The Amazon Is Burning at an Unprecedented Pace– Here’s How You Can Help

Thousands of fires are raging across Brazil, raising fears that the Amazon rainforest, home to more than 2,000 species of animals and more than 80,000 species of plants, faces irreparable damage. Long considered the “lungs of the world” the Amazon is home to one out of every ten animal species on Earth, The Dodo reports.

But the Amazon and its wildlife are in trouble

This rainforest’s canopy provides home and shelter for tapirs, jaguars, monkeys, red deer, sloths and amazing species of insects. More than 1300 species of birds call this beautiful place home. Additionally, more than 400 species of amphibians, including the poison dart frog, are in incredible danger right now.

Like this jaguar mother crossing the river with her cubs in Brazil. Photo by Tambako The Jaguar license CC ND 2.0 via Flickr
Brazilian tapir. Photo by Márcio Cabral de Moura license CC NC ND 2.0 via Flickr

Local people living in communities directly affected by the fires have witnessed panicked animals fleeing for their lives:

“We saw wild pigs, tapirs, armadillos, anteaters, snakes in larger numbers than we are used to,” said Adriano Karipuna, a leader inside the Karipuna indigenous community in a interview with The New York Times. “We saw the forest covered in smoke, and the sky become darkened. Our eyes became red due to smoke.”

You can clearly see the smoke from the fires in this image taken earlier this month. Photo by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration license CC Public Domain US via Wikimedia Commons

This is more serious than you might think

In Brazil alone, 74,155 fires have erupted all over the country between January and August, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reports. That’s an 84 percent increase over the same time last year.

Don’t despair, however, because there are reasons to stay hopeful:

We can help the Amazon

Two jaguars cuddling. Photo by Tambako The Jaguar license CC ND 2.0 via Flickr

Here’s what you can do:

  • Donate. You can help animals displaced by the fires by supporting organizations like Junglekeepers, which works to defend the Amazon. The Rainforest Alliance is forwarding all funds donated through their Instagram in August to groups fighting deforestation and working to protect this forest that should be treasured by all. The World Wildlife Fund is also accepting donations.
The scarlet macaw is just one of many species of parrots that can be found in the Amazon. Photo by ryanacandee license CC 2.0 via Flickr

Or why not donate directly to local Brazilian groups seeking to influence public policies on environmental protection issues and the rights of indigenous people — places like Instituto Socioambiental and Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (IPAM).

A contemplative spider monkey. Photo by Scott Kuo license NC ND 2.0 via Flickr

Have conversations — even if they’re uncomfortable

  • Get angry. Talk to your family and friends and hop on social media to share away. Tell everyone this is economically and politically unacceptable. Tag influencers, share updates and demand that your voice is heard. Encourage people to sign petitions.
Nelore cattle in Brazil. Photo by United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service license Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
  • Rethink your eating habits. The Amazon is so lush that natural fires are rare. It’s thought that this year’s fires have been set intentionally by people clearing land and the dry season has worsened the effect of the fires. Cattle ranchers set fires to forests to clear the trees so they can plant more crops to feed the cows.
  • You can lessen the harmful effects by not eating beef or at the very least cutting down on it. While you’re at it, why not encourage your friends and family to do this as well?
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Photo by Palácio do Planalto license CC 2.0 via Flickr

Don’t believe the hype

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro downplays the effects of the deadly fires because he’s pro-business. You see, he doesn’t care about the environmental impact because he wants the space for agriculture, logging, and cattle ranching. The Dodo notes that the jump in deforestation is directly linked to the increase in fire activity. And the Amazon will not survive if this continues.

An indigenous chieftain in Amazonas, Brazil. Photo by Eduardo Fonseca Arraes license CC NC ND 2.0 via Flickr

We need to ask ourselves if we want to live in a world without an Amazon. A world without the beautiful diversity it provides, because if all this vanishes, we will be much poorer for it. And because it is the world’s largest freshwater system, and also because it absorbs much of the carbon dioxide we emit we very well may not be able to survive without it.

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