Manaus, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, has reportedly turned into a “climate dystopia” due to the effects of human-caused pollution, leaving local authorities scrambling to address the ongoing crisis and appealing to the federal government for assistance.
What is happening?
A record-breaking drought has devastated the Amazon rainforest over the past year, leaving parts of the Amazon River at its lowest point in 121 years, the Guardian reports. As a result, the port city of Manaus has become inaccessible to many ships, meaning that goods and transport have had a difficult time reaching the city. And Reuters reported in December that the effects of the drought could be felt until 2026.
How big of a problem is this?
The fires and drought have had severe consequences for the residents of Manaus and the surrounding areas.
Due to the fires, air quality monitors picked up massive increases in dangerous smoke levels. Breathing wildfire smoke can cause both immediate and long-term respiratory and heart health problems.
As the weather conditions threaten residents’ health, low river levels make delivering essential medicines and other resources more difficult.
Adding insult to injury, road industry lobbyists are trying to take advantage of the crisis to build a highway through the heart of the Amazon, which conservationists say would be a disaster for the already threatened ecosystem.
The effects of the drought, the Earth’s overheating, and the fires have wreaked havoc on many species, including dolphins, which are dying off in unprecedented numbers.
What is being done about it?
According to the Guardian, Amazonas state officials have called an emergency meeting to address the crisis and lobby the federal government for assistance — but their next steps remain unclear.
In the macro sense, perhaps the most crucial thing we can do to halt the global overheating crisis that has already devastated the region is to switch from dirty energy sources such as gas and oil to clean, abundant energy sources such as wind and solar. Other actions can also make a difference.
However, so much damage has already been done to the Amazon and its people that some experts worry the ecosystem will soon be unable to recover.
“Repeated fires can destroy the forest entirely. In addition to tipping points in terms of temperature and dry-season length, there is also a tipping point from the loss of forest beyond a certain limit, which is also believed to be near at hand,” a senior researcher at the National Institute for Amazonian Research told the Guardian.
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