Smoke from the Amazon forest during a fire in Brazil, 23 August 2019. (Image: EPA/Joedson Alves)

First by ice, then by fire. The Amazon forest fires -- spread across three countries, but largely in Brazil -- have inspired the same sort of "wrong apocalypticism" as Greenland’s early high ice melt did two months ago.

Greenland will melt in 150 years. Alarming enough, but not tomorrow, as was portrayed. The Amazon is burning, but not all of it. This year it’s happening faster, earlier, but -- as this NASA graph shows -- not vastly out of line with the shape of earlier burns.

With the Bolsonaro government’s wilful confusion of the event, a contradictory politics is emerging. The Amazon forest burns every year. But it burns more substantially now because of slash-and-burn land-clearing techniques, for the expansion of cattle ranching.