The Amazon Rain Forest, also known as “the planet’s lungs” is located in northwestern Brazil, and is the largest rainforest in the world. It has been burning for weeks and counting.
This disaster was first picked up by social media, with little to no coverage from mainstream media, even in Brazil. Like with many social media news outbreaks, there was a lot of confusion and misinformation.
On social media, the Amazon Rainforest crisis has been likened to the Norte Dame Cathedral fire that happened in April of this year. The Amazon is home to hundreds of indigenous tribes that have been fighting to preserve the land for decades. The Norte Dame fire received immediate and widespread news coverage as well as hefty donations for repair. In my opinion, the only thing the two instances have in common is fire, they are of different magnitudes and different circumstances. However, even though the forest fires will have global consequences, it directly impacts native people, bringing up the topic of institutionalized racism and genocide.
This occurrence is not surprising nor is it an accident. Forest fires are common at this time of year, but the number of fires increased this year by eighty percent. Climate change and deforestation are to blame. Deforestation is the intentional clearing of a forest or group of trees, by cutting or burning for agricultural and urban purposes. Jair Bolsanaro, Brazil’s current President, is known for his policies that exploit the land for profit. Environmentalists believe that the fires have been started by people, namely farmers and cattle ranchers encouraged by Bolsanaro’s business based rhetoric. Bolsanaro has told the media that they cannot do much about the fires because they do not have enough resources. He plans on calling in the Armed Forces, seeing as they have access to things like planes, helicopters, and more manpower.
The G7 (Group of Seven) Summit, is a gathering of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The worlds most advanced economies come together to discuss global issues and their next meeting is this weekend. Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are calling for the discussion to include a solution to save the amazon.
Climate change and deforestation are a disastrous duo. The daytime skies in Sao Paulo, Brazil are darkened with smoke. The millions of species of insects, plants, birds, fish, reptiles and more undocumented life are at danger. This is the information and images that we are seeing online and the common response to this large scale issue is feeling useless.
Here are some ways that you can help:
Reduce the amount of red meat you consume.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Brazil is the largest exporter of beef. The people in favor of deforestation will most likely use the damaged land to expand on meat sales. Reduce the amount of red meat in your diet, especially from fast food chains, so the demand is lower. Therefore there will be less of a need to produce mass amounts of meat and less deforestation.
There are plenty of credible organizations that have been working to preserve rainforests even before these fires started. Check out Amazon Watch, a non profit organization that protects the rainforest as well as the rights of the indigenous people inhabiting it. You can even protect an acre of land that is in at risk with the Rainforest Trust.
Plant a tree.
You can do it literally or indirectly with Ecosia.org, a reforestation driven search engine that donates 80% of their surplus income to non profit organizations that plant trees.
Social media’s gift and curse is the access to unlimited information. This crisis has introduced a community of sustainability. Exchange and practice tips with your fellow users, a little sustainability from everyone can make a huge impact.