A plea for the amazon

The amazon forest is the largest rain forest on earth

, is home to 16.000 tree species, about 25% of all recorded tree species on earth. Let us not forget the number of animal species that share the forest, more than a hundred thousand species of animals live in the forest.

Tropical Rain forests have more species than any other biome on earth. In fact, they have more than the double of species than any other ecosystem.

A record number of forest fires have been raging for over a month nonstop and most of us haven’t heard a thing about it. What started as a small fire in the forest amazon has become a massive fire of unprecedented scale, covering thousands of hectares and affecting 3 countries so far: Brazil, Peru and Bolivia.

The Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) is a parrot native to central and south america. They do not like living alone and can usually be seen in pairs or in small groups. The can easily get used to human presence. They, like many other parrots and Macaws of the amazon, are endangered, mostly due to forest loss

The worst part is that some of these fires are deliberately started to clear the forest for cattle

. Cattle ranching accounts for almost 70% of the rainforest’s deforestation. These fires have already created a smoke screen of approximately 1.2 million square meters according to NASA. That is almost 10 times the size of the state of California. Forests are supposed to capture CO2, not produce it at this extent.

Many of us also ignore that this forest is also displacing countless indigenous populations that call this forest home. It is ironic that an event that hurts and puts at stake the existence of countless animals and plants doesn’t get as much funding or media coverage as the latest Venom Movie release. Moments like this make us wonder if we will be able to unite as a species to save our only home, when buildings and movies get more attention than our oxygen and water resources. Plants may not give free WiFi, but they produce the oxygen we need to live and they are key sources in our diet. Even if you do eat meat, what do you think does animals are fed with? Forests were the source of life on land 300 million years ago, and still today the allow us to live as a species. They definitely deserve more than a hashtag from our social media platforms.

South America, the amazon in particular has had the largest increase of forest fires in the last decade. The rate at which forest fires are occurring in the forest is unprecedented and is clearly an anomaly in this ecosystem.

I know if you are reading this short blogpost, you are genuinely interested by the earth’s well being and perhaps feeling powerless and don’t know what to do. I think the guys at Amazon Conservation team lay it down in a perfect way:

“The situation can feel overwhelming, as very few of us have either the opportunity or the means to directly influence policy, but we can still individually contribute in a meaningful way to the response to this global crisis”.

You may have seen the #prayforamazonia coming up. Although I do think it is a good way to make people hear the problem, I think we can all do more than pray and actually step up to protect the forest. Here are a few things we can do to stop being bystanders and take action:

1. Donate/volunteer at a forest NGO Here are a few that are known for their effective conservation work: Amazon Conservation Team Amazon watch I know the first two personally, as I have friends working with them, in case you want to get involved, volunteer or help in other way.

2.Learn! To conserve and protect, we must know what we have. How can we protect something we do not know we have? Keep on reading the news, share this post and any knowledge of the forest you learn. Awareness, although not the fastest of solutions, is for sure necessary. Do not let the situation slip of the chart along with your Instagram posts. The amazon has been burning for a month and probably will keep on doing so. It needs all the help we can offer.

You can even check: http://queimadas.dgi.inpe.br . It has live satellite data showing the progress of the fire.

3. Reduce Though these are small actions, every small action helps. Consider reducing your meat intake (remember cattle is the number 1 factor contributing to deforestation). Anything that reduces the demand helps.

Great infographic explaining the cycle of deforestation in the amazon. Pressures for forest resources from first world countries along with devaluation of currency in south America, leads amazon countries (Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador) to clear forested land for biofuel or to turn the space it into cattle pastures or soy plantations. This in turn means profit, which can help Amazon country economies. Additionally, technological progress represents easier ways to clear out forests and increase production, while rises in land prices lead to an increase urge to venture into deforestation as a means of economical growth. In other words, deforestation is a business. A reduction in demand from big consumers will lead to a reduction in production (e.g. deforestation for cattle pasture/soy) and will lead amazon countries to look for other income sources that do not involve destroying the forest. As long as exploiting the amazon is a profitable business, companies and countries will continue to do their best to turn trees into profit. This shows why regulating and being aware of the impact of what you consume is the best starting point to help the amazon.

Humanity mobilized thousands in less than a few days to save a 1000-year-old church. Let us all start doing some of these things to save this 55-million-year-old natural wonder, home to millions of lives. It doesn’t matter how small is the change you are doing in your daily life, never doubt the power of small actions. I would like to finish with a famous quote on lighting up fires from mere sparks:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

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Santiago R. Said-M.Sc. Environmental Biologist