Picture: JOSHUA STEVENS
Picture: JOSHUA STEVENS

The numbers coming out of the Amazon are horrific: 74,000 fires have burnt through the rainforest this year, an 84% increase on 2018.

It’s only August, though Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — who proudly reminds environmental activists that he was once called "Captain Chainsaw", apparently for his willingness to dispense with the forest — says it is the time of year when farmers burn back forest to prepare for planting, so no worries there then.

But numbers are just numbers. A better way is to see the Amazon rainforest for what it is — nearly two-thirds of the planet’s lungs, which, thanks to slash-and-burn farming practices have been charred for decades and into which are now flowing the toxic fumes from a giant stogie lit by Bolsonaro himself.

Some would say blaming Bolsonaro is unfair. After all, the farmers are, like everybody else unlucky enough not to be a One Percenter, just trying to survive.

Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and disdain are unhelpful, however. Sadly, we can expect no gravitas from a man who, rather than tackle the problems of the burning forest, wastes oxygen on social media while implying his wife is prettier than Brigitte Macron, to which French President Emmanuel Macron — unhelpfully — gave further oxygen by remarking on.

If that is the level diplomatic engagement has sunk to, the planet is well and truly … cornered. The only consolation is that the One Percenters breathe the same air as the rest of us do.

Drone footage from Reuters captures smoke and fires gaining strength in Brazil's Amazon on August 28 2019, leaving behind a trail of desolation. A record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest has intensified an unfolding environmental crisis. The number of forest fires in the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, has surged by 83% this year.