Home » Environment » The Amazon fires—and their fallout all the way in São Paulo

The fire in Espirito Santo, taken from outside of the house

As many who keep up to date with the global news have noticed, the Amazon was and is still burning…..

On a Monday two weeks ago, as I left my afternoon art class in São Paulo, I was walking quite slowly. I had broken my toe the afternoon before. It was really more of a snail’s pace, slow motion. As I noticed the cloudy sky at 3 in the afternoon (which usually means rain), I shuffled as fast as I could to pick up some items from the market on my way home.

Upon leaving the market, it was night—or at least that is what it felt like. I had to check the clock on my phone because no way had I been in the store four hours. Was I really moving that slow? Looking at my phone confirmed that I had only been in the store for 30 minutes. It was the sky that seemed to be confusing us all. I have never seen a sky so dark and prepared myself for extremely bad weather by the looks of it. I considered myself lucky for making it home before the downpour.

However, later that day in what seemed like nighttime, I read the news. It was smoke carried over a thousand miles from those fires in the Amazon that blackened the sky and turned day to night. This past Saturday, a friend commented in my book club, that the rain that came from those carcinogenic tinted clouds was actually black.

Our city was affected from over a thousand miles away by over 70,000 fires set to the Amazon this year. Imagine the cities closer, the cities that are burning, the sacred Earth that keeps us alive that is burning.

Earlier this year, in January, I witnessed a wildfire. It was claimed to be set by a single cigarette in a national park in Espírito Santo in southeastern Brazil. I was there doing a one-month experience on an organic coffee farm. The owner and I were eating dinner in the kitchen when I kept hearing snaps and cracks outside the house. It sounded as if someone was breaking wood in half. The owner could not hear it, so to make sure I wasn’t going crazy I went outside. I didn’t see anything from where I stood outside the house, because I was not facing the right direction. But when I headed back to my lodgings, I saw the fire towering over the trees across the river. It was not someone breaking the trees, but the largest fire I had seen in my life. It was the first time in my life that I was unhappy not to be crazy. Fire has no mercy on what it destroys.

I told the owner, who then tried getting cell reception to call the park only to receive answering machines. As we watched the fire continue down the river, we saw two lanterns moving in ways that it looked like people were already digging trenches to prevent the spread, but the fire continued. Eventually, by morning, it was out. Yet, the following day it started again from embers and had to be put out once again.

Earlier I said “it was claimed to be set by a cigarette.” That is because the land that caught fire was for sale at the time, and clearing the land is not allowed in national parks.

That was only one fire. Now imagine 70,000.

We are living in a twilight zone.

For more background, see:


Photos by Claire Stewart.

This blogpost is adapted from Claire’s blog Claire’s Close Encounters. 


Claire Stewart
Claire teaches art classes to vulnerable young children in São Paulo, Brazil.