Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is in flames, burning at the highest rate since 2013, when that nation’s space research center first began tracking fires there. Here’s what we know and why you should REALLY care.
- The world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon spans eight countries and covers 40% of South America, nearly the size of two-thirds of the US.
- More than 30 million people live in the Amazon, which is also home to large numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, most of them unique to the region.
- A new plant or animal species is discovered there every two days.
- It produces about 20% of earth’s oxygen, and is often referred to as “the planet’s lungs.”
- The inferno in the Amazon, two-thirds of which is in Brazil, threatens the entire globe.
- Since the beginning of 2019, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research has reported 72,843 fires in the country, with more than half of these being seen in the Amazon region.
- More than one-and-a-half soccer fields of Amazon rainforest are being destroyed EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY.
- An 80% increase in deforestation has occurred so far this year compared to last year, according to the institute.
- Sao Paulo, more than 1,700 miles away, has inhaled some of the burning forest’s smoke. Images from the city show the sky pitch-black in the middle of the afternoon, the sun partially obscured by ash and dark.
- 99% of the fires result from human actions “either on purpose or by accident.” Fires are caused by small-scale agricultural practices or mechanized and modern agribusiness projects.
- Excessive carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to the warming of our planet. The Amazon remains a net source of oxygen today — despite the fact that about 20% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions are caused by deforestation.
- The Amazon released up to 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year due to deforestation, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
- Elected in October 2018, Bolsonaro made campaign promises to restore the economy by exploring the Amazon’s economic potential. Since his election, he has cut the budget of the nation’s environmental enforcement agency by $23 million.
- Bolsonaro recently stated an alternative explanation for the recent spate of Amazon fires;
“We took money away from the NGOs [non-governmental organizations]. They are now feeling the pinch from the lack of funding. So, maybe the NGO types are conducting these criminal acts in order to generate negative attention against me and against the Brazilian government.”
What can you do?
- To help reforest parts of the world, you can contribute to the Rainforest Trust and Rainforest Alliance.
- Drive less, walk more. If you can afford it, buy a more fuel efficient car
- Adjusting your thermostats by just a couple of degrees also makes a difference (while saving you money)
- Stop eating beef. (or reduce your intake) Cows produce a greenhouse gas known as methane, which is 25 times more potent that carbon dioxide. Cattle is responsible for 41% of all greenhouse gas emissions produced by livestock, which in turn account for 14.5% of total global emissions.y not?
On Friday night’s Real Time with Bill Maher, the host suggested that the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos (whose company is named for the rainforest) should just buy the Amazon to save it. He also said he would vote for Trump if HE saved the rainforest.
Our president has had crazier ideas. Why not?
(Photos, screen grabs; via CNN)