英文

Editorial : The Amazon rainforest fires

【明報專訊】THE FIRES ravaging the Amazon rainforest, the so‑called "lungs of the earth", are an ecological catastrophe threatening the entire human race.

Though the fires are taking place half the world away from Hong Kong, the city cannot stand in splendid isolation. Measuring 5.5 million square kilometres, the Amazon rainforest has an area equivalent to half of that of the world's rainforests in total. The Amazon rainforest plays a crucial role in the world's ecosystem. Aptly named "the lungs of the earth", it absorbs heat reflected back by the atmosphere onto the surface of planet earth as well as carbon dioxide, at the same time producing 20% of the planet's oxygen. The emission of greenhouse gases has accelerated global warming and caused a "fever", as it were, on earth. The ongoing fires in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil measure 950 thousand hectares in area. They have created a huge amount of carbon emission and affected the planet's mechanism for ecological self‑regulation, giving reasonable cause for concern.

Brazil is the world's biggest exporter of beef, while Hong Kong imports the highest amount of Brazilian beef in the world, accounting for about 25% of the total. Even if the amount smuggled into mainland China is excluded, Hongkongers' aggregate consumption of Brazilian beef is believed to rank among the highest in the world. The ongoing fires in the Amazon rainforest are closely related to Brazilian beef. In recent years, in an attempt to raise income and improve their lives, many local farmers have been clearing woods with fire to create farmland for cattle‑raising and fodder production. Environmental groups have singled out cattle‑raising as the primary reason for the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. As over 65% of land created through logging is used as pasture, it is hardly coincidental that the fires this year have been greater in severity than those in the past. The groups are pointing an accusing finger at Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's right‑wing populist president.

Bolsonaro was sworn into office early this year. His support for the development of the Amazon rainforest area for commercial activities has led to a sharp increase in illegal logging and wood‑burning for land. He has slashed the budget for environmental protection departments by 25% and relaxed regulations on illegal logging, and is said to have turned a blind eye to forest fire warnings. More than 78 thousand cases of mountain fires have happened in Brazil so far this year, a rise of 80% on the same period last year. Given this year's abundant rainfall in Brazil, it is unlikely that the fires have been caused by drought. It is believed that many of them have been human‑made.

On the one hand, Bolsonaro is stressing that the Amazon rainforest has an area even greater than that of Europe and that Brazil, lacking resources, cannot combat the burning of forests caused by humans on its own. But on the other hand, he is claiming that the fires are "under control" and is refusing other countries' offer of help. Such an attitude has inevitably led to criticism and deepened mistrust in the Brazilian authorities. However, his criticism of the "colonial mindset" of wealthy nations in the west and the pressure they have put on Brazil is not entirely unjustified. The G7 countries, deemed to be "a club of rich nations", convened a summit the other day. Saying that priority had to be given to discussion of the situation of the Amazon rainforest, Emmanuel Macron, host of the summit, warned that if Brazil did not cooperate on the fight against the fires, the French government would not confirm the free trade deal reached between the European Union and four South American countries — including Brazil — previously. The Brazilian people will find it hard to stomach such a threat. It is also unfair, as it will affect the other South American signatories of the deal.

明報社評2019.08.29:地球染「肺炎」巴西有責 發達國心態亦須反思

「地球之肺」亞馬遜雨林火災肆虐,是一場影響全人類的生態災難。

巴西亞馬遜雨林火災,雖說發生在地球另一邊,與香港有萬里之遙,然而不能因此說事不關己。亞馬遜雨林面積550萬平方公里,相當於世界雨林總面積一半。亞馬遜雨林對全球生態系統極為重要,它不但吸收大氣層折射回地球表面的熱力,還會吸收二氧化碳、為地球製造兩成氧氣,被稱為「地球之肺」。溫室氣體排放加劇全球暖化,本已令地球「發燒」,這次巴西亞馬遜雨林大火,火場面積95萬公頃,不僅製造大量碳排放,同時亦會影響地球生態系統調節功能,世人豈能不去關心。

巴西是全球最大牛肉出口國,香港入口量位列第一,佔近兩成半,就算剔除部分走私到大陸的巴西牛肉,港人消耗的巴西牛肉總量,相信仍可位居全球前列。今次亞馬遜雨林大火,跟巴西牛肉也有密切關係。近年當地不少農民焚林墾地用來養牛及生產飼料,希望增加收入改善生活。環保組織指出,養牛是亞馬遜雨林遭破壞的主因,當地逾65%伐林得來的土地用於放牧,今年林火遠比過去嚴重亦非偶然,矛頭直指右翼民粹總統博索納羅。

今年初博索納羅上台,支持發展亞馬遜雨林地區作商業活動,非法伐木和焚林墾地大增。博索納羅大削環保部門開支預算兩成半,放寬監管非法伐木,又被指漠視林火警告。今年巴西已發生逾7.8萬宗山火,較去年同期多出八成。由於本年當地雨水充足,不大可能因乾旱而自然起火,相信不少火災均屬人為。

博索納羅一邊強調亞馬遜面積比歐洲還大,巴西缺乏資源,難以獨力對抗焚林縱火,另一邊廂又堅稱火災「受控」,拒絕外國協助救災。博索納羅這種態度,難免惹來非議,加深外界對巴西當局的猜疑,然而他抨擊西方富國抱着「殖民主義思維」向巴西施壓,也不是全無道理。被視為「富國俱樂部」的七大工業國集團(G7),日前在法國舉行峰會,東道主馬克龍表示要優先討論亞馬遜雨林情况,警告巴西如果不合作救火,法國不會確認早前歐盟與巴西等南美四國達成的自由貿易協議。這種要脅手法,很難叫巴西人接受,亦會影響其他南美締約國,做法並不公道。

■Glossary

aptly named : named in a way that seems very suitable

coincidental : happening by chance; not planned

signatory : a person, a country or an organisation that has signed an official agreement

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