Fires in the Amazon Rainforest
The world is afire with news of the tragic and devastating fires ongoing in the Amazon Rainforest – the “lungs of our planet.” We ache to watch the news reports rolling in about the ruination of these great and wild places at the hands of humans.
But, there is hope yet. People are raising up by the thousands and even millions in support of ending these fires and making change that will prevent them in the future – change that will touch each of us, because the Amazon Rainforest is so integral to the Earth’s water and heat systems.
Overview of the situation in the Amazon Rainforest
It’s the dry season in Brazil right now, so it’s not unusual for there to be fires. However, most experts believe that the fires are being started intentionally to clear land. And unfortunately, President Bolsonaro supports clearing forest for agriculture and mining which means that the perpetrators don’t face heavy risks for setting fires. Deliberate fire-starting has always been an issue, but it hasn’t ever been seen to this extent. The lack of government effort to prevent it is the largest problem.
We don’t have a full picture yet, but Brazil’s satellite agency has observed an 84% increase in the number of fires this year compared to those recorded in 2018 during the same period. This comes out to about 74,000 fires between January and August — the highest amount since they started keeping records in 2013. Another metric that can be used to identify how destructive the fires are is to assess how much carbon dioxide is being released. According to the European Union’s earth observation program, 228 megatonnes of carbon dioxide has been released so far. This is the highest level since 2010… and the fires are still burning.
President Bolsonaro has been under major pressure from European leaders in his poor handling of the situation, and it has placed him in a precarious political situation. France and Ireland expressed that they would not ratify a very important trade deal with South American nations unless Brazil did more to tackle the fires in the Amazon. Finland’s finance minister also called on the EU to consider banning Brazilian beef imports. On Friday, August 23, 2019, President Bolsonaro authorized the military to deploy to nature reserves, indigenous lands and border areas of the region. At those areas, the regional governors can ask the military personnel to survey and combat fire outbreaks or request preventative action against environmental crimes.
There are certainly benefits to fire in natural ecosystems, but most of them don’t apply in this situation in the Amazon. Certain types of ecosystems such as prairie, savanna, chaparral and coniferous forests have evolved in a way where fire is an essential contributor. In fact, in those types of ecosystems, many plant species require fire to germinate, establish, or to reproduce. Fires also generally help with clearing out dead growth so that there is space for new trees to grow. But the humid forests in the Amazon haven’t adapted to fire, so they suffer a substantial amount of damage during burns.
Fires that are burning are problematic because they will leave the trees that survive more at risk and vulnerable to drought and repeated fires. It takes around 20-40 years for the forest to return to a healthy state after a fire, assuming that it is allowed to regenerate without those sorts of issues. If there are repeated fires, the forest could shift to a degraded shrubby state.
The effect of the fires on the indigenous people of the Amazon is heartbreaking. These people rely on these forests for food, clothing, medicine, and a sense of identity and belonging. They are an integral part of their culture… and it’s on fire. Unfortunately, the incentives to steal these resources are very high, which makes it all the more challenging to prevent intentionally-set fires.
Take Action – Help Save the Rainforest
There are a multitude of ways to use your time, effort and dollars toward this noble cause. Here we have compiled some of the best ways that we have found.
Sign a Petition
- … to the Brazilian government, President Jair Bolsonaro and responsible ministers (Rainforest Rescue)
- … to the United Nations and UN institutions (CERD, UNEP, UNDP, ILO, WHO, FAO, UNFCCC, CBD, UNESCO and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), as well as the governments of the Amazon countries (Rainforest Rescue)
- … to the Brazilian government (Greenpeace)
- 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.
- The World Wide Fund for Nature (known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada) works to protect the species in the Amazon and around the world.
- 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 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.
- Donate to One Tree Planted, which works to stop deforestation around the world and in the Amazon Rainforest. One Tree Planted will keep you updated on the Peru Project and the impact your trees are having on the community.
Unable to donate but still want to take action? Here are some more ideas:
- Contact your elected officials and make your voice heard.
Find out how to contact them here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials, and/or contact the Department of State here: https://register.state.gov/contactus/contactusform
- Make Ecosia.org your new search engine. It plants a tree for approximately every 45 searches you run.
The following are more long-term options to help rainforests and the environment in general, but small changes taken by many turn into big impacts:
- Reduce your paper and wood consumption. Double-check with Rainforest Alliance that what you’re buying is considered rainforest-safe. You can also purchase rainforest-safe products from the alliance’s site and take their 30-day sustainability challenge. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/
- Reduce your beef intake. Beef found in processed products and fast-food burgers is often linked to deforestation.
Knowledge is power.
Stay informed of what’s happening.
Stay apprised of this situation so that you can continue to find other ways to help.
Here are some articles that have covered the situation:
- Amazon fires: Record number burning in Brazil rainforest – space agency
- The Amazon rainforest is still on fire: What’s happening and how you can help
- Here’s what we know about the fires in the Amazon rainforest
- Amazon fires: the tribes fighting to save their dying rainforest
- Parts of the Amazon rainforest are on fire — and smoke can be spotted from space
Together we can change the world. Today, let's change the world of the Amazon Rainforest.
We at Change the World of One pride ourselves on our culturally responsible, efficient, high impact world-changing strategy which we use to implement humanitarian development projects, cultural exchange programs, and environmental conservation projects locally and globally. We do this through working directly with indigenous people, community partners and volunteers on the ground who have a deep appreciation for and understanding of the local culture. With that being said, the information we have provided you here has all come from third party sources, not from our own trusted sources on the ground such as we normally provide. Though we don’t expect issues with anything we have linked to, please know that Change the World of One is not responsible for any misinformation or wrongdoing on the part of any organization mentioned in this article. This article is meant to inspire you and connect you with other resources so you can help.