Home Entertainment “Amazon rainforest” the lungs of world are burning: how can we help?

“Amazon rainforest” the lungs of world are burning: how can we help?

The number of fires identified by satellite images in the Amazon so far this month is the highest since 2010, according to Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research agency, which tracks deforestation and forest fires using satellite images.
So far this year, 40,341 fires have been recorded, which is about 35 per cent higher than the average for the first eight months of each year since 2010.
How did the fires start?
Natural fires in the Amazon are rare, and the majority of these fires were set by farmers preparing Amazon-adjacent farmland for next year’s crops and pasture.
Much of the land that is burning was not old-growth rainforest, but land that had already been cleared of trees and set for agricultural use.
A fire in the Amazon rain forest near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil.
A fire in the Amazon rain forest near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil.
Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
How unusual are the fires?
INPE’s figures represent a 79% increase in fires from the same period in 2018. There have been large numbers of fires in other recent years as well: According to a manager of Global Forest Watch, the number of fires in the Amazon this year is roughly comparable to 2016.
Deforestation more broadly is always a cause for concern. Last year, the world lost about 30 million acres of tree cover, including 8.9 million acres of primary rainforest, an area the size of Belgium, according to data from the University of Maryland.
While campaigning for president last year, Bolsonaro declared that Brazil’s vast protected lands were an obstacle to economic growth and promised to open them up to commercial exploitation.
Less than a year into his term, that is already happening.
Brazil’s part of the Amazon lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover in the first half of 2019, a 39% increase over the same period last year, according to the government agency that tracks deforestation.
The Amazon is often referred to as the Earth’s “lungs,” because its vast forests release oxygen and store carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that is a major cause of global warming. If enough rainforest is lost and can’t be restored, the area will become savanna, which doesn’t store as much carbon and would mean a reduction in the planet’s “lung capacity.”
Is climate change to blame?
These fires were not caused by climate change. They were, by and large, set by humans. However, climate change can make fires worse. Fires can burn hotter and spread more quickly under warmer and drier conditions.
When it comes to the future of climate change, widespread fires contribute a dual negative effect. Trees are valuable because they can store carbon dioxide, and that storage capacity is lost when trees burn. Burning trees also pumps more carbon into the atmosphere.
How does deforestation work?
Deforestation can be caused by natural factors, like insects or blight, or by humans. This is a typical case of human deforestation: Farmers cut down trees to plant or expand a farm, then burn the leavings to clear the ground.
Brazil had previously tried to portray itself as a leader in protecting the Amazon and fighting global warming. Between 2004 and 2012, the country created new conservation areas, increased monitoring and took away government credits from rural producers who were caught razing protected areas.
But as the economy plunged into a recession in 2014, the country became more reliant on the agricultural commodities it produces — beef and soy, which are drivers of deforestation — and on the powerful rural lobby. Land clearing, much of it illegal, began to tick upward again.
Are the fires the fault of President Jair Bolsonaro?
There is evidence that farmers feel more emboldened to burn land following the election of Bolsonaro.
A New York Times analysis of public records found that enforcement actions intended to discourage illegal deforestation, such as fines or seizure of equipment, by Brazil’s main environmental agency fell by 20% during the first six months of this year.
Bolsonaro blames nongovernmental organisations for the fires. He has cited no evidence, and environmental experts dispute the claim.
The federal government has not offered any major organised effort to fight the fires.
Last week, Bolsonaro said the Brazilian government lacks the resources to fight the fires, but he has since said he will direct the military to enforce environmental laws and to help contain the fires.
What areas are affected?
Satellite images show fires in the Brazilian states of Amazonas, Rondonia, Para and Mato Grosso. The state of Amazonas is most affected, according to Euronews.
Effects of damage to the Amazon go far beyond Brazil and its neighbors. The area’s rainforest generates more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and is home to 10% of the world’s known biodiversity. The Amazon is referred to as the “lungs of the planet” and plays a major role in regulating the climate. The world would drastically change if the rainforest were to disappear, with impacts on everything from farms to drinking water.
The World Meteorological Organization, the United Nation’s weather arm, tweeted about the fires.
“Fires release pollutants including particulate matter & toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides  and non-methane organic compounds into the atmosphere,” the organization said.
In addition, actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio added a donation link to Amazon Watch on his Instagram profile and posted about the fires. Celebrities like Jameela Jamil, Jaden Smith and John Cusack have also taken to social media to speak out about the fiery devastation.
How can you help?
Here are some ways you can aid in protecting the rainforest:
Donate to Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest.
Donate to the Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988, the organization has saved over 23 million acres.
Reduce your paper and wood consumption. Double-check with Rainforest Alliance that what you’re buying is considered rainforest-safe. You can also purchase rainforest-safe products from the alliance’s site.
Reduce your beef intake. Beef found in processed products and fast-food burgers is often linked to deforestation.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada) works to protect the  species in the Amazon and around the world.
Ecosia.org is a search engine that plants a tree for every 45 searches you run.
Explore Change.org petitions. A lawyer in Rio Branco has accumulated over 3 million signatures to mobilize an investigation into the Amazonian fires.
Donate to Amazon Watch, an organization that protects the rainforest, defends Indigenous rights and works to address climate change.
Donate to the Amazon Conservation Team, which works to fight climate change, protect the Amazon and empower Indigenous peoples.
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.
Contact your elected officials and make your voice heard.
Donate to One Tree Planted, which works to stop deforestation around the world and in the Amazon Rainforest. One Tree Planted will keep you updated on the Peru Project and the impact your trees are having on the community.
Sign Greenpeace’s petition telling the Brazilian government to save the Amazon rainforest and protect the lands of indigenous and traditional communities.