By this point, you’ve probably seen it all over your socials- the shocking, horrible pictures of the burning Amazon rainforest. After close to three weeks of radio silence by the media, the truth of what is happening in the world’s largest rainforest has finally come to light; massive, destructive wildfires affecting approximately 640 MILLION ACRES of land. More than 72,000 fires have been detected by Brazil’s space authority, INPEC so far this year across Brazil- the highest recorded number since records began in 2013, and an 83% increase on 2018 statistics. More than 9,500 have been recorded in the Amazon region since Thursday.
While the Amazon (like most large areas of land across the planet) does fall victim to natural forest fires annually, the unprecedented size, frequency, and destructiveness of this year’s fires leave us with no doubt that the problem is being massively exacerbated by human activity.
The fires have been closely linked to activity by farmers, burning land to clear space for agriculture, including illegal cattle ranchers burning off swathes of forest to make space to raise cattle. Additionally, it appears that current Brazilian government policy is to actively encourage deforestation, in order to facilitate financial gain; alleged recently by an anonymous senior government official to the BBC, President Jair Bolsonaro reportedly encourages deforestation, and has reduced enforcement of fire controls to the extent that some farmers are now participating in ‘fire days’ to increase the size of their agricultural areas.
Make no mistake- this is catastrophic. The Amazon rainforest is known as the ‘lungs of our planet’; holding close to 20% of the world’s oxygen supply, and 10% of known biodiversity, this is an area of land that acts as a vital carbon store to help slow down the effects of climate change. Additionally, the lives of close to a million indigenous people, and countless species of flora and fauna are at risk with every metre being burned. The loss of this forest would be disastrous, and would affect every aspect of the fight against our rapid descent into a climate emergency.
Through human activity (active burning, and man-made climate change) we are at risk of losing control of these fires which threaten everything- already, the heat released on one single day (15th August) was 700% higher than the average recorded data from the last 15 years. Additionally, lending support to the view that the severity of these fires is down to the climate crisis in which we have found ourselves embroiled, neighbouring Bolivia is also experiencing unusually serious fires, which have destroyed over 2,000 sq miles of forest already this year.
We know the effects of climate change, and we can see these coming to fruition at an incredibly rapid pace through the visible destruction of one of the most important areas on the planet. This is serious, and this should shock and upset everyone.
But what can you do to help? You may not be on the ground and able to lend your physical hand, but everyone needs to take steps to do what they can to support the efforts to end these fires, and to slow the effects of climate change to prevent this devastation happening again. We have been doing some research into steps you can take to make a difference- see our recommendations below.
- Donate to Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest.
- Donate to the Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988, the organization has saved over 23 million acres and counting.
- Reduce your paper and wood consumption. Double-check with Rainforest Alliance that what you’re buying is rainforest-safe. You can also purchase rainforest safe products from the alliance’s site.
- The World Wide Fund for Nature works to protect the countless species in the Amazon and around the world.
- Ecosia.org is a search engine that plants a tree for every 45 searches you run.
- Explore Change.org petitions. A lawyer in Rio Branco has accumulated over 77,000 of his 150,000 signature goal to mobilize an investigation into the Amazonian fires.
- Donate to Amazon Watch, an organization that protects the rainforest, defends indigenous rights and works to address climate change.
- Donate to the Amazon Conservation Team, which works to fight climate change, protect the Amazon and empower indigenous peoples.
- Amazon Conservation accepts donations (which can be tax deductible) and lists exactly what your money goes toward. You can help plant trees, sponsor education, protect habitats, buy a solar panel, preserve indigenous lands and more.