So far in 2019, there have been 80,626 fires in the Amazon rainforest, over 84% more than last year. The Amazon rainforest is one of the most important ecosystems in the world. The rainforest is home to more species of plants and animals than any other place in the world, and the trees in the rainforest also store 86 billion tons of carbon in their leaves and branches. Communities in the Amazon and around it depend on the food sources, and rivers in the rainforest. The fires that are currently running rampant in the forest are not natural fires, they are due to humans setting the forest on fire, most likely to deforest parts to make more room for cattle for the beef industry. This is common, but illegal and people caught setting the forest on fire are forced to pay heavy fines. However, this April, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro cut the funding for Brazil’s environmentalist agency (IBAMA) by 24%. This left IBAMA unable to cover its costs, and left them without the resources to monitor the forest for fire starters and enforce fines. As the forest burns, it is having devastating effects on those who live there and those who don’t alike. Many indigenous communities have been forced out of their homes, and the fires are causing blackouts across South America. Over time, these fires will have devastating effects on climate change and the state of our planet as a whole. The Brazilian government is just now starting to help, and at the G7 summit, they were offered $22 million to help put out the fires, but Jair Bolsonaro denied the aid. Bolsonaro said that creating an international alliance to save the Amazon would be an “attack” on Brazil’s sovereignty and legitimacy. He says it would treat Brazil like “a colony or no man’s land”. For now, the best we can do is continue to spread awareness and do our part to help out.
7 Ways to Help the Rainforest
- Reduce your paper and wood consumption- use both sides of paper, bring your own bags to the grocery store, and avoid paper plates and cups.
- Reduce your oil consumption- start a carpool, bike, or walk if you can.
- Reduce your beef consumption- the beef industry has cleared two thirds of Central American forests to raise more beef for the US and other large companies. Do your part to stop this!
- Hold businesses accountable- if you find a company being environmentally irresponsible, call them out! Write an email, letter or just repeatedly call attention on social media.
- Get involved locally- the Sierra Club Four Lakes Group is hard at work protecting Wisconsin forests and wildlife close to Madison and would love your help. Go to sierraclub.org/wisconsin/four-lakes for more information.
- Support the Rainforest Action Network to see how you can help conserve rainforest resources nationwide. Go to ran.org for more information.
- Be vocal on social media- if you have opinions, let your voice be heard! Spreading awareness is sometimes the most valuable thing that can be done.
By Eliana Sauer