The Amazon is still burning. As the New York Times reported last week, 39,000 fires have burned in the rainforest this year alone, and smoke from the largest ones has wafted 2,000 miles to São Paulo on the Atlantic coast, covering nearly the distance from Chicago to Seattle.
The fires are predominantly man-made, started to clear territory for cattle and logging industries. As an ecosystem, the Amazon is not able to bounce back from massive fires like temperate forests in North America, and according to The Intercept, scientists predict that if Brazil loses another one-fifth of its rainforest, roughly 300,000 square miles, it "will trigger the feedback loop known as dieback, in which the forest begins to dry out and burn in a cascading system collapse, beyond the reach of any subsequent human intervention or regret."
By coincidence, days after the Times and other outlets started covering the fires, leaders for the seven largest economies in the world—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, otherwise known as the G-7—met in France. On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the G-7 would pledge at least $22 million in aid to help fight the fires in the Amazon. That's admittedly a small sum—one-fifth of what Donald Trump's reelection campaign managed to raise in a single quarter, one-twentieth what a judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay in damages for the company's role in the opioid crisis, and $5 million less than what the Spice Girls made in ticket sales at a single stop on their tour earlier this year.
And Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is refusing to take even that aid package. According to the Washington Post, Bolsonaro reportedly shared a meme mocking Macron's wife, to which Macron replied, "I have a lot of friendship and respect for the Brazilian people, I hope they will very soon have a president that acts like one." Bolsonaro told reporters that he would accept the G-7's money if Macron apologized, though he later said on Twitter, "We cannot accept that a president, Macron, issues inappropriate and gratuitous attacks against the Amazon. Nor that he disguises his intentions behind an 'alliance' of the G-7 countries to 'save' the Amazon, as if it were a colony or no man’s land."
The destruction of the Amazon would be cataclysmic for humanity as a whole. The rainforest produces a fifth of the oxygen on the planet, and it's the largest carbon-absorbing system in existence, meaning that losing it would rabidly exacerbate climate change. As Franklin Foer writes in The Atlantic:
It is commonplace to describe the Amazon as the “world’s lungs.” Embedded in the metaphor is the sense that inherited ideas about the sovereignty of states no longer hold in the face of climate change. If the smoke clouds drifted only so far as the skies of São Paulo, other nations might be able to shrug off the problem as belonging to someone else. But one person shouldn’t have the power to set policies that doom the rest of humanity’s shot at mitigating rising temperatures.
Foer also points out that Macron seems alone among world leaders in realizing not only how high the stakes are, but that the burning of the Amazon is the result of political decisions. Bolsonaro has decided to not enforce Brazil's own environmental laws and to give wide leeway to corporations that profit off of the clear-cutting of the rainforest. It wasn't until Macron threatened to roll back trade agreements with Brazil that Bolsonaro finally mobilized the military to start putting out the fires.
Saving the Amazon—in a very literal sense—is going to take global effort and, presumably, more than just one-tenth of the budget for the first Avengers movie.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has set the logging industry free—single-handedly hastening climate change.
Originally Appeared on GQ