The Amazon rainforest may be the lungs of our planet, but it's currently in trouble. A record number of fires are currently burning across the Brazilian Amazon, with wildfires also raging in Bolivia. While it's easy to feel helpless in these situations, there are actually a number of things individuals can do to contribute to the protection of the Amazon.
Not only does the Amazon rainforest provide 20% of the Earth's oxygen, it's also incredibly biodiverse and home to one in ten of the known living species in the world. It's also been the home of indigenous peoples for thousands of years, who find their entire way of life being threatened. This makes it a global crisis that should matter to every individual, which is why it's important to take action.
Below, we're listing some ways that anyone can help the Amazon, and it doesn't always mean just donating money. Through a concerted effort and consistent pressure, the global community can make an impact on deforestation, climate change, and the economic drive to destroy the Amazon.
Change Everyday Habits
Be Mindful When Purchasing Wood and Paper
When purchasing paper or wood items, understand the source. For instance, is the wooden coffee table you're coveting made from locally sourced wood or tropical hardwood? As an industry, logging is a major culprit in long term deforestation. Staying away from Mahogany, Rosewood, and Ebony is particularly helpful, as they are endangered.
When purchasing paper items, try to select the item with the highest percentage of recycled material. Did you know there's even tree-free paper? Made from agricultural waste, this paper is created without having to cut down any trees.
Avoid Palm Oil
Did you know that one of the main contributors to rainforest forestation is found in half of the United States' processed foods? Palm oil is found in tropical rainforests and the high demand for it causes deforestation and habitat destruction. By reading labels carefully, you can avoid purchasing food that contains palm oil. The lower the demand for these products, the more forests that get saved.
Cut down on your beef consumption
For decades environmental groups have been combatting the import of cheap beef into the United States, as much of it comes from countries that clear rainforests to graze cattle. Dubbed rainforest beef, this cheap import often finds its way into frozen hamburger patties and fast food chains. Since the source of the beef isn't labeled when it enters the country, the best way to take control is to cut down on your beef consumption and try to find locally sourced beef if possible. You can also support initiatives that work with the beef industry in Brazil to help change harmful practices while maintaining their livelihoods.
Support Responsible Businesses
As you are avoiding potentially damaging purchases, be sure to reward companies that are doing the right things with your business. The Rainforest Alliance has a list of companies selling sustainable and environmentally certified products. You can also use Ecosia as your search engine while looking for businesses to support. It works just like a normal search engine, but they use search ad profits to plant trees.
Use Your Voice
Putting your vote behind elected officials who are in a position to influence environmental policy. You can also reach out to elected officials and make sure that they know about the issues that are important to you. The more pressure officials have from their constituents to act, the harder it is for them to stand by silently. International governments are already putting pressure on Brazil to make changes to their policies by withholding funding, so change is possible even if you are across the globe.
Sign a Petition
Be part of collective action by signing your name to petitions that you feel strongly about. It's harder for governments and businesses to ignore the masses. Gabriel Santos, a lawyer from Brazil, has nearly 3 million signatures on his Change.org petition asking officials to investigate the real cause of the fires. Greenpeace is also running a petition that they plan to turn over to the Brazilian government.
Educate Yourself and Others
Knowledge is power and the more we can do to educate ourselves about what's happening, the easier it becomes to take action. Read up on the issue from reputable news sources and keep on top of the fires' progress at InfoAmazonia. Make sure you share these stories proudly and loudly on social media, as this is how many of our friends and family discover new information.
There are many reputable non-profits that are doing important work to influence policy and to support on-the-ground projects in the Amazon. This can range from raising funds to protect habitats to working with indigenous people to ensure their survival. Here are some highly-rated charities that you may want to consider giving to.
- Amazon Watch
- Rainforest Trust
- Rainforest Action Network
- Rainforest Foundation US
- Rainforest Alliance
- Amazon Conservation Team