opinion

Notre Dame burned and the world stopped. The Amazon has been on fire for three weeks.

The city of Sao Paulo in Brazil fell into darkness just after 3pm on Monday.

Sunset wasn’t due for hours.

The image that emerged of a dark intersection, cars with their headlights beaming, and street lights radiating looked apocalyptic.

According to the BBC, heavy smoke travelling from the burning Amazon rainforest had likely blocked the sun, leading to a citywide blackout.

When the story became world news, there was just one problem.

We did not know the Amazon was burning. There had been no front page reports or photographs or hashtags.

Watch the trailer for 2040. A rare example of hope when it comes to climate change. Post continues after video.

When Notre Dame burned for 15 hours in April of this year, the story dominated world news. Ancient relics were saved, while the Cathedral’s wooden spire was engulfed by flames.

For three weeks the Amazon has burned. The single largest tropical rainforest in the world, responsible for 20 per cent of the clean air we breathe. It’s been long referred to as the “lungs of our planet“.

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If the Amazon burns, the world burns. The carbon stores within that rainforest serve to slow down the pace of global warming.

As trees and animals are engulfed in more than 73,000 fires, the smoke can be seen from space.

NASA has captured images in the last week of a smoke layer spanning more than 3.2 million square kilometres. That’s the equivalent of more than one-third of Australia.

It’s understood that three football fields of rainforest are being lost every minute.

Brazil’s right-wing President,  Jair Bolsonaro, has been heavily criticised for his (lack of) environmental policies, which have seen greater privileges afforded to loggers, miners and farmers, who are contributing to the destruction of the Amazon.

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He was quoted by Reuters News as saying in response to the fires, “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame.”

As the world learns of this tragedy, a certain irony has presented itself.

The Amazon Fire, a tablet computer developed by Amazon, is dominating search engines, in place of the information users are looking for.

“I honestly can’t think of a more fitting way for this, the final summer of the decade, to end,” read one tweet.

“The Amazon is burning now, and if you Google “Amazon fire” you get ten pages of ads for Jeff Besos’ f*cking tablet.”

In the last few hours, the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia has begun to trend, with many sharing images and videos of the destruction.

Perhaps global awareness will put more pressure on President Bolsonaro to act.

In stark contrast, the ashes had not yet settled on the 4th arrondissement of Paris when President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation.

“I tell you solemnly tonight: We will rebuild this cathedral,” he said, standing outside the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The fire still burned as Macron said, “Notre Dame of Paris is our history. The epicentre of our lives. It’s the many books, the paintings, those that belong to all French men and French women, even those who’ve never come.”

We watched as Parisians covered their mouths in horror, as they felt a piece of themselves burn.

That same horror, for a Cathedral that could be rebuilt, with beams and wood and stained glass windows, needs to be applied to a rainforest that won’t be so easy to put back together.

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