The unprecedented scale and intensity of the fires that raged in the Amazon region in recent weeks have caught the world's attention. The dark sky above the city of Sao Paulo was shown many times in international media to indicate the seriousness of the blazes.

One reason for such a high alert was the concern over the environmental impact that would be caused if they were not contained soon. It also reflected the heated debate on how we should balance development and sustainability. As the fires broke out during the Group of Seven summit in France, where there were hopes — which did not eventually materialize — that the leaders would agree on coordinated action of the G7 countries to address increasingly serious climate change, the fires gained much attention.

The fires had even larger significance for me, since I had spent three days in Sao Paulo the week before they broke out. All of a sudden, Sao Paulo and the Amazon fires became a much bigger issue in my mind, even though for many Japanese it was an incident taking place far from home.