The Amazon Rainforest Is Burning- Here's How You Can Help

The Amazon, a massive jungle that serves as the lungs of the planet is 7,000,000 square kilometers of trees across Brazil, Colombia, Peru and other countries, and accounts for a quarter of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the world’s forests. Last week, news exploded that the Amazon was on fire for the last 16 days and that there hadn’t been any news coverage of it at all. On the 21st August 2019, the smoke from the fires was so bad that it caused an hour-long blackout in Sao Paulo in the middle of the day.

 

The carcass of a cow lies along a tract of the Amazon jungle as it is cleared by loggers and farmers in Porto Velho, Brazil August 24, 2019. Image from REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

 

Why is the Amazon important?

The Amazon rainforest is home to some one million indigenous people, a multitude of ecosystems and is the largest forest in the world. It provides 20% of the oxygen to the planet and is known as the lungs of the Earth. The Amazon is vital in absorbing more than a quarter of carbon dioxide we produce and prevents greenhouse gases from speeding up climate change. The World Economic Forum as well as NASA have both stated that the Amazon produces its own rainfall using water vapour from plants leaves. It rains three months earlier in the Amazon than in Latin America and provides the necessary nutrients for food and for the forest to grow.

 

Image from NASA

 

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, Brazil August 21, 2019. Image from REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino.

 

People who want to clear land in the Amazon for business prospects are cutting down portions of the forest, leaving them out to dry and setting them on fire. With the trees out of the way, they have room to grow agriculture or to raise cattle.

 

Why is the Amazon burning? Is it natural?

Wildfires aren’t a common occurrence in the Amazon because of how much moisture there is in the forest but It’s common for the Amazon to witness fires during the dry season – which runs from July to October – but satellite images show the burning this year is spreading at an alarming rate. The Amazon is burning because of deforestation - which is illegal - and the clearing of the trees allows for them to dry and become prone to fires. Cutting the trees makes way for agricultural development such as soy production and cattle ranching, and using fire to clear space is a frequent method for farmers.

 

A fire burns a tract of Amazon jungle as it is cleared by a farmer in Machadinho do Oeste, Rondonia state, Brazil September 2, 2019. Image from REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes.

 

There’s been speculation of the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsanaro, who allegedly encouraged this notion with his promise to increase Brazil’s economy after he was voted into office in January this year. Bolsonaro, who once threatened to leave the Paris climate accord, has repeatedly attacked environmental nonprofits, which he sees as obstacles in his quest to develop Brazil’s economy.

Environmentalists blame the 84 per cent increase on last year on Bolsonaro’s fixation on developing the economy – even at the expense of Brazil’s protected areas. In a video on his Facebook account, the far-right leader said: ‘Maybe – I am not affirming it – these (NGO people) are carrying out some criminal actions to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil. ‘This is the war we are facing.’ But when pressed by reporters to back up his claims, the climate change skeptic did not provide any evidence.

 

How you can help?

Although finding out who is responsible for the mass deforestation is imperative, we need to save the forest that provides us with oxygen first. Donate to the Amazon Conservation Association, an organization built around conserving the rainforest as well as the Rainforest Alliance to promote and help organizations who are actively trying to save the forest. Educate yourself and learn about the Amazon. I know that it may be simple but the more you know about the nature of the world we live in the more conscious you’ll be of how it’s treated.