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The media is blowing (Amazonian) smoke


The Amazon rainforest is Not on fire. Despite media hysteria, “the lungs of the earth” are not burning. And the rainforest does not produce 20% of the earth’s oxygen.

There are nearly as many fires in America every year, burning twice as many square miles; yet newspapers would never report that the US is on fire. There are thousands of relatively small fires in the Brazilian rainforest; somewhere around one-thousandth of it is on fire. It is difficult to give an accurate number because it is such a small percentage of the over 2.1 million square miles of the rainforest that the media will not report it.

NASA reported that the fires this year were about average for the last 15 years. Fires in the early 2000s were much worse.

Fortunately, some outlets have tried to quench some of the hysteria. National Geographic, which has often added to the false narrative, fortunately published the article “Why the Amazon doesn’t really produce 20% of the world’s oxygen.” The article says that to call the rainforest the “ ‘lungs of the earth’ is a gross overestimate.” It properly reports that the overall oxygen production of the rainforest “is around zero.”

PBS News Hour also reported, “No, the Amazon Fires Won’t Deplete the Earth’s Oxygen Supply.” The article rightly says that the “oft repeated claim that the Amazon rainforest produces 20% of our planets oxygen is based on a misunderstanding.”

The Amazon does account for 20% of land-based oxygen production. However, most of our oxygen is produced by the oceans. When that is factored in, the rainforest production goes down to 6-9%.

But trees don’t just make oxygen; they also put out large amounts of CO2. And when leaves and branches fall to the forest floor, microbes break them down consuming oxygen. Therefore, the net oxygen from the forest is negligible.

The National Geographic article lists a host of media outlets the have been spreading misinformation. The few truthful sources that have explained the facts are dwarfed by the politicians and celebrities blowing smoke. The media have, unfortunately, reported their hysteria as fact.

Dan DuSoleil

Spring Creek

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