent of its area in the last 50 years.

Forests cover more than 30 per cent of the land on Earth, according to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). Not only that, but these forests are home to 80 per cent of land species. Also, forests, especially rain forests, are also responsible for absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into oxygen, which, you know, is vital for our survival.

On the same note, rain forests act as carbon sinkholes. The WWF’s website says: “Tropical forests alone hold more than 228 to 247 gigatons of carbon, which is more than seven times the amount emitted each year by human activities. But when forests are cut, burned or otherwise removed they emit carbon instead of absorb carbon. Deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for around 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions.”

A lot can come out of this discussion about the Amazon being on fire: is this deliberate blazing of a central part of our planet connected to the increase of climate change in the long-run? Is cattle farming and the meat industry, specifically beef, worth the destruction of important ecosystems?

All of this and more are reasons to be wary of the permanent and potentially irreversible effects of climate change.

Briefs News

World in Brief: September 3

Eight people were killed and 22 injured in a shooting Saturday in West Texas, including the gunman. The 30-year-old suspect was known to local police. According to Reuters, the suspect stole a postal van before opening fire on police officers and civilians. Shortly after, he was shot down by the police.

Hurricane Dorian has intensified to a category five storm as it approached the Abaco Islands on Sunday. The hurricane’s sustained winds have increased from 240 km/h to 290 km/h after landfall in the Bahamas archipelago, according to the National Hurricane Center. Many U.S. coastal dwellers from Florida to California are concerned with potential risks of damaging winds and deadly flooding even if the storm doesn’t directly hit the U.S., according to the Associated Press.

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked for Poland’s forgiveness for Nazi “tyranny” during World War II. The apology occurred on Sunday, in the city of Wielun, 80 years after the bombing of the city, according to the BBC. The small city, located 250 km West of Warsaw, was bombed by the German Air Force on Sept. 1, 1939, marking the beginning of the most devastating war of our era.

Anthoine Hubert, a French 22-year-old Formula 2 pilot, died last Saturday in a fatal crash during a race on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. Since 1994, a lot of progress in terms of security made it possible for pilots to survive the most fatal crashes. However, according to the Agence France Presse, Hubert’s vehicle literally split in half. French flags were put up across the stadium and a minute of silence was held before the start of Sunday’s race in honour of Hubert.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


World in Brief

The Amazon forest has been burning for the past four weeks at an alarming speed. In July only, areas of the forest were being cleared at a rate of five football fields a minute according to The Guardian. While there is only a portion of the forest on fire, experts estimate that 2019 might be the most destructive year for the Amazon in 10 years.

Tension rises as two drones crashed in Beirut’s southern suburb on Sunday, according to Reuters. While Israel has not claimed responsibility for the drone strikes, Lebanese president Michel Aoun claims the attack as “a declaration of war.” The Hezbollah also warned Israeli soldiers at the border to await a response.

President Donald Trump proposed nuking hurricanes before they made landfall in an attempt to neutralize the storms. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggest the results would be “devastating,” according to the BBC. “Radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas,” said the NOAA. Trump denied making this proposition in a Tweet.

Chemists will be gathering in San Diego this week to present latest research on chocolate and cannabis. According to new research, chocolate’s properties can throw off potency tests, leading to inaccurate labeling in states where marijuana is legal, according to the Associated Press. Chocolate edibles may contain a way bigger dose of THC than their label, sometimes sending consumers into unexpected trips.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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