Bolivia, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Spain, California, Greece, Turkey, Africa, our forests are burning everywhere we look. And we can't afford to lose them now or ever.
Forests are vital in keeping our climate stable. The Amazon Rainforest alone creates 20% of the oxygen on Earth and holds more than 140 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Not to mention that it's home to 30 million people and hosts the largest concentration of biodiversity on the planet.
Below is a map of the fires currently blazing around the world.
Why Is This Happening?
While global warming is to blame in some areas, in the Amazon, most fires are entirely caused by humans.
- Corrupt + Inept Government. In Brazil, a corrupt government is partially to blame. The Amazon has lost some 1,330 square miles of forest, a nearly 40% increase over the same period last year since Bolsonaro took office in January. It doesn't help that he ran on a pro-business agenda and farmers and loggers have been encouraged to light fires to clear land. Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at INPE, told CNN that 99% of the fires came from human actions "either on purpose or by accident."
- Lack of Cohesive Regional Policy. While Brazil is the big bully on the block, the region, in general, suffers from an ununified policy or objective. With the Amazon spanning so many different borders, without a singular vision of how to conserve and protect, it slowly gets chipped away from all sides.
- Illegal Farming/Clearing/Logging. Burning is commonly used to clear trees quickly to plant soy and create space for cattle farming. Harvesting wood for paper products and palm oil are also large contributors to deforestation. The biggest challenge with this is that it's mostly done illegally and without proper planning. Meaning there are uncontrolled burns in remote areas that often have enormous collateral damage with little to no consequence. In addition, while this current government is labeling itself as pro-business, it's also, up until now, lacking any major enforcement.
- The Growing Demand for Meat + Soy (Mostly Beef). Brazil is the second-largest producer of beef in the world, accounting for up to 20% of the world's beef production. Along with soy, this has created an insatiable global demand that, in order to satisfy, requires an enormous amount of land which is being taken from the Amazon. While they are two of the largest contributors to the deforestation of the Amazon, beef alone is responsible for over 70% of deforestation in Latin America, and for twice as much deforestation as soy, palm oil, and wood products combined. Soy has led to over 248 million tonnes of greenhouse gas being released into the atmosphere since 2016, and to make matters worse, only about 6% of soybeans grown are used for human consumption, with 75% used for animal feed.
What's at Stake?
According to the Rainforest Alliance, "rainforests are essential to life on Earth. Not only do they provide air, water, medicine, food, and shelter to a multitude of living beings, they are also one of our best natural defenses against climate change because of their capacity to absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere."
Protecting the Amazon is often touted as one of the most effective ways to reduce the effects of climate change as the ecosystem absorbs millions of tons of carbon emissions every year. When those trees are cut or burned, they not only release the carbon they were storing but a tool to absorb carbon emissions disappears. In other words, instead of slowing global warming, it starts contributing to it. And, at a time where our carbon emissions are on the rise, we can't afford to lose it.
In addition, because the Amazon creates much of its rainfall itself, the more trees that are cleared, the less rainfall there is. Experts worry this could increasingly dry out the forest and push it to a point of no return. Before we know it, it could look more like the savannah than a rainforest.
How We Can Help!
- Donate. The best way to help the rainforest and trees, in general, is to purchase the land they're on. While planting trees is great, we need to save the trees we have right now! I recommend the Rainforest Trust, a four-star rated charity that puts 100% of donations towards securing land. They have saved over 23 million acres of forests since 1988. Just make sure you select the box to choose where your donation is going and use it to protect acres of the Amazon rainforest.
- If you're looking for a way to provide aid directly to the people affected by these fires, I highly recommend Water Thru Skin. She has been living and breathing an eco-conscious lifestyle for the past 5 years and is sending funds directly to people on the frontline in Bolivia, her hometown. She is also transparent about where all of the money is going and shares this on her Instagram stories. In four days, she has raised over $100K to help purchase jets of water, supplies, and aid. You can follow her story @WaterThruSkin to learn more.
- Become a Conscious Consumer! Opt for paper-free products or shop from Rainforest Alliance Certified Brands. Avoid foods with palm oil, the leading cause of deforestation in Indonesia.
- Go Beef + Soy-Free. Eat less meat! Per the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, changing our diets, namely eating less beef, can contribute to 20% of the effort needed to keep catastrophic climate change at bay. It won't just help the Amazon, it's the single biggest thing you can do to help the planet globally.
- Spread the Word. Stay on top of the story and share posts with family, friends, and by tagging news agencies so they know we want this covered. The more people that know, the more people that can help! Here are some good articles to start with:
- Wildfires in Amazon Caused by Deforestation - National Geographic
- Bolsanoro Actively Trying to Devastate Rainforest - The Independent UK
- Bolsonaro Spreading Conspiracy Theories About Amazon - Vice News
- The Amazon is Burning Because the World Eats Too Much Meat - CNN
- Make Your Voice Heard! Sign Greenpeace's petition. You might think petitions aren't useful, but in the 1980s Burger King canceled over $35 million worth of beef contracts thanks to a Greenpeace petition so it's vital to make our voices heard!!
If you know of any other ways to help the Amazon and save our forests, please share them in the comments below. This is a collective effort and all ideas are welcome.
Love + Light,