The most horrifying news doing the rounds is the tragic Amazon burning in Brazil. Environmental organizations and researchers claim the source of the wildfires blazing in the Brazilian rainforest to be men who want to clear and utilize the land, being emboldened by the country’s pro-business president. This is a typical case of human deforestation. The vast majority of the fires have been set by loggers and ranchers to clear land for cattle. The practice is on the rise, encouraged by Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s populist pro-business president, who is backed by the country’s so-called “beef caucus.”

According to Christian Poirier, the program director of non-profit organization Amazon Watch, “The vast majority of these fires are human-lit. “Natural fires in the Amazon are rare, and the majority of these fires were set by farmers preparing farmland for next year’s crops and pasture. Much of the land that is burning was not old-growth rain forest, but the land that had already been cleared of trees and set for agricultural purpose. The country’s space research centre (INPE) said this week that the number of fires in Brazil is 80% higher than last year. It detected 39,601 fires this year in the Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest. About 60 per cent of the Amazon is in Brazil.

The Amazon ablaze

The Amazon forest produces about 20% of the world’s oxygen, and is often called “the planet’s lungs.” According to the World Wildlife Fund, if it is irrevocably damaged, it could start emitting carbon instead – the major driver of climate change. Brazil’s part of the Amazon lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover in the first half of 2019, a 39 per cent increase over the same period last year. If enough rain forest is lost and can’t be restored it would mean a massive reduction in the planet’s “lung capacity.”

On another note, Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef, providing close to 20% of the total global exports, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – a figure that could arise in the coming years. While this may be usual for Brazil’s beef farmers, the rest of the world is looking on in horror.

Some local governments have said they are shoring up their fire brigades. The federal government has not offered any major organized effort to fight the fires. Mr Bolsonaro said the Brazilian government lack the resources to combat the fiery fury.

How can you help?

Some of the ways one can contribute in protecting the rainforest:

  • Donate to Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest.
  • Reduce your beef intake. Beef found in processed products and fast-food burgers is often linked to deforestation.
  • Donate to the Amazon Conservation Team, which works to fight climate change, protect the Amazon and empower indigenous communities. 
  • 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. 
  • Sign Greenpeace’s petition telling the Brazilian government to save the Amazon rainforest and protect the lands of indigenous and traditional communities. 

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