By Fredrica Syren:
As I write this, I’m watching in horror all the images of the Amazon on fire. Although so far away, this event will affect us all. The Amazon, known as the lungs of our planet because it provides 20% of the entire world’s oxygen, helps stabilize the world’s climate.
The rainforest plays a major role in reducing carbon dioxide because tropical forests take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen during photosynthesis, making protection of tropical forests from deforestation even more important. We must reduce emissions to levels needed in order to protect the planet against the worst and most expensive global warming impacts.
The sad part is that experts believe the wildfires were not accidental. They believe the fires actually were set by cattle ranchers and loggers looking to clear and utilize the land, and who were emboldened by the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro. According to Reuters “the unprecedented surge in wildfires has occurred since Bolsonaro took office in January vowing to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over increased deforestation.” It’s estimated that there has been an84% increase of fires in the Amazon between 2018 and 2019. This number can’t be attributed to the dry season or natural phenomena alone. In addition to more fires, there also is a significant increase in deforestation.
At this point you, too, might feel helpless and wonder what you can do. Naturally we can’t stop the fire, but we can bring attention to it and demandthat it be saved.
As well, you can Donate to nonprofit environmental groups who are working on protecting the rainforests. These groups play a very important role in the fight for rainforest preservation, and usually work with very little help and financial support. They work on educating the locals as well as the government in order to get tougher protection. They also are keeping an eye on multinational companies and are pushing for cleaner practices.
Eat less beef and only local beef—It’s a known fact that the beef industry has a huge negative impact on the rainforest, particularly in Brazil. The beef industry is responsible for trees being cut down in order to convert land into pasture for cattle grazing. It’s estimated that 70% of all the deforestation in the Amazon Basin is attributed to cattle ranching. So the best option is, first of all, to eat less beef and, second, to eat only locally and organically raised beef as much as possible. These days we usually can buy beef at our local farmers’ market.
Drink only sustainable coffee—Who knew that our morning cup of joe can have a negative effect on the world’s rainforests? Just like palm oil production, coffee plantations also lead to deforestation. So select sustainable farmers’ coffee, and look for a “Rainforest Alliance” label to show that this coffee was produced under sustainable conditions.
Buy palm oil free foods and body products—Due to its versatility and inexpensive production costs, palm oil has become very popular. This has attracted negative attention from environmental activist groups because high demand for palm oil has led to widespread deforestation over the last four decades.
Drive a hybrid or electric car—Increased demand for oil makes Brazil one of the top fifteen oil producing countries in the world, but more oil is needed. Drillers are looking toward the rainforest in their search for oil, so companies already have bought 70% of the Peruvian Amazon for the purpose of producing more.
Walk or bike to work—A great way not to use any oil at all and to produce zero emissions is to walk or bike. Plus, it’s beneficial to your health. A win/win situation.
Don’t buy furniture or musical instruments made from rainforest wood—Not only is mahogany imported from Brazil illegal, but it alsois the cause of widespread lumber poaching across the Amazon Basin. Ithas directly caused entire stands of forests to disappear forever, so always avoid buying mahogany as well as rosewood, ebony and other tropical hardwoods. Better options are products made with white ash, black cherry or maple.
Most crucial to all life’s survival on earth, the rainforest (along with the coral reef) is among the most delicate and most important ecosystems. When it comes to the health of our planet, we have no choice: we have to save it.