Amazon Rainforest Fires: Protesters Hit Streets of London, Paris and Other World Cities to Blast Brazil's Bolsonaro

Protesters have taken to the streets outside Brazilian embassies and consulates in several European cities—including London, Paris, Zurich, Berlin, Madrid and Milan—after data revealing a spike in the number of fire outbreaks in the Amazon rainforest made headlines around the world.

Concern is growing over the apparent lack of concern shown by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration—which critics say is encouraging activities that lead to the destruction of the rainforest.

In Paris, protesters outside the Brazilian embassy were chanting and carrying signs with messages such as "Fora Bolsonaro," meaning "Bolsonaro Out" in Portuguese, Reuters reported.

Recently released figures from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) showed an 83 percent increase in fire outbreaks in Brazil in comparison to the same period in 2018. This represents the highest number of blazes since the agency began collecting such data in 2013, Reuters reported.

The INPE says it has identified more than 72,000 fires in Brazil between January and August this year—more than half of which occurred in the Amazon region. That's comfortably more than the roughly 40,000 recorded in the entirety of 2018.

The protests come after French President Emmanuel Macron called on world leaders to push the issue of fires in the Amazon rainforest to the top of the agenda ahead of the upcoming G7 summit.

Yesterday, Macron posted a tweet that described the fires as an "international crisis."

"Our house is burning. Literally," Macron said in his tweet. "Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days!"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with these sentiments, describing the situation as an "acute emergency" that should be discussed at the summit in France this weekend.

However, Bolsonaro hit back at Macron, scalding his French counterpart for what he described as a "sensationalist tone," The Guardian reported.

"I regret that president Macron seeks to take advantage of what is a domestic Brazilian issue and of other Amazonian countries for personal political gain," Bolsonaro tweeted.

"The Brazilian Government remains open to dialogue, based on objective data and mutual respect," he wrote in a second post. "The French president's suggestion that Amazonian matters be discussed at the G7 without the involvement of countries of the region recalls the colonialist mindset that is unacceptable in the 21st century."

The latest figures come amid international outcry over the inaction of Bolsonaro's administration.

Last month, Bolsonaro criticized data collected by INPE, which indicated that there had been a significant rise in deforestation rates recently. Notably, the figures showed that in July this year, deforestation had increased nearly 300 percent in comparison to the same month in 2018.

The president accused the agency of making up "lies" that could hurt the country's trade talks and subsequently fired its chief, replacing him with a military official.

Environmentalists are becoming increasingly concerned with his administration, accusing the government of encouraging deforestation and emboldening those who want to exploit the forest for commercial gain.

Fire in the Amazon is used as a technique to clear land for agriculture—the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon, alongside mining and land-grabbing. This means that fire is a result of deforestation.

"It is fair to say that the scale and scope of these fires are unprecedented in modern history and they represent a planetary emergency of the highest order," Laurel Sutherlin, a spokesperson from the Rainforest Action Network, told Newsweek. "These fires are occurring in tropical forests that do not naturally burn and they were set intentionally by people, mostly with the intent to clear land for agriculture."

"The context that set the conditions for these fires is a combination of the rapidly accelerating climate crisis, which is causing bigger and longer droughts and contributing to fires in the Arctic currently as well, and the overtly antagonistic policies of Brazil's president Bolsonaro, who has lifted environmental regulations and opened the flood gates to greatly increased deforestation, illegal land grabbing and the use of fire to clear land," Sutherlin said.

Amazon rainforest protests
Extinction Rebellion supporters protest outside the Brazilian Embassy on August 23, 2019 in London, England. Guy Smallman/Getty Images