The Amazon rainforest, ablaze in Brazil

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Brazil, on Aug. 17. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Brazil, on Aug. 17. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are proliferating at an alarming rate.

“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote in a tweet Thursday.

He called it an “international crisis” and urged members of the G7 to prioritize the issue at its summit this weekend.

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, on Wednesday. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
A satellite image shows smoke rising from Amazon rainforest fires in Rondonia State, just southwest of Porto Velho, Brazil, in the upper Amazon River basin on Aug. 15. (Maxar Technologies)

Many of the fires are believed to have been set by farmers clearing land. Environmentalists say the attitude of Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, has encouraged the farmers, as well as cattle ranchers, loggers and miners, NPR’s Scott Neumann reports.

A view of the devastation caused by a fire during the dry season in Brasilia, Brazil, on Wednesday. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)

Bolsonaro has described measures to protect the rainforest as “obstacles” to economic growth. Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has said repeatedly that he wants to open the Amazon to development.

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Brazil, on Aug. 14. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
A tract of Amazon jungle being cleared by loggers and farmers burns in Novo Airao, Brazil, on Wednesday. (Bruno Kelly/Reuters)

According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, there have been 74,155 fires in Brazil so far this year — most of which erupted in the Amazon, reports NPR’s Colin Dwyer. That represents an astonishing leap of more than 80% over last year and by far the most that the agency has recorded since it began compiling this data in 2013.

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, on Wednesday. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

About half those fires, or nearly 36,000 of them, have ignited in just the past month. That’s nearly as many as in all of 2018. Smoke from the fires has darkened the skies over major Brazilian cities such as São Paulo.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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