- Social media users are using #PrayforAmazonia to bring attention to fires in the Amazon forest that have been burning for three weeks.
- Many blame Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro for failing to take action to address the issue, while some argue that his pro-deforestation policies are what lead to the fires in the first place.
- Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has massively ramped up deforestation of the Amazon by rolling back protections and increasing access for agriculture and mining.
#PrayforAmazonia Trends on Twitter
Twitter users are criticizing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for his failure to stop a series of forest fires that have been tearing through the Amazon forest for the last three weeks
On Tuesday morning, “Amazon rainforest” and “#PrayforAmazonia” trended on Twitter. “Amazon rainforest is burning… And Bolsonaro is deliberately doing nothing,” one user wrote.
“This is the Brazilian environmental policy under president Bolsonaro,” another user wrote above pictures of fires. “The Amazon Rainforest’s burning for about 3 weeks and nothing’s been done.”
Other people noted the Amazon has been burning for weeks but that they were just learning about it now.
Some also pointed out the lack of media coverage on the fires.
Amazon Rainforest Fires
Currently, there are numerous fires in multiple states that are basically burning down the Amazon rainforest totally unchecked.
Last week, NASA released satellite images of a massive smoke layer covering a huge part of the forest. One NASA researcher told reporters that the smoke layer spanned about 1.2 million square miles, which is about one-third of the United States.
The smoke has continued to spread, endangering the health of people and animals living in the area, according to local reports. The air quality has gotten so bad in some areas, that about two weeks ago, the state of Amazonas declared a state of emergency.
On Monday, people in São Paulo, which is on the other side of the country from the Amazon, shared pictures of the sky turning black in the middle of the afternoon, which multiple scientists have attributed to the smoke from the fires.
Cause of the Fires
Numerous experts have said that the fires are caused by humans and there are several pieces of evidence to back that up.
First, the Amazon rainforest is comparatively fire-resistant because it is so wet and humid. While there are often fires this time of year, they are usually caused by extreme droughts.
Despite the fact that fire outbreaks rose by 70% this year compared to 2018, there have not been any extreme weather events that would cause this amount of fires.
Second, fire is actually used in the Amazon as an agricultural technique to clear land for planting crops. The technique, called “slash and burn,” is also one of the major methods used in the Amazon for illegal deforestation.
Since Bolsonaro took office in January, deforestation has rapidly increased.
According to satellite data from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), deforestation in the Amazon increased by around 245% in July 2019 compared to July 2018.
According to The Guardian, that’s the same as destroying three football fields worth of forest every minute.
Despite the fact that the data came from satellite images, Bolsonaro has described it as “fake news.” After the INPE reported those numbers, Bolsonaro fired the head of that agency.
“The numbers, as I understand it, were released with the objective of harming the name of Brazil and its government,” Bolsonaro told reporters earlier this month.
As many have pointed out, Bolsonaro campaigned on opening up the Amazon to resource extraction. Since taking office, he has made it a key component of his economic policy.
Until Bolsonaro’s election, protecting the Amazon has been at the core of Brazilian environmental policy for the last two decades.
With the help of powerful lobbyists, he has rolled back environmental protections and ratcheted up access to mining and agriculture by clearing huge sections of forest.
Many of the areas that Bolsonaro has opened up to agriculture and mining are protected indigenous lands, which the president has said are too big for the number of people who live there.
According to BBC, more than 800,000 indigenous people live in 450 demarcated territories which cover about 12% of land across the country. Most of those territories are in the Amazon region, and some are entirely isolated.
This strategy has endangered both the indigenous populations and the forest itself, especially as it is widely believed among experts and scientists that protecting indigenous lands is one of the best strategies to conserve forests.
This is especially important for the Amazon because the Amazon basin is absolutely critical to stabilizing the global climate.
The entire basin spans about three million square miles and includes 40% of the world’s tropical forests, 20% of its freshwater, and produces 20% of the air we breathe, according to a report by Foreign Policy.
It also has many keystone ecosystems which are crucial to global biodiversity. The importance of the Amazon cannot be understated.
Around 60% of the Amazon forest is in Brazil, a country where a number of top officials in the government do not even believe climate change is real.
Those officials are convinced any criticisms of Bolsonaro’s policies as harmful to the environment are propagated by civil society groups and foreign governments who are trying to sabotage the administration.
Bolsonaro, for his part, has largely expressed disinterest in the environment.
When asked by a reporter last week about whether Brazil can grow more food and protect the environment at the same time, Bolsonaro responded, “It’s enough to eat a little less. You talk about environmental pollution. It’s enough to poop every other day. That will be better for the whole world.”
See what others are saying: (Newsweek) (Foreign Policy) (The New York Times)
Bolivia’s President Resigns After Report Finds “Clear Manipulation” of Votes
- Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned Sunday after the Organization of American States released an audit saying it had found “clear manipulation” of election results that secured him a fourth term.
- Morales has called the situation in Bolivia a “coup” orchestrated by his rival, Carlos Mesa.
- A slew of Morales’ senior officials also resigned, with Second Vice President of the Senate Jeanine Añez saying she will assume the role as transitional president while new elections are held.
Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned Sunday following the release of an audit by the Organization of American States, which said it had found evidence of the “clear manipulation” of electoral votes.
Morales had faced strong opposition since he was elected for his fourth term on Oct. 20. That opposition came to a blistering head on Sunday after the OAS’s report led to the national police and heads of Bolivia’s armed forces calling on Morales to step down.
In the report, auditors said the voting transmission system had not been “100% monitored” and that at one point, information was redirected. Because of this, auditors couldn’t have certainty over the results.
Auditors also said that “good practices” were not used when conducting the official vote count because the voting system allowed someone to take control of parts of the process that were intended to be secure. Auditors even said that at one point, the system was frozen and fixed in a way that violated “essential principles of security.”
The OAS then concluded that 78 of the total 333 evaluated vote counts from polling stations showed irregularities, noting that the last 5% of votes were especially odd because they showed an increase for Morales while his opponent, Carlos Mesa, dropped significantly.
Still, prior to the report’s publication, Morales had promised to stand by it and hold new elections if it found evidence of fraud.
In his resignation, Morales claimed he was leaving to ease the violence that has plagued Bolivia since the election last month.
“We resign because I don’t want to see any more families attacked by instruction of Mesa and [opposition leader Luis Fernando] Camacho,” he said Sunday. “This is not a betrayal to social movements. The fight continues. We are the people, and thanks to this political union, we have freed Bolivia. We leave this homeland freed.”
“Mesa and Camacho have achieved their objective,” he added. “Now stop burning the houses of my brothers and sisters.”
On Twitter, Morales also threw a shot at a police officer who he said was attempting to “illegally” arrest him; however, the head of the national police denied that any warrants had been issued for Morales.
“The coup mongers are destroying the rule of law,” Morales also said on Twitter.
Mesa, on the other hand, celebrated the news of the audit and Morales’ resignation.
“To Bolivia, its people, the young, the women, to the heroism of peaceful resistance. I will never forget this unique day. The end of tyranny. I’m grateful to the Bolivian people for this historic lesson. Long live Bolivia!”
“We shall not permit the ex-president to use the excuse of a coup,” Mesa told reporters. “This was not a coup.”
Protesters Ransack Government Officials’ Homes
While some media outlets in Bolivia reported celebrations in certain areas, there were also widespread reports of violence against senior members of Morales’ Movement for Socialism party.
According to Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, the Mexican embassy in the city of La Paz sheltered 20 of Morales’ senior officials on Sunday as protesters ransacked and burned their homes.
Video posted to Twitter also shows people walking through Morales’ home after it had been ransacked. Mexico has now offered him political asylum.
Some protesters even went so far as to reportedly kidnap the brother of Victor Borda, the President of the Chamber of Deputies.
In the city streets, police withdrew from La Paz following Morales’ resignation. While some people celebrated by chanting “Yes, we could!” and by setting off fireworks, others looted stores. Other people started what appeared to be politically-motivated fires.
Other Countries React
Morales’ resignation has ignited a firestorm of reactions from other countries.
In addition to offering Morales political asylum, the Mexican president called the situation regrettable, while Foreign Secretary Ebrard echoed Morales’ calls of a “coup.”
Like Mexico, Nicaragua came to Morales’ defense, with President Daniel Ortega saying, “The government of Nicaragua … denounces and strongly condemns the coup d’etat that was realised today.”
Similarly, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro took to Twitter to call the situation a “coup,” also saying that rallies would be held to defend “the life of the Bolivian native people, victims of racism.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, described Morales as the leader of a powerful movement and said that he “has brought so much social progress.”
I condemn this coup against the Bolivian people and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence,” Corbyn said.
In the U.S., the reaction has been mixed.
Along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) denounced the situation as a coup.
“We must unequivocally oppose political violence in Bolivia. Bolivians deserve free and fair elections,” Omar said.
On the other hand, President Donald Trump celebrated Morales’ resignation, calling it a “significant moment for democracy.”
“After nearly 14 years and his recent attempt to override the Bolivian constitution and the will of the people, Morales’s departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard,” Trump said in a statement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also commended the OAS in supporting a new election.
Additionally, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro lent his support to holding new elections.
Who Will Lead Bolivia?
Following Morales’ resignation, his vice president, the Senate president, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, and the first vice president of the Senate also resigned. Respectively, those resignations eliminate the first through the fourth people in line to succeed Morales.
In terms of succession, the next in line is Second Vice President of the Senate Jeanine Añez, who said she would step up as a transitional president, but she also needs quorum from the national assembly. Currently, the Movement for Socialism Party controls both houses and Añez has been described as strongly anti-Morales.
As for a new election, under the Bolivian constitution, elections must be held within 90 days of a constitutional crisis. Should she get transfer of power, Añez has said she’ll work to hold that election.
At the same time, Morales is reportedly hiding out, but that has not stopped him from reaching out to his supporters on social media and urging to resist forming a transitional government
“You never abandoned me and I will never abandon you,” he said Monday morning.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (Reuters) (Aljazeera)
Japanese Women Fight for the Right to Wear Glasses at Work
- Japanese women are speaking out against common workplace policies that restrict them from wearing glasses on the job.
- Domestic airlines argued their ban is for safety issues and beauty industries said glasses prevent people from clearly seeing a worker’s makeup. Meanwhile, shop assistants were told glasses give off a “cold impression” and traditional restaurants argued they don’t go well with traditional Japanese dress.
- The rule has reignited outrage over strict beauty standards for women just months after widespread anger over commonplace high heel requirements.
Glasses Restriction for Female Employees
Women in Japan are speaking out against companies who restrict them from wearing glasses to work, the latest demand that has sparked outrage over strict beauty standards for female employees.
The hashtag “glasses are forbidden” began trending on social media this week after Japan’s Nippon TV aired a story about employers who require their female workers to wear contact lenses instead of glasses. The program followed a similar report published by Business Insider Japan late last month.
The TV program listed a number of reasons companies gave for not wanting women to wear glasses while on the job. According to Quartz, Domestic airlines explained that the policy is for safety reasons, meanwhile, companies in the beauty industry stated that it was hard to see an employee’s make-up behind glasses.
Other major retail chains said their female shop assistants give off a “cold impression” when wearing glasses while traditional Japanese restaurants argued that glasses do not go well with traditional Japanese dress.
Japanese women on social media confirmed those claims with similar experiences of their own. One Twitter user said she was told by an employer that glasses did not appeal to customers. Another painfully remembered being forced to wear contact lenses while recovering from an eye infection, according to translations reported by Fortune.
Push Back Against Beauty Norms
The restriction on glasses is the latest demand that has sparked outrage over outdated female beauty standards in the country. In March of this year, women rallied against the common requirement that women wear high heels to work.
The dress code policy sparked the hashtag KuToo, a phrased inspired by the #MeToo movement as well as a play on the Japanese words Kutsu (shoes) and Kutsuu (pain).
“If wearing glasses is a real problem at work it should be banned for everyone — men and women,” said Yumi Ishikawa, the actor and writer credited with starting the movement against the high heel policy. In a statement to Fortune, she added, “This problem with glasses is the exact same as high heels. It’s only a rule for female workers.”
There are concerns that companies and officials will not condemn the glasses ban, especially after the response to the dress code complaints.
A group submitted a petition to the government in June calling on them to ban the high heel shoe requirement. However, activists were aggravated by the fact that Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto defended the mandate.
“It’s generally accepted by society that (wearing high heels) is necessary and reasonable in workplaces,” Nemoto said at a Diet committee session, according to a report by Kyodo News. As of now, there has been no changes to the rules governing dress codes.
The criticism over the glasses ban has also drawn comparisons to similar beauty standards questioned in South Korea last year. A female news anchor challenged beauty norms by wearing glasses on her early morning show, making her the first female presenter for a major TV network to do so.
Viewers were shocked and impressed to see a woman wearing glasses while delivering the news, a move that prompted a local airline to change its own policy and allow female cabin crew to wear glasses.
Toxic Smog Forces Emergency Measures in New Delhi
- A poisonous smog in New Delhi, India has caused the government to declare a public health emergency, shutting down schools and halting construction projects.
- As the city’s 20 million people battle respiratory problems, headaches, and burning eyes, the government has implemented vehicle restrictions that require people to alternate between days they can drive based on their license plate number.
- The pollution, which has become a reoccurring problem for New Delhi this time of year, is caused by a combination of farmers burning crops mixed with vehicle emissions and pollution from firework displays celebrating the Hindu holiday Diwali.
- As a result, many have criticized the government for not doing enough to deal with the pollution and argued that their proposals are only short-term fixes to a long-term problem.
Record levels of toxic smog have engulfed the Indian capital of New Delhi as government officials scramble to control the situation.
The poisonous smog, which the Delhi Chief Minister described as “unbearable pollution,” has taken over the city of more than 20 million people since late last week.
It is not currently clear how high the pollution levels are.
Over the weekend, it was reported that the levels were literally off the charts, with some people reporting that most areas in the city showed an air quality index of 999 because the meters can not record above that.
That number is three times higher than the “hazardous” level on the global air quality index.
According to other sources, the levels of dangerous particulates were more than 20 times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended safe daily maximum, which is the equivalent of smoking more than two packs of cigarettes a day.
The Indian government responded on Friday by declaring a public health emergency, shutting down all primary schools, and halting construction projects for several days.
The government also said it would distribute masks to five million children in the city.
People have been encouraged to stay inside as much as they can as reports of respiratory problems, headaches, and burning eyes continue.
On Sunday, flights were delayed and diverted due to the fact that pilots could not see through the smog. The smog has also caused traffic and car accidents.
Officials in New Delhi on Monday started restricting the use of private vehicles to try to help lift the pollution.
Under those restrictions, people can only use their cars on alternating days: Cars with odd-number license plates can drive on odd dates and cars with even-numbered plates can drive on even-numbered dates. Anyone found violating the restrictions will face a fine.
According to reports, the restrictions will not apply on Sunday. Additionally, the seven million motorbikes and scooters registered in the city are exempt from the restrictions, as are those taking public transportation and cars carrying only women.
While the dangerous smog in New Delhi is certainly significant, it is not something new.
In fact, this kind of air pollution is something that has been happening in New Delhi annually in recent years around this time. It is caused by a combination of a few things that all come together in especially bad timing.
One of the main causes of pollution is crop fires. Every winter, farmers in the surrounding areas of New Delhi in northern India burn old crops to make room to grow new crops.
The smoke and fumes from that process then drift to the suburbs and city, where they mix with construction dust and car emissions.
To make matters worse, that already toxic combination then mixes with smoke from fireworks displays during the Hindu holiday Diwali, which also happens at this time of the year.
However, because so much of the pollution comes from the crop burning, many have criticized the vehicle alternation restrictions, arguing that it will ultimately not do much.
Leaders in New Delhi— which in the past has been labeled the most polluted city in the world— have said any efforts they have made to clear up pollution have been undone by farmers burning crops in nearby states, and largely blamed the farmers.
But others have noted that New Delhi frequently does not meet air quality guidelines even when it is not crop-burning and firework season, arguing that the capital has a major issue with traffic pollution.
According to scientists at India’s state-run weather monitor SAFAR, crop burning in nearby states only contributes to just over 40% of Delhi’s pollution.
Taking that data into account, it appears that not just the farmers are responsible, prompting accusations that the politicians are just trying to scapegoat them.
In fact, back in September, even before the recent pollution crisis, government officials had already announced that they would implement the alternating odd-even car rule in early November.
Those restrictions have also been applied before, most recently in 2016.
While the pollution crisis in Delhi right now is extreme, it is part of a much bigger problem for India as a whole.
In May 2018, a study by the World Health Organization found that out of the top 10 most polluted cities in the world, nine of them were in India.
As a result, many have called on the government to take more accountability and actually do something, arguing that short-term band-aid solutions are not going to change anything.
On Saturday, people in New Delhi protested the lack of government action outside Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence.
On Monday, India’s Supreme Court criticized both national and state governments for not doing anything to curb the pollution.
“This can’t go on,” the high court said in a report. “People aren’t safe even inside their houses and rooms.”