VICE Investigates‘ third episode, “Amazon On Fire” follows correspondent Seb Walker as he travels to the Amazon to investigate the raging fires that continue to threaten the Amazon. However, it is not just the fire that is rolling back decades of work to save the forest and potentially the planet as politics have played a large role in the crisis.
Since the election of the new Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro also known as the Trump of the Tropics, there has been an increase in fires in the Amazon with a majority of them being set deliberately. Following the fires was an international media outrage led by celebrities including Madonna, Gisele Bündchen, Jameela Jamil, and more. However, as Walker points out in “Amazon On Fire,” the fires are only the most visual part of the problem, a problem that goes back years thanks to criminal gangs, government corruption, and deforestation.
While the Amazon lies in Brazil, it affects the entire world, particularly if it burns. President Emmanuel Macron of France was the first world leader to give money to President Bolsonaro to fight the fires but Bolsonaro refused it on the grounds of Brazilian sovereignty. In “Amazon On Fire,” Walker speaks with Macron and poses the question about Brazil’s right to manage its own resources. Macron’s answer is fascinating as he speaks not only to Amazon’s impact on the Earth because its absorption of CO2 helps to stabilize the Earth’s climate but also because of the indigenous Brazilian people who benefit from the forest that Bolsonaro seems to have left on the wayside.
The ongoing deforestation in Brazil is a consequence of a few factors, most of which are born from government corruption. In addition to explaining the basic process of deforestation, “Amazon On Fire” also explains why the government does it. In Brazil, most of the land that is burned is then used for cattle ranching which has created conflict between Indigenous people and ranchers. As more and more of the Amazon is burned, Indigenous land is being invaded. Additionally, ranchers have become emboldened by Bolsonaro’s message, believing he is doing the right thing for them and the country.
Walker spoke with Elias Guajajara, President Commission of Arariboia Indigenous Leaders, about the fires being spread by ranchers onto their land. The Arariboia people have been forced to protect their land by forming a militia group, the Forest Guardians, whose main job is to stop the fires before they get too big. So far, none of the VICE Investigates episodes have been as emotional as “Amazon On Fire.” Watching these men attempt to put out the ever-rising flames in hopes of saving their home is heartbreaking. Seeing Walker right next to them inhaling just as must smoke and running away from the quickly spreading flames is terrifying. The situation was always real but the episode brings a face to its reality.
On the other side of that fight are the ranchers. Walker also speaks to Oliveria, a rancher in the area who has benefited greatly from the deforestation. Without the burning of the land, Oliveria wouldn’t have the area he does now to raise cattle. The most interesting part about Walker’s conversation with Oliveria is his reaction to the international and local media’s reaction to the fires. He calls them “political” and “not true,” instead, saying that people just want to make problems for the president. Oliveria’s reaction to Macron is also jarring, insisting that if the French president wants forests he should plant his own. The rancher also doubles down saying that climate change is not the responsibility of Brazil. The mentality is eerily similar to that of “America First,” so it is no wonder Bolsonaro has so many comparisons with Trump.
Another aspect of deforestation that Walker covers is illegal logging. As he follows various government agencies who work to stop illegal logging, Walker uncovers the murky waters of it all. More often than not, the men cutting down trees feel forced to do so, having no other opportunities and despite feeling the work is morally wrong, they need to survive.
Overall, “Amazon On Fire” offers an in-depth look into the Amazon fires in Brazil and just how political and convoluted the politics around the issue have become. Additionally, the episode offers a terrifying insight into the growing right-wing rhetoric that is sweeping the world as well as its impact. It is one thing to hear in a tweet that the president of Brazil is like Trump but it is another thing to see his supporters reiterating the same talking points nearly beat for beat.
VICE Investigates is streaming now on Hulu with new episodes dropping once a month.
VICE Investigates Episode 3 - Amazon On Fire
Overall, “Amazon On Fire” offers an in-depth look into the Amazon fires in Brazil and just how political and convoluted the politics around the issue have become. Additionally, the episode offers a terrifying insight into the growing right-wing rhetoric that is sweeping the world as well as its impact.