Despite the three week delay, the horrific fires spreading throughout the Amazon have now found their way onto most people’s social media profiles. While spreading awareness and encouraging restorative and preventative action is crucial, we must also recognize why these fires begun in the first place.
Ninety-nine percent of the fires within the Amazon result from human action. Mostly to clear the land for farming and raising livestock.
Some believe the fires simply are a result of the present dry season in the Amazon. But it’s more than likely that this catastrophe begun at the hands of farmers.
According to CNN meteorologist Haley Brink, many farmers wait until the dry season to burn because that is when it’s most effective.
While these action should undoubtedly garner repercussions, Brazil’s political climate is inherently pro-business, and consequently, anti-environmentalist.
Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro campaigned for opening the Amazon to further business operations.
Prior to his election, “Captain Chainsaw,” propelled the notion that efforts to protect the Amazon and prevent deforestation hindered Brazil’s economic potential.
Predictably, following Bolsonaro’s election, logging and burning increased. Brazil’s space research center even announced that fires in Brazil are 80 percent higher than last year.
The consequences of these fires are readily visible through the disturbing images present throughout the internet. However, the ramifications also extend beyond what we can see.
Present and Foreseen Consequences
In its natural state, the Amazon isn’t fire-prone. But droughts resulting from the consequences of deforestation allow fires to spread rapidly throughout the forest.
The Amazon is responsible for 20 percent of the worlds oxygen. Therefore, the loss of such massive quantities can greatly effect all life on Earth.
Amazonian trees also absorb millions of tons of carbon emissions each year, assisting in curbing the effects of climate change.
Losing such a massive component in the life-support system of our planet, will be felt on a global scale. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change even released a report stating that we have no forest to spare if “we don’t want to see the worst impacts of climate change.”
Animal Agriculture’s Role
WWF states that cattle ranching accounts for 80 percent of current deforestation in the Amazon.
Not only does this deforestation reduce the amount of trees available to absorb carbon emissions released, but the influx of cattle increases the emissions themselves. This creates a detrimental cycle, leading to an international crisis.
Brazil’s booming beef business is nothing new. For several years Brazil has been the world’s leading exporter of beef.
In 2018, the US “imported 140.9 million pounds of beef from Brazil last year.” While only cooked beef from Brazil has been allowed into the US for the past several years, potential agreements between Trump and Bolsonaro could change this.
The simple concept of supply and demand can take the reigns here. If we can reduce, or ideally eliminate, our consumption of beef products, the deforestation ensuing in the name of livestock will reduce linearly.
How You Can Help
While it seems the looming and current consequences of deforestation and climate change are too far gone, we still can do our best to reduce our personal effects.
- There are tons of organizations you can donate to in order to aid the current Amazon-crisis. One of my favorites is Amazon Watch because it not only helps in rainforest protection but also “defends indigenous rights, and addresses climate change.”
- Make Your Voice Heard
- First of all, VOTE! Elect officials that support your beliefs regarding this issue and will take action to protect our environment. Here is a great resource to find out who is representing you and contact them regarding your concerns.
- Reduce Beef Consumption
- The correlation is undeniable. Simply reposting photos can only do so much. Take action and change your diet. Reduct the demand for beef, and all animal products, and reduce your carbon footprint from food by 73 percent. Veganuary is just one of many resources available online to help you transition. Sometimes the seemingly smallest actions have the greatest impact. Change begins on your plate.
Cover image via QZ