'Our Lungs Are on Fire': Climate Campaigners Rally at Brazilian Embassies to Protest Destruction of Amazon Rainforest

Climate campaigners demonstrated outside the Brazilian embassies in London, Paris, and Madrid on Friday to protest what they say is the Bolsonaro regime’s role in dozens of fires that have ravaged large swathes of the Amazon rainforest over the past three weeks.

The Extinction Rebellion movement, which helped organize the demonstrations, said “every inch that continues to burn takes us further away from any hope of sustaining life on this earth.”

“The Amazon is fundamental to the life support systems of this planet and for us as humans,” Extinction Rebellion wrote in an Instagram post ahead of the protests. “We cannot sit in silence while life on Earth is being destroyed. ⁣⁣⁣We need governments around the world to speak up against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—and put pressure on him to stop these devastating fires and protect the Amazon.”

The protests came amid growing global outrage over the Bolsonaro government’s support for deforestation and refusal to take action to combat the fires, many of which were intentionally and illegally set to clear land, according to the New York Times.

Carlos Nobre, a senior researcher with the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo, blamed Bolsonaro for encouraging the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which is often called “the lungs of the world” for its capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.

“The situation is very bad. It will be terrible,” Nobre told the Guardian. “A very large number of these fires are due to the cultural push that ministers are giving. They are pushing deforestation because it is good for the economy. Those who do illegal deforestation are feeling empowered.”

Demonstrators on Friday echoed that assessment. Peter McCall, a pub owner based in London who attended the embassy protest, said he decided to take part because “the Amazon is so vital to all life on Earth, including ours.”

“I’m scared that if we lose it then there won’t be any hope for our survival,” said McCall, “and yet the Brazilian government [is] actively encouraging its deforestation and exploitation.”