Reports of widespread fires in the Amazon have generated a range of reactions on social media over the past few days, particularly on Twitter. Average social media users and international leaders alike have spoken out about the gravity of the situation via the social media platform, with some pledging to take action.
The forest fires, which were recently picked up by NASA satellite images, have been spreading at an alarming rate, prompting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to pledge to deploy members of the armed forces to extinguish them. Yesterday, August 23, the fires entered the Chiquitanía tropical savanna region of Bolivia.
In response, the Bolivian government resorted to forming a national emergency committee which will be in charge of dealing with the fires. Bolivian President Evo Morales also tweeted about his plans to fly in a SuperTanker Boeing 747 aeroplane to spray water over the fire and help those “heroically fighting” to put it out.
Brazil’s other neighboring countries have also expressed their willingness to provide help in combating the fires.
Yesterday, Argentine President Mauricio Macri declared via Twitter that his country’s emergency systems are at Brazil and Bolivia’s disposal to help fight the fires destroying rainforest land. “We are committed to helping our neighbors combat the forest fires,” he said.
Colombia has also pledged its support to help fight what President Ivan Duque referred to on Twitter as an “environmental tragedy.” “We offer our support to our sister countries to work together towards a purpose that unites us: protecting the lungs of the world,” Duque wrote.
The news prompted more threatening reactions from European leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron posted a tweet that read, “Our house is burning,” and called for the fires to be a topic of discussion at the upcoming G7 summit.
A recent report from the Independent outlined that Macron threatened to block the EU-Mercosur trade deal if Brazil did not “honor its environmental commitments.” The prime minister of the Republic of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, is of the same opinion, according to the British newspaper.
As for Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro continues to deflect the criticism he is receiving and maintains that the fires have been caused by “criminal” means. Whilst insisting that forest fires happen all over the world in a recent Facebook Live broadcast, he claimed that some countries are making the most of this opportunity to criticize his leadership of Brazil.
Bolsonaro also used Twitter to counter French President Macron’s suggestion that the recent fires should be discussed at the upcoming G7 summit, claiming it “evoke[d] a colonialist mentality which is out of place in the 21st century.”
Having worked in newsrooms in both Bogotá and Rio de Janeiro, Sophie is a British journalist now based in Medellín and writing for Latin America Reports. She is interested in post-conflict Colombia, historical memory and transitional justice in Latin America. Her work has also been published by Al Jazeera English, World Politics Review, El Tiempo and O Globo.