This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.
"The NGO people, what did they do? What's easier? Set fire to the bush," President Bolsonaro said on a webcast. "Take photo, film, send it to an NGO, the NGO spreads it out, does a campaign against Brazil, gets in touch with Leonardo DiCaprio and Leonardo DiCaprio donates $500,000 to this NGO. One part went to the people who were setting the fire, right?"
"Leonardo DiCaprio, you are assisting with the burning of the Amazon, that can't be," Bolsonaro continued.
The next day, Bolsonaro called out the actor and environmentalist again. "Leonardo DiCaprio is a great guy, isn't he? Donating money to set the Amazon on fire," he said while speaking to supporters outside the Presidential Palace. President Bolsonaro did not offer proof to back up his claims.
Bolsonaro's claims came days after the government raided a nonprofit associated with fire prevention efforts and arrested four volunteer firemen who allegedly started fires to get images for social media that could be used to solicit donations. Burning the largest rainforest in the world isn't exactly something you do for the 'Gram.
DiCaprio says he has nothing to do with the organizations under attack. "At this time of crisis for the Amazon, I support the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage. They are an amazing, moving and humbling example of the commitment and passion needed to save the environment," DiCaprio wrote on Instagram.
"The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them. While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted," he continued.
The World Wildlife Fund, the organization in question, denies receiving donations from DiCaprio. They also say they never received photographs from the volunteer firefighters.
DiCaprio's environmental organization, Earth Alliance, pledged $5 million to help protect the Amazon. DiCaprio also spoke out against deforestation of the Amazon and the Amazon fires.
Deforestation in the Amazon reached its highest rate in more than a decade, increasing by 30% between August 2018 and July 2019. The increase in deforestation has been linked to Bolsonaro, who took office in October 2018. Instead of looking at who the finger is pointing at, maybe we should be looking at who is pointing the finger?
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