The Amazon Is on Fire but There Is Hope
Although Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest has been burning for several weeks now, there are ways to help restore this fragile ecosystem.
2019 has not been kind to the Amazon Rainforest with more than 40,000 fires across the region this year alone. Scientists from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research have determined that this year alone has seen the fastest rate of burning since the organization began a record-keeping survey on the health of the rainforest in 2013. In fact, the toxic smoke from the fires is so intense that many parts of Brazil now lay under darkness, and in some places, hours before the sun could even start setting.
Environmental organizations and researchers blame Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonario, for his pro-business policy that is aimed at enabling cattle ranchers to clear and utilize the land as part of his controversial plan to expand economic opportunities for the country at the cost of decimating the Amazon Rainforest, its fragile ecosystem, and the indigenous peoples who have made it their home centuries before the first Europeans ever laid a single foot in the Americas.
While the fires have managed to capture the attention of all media outlets around the world, despite having to have been going on weeks, it has sadly received less coverage than the burning of Notre Dame’s 900-year-old roof, which is currently being subjected to an almost two-year reconstruction project. This is just ironic on so many levels.
Why Care About the Amazon Rainforest?
The Amazon Rainforest, which stretches in an area of about 5.5 million square kilometers, is the world’s largest and most diverse tract of rainforest that has existed for almost 55 million years. It is also responsible for producing 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen, with nearly 60 percent of the rainforest being located in Brazil alone. After all, there is a reason why the Amazon Rainforest is nicknamed “The Lungs of the Earth.”
In addition, it is also home to some of the most unique plant and animal species, which includes 40,00 different place species, 3,000 species of freshwater fish, and more than 370 reptile species. Other species that are found in the Amazon include the Amazon river dolphin, the Amazonian manatee, the jaguar, the Brazillian tapir, and a variety of bird species that are found nowhere else on Earth.
It is estimated that around 30 million people, including 350 indigenous communities, live in the forest alone and depend on it for both food and for medicine. Just like the Native American tribes of the United States and Canada, the Indigenous peoples of Brazil have long considered the Amazon to be “sacred” for thousands of years, and in recent years, they have fought with Brazil’s government to strengthen environmental laws and preserve the forest.
The Amazon also pumps up to 7 trillion tons of water each year into the atmosphere with the forests recycling around 75 percent of all annual rainfall back into the atmosphere.
How Is Climate Change to Blame?
Although climate change is not the primary cause of these fires, there are 80 percent more of them than there were last year. Yet this surge in burning has been accompanied by the rise of deforestation in general. In fact, it is believed that an estimated 1,330 square miles of forest have been forever lost since the beginning of this year, which is seen as a 39 percent increase.
Yet Brazil’s president Bolsonaro had weakened Brazil’s tough environmental laws that are aimed at protecting the forests in order to open them for economic development. This will make it very difficult for conservation groups to carry out projects that are aimed at better understanding the rainforest’s ecosystem and finding better ways to preserve it.
What Can You Do?
It is important to know that although the Amazon Rainforest is still burning, there is still hope in terms of being able to save this ancient, living, Eden. The first step is to educate yourself about the precious biodiversity that the rainforest is home to, and the people who depend on it for survival. Another way to help is to support groups that are aimed at forest restoration, wildlife rescue, and rehabilitation programs, and research efforts.
In addition, you can also plant a tree through the One Tree Planted organization. For just a $1.00, you can help restore the Amazon Rainforest by having a tree replanted in areas that have been degraded as a result of deforestation. The tree will be planted in a “high risk” zone for deforestation and degradation, due to the effects of unsustainable agricultural practices in a “buffer” zone between Tambopata National Reserve, Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, and the Peruvian city of Puerto Maldonado.
Not only would these efforts help establish sustainable farming, but it will also help provide a livelihood for both the local people and the wildlife that call the Amazon Rainforest home.