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NYT tamps down hysteria: ‘Much of the land that is burning was not old-growth rain forest, but land that had already been cleared of trees and set for agricultural use’

News Brief by Kip Hansen

The news channels, newspapers, news sites and the Twit-o-verse are full of “the Amazon is burning!”  some of this was covered in here as “Amazon Fire History Since 2003” by Les Johnson  on August 23.

Years ago, I asked the question “What Are They Really Counting?”.  Always an important question when figures are being thrown about and talk is of scary numbers or records set or the numbers being scandalous.  Nice numbers . . . but what are they really counting?

Here’s the number of fires:


This year, 2019, as of  21 August, is running a hair below 2016.  There are two years since 2003 higher.

But for current Amazon fires,  we want to know: not just the number of fires  (for which the NY Times has quite a different number  than Global Fire Data, which is shown above). . . .but instead:

What is burning?

It is natural to think that because the news is all full of stories stating that “The Amazon Rain Forest is burning” — well, one might think that the Amazon Rain Forest is burning.

However, that is not true, according to a brave journalist —  Alexandria Symonds   — at the NY Times (kudos kudos  & kudos to her…) .  She reports:

“Natural fires in the Amazon are rare, and the majority of these fires were set by farmers preparing Amazon-adjacent farmland for next year’s crops and pasture.

Much of the land that is burning was not old-growth rain forest, but land that had already been cleared of trees and set for agricultural use.”

Our brave journalists skates close to the dangerous edge of violating  Editorial Mandates by telling readers:

“Did climate change cause these fires, and how will they affect climate change?

These fires were not caused by climate change. They were, by and large, set by humans. However, climate change can make fires worse. Fires can burn hotter and spread more quickly under warmer and drier conditions.”

[Note:  there is no mention of actual conditions of temperature or rainfall concurrent with these fires in the article, as usual for when climate is being blamed  — just the implication that “climate change will makes things worse” without any data. — kh]



Bottom Line:

What is Burning? Mostly land previously cleared for agriculture.  Some of these fires have gotten out of control along the edges of still-forested land.

How many fires?  About as many at this time of year in 2016.

Deforestation?  Deforestation of the Amazon has been ongoing, but it  has been down trending since 1985, according to the graph above from the Times.

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Authors Comment Policy:

I am glad to be able to commend a NY Times journalist — a rare opportunity.  Unfortunately, her “by…” page is currently down but I know that “Alexandria Symonds is a senior staff editor at The Times.”  I guess she has some slack from Editorial Narratives.

I just thought that readers should know the basic facts about the Amazon fires.

Note that the NY Times is also calling out “fake news” photos of the Amazon Fires.

Start comments with “Kip…” if speaking to me.

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