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Blowing smoke over the Amazon – a strange story or how to flip an average into a ‘record’ without changing the data

Catte Black

My original article about the media presentation of the 2019 Amazon Rain Forest burning season produced a good deal more controversy than any of us anticipated. I don’t know how many times in the past four days OffG admins and editors have had to say “no, we aren’t claiming deforestation is a good idea”, but it’s been a few.

We also received our first DDoS attack in a couple of months the day after it was published. So, even the hackers were pissed off at us.

Surprising as it may be to those who favor knee jerk spontaneity over reading and reflection, I don’t think deforestation is a non-issue.

Which is why I said so in my previous article. And why OffG has repeated it numerous times since on our Twitter feed.

But let’s expand.

And put it in emphasis.

I, along with most other non-crazy people, believe the total or almost total destruction of the Amazon rain forest in order to build mahogany end tables or provide McDonald’s with cheap beef would be a crime of unprecedented dimensions.

(Maybe someone would like to cut and paste this as an automated tweet in response to anyone else who says “oh wow dude, so if you were on the Titanic you’d be like “what, there’s no problem?”)

I just also happen to think the importance of the subject doesn’t make buying into media memes about it, or lying about the data, somehow ok.

I don’t think it justifies hysteria, or uninformed rants from people who think indignation is a legitimate substitute for research data (“look how ANGRY I am, if this doesn’t fix things, nothing will!”).

I think that is –

a) often colonialist and patronizing, assuming the issue is so simple your massive western brain can grasp it simply by semi-digesting a couple of headlines over your cornflakes (“oh my God Janice, the Amazon is burning down, send that charity the Guardian are recommending some money and pass the milk”)

b) counter-productive, if not devastatingly destructive.

I’m not sure when the notion gained currency that exaggeration, lies and distortion were somehow appropriate if the event being lied about/exaggerated was “urgent” or “serious” enough, but it’s an idea antithetical to reason and truth.

The corollary also expressed, that demanding factual accuracy about such events is equivalent to denying their importance is equally, if not more disturbing.

It’s a mindset that invites manipulation and uncritical acceptance of authoritarian-inspired panic memes

But I’ll talk more about that another time. This is a follow up to the original article from August 23. There have been some interesting developments in the last few days and I think we should note them.

Firstly, as has been observed BTL on the original article, the three sources we cited underwent quite extensive revisions very shortly after our article was published.

Science20.com is the most noteworthy of these. On August 24, the day after we published our piece, the article we cited was completely re-written, presumably by its original author, identified as Robert Walker. In fact the changes implemented are so bizarre I want to look at them in some detail.

Here’s the original version we cited, now preserved only as an archive. This is the first part of the text:

NASA Say The Amazon Is Burning At Below Average Rates – Yet Many News Stories Say Record Rates???

Short summary:Short summary: we have had wild fires for many years now in the Amazon, even in the tropical rainforest – mainly started by humans for forest clearing and ranching. It is not enough to impact significantly on the Paris agreement pledges yet though it is important in the long term if this continues for decades.

This image is beign shared with captions such as “The Amazon is burning at record rates – and deforestation is to blame”. NASA’s caption is that it is burning at less than average rates. Bit of a big difference there.

It shows smoke from fires in the Amazon region on 13th August 2019. These are not necessarily all forest fires. Some of these will be fires in pasture to stimulate new growth for the cattle.


NASA’s caption: “As of August 16, 2019, satellite observations indicated that total fire activity in the Amazon basin was slightly below average in comparison to the past 15 years. Though activity has been above average in Amazonas and to a lesser extent in Rondônia, it has been below average in Mato Grosso and Pará, according to the Global Fire Emissions Database”

So, go to the Global Fire Emissions Database. and this is what you see:

The green line for 2019 there is a bit hard to make out, so here is a zoom in, as you can see it is way below the top line which is for 2005, with only a few data points, and is also below the 2003 line.

The BBC is misreporting it as a “record”

Big difference beteween(sic) “record” and “Less than average”. By “record” all they mean is that there are more than for 2018. It’s also greater than for 2017, but less than for 2016. That is not how the word “record” is normally understood. (OffG emphasis)

The ranchers use fire for forest clearing, “slash and burn agriculture” as it is called. That is because it is much easier to convert forest into grassland by burning it than to do it by felling the trees. Once it is cut, the way they manage the pastures is to reburn them every few years to clear out the brush and to get the grass to resprout.

So not all the fires you see are virgin forest. Many are controlled grassland fires, to get the grass to resprout. We do something similar in the UK where they do controlled burning of heather (muir burn) for grouse, sheep and deer. However, some of those fires get out of control (same sometimes happens for our moor fires) and burn the nearby forest at the forest edges.

So, not all the forest fires are deliberate clearing.

Also we do not risk losing the Amazon as a whole. That is something they used to think a few years back, but the research has moved on. A large part of the Amazon rainforest will remain through to 2100 even with high emissions – they survived the previous glacial minimum when it was warmer.

We do not need them for oxygen. This is just an urban myth. We have enough oxygen in the atmosphere already for thousands of years even if all the plants magically stopped producing oxygen.

The burnt areas do not become desert, but rather, regrow quickly as lower mass drier forests which given enough time over many decades and perhaps centuries would restore to tropical rainforest again – but in a warmer world some of them will turn to savannah with scattered trees, a habitat known as the Cerrada.

This is another article I’m writing to support people we help in the Facebook Doomsday Debunked group, that find us because they get scared, sometimes to the point of feeling suicidal about it, by such stories.

Do share this with your friends if you find it useful, as they may be panicking too.

This original version of the article is at pains to make certain things clear:

  • it calls the media to task for describing the burning as “record”
  • it says the Amazon as a whole is not under threat
  • it says the Amazon is not needed for oxygen, and this is just an ‘urban myth’
  • it says the burned areas do not become desert
  • it asks readers to share the article with friends who may be panicking unnecessarily

But then, on August 24, Walker apparently had a complete change of heart, decided panicking might be a good idea after all, took down the above version, and replaced it with this one.

Is Amazon Rainforest Burning At Record Rates? What Is The Way Forward?

Short summary: we have had wild fires for many years now in the Amazon, even in the tropical rainforest – mainly started by humans for forest clearing and ranching. It is not enough to impact significantly on the Paris agreement pledges yet, though it is important in the long term if this continues for decades. It does of course have major and immediate impacts on forest residents, nature services and the biodiversity in Brazil.

This image is being shared widely, for instance in National Geographic’s “The Amazon is burning at record rates – and deforestation is to blame”. Similarly, the BBC is reporting it as ‘Record number of fires’ in Brazilian rainforest.

Yet, NASA’s own description for this photo says that it is burning at close to the average for the last 15 years. So, what is going on here?

It turns out that the earlier 13th August [the date is an error, the article was from August 16, and updated August 22 – OffG] article gives the number of fires since 1st January but they use 1st May as the start date for the August 19 update.

There’s been a rapid increase of fires in the second half of August still continuing as of 24th August. it was at average levels or below average through to early August but had a huge uptick and is now close to the 2016 levels from 1st January and if it continues likely crosses them soon. But if you count from 1st May it is already way above recent previous years and close to rates last seen over a decade ago.

The new fires are more intense, near roads and show all the signs of being deliberate fires for deforestation. In addition, local farmers in Para district organized a “day of fire” on August 10th to show to Bolsonaro that they are ready to work and that they need to use fire to do so. So there is a clear link here. Bolsonaro however, in response to pressure internationally and also locally within Brazil has responded instead by sending in the army to stop the fires and he says that it is his duty to protect the Amazon. He also said clearly that these fires are illegal. There is also an investigation underway into the “day of fire”.

If they can stop the illegal fires this could make a big difference to deforestation figures for this year and indeed future years. There are more sustainable ways to increase the productivity of Brazil using existing land without impacting on the forest…

APOLOGIES – UPDATE FROM NASA FROM 19TH AUGUST – THEY NOW CONFIRM INPE INSTEAD OF SAYING IT IS BELOW AVERAGE

Previous version of this article was mistaken. I have made a copy on my website here (the comments on this article are based on that earlier version):

He then goes on to add some stuff about Trump and the G7, which isn’t in the first version. But then, after paragraphs of this interpolation, he reverts, way down the page, to many of his original non-panic points (scroll down and you will see what I mean).

This is very odd editing and the result is a car crash of clearly conflicting intentions. It’s not that the new text is revising the data or denying the claims it previously made. In fact it does not do this at all. Instead it uses a frenzied avalanche of words and non sequitur to give the impression it’s denying the claims, while it ends up actually re-affirming them elsewhere on the page.

In so doing, it replaces the cogent data points and arguments it previously used with the same vague claims of loosely-defined exceptionality you can read in the MSM, that imply a weight of ‘record’ significance but never say what that significance actually is. Such as:

It turns out that the earlier 13th August article gives the number of fires since 1st January but they use 1st May as the start date for the August 19 update.

This is presented as if it were an explanation of why NASA was claiming the fires were average at the same time the mass media were hyping “record” fires. But it’s obviously no such thing, as I go into further on.

And this:

The new fires are more intense, near roads and show all the signs of being deliberate fires for deforestation.

Maybe so, but since they are still well within the 15 year average, what difference does this make in any environmental sense? None is the obvious answer. Certainly neither Walker nor anyone else citing these points attempt to suggest any.

Further down the page it still has an approximation of the sections quoted above that attempt to debunk the alleged myths about the Amazon being essential for oxygen-production etc, though the wording has been toned down. It carries the same videos that try to put forest fires in a historical perspective (worth watching if you have the time).

On the question of the comparative amount of burning, the first version says:

By “record” all they mean is that there are more than for 2018. It’s also greater than for 2017, but less than for 2016. That is not how the word “record” is normally understood.

The new version says:

it was at average levels or below average through to early August but had a huge uptick and is now close to the 2016 levels from 1st January and if it continues likely crosses them soon

This is the same information, just the spin has been changed. And this is confirmed by the fact the same 17-year graphs that appear in the first version, showing 2019 to be an average burn year are re-posted in this version, just further down the page and with a rider added drawing attention to the ‘sudden’ rise in August.

Prominently displayed in the new version are four graphs from globalfiredata.org, the other website we referenced in our original piece. This website had also been updated August 24, and the graphs added.

As we can see the thick black lines showing burning activity for 2019 are highly striking and certainly appear to support the media contention that 2019 is “record-breaking,” and eliminate all the doubts previously being expressed.

But on closer inspection, they have simply been constructed to make the 2019 burning look as “record” as the headlines were already claiming.

To achieve this two things have been done to the data.

1) the earlier years that are included in the other graphs from the same source, and which all had much higher burn rates than anything more recent, have been eliminated from these new graphs. The rather thin rationale for doing this is the VIIR/MODIS measure only goes back to 2012.

2) They start the sample in May rather than in January. No rationale is given for this at all, and it’s hard to see any beyond the fact that excluding the earlier months is the only way to make 2019 stand out as being “record” in line with media claims.

NASA’s website has made a similar journey over the same period.

This article, which we originally quoted, still says the burn activity in the Amazon is “close to average” and explains that a lot of farmers burn their land in the dry season.

As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years. (The Amazon spreads across Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and parts of other countries.) Though activity appears to be above average in the states of Amazonas and Rondônia, it has so far appeared below average in Mato Grosso and Pará, according to estimates from the Global Fire Emissions Database, a research project that compiles and analyzes NASA data

This one, referenced by Walker and published just before his revised piece, might superficially appear to contradict the above claim, but – in a similar fashion to Walker’s piece – actually doesn’t if you look closely:

MODIS active fire detections in 2019 are higher across the Brazilian Amazon than in any year since 2010. The state of Amazonas is on track for record fire activity in 2019.

What NASA has done here in order to be able to claim a ‘record’ where previously there was an ‘average’ is simply switch from a fifteen-year analysis in the first article, to a nine-year one in the second. As I already pointed out above in relation to the revised graphs, this removes all the years of major burning this century and instantly shifts 2019 much further up toward the top of any comparative table.

Note also that NASA’s claim is not really true. Even within these somewhat distorted parameters 2019 is NOT higher than any year since 2010. As of today (August 27) 2016 is still just higher in total activity, and of course the earlier years of the 21st century were much higher again, but have been eliminated, apparently just for the purpose of making 2019 look a bit more “record-breaking”.

What we have here, in both the sceince20.com article and in NASA’s ‘update’, is interpretation-manipulation being passed off as data-update. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion this is a direct attempt to make their pages fall in line with the current media hysteria.

Looking at the wider issue, it’s pretty clear an orchestrated campaign to create unique panic and fear about the Amazon forest fires was initiated, not because the 2019 fires were uniquely dangerous, but because public fear was perceived as useful for promoting an agenda.

What agenda? I think it’s too early to get a comprehensive answer there. Many straws blowing in the wind. It’s been suggested Bolsonaro, the new imperial puppet, may have been proving a little antsy and required pulling into line. Or that it’s a concealed attempt at strengthening his position while appearing to attack it.

There’s this little straw in the wind that shouldn’t be ignored:

An “international treaty” would certainly be a nice cover for exploitation of the Amazon’s riches. It can’t be discounted as one possible motive for fomenting a fake crisis where only an endemic problem exists.

Or this:

Or this:

UPDATE: And this amazing piece of coincidental timing from Naomi Klein (any more of these world-burning memes people spot over the next few weeks, let me know):

There are no shortage of possibilities once the question “cui bono?” is asked.

If that question isn’t asked, if it’s outlawed as “unhelpful” or “conspiratorial”, we can become trapped in a refusal to interrogate. And that can lead to disaster.

Too many of us become utterly trusting as soon as our hot button subjects are on the front pages. People who know the media is utterly corrupt can still switch off their critical thinking when it starts to venture any opinion they can agree with.

Commentators who deride the absurd media lies about the Skripals or Corbyn or Syria or Russia still share the Environment page of the BBC or the Guardian, as if somehow honesty and integrity are guaranteed there.

George Monbiot, serial liar and lunatic when it comes to Syria or western foreign policy, is trusted to be an honest broker when he talks about climate change or veganism, or saving the whales.

It’s too easy for any one of us to tell ourselves the mainstream journalist who is saying what we want to hear must have a good and honest reason for saying it.

It’s so comforting to just shut off the critical awareness and drift on the cloud of manufactured ‘popular opinion’. Seductive to be in the majority for once. Reassuring to have someone do the thinking for us so we can, just for a bit, ride easy in their wake.

But the problem is then we end up signing up for Avaaz. Or cheering on the invasion of Iraq – because of those scary WMDs, or thinking thank goodness the G7 are going to do something about those terrifying “record” Amazon fires.

Because we forgot that the mass media and the body politic serve the super-rich, the financial institutions, the intelligence agencies and no one else.

And they always lie, because they always need to hide that simple fact.

*PS – I STILL don’t support the destruction of the rain forests.

OffG co-founding editor. Writer. Opinionated polemicist.

Filed under: Brazil, darker shade of green, environment, featured, latest

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OffG co-founding editor. Writer. Opinionated polemicist.

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Dungroanin
Dungroanin

And they’re off and running the Guardians second top story
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/30/amazon-fires-biodiversity-united-nations

Ticks all the boxes of the narrative construction underway to lead to the next payday by monetising all nature.

Dungroanin
Dungroanin

Todays Groaniad calling for Military intervention almost :

‘It is time for the international community to build on Macron’s lead and to recognize a right to environmental intervention patterned on the notion of humanitarian intervention.’
By Lawrence Douglas

This is going to be a bigger fight then any to stop the global robber barons.

Gary
Gary

Latest from the excellent ‘Grayzoneproject’ is that the West’s “color-revolution” outfits are now utilizing social media in trying to shift the responsibility for the fires from Brazil’s government to Evo Morales and Bolivia. Surprise, surprise!

Why didn’t I see that coming? Well – maybe because I’m not a freaking psychopath like the U.S. deep-state planners pulling the strings – so I don’t immediately assume a default mode of relying on fact-free amoral deception (lying) as standard operating procedure. Just a guess.

https://thegrayzone.com/2019/08/29/western-regime-change-operatives-launch-campaign-to-blame-bolivias-evo-morales-for-the-amazon-fires/

Editor
Admin
Editor

Not really sure this holds together. If the PTB didn’t want to blame Bolsonaro they simply wouldn’t. But they did.

Roland Spansky
Roland Spansky

I was following you guys’ Twitter show down with Media Lens. I was pretty shocked by the ethics ML showed. They were being plain sneaky. Implying you were denying the importance of the Amazon disaster, going quiet when you called them on it, never defending or retracting the lie, then doing the same darn thing again. I followed them for years and always had huge respect for them but that respect is permanently broken now. I’m upset by it. I never imagined I’d see that kind of thing from the two Davids whom I’ve always admired. You guys handled it well. Kudos. Just wanted to say that.

Admin
Admin
Admin

Thanks for the kind words but we’re quite anxious to bring the issue with Media Lens to an end, and really do not want it to be opened up here. We’ve never had anything but respect for ML and don’t intend to reciprocate with any attacks on them.

We’d appreciate if people would refrain from commenting further about this here.

Deb
Deb

Here’s a good link, a response to the Forbes article by Michael Shellenberger on the Amazon and “the lungs of the earth”.

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/08/michael-shellenbergers-sloppy-forbes-diatribe-on-amazon-fires-commentary/#

Skeptic
Skeptic

“The aim of modern propaganda is no longer to modify ideas, but to provoke action. It is no longer to change adherence to a doctrine, but to make the individual cling irrationally to a process of action. It is no longer to lead to a choice, but to loosen the reflexes. It is no longer to transform an opinion, but to arouse an active and mythical belief.”

This comes from the book “Propaganda: The formation of Men´s Attitudes” by Jacques Ellul. Every citizen of todays´ world should have that quote carved in his/her mind.

What most people doesn´t seem to understand, is that there are experts, which have studied mass psychology, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, psychiatry, techniques for psychological warfare, rhetorics, public relations, advertisement, and a very long etc., working every single hour of the day in the construction of our ideological, social and psychological paradigm; and our roles within it.

Everything that is consumed through mass media, spoken by a politician, celebrity or pretty much every public face (they and even we do that knowingly or unknowingly, Ellul´s book makes clear how that works and it is a fascinating read), has been carefully crafted to make people act in certain ways, demand certain things, agree with certain terms, riot, hate, panic, support, dream, be optimistic, despair, etc., according to the particular need and situation.

These “news stories” of ecological disaster are a case in point. One only needs to read about the burning trees to immediately build the conviction that something should be done. Two sentences about the cries of sloths in flames and it is easy to feel connected to those who apparently share our pain for the lost flora and fauna, and to think that they must have the same good intentions as my own empathic self (“I am good and empathic because I care so much about sloths that I am reading this article”); that I should therefore follow them and support them on whatever they are up to. If only, that even with all the lies and exaggerations “there is an important conversation coming to the fore” ™️ , which in times immemorial meant to have a hysterical exchange of demagoguery, false analogies and fallacies broaching with fear and anger, which make the most fertile broth for manipulation and deceit.

Falling for the propagandists tricks is ultimately the same as letting powerful people use and abuse oneself psychologically and spiritually. And it is also a betrayal of the good and just causes; those need your full conscious, rational attention, and an uncompromising love for the truth.

Thanks again, Catte, for asking the right questions and showing us how one can resist the onslaught of the demagogues and manipulators.

NukesDownUnder
NukesDownUnder

“The aim of modern propaganda is no longer to modify ideas, but to provoke action”

No, not to provoke action. More like it, the purpose is ‘to create intellectual paralysis’ and ‘to make you afraid of taking any action’.

Skeptic
Skeptic

A very important point, of course. But one which I don´t think contradicts Ellul´s main argument.

I think that the author acknowledges that when he writes that the aim of propaganda is “no longer to transform an opinion, but to arouse an active and mythical belief”. A belief such as the regular “we have 10/15/5 years before it is too late to save the planet”. Those, as we have seen, have no basis in science, and as many authors have acknowledged, resemble more the mythological end of the world conceptions of millenarianist/end of the world sects.

And people take action in spreading them, in embracing these beliefs and building up the emotional responses from which vested interests take advantage.

One could also argue that choosing paralysis and and relying on governments, 16 year old girls, multinational corporations or Al Gore to save you from doomsday, is precisely the course of action which the propagandists aim.

To become paralysed, hysterical, passive or indifferent are also courses of action. And by sharing these feelings, these mythical beliefs one “clings to the process of action” which the powerful have very cleverly designed.

Cheers,

Jen
Jen

Even the BBC itself has had to admit there have been more fires started in Angola and parts of south-central Africa according to MODIS satellite data analysed by Weather Source obtained through Bloomberg news agency, at this time of year than in the Amazon rainforest area.

The BBC map below shows where the fires are burning in Africa:comment image

Contrary to what the BBC news report states, the fires on the map are not in the tropical rainforest zone (though they are close) but in the tropical to subtropical zones where the forest starts to merge with savanna grasslands, and are extending down into eastern South Africa. Many if not most of the fires would appear to have been lit to clear forest, especially forest undergrowth. The rainy season in southern Africa starts October or November so any clearing of forest so the ash can be used as fertiliser has to start now.

Note also on the BBC map that most fires in South America are occurring south of the Amazon river basin and in the areas where, again, tropical climates and environments are in transition to subtropcial climates and environments and the vegetation types are different from the Amazon rainforest stereotype. In particular they’re occurring close to the Brazilian-Bolivian frontier and in the Pantanal wetlands region in southwest Brazil.

Maybe there’s a subtle warning to Bolivian President Evo Morales that his country is next in line for some bizarre R2P regime-change operation hiding behind a pseudo-humanitarian “save the rainforest” cause.

Badger Down
Badger Down

“I’m not sure when […] exaggeration, lies and distortion were somehow appropriate if the event […] was “urgent” or “serious” enough,”
Oh that’s easy: “The Holocaust of the Six Million Jews”.

Kayaboosha
Kayaboosha

Sounds like Brazil is being primed for regime change…….and I thought Bolsanaro was a “bad” guy. But then I once thought Saddam was bad, before I found out about his rise to fame with the assistance of the CIA. We live and learn. Issues are certainly less clear cut than they once seemed. Fog of war?

Jean Miller
Jean Miller

Meanwhile the third runway at Heathrow goes ahead, and Nestlé do whatever they like in order to increase their bottled spring water output. I wonder if either of these concerns are on the agenda as the Green New Deal is hammered out?

https://nexusnewsfeed.com/article/geopolitics/nestl-plan-to-take-1-1-million-gallons-of-water-a-day-from-natural-springs-sparks-outcry/

Badger Down
Badger Down
mark
mark

This is all standard operating procedure for the Global Warming Brigade.

Hysteria based on highly dubious or deliberately misleading and distorted or outright fabricated “facts”, peddled by corrupt and highly compromised NGOs with their own agenda, fronted by vacuous virtue signalling celebs or suitably photogenic brats.

All the scientists agree! We have 12/11/4 years, or whatever the figure is today, to “save the planet.”

It’s not surprising that this character, Walker, altered his early accounts and started singing from the correct hymn sheet. Most of “the scientists” will do this to retain tenure, obtain funding, or avoid attacks and criticism. Anything for a quiet life. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of scientists and specialists of integrity continue to challenge the prevailing political (not scientific) orthodoxy, at some risk to themselves.

Exactly the same pattern applies with false flags like the Syria Gas Hoaxes.

So every flood, drought, heatwave, blizzard, or storm is now routinely presented by the fake MSM as “firm evidence of Global Warming.”

And the solution is to fall in line behind Little Greta and her globalist backers.
Dutifully cough up trillions in Green Taxes.
Obey the instructions of the Green Taliban without question.
And queue up to buy your Global Warming Certificates from Goldman Sachs.
Al Gore is probably rubbing his hands together at the prospect of trousering another $500 million.

BigB
BigB

Thomas Sankara: [Green] Imperialism is the Arsonist of our Forests & Savannas

“This struggle to defend the trees and forests is above all a struggle against imperialism. Because imperialism is the arsonist setting fire to our forests and our savannas.”

To raise the same issues – without focusing on the clearly controversial size, number, burn rate, year-on-year statistical average of the ‘wildfires’ issues – perhaps a simpler framing would be “Why now?”

I’m 57 years old. Since I was a nipper: the Amazon has been burning at above, below, or on trend for nearly every year of my life. It has been an issue: but not like this. The rate of the fires is an issue: but a bigger issue is the rate of deforestation. Slash and burn deforestation reached a peak in 2004. Under Lula and Dilma Rouseff it was abating. Now:

https://twitter.com/BrianMteleSUR/status/1166658140781338626

Does anyone want to argue that if ratified: the deforestation of 11.5% of the remaining Amazon IS – or would be – an unmitigated global environmental disaster? No: so perhaps there is no smoke without fire?

So who is to blame? Everyone knows Bolsonaro is Washington’s comprador. Bolivia has suffered badly as well: sustaining fire damage that will take 200 years to regenerate [according to TeleSur]. Is Evo Morales to blame? No, we all are. This is green imperialism and Global Capitalist Realism in action.

So, up to 2004 the Amazon was really burning. Under the Brazilian Workers Party: the rate slowed (though it was still significant). A UN carbon trading scheme called REDD (Reducing Emissions from forest Deforestation and Degradation) was in place. But in 2014-15 Brazil suffered and economic crisis. There was a US orchestrated administrative coup against Rouseff and Lula (preventing him restanding) and Washington poodle Temer came in. To be replaced by Bolsonaro in January this year. Last year saw a return to higher logging levels. Nothing like historic levels: when I was a boy. But if the above Tweet is anything to go by: those rates of wanton rape look set to return.

So Bolsonaro is to blame? Not so fast. Under the first article I hinted that we should look at what just happened in Argentina: where the Peso completely collapsed about three weeks ago. The reasons why are extremely interesting: but presently beyond my scope. Argentina and Brazil are canaries in the global economic coalmine. They are part of the emerging market economy scenario seeded by the likes of Goldman Sachs. Their success or failure depends on the strength of the dollar: not the Peso or Real.

The situation is rather complex: so I will let a real economist explain:

https://www.globalresearch.ca/south-americas-made-in-usa-growing-crises-economic-destabilization-of-brazil-argentina-and-venezuela/5643818

So, if you need more dollars: you have to sell something. Something like trees or beef to TNCs like Pizza Hut, Kroger, Subway, Wendy’s, Hormel, and Nestlé [Union of Concerned Scientists report]. Or iron to mining companies like Vale SA: to keep up China’s demand for ore and to sustain the Dalian Futures Market [TeleSur]. The EU and Micron do not get bragging rights: as they are contributing by their demand for biofuel: to support our green imperialist lifestyles.

The point I am trying to make is not to descend into blame and recrimination – as the previous forum seemed to. We live in a highly networked self-organised global economy. No one person is to blame. Perhaps it is closer to say that we are all not without blame? If we want to stop the Amazon from burning: we have to stop demanding valorisable lifestyles and be content with who we really are, and what we really have – anteceding the consumerisation of the global economy. One that demands the Amazon – and the whole world burn.

This is Global Capitalist Realism in action. The G7 blames Bolsonaro for its own green imperialism. Green imperialism we all share in. At least we could admit that and seek a non-imperialist lifestyle?

The only solution is the end of capitalism. Who knows what the uber-capitalists are up to: extending private property rights; internalising externalities; forest stewardship; natural capital (the privatisation of the Amazon); REDD+; promoting the GND and 4IR neoliberal agendas? The crisis is real: whatever the papers say (I don’t even read them). The whole world is burning. We can have problem:crisis:solution with the neoliberal Zeitgeist GND …or whatever Greta or Naomi proposes. Or problem:crisis:solution: proposing our own Humanist solution. Or Global Capitalist Realism will consume more than just the Amazon to maintain our ‘developed’ standard of living the world can ill afford.

[“The house is on fire” was part of Greta’s rehearsed speech at Davos WEF 2019. Since picked up by Macron …and me. It is not untrue. The solution on offer is untrue. It is a thinly disguised business-as-usual scenario which will not stop anything burning: but will turn a tidy profit for doing so. As of yet: there is no solution …only a hell of a lot of denial and acrimony. None of which will put out the fires: unless we can at least agree that the neoliberal globalisation agenda and our own do not coincide].

mark
mark

It is an agenda for the financialisation of everything, the animals, the plants, the natural world, the air, the sea.
With Goldman Sachs trading it and taking a fat cut.
You’re flying to Benidorm next week, so you have to buy yourself a Hot Air Global Warming Certificate from GS.

Natasha
Natasha

didn’t you read the quotes from Science20 in the article?

We do not need them for oxygen. This is just an urban myth. We have enough oxygen in the atmosphere already for thousands of years even if all the plants magically stopped producing oxygen.

The burnt areas do not become desert, but rather, regrow quickly as lower mass drier forests which given enough time over many decades and perhaps centuries would restore to tropical rainforest again – but in a warmer world some of them will turn to savannah with scattered trees, a habitat known as the Cerrada.

BigB
BigB

The quote about oxygen is one of the most crassly stupid I have ever read: and I read a lot!

The idea that oxygen is a static component of the atmosphere – that will remain at a constant 21% without plants (and algae) – is pure anti-science. I’m afraid it would not even qualify as ‘naive’. It’s just plain wrong.

Briefly: we have an earth system of complex interactive processes that require constant generation and regeneration. The oxygen/carbon cycle is but one part of that. It cannot be considered in isolation. It is definitely not static and independent of the biotic community.

The biota; atmosphere; lithosphere; and hydrosphere interact in ways that we are only beginning to understand. Life is a co-evolutionary, co-adaptive community that influences life (very weak Gaia principle). However, there is no real reason that a sustained imbalance in the terrestrial cycles cannot influence death (Medea principle). There is – or has been for sustainable geological period – a dynamic interbalance of life and death. How this is ultimately maintained: we do not know. It is too complex to understand even with non-linear maths, feedback loops, and computer simulation.

Plants (including algae) create oxygen and carbon in daily and seasonal cycles. It is the dynamic interplay that maintains the atmospheric oxygenation levels at a steady 21%. There is an oxygen/ozone generative process (that can and has resulted in depletion) as well as all the other interactive cycles to consider and compute. Upset these and the planet becomes a fireball. This is unlikely; but not implausible.

Likewise: the Cerrana – or so called ‘savannafication’. This has unknown and perhaps unintended consequences to the carbon sequestration cycles. The mass and height affects biodiversity; the geographic topography and weather cycles: etc. And since I wrote this: Bolsanaro has opened up the Amazon (as per the Tweet above):

https://twitter.com/BrianMteleSUR/status/1167140852487118848

I’m not a scientist: but I know more about earth systems than the bozos who wrote the quotes. Returning to historic levels of deforestation to bolster a flagging capitalist system humanity can no longer afford will disrupt the biosphere. Especially when we broaden our focus an include burning Africa, burning Greenland, burning Arctic; etc

We need to model the economy as an ecology of bio-energetic and biophysical flows – from source to sink. Everything interacts. Everything has to go somewhere. Every output is an input. If it is not: if it is a novel and alien entity to the biogenetic processes …we got problems. We got lots of problems: and only inappropriate solutions that cause more problems. Precisely because we cannot think in organic and processual terms that equate to natural cycles. Nothing is static. Everything is an inter-dynamic interactive process. Including our economy and psychology.

Natasha
Natasha

The article isn’t saying we don’t need plants to create oxygen (Jeez), it’s saying we don’t need the Amazon specifically to do that, because it isn’t the lungs of the world in the way the dumbed down propaganda says.

The ‘bozos’ that wrote the quotes are(is) Robert Walker. And he’s not making the point you think he’s making. He’s pointing out the extremeness and unscientific-ness of the panic.

So calm down.

Not sure where the ‘crassly stupid’ title goes, but it’s not on the guy who wrote that article.

BigB
BigB

I happen to think the panic – though manipulated – is in fact, understated. And now it is clear that Bolsonaro’s puppet regime is opening up an Amazonian freefell: I do not understand your reticence. The Amazon is a very large part of the earth system regulatory process. A bozo who thinks oxygen is a constant in the atmosphere “for thousands of years” is a bozo. Every microbe, let alone every tree, plays a part in the dynamic processes of life. We need the Amazon as it is …not 11.5% smaller. You seem to want to detract from the absolute severity of the crisis in the Amazon. Why? Life’s lost integrity affects us all with loss of life. Calm down? Maybe that is not an appropriate response to our globalisation crisis?

MLS
MLS

Following up Natasha’s reply.

You’re correct BigB, you aren’t a scientist. And you leap in way too fast with rapid fire denunciations of things you don’t fully understand.

Yes, plants are needed to produce oxygen, but the turnover is slow. So, the statement ‘we need plants for oxygen’ and ‘we have enough oxygen for a long time even if all the plants die’ are not even slightly contradictory.

Of course this is not in any way, shape or form an argument for burning all the trees, please don’t reply with twenty paragraphs of refutation of that suggestion. Not needed!

BigB
BigB

My objection is simple: we do not know how the earth system functions …but, collectively, we act with impunity as though we do. Without any Precautionary Principle. In the face of mounting negative feedback.

This is collectively a crass stupidity to impose our economic systems on the earth system and expect it to keep supporting life. For reasons we cannot even comprehend: the earth system acts out of its integrity. The idea that we have oxygen “for thousands of years” – as per the quote – is anti-science. There is no oxygen without life: and no life without oxygen. There is an inter-dynamic regulatory mechanism we ill understand.

Yeah, sure …the debate is dumbed down. But the expert – and the highlighted quotes – seem no better informed. Funny how you both ignore the logging for cattle ranching return that was the emphasis I laid. Return to historical deforestation for short-term gains will affect the dynamic interplay of life and death. Especially as it is occurring simultaneously globally. We will reach a tipping point one day where the earth system can no longer maintain its integrity. Only a fool would say “Don’t panic: it’s definitely not this …or this …or this …oh, shit!”

Anna
Anna

Perfect, Catte – thank you. These very odd and sly amendments only exacerbate my original suspicions. You’re so right that so many folk seem to have a blind spot. Another point perhaps is although climate change is a huge, complex issue, it could also be linked here in that the perception of ‘record’ fires has the potential to ‘necessitate’ an increase in carbon taxation due to the the now-certain failure to meet targets.

Anyway, it’s certainly not a bad outcome for those that seek to benefit most from the commodification of nature – without even having to hire henchmen to rape and steal resources to make their killing/s.

Thanks for making me feel less isolated.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar

The real problem is actually that you have to be in the in-crowd to ever get your opinions published under a byline. WUWT is a glorified Boys Club for Worrall, Eschenbach, Monckton, Watts, Archibald and a few others. Even OffG is a Boys and Girls Club. Dianne Abbott got hold of a submission I made to OffG, which either means you distribute things without consulting the author or Abbott is party to zlanour Party online criminality (well, she is friends with Andrew Neil, who always gets hold of everything I write by email). And what I wrote to OffG about climate in another submission was a bit too dedicated to the truth to confirmed global warmers…

What I am saying is that the only way to have a hope of saying what you truly feel is not to depend on a wage to eat and to comment BTL at the few sites that do not suppress dissenting views ruthlessly.

The following censor: Daily Mail, BBC, Guardian, Spectator, Telegrah, TCW, Breitbart, just to name seven.

I long ago reached the conclusion that either you became more knowledgeable than the journos or you simply disengaged from a particular subject. There is no point in holding opinions without profound education first. If you need to know, educate yourself. But if not, more often than not, ignorance is bliss.

Admin
Admin
Admin

If Diane Abbott had a copy of a submission you sent to us she did not get it from us. We’ve never had occasion to forward submissions to any third parties, but if we did we’d ask author permission first of course.

gardenfiend
gardenfiend

I think we need to tailor our words very carefully BTL. Things easily become extremely polarised, and I am a bit tired of the poor level of discussion that results.

The earth, the rainforest, our natural resources are in the hands of psychopaths and hardline capitalists. Capitalism is an ideology that’s bred into us all from the day we are born, it’s in our very core, yet it is the most destructive force on the planet. Huge, faceless corporate interests are its vehicle, and they move with unswerving momentum, beyond the influence of any individual.

While, according to fossil and recent historical record, earth has endured and survived greater periods of upheaval than we are subjecting it to now, that’s no excuse for the huge toll of waste and destruction born from profligate consumerism we exact upon the planet. It in no way excuses driving animal species to extinction and polluting natural habitats, often due to nothing more than cutting corners to maximise profit margins.

I hate thinking about industrial farming in the UK, let alone the sort of rape of the natural land which takes place around the globe, especially in poorer nations who don’t have the luxury…. oh, wait.

I almost wrote that poor nations don’t have the luxury of being sentimental about their ecosystems, but isn’t that another example of a dreadful colonialist mindset? There may well be truth in that statement, but I mustn’t ignore the West’s vile environmental record – the evidence for which lies among the depleted uranium-strewn rubble of oh-so-many failed states, and in the knock-on effects of our economic rape and exploitation of other cultures.

While we all easily assume these things go without saying, it’s so easy to paint the opposite impression. A high degree of open-mindedness and diplomacy is not only desirable, but essential if any meaningful discussion is to come about.

Badger Down
Badger Down

This is what you get when more than five billion medium-large mammals go ape and murder intelligent life forms. The future, if any, is vegan.

vexarb
vexarb

An explanation for the AZC are throwing Bolsonaro under the bus.

For a short while Bolsonaro gloried in being “a sonofabitch — but our SOB”.

But he’s reached the end of his shelf-life: Lula’s Back in Town!.

crank
crank

Yes, anthropogenic climate change is a reality; yes, that reality is being used as an excuse for various manipulative political games. I’m not sure why so few people seem to be able to hold both these ideas in their minds at the same time.

John Michael Greer Aug 21sr 2019

Catte could have/ should have mentioned Medialens by name, who seem a bit lost in this ‘moment’.

nottheonly1
nottheonly1

I would have to write an essay as well to respond to this excellent explanation of how the people are deceived for specific reasons. Those being exclusively of the realm of profits for the owner class.
Instead I thank You for this amazing journalistic investigation in regards to the manufacturing consent for a truly sinister goal – ending democracy (and it is not that we had a well functioning ever) as we came to believe to be the preferred method of governance.

Just a few thoughts.

Presstv.com – the Iranian state news agency was also under a DDoS attack. It appears that their reporting on the news about Israeli attacks did not sit too well with the Western (and Western Middle East) regimes.

There is a general development in South America, where many Nations are turning away from the U.S. regime towards co-operation especially with China and also with Russia. The story about the Amazon must also be seen in the light of the tectonic shift to orientate more towards the East. That would spell certain doom for the U.S. wanna be empire and its spineless vassals. South America holds the largest deposits of resources on the planet. Herein lies all the U.S. regimes collaboration with the most ruthless fascists.

How about Bolsonaro was hoisted (through overt and covert interference in Brazilian affairs) by the U.S. regime – only to be thrown under the bus when the time comes to install a real puppet like Merkel, or Johnson? Bolsonaro is a military dictatorship guy first. He is no Augusto Pinochet.

Which brings me to the last point. What do people now believe to be true? If they find out that they are lied to about the Amazon, are they not lied to about Syria? If they are lied to about Syria, were they not lied to about the Skripals? If they were lied to about the Skripals, are they not lied to about Bolsonaro? What about Hong Kong? What about Venezuela? What about the ‘economy’, Kashmir and, and, and?

Cui Bono? indeed. Time to reject the lies of the spineless and I am more than on tenterhooks about Johnson demanding that the ‘Queen’ shall suspend the house of commons. How long will people now adhere to the Amazon narrative?

mark
mark

Obviously the Chinese and the Russians cannot be allowed to invest in Latin America any more.
It should be reserved completely for Wall Street, in the interests of Global Warming.

DunGroanin
DunGroanin

Great except you are wrong about Merkel. It does apply to Macron though and all these who have benefitted from the alt-right rabble rousing via the US billionaires funds and manafort.

Oh and perhaps the South Americans could more accurately be turning to the west across their ocean rather then east (and certainly north)

Theo
Theo

Very interesting piece.Especially the story that shows how differently statistics can be presented or shall I say”updated”?

Gary
Gary

Anyone who refuses to question the validity of the latest media blitz during which Western leaders proclaim their “heartfelt concern” for the health of the same planet they have been pillaging non-stop with rapacious glee – (or for the “suffering” of Venezuelans, Syrians, Libyans, Nicaraguans, Hong Kong residents, etc.) – is operating at a level of credulity that defies both history and reason.

Of course one of the rather amazing unspoken “ironies” in the matter at hand is that the same Western governments and “world leaders” who now critique Bolsonaro are the EXACT same entities and personages who conspired together to illegally and immorally undermine and destroy the progressive Brazilian governments of Lula and Dilma.

Like the rest of the Western populace, those of us who identify in some way as either “radicals” or “progressives” – (minus vigilant examination of “cui bono”) – are want to fall prey to the latest round of – as Daniel Boorstin labeled them 60+ years ago – “pseudo-events.” As Boorstin predicted over 60 years ago now, modern “reality” is now simply a series of such “pseudo-events”- neatly shifting from one to the next.

(“We hardly dare face our bewilderment, because our ambiguous experience is so pleasantly iridescent, and the solace of belief in contrived reality is so thoroughly real. We have become eager accessories to the great hoaxes of the age. These are the hoaxes we play on ourselves.”)
― Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America

A couple of additional quotes from Boorstin’s 1961 book “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.” These quoted by the great media propaganda analyst Alex Carey.

(“citizen-consumers are daily less interested in whether something is a fact than in whether it is convenient that it should be believed.”)

(“we are threatened by a new and peculiarly American menace . . . It is the menace of unreality . . . We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them. We are the most illusioned people on earth. Yet we dare not become disillusioned, because our illusions are the very house in which we live, they are our news, our heroes . . . our very experience.”)

We must always be determined and unafraid to to ask “cui bono,” whether the “pseudo-event” in question involves Western leaders telling us evidence-free that “Assad is gassing his own people” so we “must invade Syria,” or when these same immoral clowns proclaim that they now overnight and in unison have magically developed “a deep and abiding concern for the health of planet earth” – a concern that simply forces them to speak out. The questions: why? And who benefits? Must always be a part of our “reality-testing.” Catte shouldn’t have to apologize for such an approach.

BigB
BigB

Gary

It is not a ‘pseudo-event’. It is a real event that is being leveraged. The difference is enormous and not merely semantical. The leverage is a falsification not the event …a falsification in emphasis: why now? It is late epochal Capitalist Realism that supplied the match. Whichever way it breaks: and whatever pre-determined solution our leaders propose will be inimical to humanity. Our only option is to propose our own adaptive and regenerative mitigation solutions. Which proceeds only from accepting the event and the broader Human Impact crises as real.

Gary
Gary

You’re interpretation of “pseudo-event” and mine appear to differ BigB. The “pseudo-event” in my opinion is the media/oligarchic “presentation of” and “framing of” the “real world event” that are the fires, not a denial of the reality of the “fires,” or of the absolute danger to planet earth we are facing. I believe this “framing” of a real world event is what Catte is referring to in her analysis.

BigB
BigB

I apologise. I did not get that from my original reading. Thank you for confirming that we totally agree. I’ll have to check out. Boorstin …he seems to have passed me by. Thanks for the reference.

Gary
Gary

Thanks BigB. No problem. I have too had missed encountering both Daniel Boorstin’s “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America,” (1961) and Alex Carey’s “Taking The Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda Versus Freedom and Liberty” (1995 – published 8 years after his death) – until I bought used copies of both only a few weeks ago.

Amazing, as I make it a point to read everything I can find on media and propaganda. I’m half-way through both books and while their intersections are rather sublime, it is their rather amazing pertinence to our world of today that makes them more valuable and worthwhile now than ever before I dare say.