This past August, many of us finally listened to the news about the Amazon rainforest, and how it was burning. And for a while, it was international news and you had all the trending hashtags as people showed mild concern before inevitably moving on to the next news segment.
Initially, the fires were believed to be accidental, but environmental campaigners soon pointed out that it was actually intentional deforestation. As WWF demonstrates, the Amazon rainforest isn’t just the largest tropical rainforest in the world – it’s also home to 10% of the world’s biodiversity. As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide, so to lose vast portions of the rainforest is so critically dangerous while we fight against climate change. Not only is it a major, major problem for us as a global community, it’s also devastating to the indigenous communities who live in and around the forest.
While the news of the raging fires has dramatically lessened as of late, the Amazon fires are still burning. According to a report by Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is a part of NASA, the fires burning in the Amazon basin are continuing into November. JLP has stated that the fires are “mainly the result of such human activities as land clearing and deforestation.”
So, the big question remains, why are humans still intent on clearing out the land of one of the world’s most important ecosystems? Unfortunately, it’s for farming cash crops. And according to Greenpeace, those are mostly soya beans. And the sad news gets even sadder, as those soya beans aren’t even for human consumption, instead they are used to feed the cows, chickens, and pigs that are being reared for meat. OpenLearn, the Open University’s blog, has published a post that states that since 1970, 91% of land that has been deforested, has been done so in order to create livestock pasture. And the Sustainable Trade Initiative reports that only 14% of UK soya product imports come from sources that are “deforestation-free.”
So, if you’re reading this and wondering what you could on your part to help fix this? Glad you asked. First off, the easiest thing you can do is to look at what you’re eating and be aware of the food you’re consuming. Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet means you’re less likely to consume soya from directly affected areas since the majority goes towards feeding livestock. Now, if you can’t be on a plant-based diet or don’t really want to be, then it is so very important to double-check where your food is sourced from. Some brands will tell you if they are deforestation-free.
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As Rainforest Saver notes, one of the problems to occur following the slash-and-burn agriculture practice, is that the soil’s nutrients have been depleted. This means that it’s difficult to make plants grow again. However, the BBC reports that there has been new research launched into a plant called inga, which could hold a solution as it adds nitrogen back into the soil as it grows. Inga is also capable of growing quite quickly in poor soil. Farmers are now being encouraged to plant the crop since it also produces an edible fruit and its leaves can also be used to create mulch. For those who don’t know, mulch is a substance that helps to promote the fertility of the soil. The Inga Foundation is one charity that is helping to give farmers access to the plant. If you want to help the environment in any sort of way, you can donate to the inga cause by clicking here.
Another way that you can help get involved is to stay informed about the rainforest and other ecological problems. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you can educate those close around you and thus start a chain reaction of changing people’s minds. Look up the indigenous communities in the area, listen to what they have to say. For example, it’s important to learn about the different types of fires, as not all are bad. As the Independent reports, some controlled fires can actually be quite important.
To stand with the indigenous people as they fight for their rainforest, you can sign petitions through charities like Greenpeace. InfoAmazonia, which is a data journalism site, is also another great source of information as it shows detailed maps about the Amazon rainforest. Some indicate in real-time, illegal mining that is happening in the protected areas in the Amazon. Other maps show the number of environmental activists who’ve been killed. As I said, knowledge is power, and it’s also the best way to combat all the destruction that is happening to our planet.
While it might seem like one person can’t make a whole lot of difference but that isn’t true – there are plenty of small changes that can make a difference. As the quote from “Lord of the Rings” says, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.