Editor's note

The toll of the recent fires in the Amazon rainforest is starting to emerge from the smoke. In July 2019 alone, an area the size of Manhattan is thought to have been lost each day to the flames. The scale of this destruction seems beyond human accountability, but it’s not. Quite the opposite – the Amazon fires were set deliberately by farmers and others within Brazil, often with the aim to displace indigenous Amazonians and open more of the region to development.

Since coming to power, Jair Bolsonaro has relaxed safeguards for mining in the region and slashed funding for Brazil’s environmental protection agency. Within his first year in office, fires in the Amazon have leapt 84%. But the world needn’t stand impotent while the rainforest burns, says Tara Smith, a lecturer in law at Bangor University.

Destroying the Amazon rainforest harms the indigenous people that live there and accelerates climate change, endangering the world. Those responsible could be tried for crimes against humanity, Smith argues, just as those threatening vulnerable groups and global well-being have in the past. Such ambitious legal action on the environment has never succeeded before, but a renewed effort could deter wanton destruction, and hold the powerful to account for their role in climate breakdown.

Jack Marley

Commissioning Editor

Top stories

A protestor dresses as Jair Bolsonaro on Amazon Day in Rio de Janeiro, September 5 2019. EPA-EFE/MARCELO SAYAO

Are the Amazon fires a crime against humanity?

Tara Smith, Bangor University

Destroying the Amazon rainforest will accelerate climate change, harming millions. Can those responsible be prosecuted?

Reconnecting with nature. Steve Carter/Unsplash

Humanity and nature are not separate – we must see them as one to fix the climate crisis

Heather Alberro, Nottingham Trent University

Humans did not always see themselves as he separate from the natural world. If we are to reverse its decline, we must re-entangle ourselves with it.

United by geography, divided by ideology. Shutterstock.

Brexit: France and UK have long and troubled history – but pragmatism offers a bright future

Karine Varley, University of Strathclyde

Relations between the UK and France are often portrayed as a history of at best mutual suspicion and at worst open hostility..

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