Last week it hit the headlines that the Amazon rainforest was burning. Social media was filled with images of red hot flames ripping through the luscious forests of the Amazon – which is home to 10% of the world’s species. These fires are sending plumes of smoke across the region, and are pumping damaging amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Forest fires happen every year, but not to this extent. In the worst-affected Brazilian state of Amazonas, the peak day this month was 700% higher than the average for the same date over the past 15 years. Most of the fires are caused by farmers burning forest in order to make room for land to grow more crops – these fires are man-made and at a result of things like the beef industry, which requires an enormous amount of land to keep up with the demand of the burger-loving western world.
These fires are illegal, and are destroying an important area of biodiversity – something which has inspired a world horror at the situation. The rainforest is also critical for the future of our planet. It has an unparalleled capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, which is essential in limiting the effects of our carbon emissions on the atmosphere. Deforestation poses a huge threat to the forests ability to do this, and therefore will have a great effect on the acceleration of climate change. According to The Guardian, deforestation in the Amazon reached a record level in July 2019 – a level not seen in more than a decade.
It is critical that we limit these levels, and eventually reverse them in order to limit the effects of climate change. Many people and species rely on the forest for food, water, oxygen and protection, and therefore it is in our best interests to protect it.
So, we know that it is essential that we limit forest fires and deforestation, but how can we do this?
We don’t just need to stop deforestation, we need to start reforestation. It is imperative that there is both a political and collective effort to save the rainforest. Whilst governments hold the power to fund important efforts and enact environmental policies, individuals also play a large role in shifting governmental focus to helping save both our rainforests and our planet from the damaging effects of climate change. Individuals coming together to form collectives, in the form of parties or campaign groups, will put pressure on those with the power to implement policies. As consumers we need to be more conscious about the origin of the things which we consume. Think twice before buying Brazilian beef, check sites like Rainforest Alliance to find what foods and products are certified by them, and always be mindful of how your actions may directly or indirectly affect the planet.
We need to inform and educate those around us of how important these issues really are. You may be thousands of miles from the Amazon, you may never step foot in Brazil, but your actions and ways of life will have a direct impact on those who inhabit these places, the lives of our children, and the future of the world as we know it.
Social media is a powerful tool, and one which we use to help inform and educate others on how they can make a difference. If we all use our voices, big and small, to keep this issue at the forefront of the world’s minds, then it will only be a matter of time before people are forced to act.