The world is on fire. No, really. This week all eyes have been on the huge fire in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. There have been more than 9,500 fires of various sizes since last Thursday alone, according to the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), and it’s only part of a global picture – Siberia, Greenland and the Canary Islands are among other regions fighting “unprecedented” fires.
The long and short of it is that this is very worrying news for the planet. Experts have warned that the increased pace of deforestation is pushing the Amazon closer to a “tipping point” from which it will not be able to recover.
Trees are essential for ridding the planet of carbon dioxide – without them, we are in serious trouble. According to charity WWF, the trees in the Amazon contain up to 140 billion tonnes of carbon, which is the equivalent of what humans produce in 100 years.
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has previously made clear he plans to open the rainforest to development and agribusiness, but has claimed – without evidence – that NGOs started the current fires. He has since said Brazil doesn’t have the resources to put them out.
Not only does deforestation affect wildlife and indigenous people, but it can also impact weather patterns, ecosystems and the climate. The South American rainforest is thought to impact regional and possibly even global water cycles, according to the National Geographic. It’s also key to the water supply in Brazilian cities.
While it all sounds very bleak and can leave you feeling extremely helpless, we all have a part to play in protecting the planet. If you want to do something, but don’t know where to start, here are some ideas:
1. Donate to an emergency appeal to put out the fires.
The WWF is currently fundraising for its emergency appeal and says money raised will go towards the following:
- Identifying the most affected areas and the communities most in need of our support.
- Supporting community services to reduce the fires and offer emergency relief where it’s needed.
- Raising awareness to take action against the fires and deforestation.
- Advocating for stronger laws in the Brazilian parliament.
2. Get involved with a reforestation project.
While planting one tree will never be able to repair some of the damage done to the world’s rainforests by wildfires and deforestation, a collective or regular offering to reforestation projects could be pivotal.
The Eden Project replants forests in Nepal, Madagascar, Haiti, Indonesia, Mozambique and Kenya by hiring local villagers to plant trees. This provides them with income so they can care for their families and also helps to kickstart new and healthy forests. Meanwhile Tree Nation has multiple reforestation projects going on around the world which you can donate to.
3. Plant a tree at home.
Over the next 10 years, The Woodland Trust is aiming to plant 64 million trees. So far, 38,078,206 trees have been planted across the United Kingdom.
You can purchase single trees or tree packs for your garden, apply for tree packs for schools and communities, or you can become a member £4 a month (or £350 for life) and support The Woodland Trust’s regular planting of trees across the UK. If you’re off to the garden centre this weekend, why not bring a few trees home for your garden? Every little helps.
4. Sign a petition.
Rainforest Rescue has a series of petitions you can sign protesting deforestation. Meanwhile a petition to the UK government is taking off, asking for the EU and UN to sanction Brazil to halt increased deforestation of the Amazon – at the time of writing it had over 40,000 signatures. WWF is calling on the UK government to put the Amazon emergency on to the top of the G7 agenda.
If you’re in London today, Jenny Rosenberg from Friends of the Earth advises to get down to the Brazilian Embassy. “A really big presence makes a difference,” she says. “People should be there well into the evening. Friends of the Earth are heading there right now.”
5. Help to protect land and indigenous communities.
The Rainforest Trust is currently working hard to raise money to protect the rights of indigenous people living in the Amazon rainforest. One such project will help title 220 communities covering six million acres in order to legally protect indigenous lands. Without this, hundreds of indigenous communities have no ownership rights and their land is therefore under threat. You can donate to the project here.
6. Don’t support companies who are behind deforestation.
Rosenberg urges people not to be complicit with companies who are behind deforestation. “Remember that Brazil exports things that we buy,” she says. “Look at ingredients and take the time to do a bit of research to find out where your food is from.” You can purchase rainforest-friendly products through the Rainforest Alliance.
“Our own government has to put the crisis of the Amazon right in the middle of any discussions they are making about who we do future trade deals with,” she continues. “We shouldn’t be in business with countries condoning the devastation of the world’s lungs. As well as the Amazon itself, this is about the people who live there, and the injustice that this does to them, their livelihoods and their land.”