ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

It was a Saturday morning when the world unexpectedly endured two events of terrifying proportions. Despite being vastly different in each of their effects, their causes remain depressingly similar.

On August 10th, just as a Manhattan prison guard began to open a jail cell, fires began spreading in the Amazon rainforest. Shocking images of destruction began to circulate, especially among young people on social media. Too much deforestation of the Amazon would cause the rainforest to reach a tipping point where it would be permanently damaged beyond recovery, this would be dire because the Amazon rainforest helps slow down climate change by absorbing greenhouse gases. As the chaos grew, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t just a Brazilian crisis, but a global one.

On August 10th, just as a tree in the Amazon began to catch fire, multimillionaire and international sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was found dead by a prison guard in his Manhattan jail cell. Epstein made friends with famous and powerful people including, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrews, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, and more. The source of Epstein’s vast wealth was shrouded in secrecy, although many alleged that at least some of it was from the smuggling of underage girls to his wealthy friends. Just as Epstein was once again charged with sex trafficking and poised to name his influential clients, he mysteriously died from an apparent suicide.

The Amazon wildfire was the result of the Brazilian government pushing it to happen. The far-right Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, is a climate change skeptic who campaigned on opening more of the Amazon rainforest to industrial development and agribusiness. Once in office, Bolsonaro cut the budget of Brazil’s environmental agenc, and began supporting the hunting of endangered rainforest species. When a Brazilian space-agency official estimated that the number of forest fires were eighty-three percent higher than they were last year, the head of the space-agency was fired. In addition, Bolsonaro’s hatred for environmental protections intersects with his hatred for Indigenous people, who he has repeatedly made racist remarks about while proposing to seize their land for commercial use.

The crimes Epstein committed were the result of the American government allowing it to happen. In 2007, Epstein was facing a 53-page federal indictment for trafficking underage girls from around the world and facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in a federal prison. Just as the case seemed surefire, Epstein was able to reach a bizarrely lenient plea deal with federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta for only 13 months in a county jail. The plea deal also granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators” which shut down the ongoing FBI probe into whether there were other powerful clients. For years afterwards, eye witnesses say that Epstein was frequently seen ushering clearly underage girls onto his jet in order to fly them to his private island as authorities did nothing to stop him.

In Brazil, there was virtual certainty that the fires were intentionally set. President Bolsonaro blamed environmental groups who he claimed were trying to make him look bad. The truth

turned out to be much less complicated, the fire was set by farmers trying to signal their support of the President’s environmental policies by clearing land for development. Unsurprisingly, the Amazon wildfire is good for business.

In America, there was virtually no certainty that Epstein committed suicide (only 33% of Americans believe he actually died by suicide). Epstein was inexplicably taken off suicide watch after an earlier alleged attempt, both of the guards assigned to watch him supposedly fell asleep at the same time, and the two cameras outside of cell turned out to both be broken. Republicans blamed the death on Bill Clinton (who had taken several rides on Epstein’s private jet, which was nicknamed “The Lolita Express”) and Democrats responded by blaming Donald Trump (who nominated Acosta as his Labor Secretary and said that Epstein “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side”). The truth is much less clear, but it’s unambiguous that many wealthy and powerful people had an interest in making sure Epstein didn’t testify about them. Unsurprisingly, Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide is good for business.

The facts of both the Amazon wildfire and Epstein’s life/death are so alarming that they run the risk of driving people insane if they stare too long. You are either reduced to standing on the street corner holding a sign reading “THE END IS NIGH” or you devolve into a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist ranting about a secret and powerful cabal of pedophiles. It can make you feel powerless and incredulous. Why would people purposefully light the earth on fire? Why would people allow the rape of children?

That answer is simple: it’s profitable.

Powerful people will always try to get you to blame someone else, especially as the world gets increasingly horrific. The scapegoats they chose will always range from environmental groups, indigenous people, immigrants, Jews or Muslims. Sometimes they’ll try to convince you that a problem is solely the fault of everyone in a certain political party, whether that is Republican or Democrat. If you really want to know what’s going wrong, find out what morally reprehensible actions are profitable, find the wealthy people who are profiting from that moral rot the most. Those are the people responsible for the horror.