Sting has spent the better part of three decades urging the world to take immediate action to preserve the Amazonian rainforest. Now, with the amount of fires up 85% from last year alone and 80,000 burning up the ecosystem that provides more than 20% of the world's oxygen, the singer who founded the Rainforest Foundation in 1987 has issued a dire warning about continued inaction.
"Legend has it that the Emperor Nero 'fiddled while Rome burned.' While obviously bristling at the dubious factoid that such a stupid man could have been a musician, none of us, including me, can be complacent about the tragic dimensions of the disaster taking place in the Amazon as I write," Sting and wife Trudie Styler posted in a lengthy Facebook message on Tuesday (Aug. 27).
"Amazonia is on fire at an unprecedented rate – 80% up from last year and with 39% more deforestation - and the world is suddenly taking notice. Populist leaders citing nationalist agendas, or claiming that climate change and its handmaidens are a hoax, are guilty of much more than standing by and doing nothing. This is criminal negligence on a global scale."
The latter appears to be a reference to nationalist Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who declined an offer of $20 million in aid on Tuesday from the G7 world leaders to help put out the fires unless French president Emmanuel Macron apologizes for calling him rude during the G7 summit after Bolsonaro posted a sarcastic comment mocking the French president's wife on Facebook. For a week, as the #PrayForTheAmazon tag has gained steam and a number of celebrities and public figures have urged more action to put out the fires, Bolsonaro has suggested that the blazes are being set by his critics to make his administration look bad.
"This is no place for the outdated bromides of nationalism in a world where we all breathe the same air and where we will all suffer the consequences of this wilful negligence," Sting wrote. "Calling Amazonia the 'lungs of the Earth' may not be exactly anatomically correct, but it does convey that it is a vital and irreplaceable link in the chain of wellbeing on our planet in the increasingly narrow band of climatic vectors where human life can survive. We simply cannot afford to let it burn. We are fast approaching the tipping point where the fires will continue to burn and cannot be put out."
The singer appealed to the Brazilian government to change the policies that have opened up the rainforest to exploitation by farmers and ranchers who have been cutting down trees and burning land to clear it for commerical farming and raising cattle. "Nationalist rhetoric has effectively ignited the flames which threaten to engulf the most important living laboratory on the planet. Countless species are in danger of immediate extinction," the singer wrote. "The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has openly voiced that he is no friend to the indigenous people and now he is reneging on land treaties already signed, opening up new territories and dismantling the scientific and human rights organisations in Brazil to enable this."
Sting's plea ended by noting that the Rainforest Foundation Fund has been working with indigenous peoples for three decades to protect their lands and rights, urging Bolsonaro to rethink his policies. "This is no time for fiddling; the world is burning."