Protecting the Amazon
Our global Rainforests are often referred to as the planet’s lungs. Why? Because they breathe in CO2 and exhale oxygen, playing a major role in regulating the climate.
The Amazon in South America is the world’s largest most diverse tropical rainforest, covering an area of five and a half million square kilometres it generates more than 20% of the world's oxygen, accounts for more than half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and is home to more than half the world's species of plants and animals.
The world would drastically change if the Amazon Rainforest were to disappear; affecting wildlife, ecosystems, weather patterns and our climate.
So why is it burning?
Although fires are a natural part of the Amazonian dry season, there is nothing natural about the unexplained spike in fires recently. This year the number of Amazon forest fires increased 84% compared to the same period of 2018 (source Brazilian Space Agency).
These fires have been linked to farmers clearing land for cultivation, driven by pro-development government policies from Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro who has relaxed enforcement laws against deforestation. When Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, in his campaign he pledged to reduce environmental protection and increase agricultural development in the Amazon.
Not only are the fires releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide and smoke, but it’s also destroying biodiversity and ecosystems.
So far, researchers have found 40,000 species of plants, 3,000 species of fish and more than 1,000 species of birds live in the rainforest. Some scientists estimate that Brazil is home to nearly 2 million species of invertebrates, plants, fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
Deforestation especially in slash and burn cases which is happening in the Amazon, is destructive because it releases all the stored carbon directly into the atmosphere, contributing to and exacerbating the effects of global warming. Additionally, the soil exposed from deforestation is often only productive for a short period of time, meaning farmers must continue to clear more land to keep their businesses viable - amplifying the destruction.
Why does it really matter?
The Amazon Rainforest plays a critical role in cleaning the air we breathe, sucking up global emissions of carbon dioxide produced from cars, planes, power stations, industrial factories etc.
The Amazon is also home to hundreds of native plant and animal species, this ecosystem is used for food, research, medicines, even textiles. This biodiversity further stabilizes the climate, bringing rain, regulating temperature and weather patterns.
It matters because biodiversity provides the basis on which human’s exist on Planet Earth.
Every second an acre (which is the size of a football field) of Rainforest is cleared, and the leading cause is to graze animals and grow their feed crops. Every day up to 100 plant, animal and insect species die due to rainforest destruction.
What can we do?
Agriculture is the world's largest industry, employing over one billion people and generating over $1.3 trillion dollars worth of food annually. Whilst agriculture is the backbone of many economies and an important source of livelihood, the practice (if unsustainable) has serious negative impact on the environment through climate change, deforestation, pollution, and environmental degradation.
We can sit and wait for sustainable business practises in the agriculture sector to be implemented worldwide, or we can take instant action that has a direct and powerful impact...simply by looking at our diet and being more conscious of what we eat and how often we eat it.
Photos: Jairo Alzate & Skull Kat, Unsplash