The Amazon is burning— 74,000 fires since January and a whopping 84% increase from the previous year. As we all know, the Amazon is home to millions of species, as well as the home of hundreds of tribes of indigenous people. And sadly, if that isn’t enough reason to care as we are wrapped up in our own insular lives, the loss of rainforest vegetation alone will impact you directly. The Amazon is the largest forest ecosystem on Earth and plays a integral role in maintaining climatic stability and rainfall patterns through carbon sequestration and as a source of freshwater. The loss of forests means higher greenhouse gas emissions, polluted waters, and soil erosion, all exacerbating anthropogenic patterns of climate change and perpetuating the cycle through prioritizing our immediate “needs”. It is only once the fires have neared populated cities, such as the black cloud engulfing Sao Paulo, that media attention and awareness of the fires has been on the rise.
But why the dramatic increase? The increase in wildfires is a tragedy that should serve as a wake-up call in that we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the way we are treating our planet. Logging and deforestation itself yields a devastating outlook on the Amazon’s health, and unfortunately compounds the loss of tropical forests by predisposing areas to wildfires. The clearing of vegetation changes humid and cooler forests into dry, hot, and exposed areas conducive to wildfires. As deforestation and forest fragmentation continues, imagine the change from a healthy contiguous forest biomass into disjunct pieces that are burning and receding at the edges.
So what can we do? The clearing of land for agriculture remains as one of the principal causes of deforestation, and consumer demand trickles down from all parts of the world to magnify this issue. Small changes in our daily lives to live more sustainably can collectively have a massive impact. Reducing meat consumption and that of soy and palm oil is the best way for you to play your part in preventing loss of rainforest. As I’ve written above, clearing of land for agriculture is a major cause of deforestation, with up to 80% of slashed areas resulting from the need for cattle grazing.
Frontline groups (such as the ones listed below) are heading efforts to combat the ongoing fires, so you can also donate directly to their initiatives. You’ll be helping wildlife such as this tapir, whose home is currently aflame.