Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you’ve probably noticed that the Amazon rainforest has gained some coverage, both in the news and on social media. Sadly, this media spotlight is for all the wrong reasons.
Read on to find out more about the latest threats to the Amazon, the role of this mighty rainforest in the fight against the climate crisis, and how you can do your bit to protect this precious rainforest and its inhabitants.
Why is the Amazon worth protecting?
Spanning a whopping 9 countries across South America, the Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest. Famous for its rich ecosystems, untouched communities and (sadly sought-after) natural resources, this ecological wonderland is home to 10% of recorded species, despite only covering around one percent of the earth’s surface- bonkers! For us here at Rickshaw, the Amazon is home to some of our most-loved community experiences and wildlife encounters, from caimans and pirañas to sloths and toucans.
More significantly, however, is the role that the Amazon plays in helping us combat the climate change crisis. It’s often referred to as our planet’s “green lungs” which is a pretty fitting nickname considering the rainforest absorbs 14% of all atmospheric CO2 emissions.
But this week our hearts have broken as we watch fires rage through the rainforest at an alarming rate, destroying vital habitats and plunging cities into darkness. This is devastating and, like many others, has left us feeling helpless. Afterall, the Amazon is supposed to absorb carbon emissions, not produce them.
Why is the Amazon burning?
Deforestation is the number one threat to the Amazon right now, with 17% of the forest disappearing in the last 50 years (WWF). Much of this loss is due to the clear-cutting of trees and land in order to create space for cattle farming and oil palm plantations. As part of this deforestation process, fire is often used as a way of clearing space and burning waste. But not only do these fires threaten the delicate ecosystems that thrive here, but it means that dangerous levels of CO2 are emitted. This, in turn, has a knock on effect on rising temperatures which impacts the whole planet as we face rapidly changing weather conditions.
According to WWF, over 70,000 fires have been recorded in the Amazon this year alone – 85% more fires than were seen last year. “Land is cleared and prepared for agriculture through fires, but not normally at this intensity.” (WWF)
What can we do to help?
We know that the health of our planet depends so much upon the health of the Amazon rainforest, which makes the footage of the fires all the most difficult to watch. But we can make a difference. Granted, we might not be able to pour bucket-loads of water over the flames ourselves, but if you’re feeling hopeless and want to do your bit to help protect this magnificent rainforest (now and in the future) here are some practical tips:
1. Spread the word
Right now, the world is waking up to the devastating impact of deforestation. Since the blaze hit headlines this week, many have questioned the level of coverage this news has received. In response, numerous hashtags have started trending, including #savetheamazon and #prayforamazonia. Let’s keep the momentum going by sharing information and action with our friends and family. The more we can inform eachother and unite together, the louder our voices will be to help influence urgent change.
2. Support emergency services & communities in need
Though the fires are raging thousands of miles away, there’s a lot we can do from the comfort of our homes. By donating to emergency appeals (such as WWF), you can support local services in reaching affected communities, supporting emergency relief to those in need, raising awareness and advocating for stronger laws.