At 3pm on Monday, Brazil’s largest city, São Paolo, plunged into darkness 1) a result of smoke from ongoing fires destroying the Amazon rainforest—thousands of miles away.
This year, Brazil is witnessing a record number of wildfires. And the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has said the country’s government lacks the resources to put these fires 2) , creating more concern surrounding rainforest damage and devastation to lands belonging to indigenous people.
But what exactly caused these fires to begin 3) ? It’s fairly simple, and predictably, a source of debate between environmentalists and one politician.
What’s causing these fires?
Man-made deforestation. As CNN reports, 4) environmentalist groups and researchers agree that local cattle ranchers, farmers, and loggers have intentionally lit fires to clear the land for cattle (and have been incentivized to do so by Brazil’s pro-business/climate-sceptic president).
In a statement to the New York Times, a government agency stated that more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover have been cleared since the start of 2019 (a 39 percent increase as compared to this time last year). Generally, these fires are linked to Brazil’s reliance 5) beef production; the country provides nearly 20 percent of the world’s beef exports.
Meanwhile, Bolsanaro has blamed non-profit groups, arguing that they’ve lit fires to “embarrass” the government 6) he cut their funding earlier this year (he has yet to offer evidence to back up these claims).
As for arguments of climate change’s role 7) the fires, it certainly isn’t helping, but it’s very unlikely there’s any connection (though it could make fires worse and create hotter and drier conditions overall).
How many fires are there right now?
As of last week, there were an estimated 9,000 wildfires. As BBC reports, Brazil has seen a record number of forest fires already in 2019—more than 75,000 have been recorded so far (as compared to 40,000 during the same period last year, which is still a lot). July and August also mark the beginning of a drier season in the Amazon, leaving it more vulnerable to fires 8) during wetter months.
Why should I care?
The Amazon rainforest is considered our planet’s “lungs.” It absorbs millions of tons of carbon emissions and produces an estimated 20 percent of oxygen in our atmosphere. Worse, it’s emitting smoke and carbon 9) surrounding areas and endangering plants, animals, and indigenous people that live in its basin.
How can I help?
While you 10) really do anything to stop the current fires, you can do a couple of things to help prevent fires and preserve the rainforest going forward:
• First, you can donate to the Rainforest Action Network’s Protect-an-Acre program. The funds will go toward organizations that work to defend rainforest territories and indigenous people.
• You can 11) donate to Amazon Watch, a non-profit that also preserves rainforests and indigenous people.
• Alternatively, fund a project by the Rainforest Trust, which includes saving indigenous lands in the Amazon.
And of course, collectively eating less beef won’t hurt, either, since demand for beef is what created this situation to begin with. Substitute a beef burger for an impossible burger, if you’re willing, and consider making shifts towards more plant-based meals in 12) diet.
Article from Lifehaker.com by Josh Ocampo