The Amazon has been on fire since the beginning of August. For the past three weeks, the world has been helplessly watching as forests vital to our planet’s well-being have been ravaged by the flames. 

Just how many fires are burning?

The BBC reported last week that there were more than 2,500 active fires in the Brazilian rainforest, in a 48-hour period, resulting in significant amounts of smoke. This year alone, there have been more than 74,000 forest fires in Brazil and 40,000 in the Amazon. And the toxic smoke from the fires has reached the cities. Brazil’s financial capital, São Paulo, plunged into darkness in the middle of the day due to the smoke.

NASA tweeted satellite images confirm that the Amazon is burning at a devastating rate:

Meanwhile, the aid that is being offered to help the Amazon is being rejected.

According to Greenpeace, the Brazilian government has blocked R$ 288 million in donations from Norway and Germany that were directed to the Amazon Fund, and recently rejected the $20 million aid package from G7 countries. World leaders, however, continue to extend their help.

What started the fires?

While it is true that July and August mark the dry season in the Amazon, make no mistake: unlike the California blazes, these fires are due to human activity. In fact, they were intentionally ignited, as fires are often used to clear land for farming or ranching to raise cattle.

One of the main causes of deforestation is the demand for consumer products. Nearly 800,000 square kilometers of the Amazon forest have been destroyed since the 1970s due to human development. That’s larger than the size of Texas, or equal to the country of Turkey. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef, generating a whopping $6.57 billion in revenue last year. 

Scientists are worried that the Amazon’s deforestation is about to reach a tipping point. There is a threshold for tree loss that mustn’t be surpassed — a threshold of 20-25%. Beyond that, and the deforestation enters a type of snowball effect. This would turn the originally lush green forests of the Amazon basin into a dry savannah.

Why is this a global issue?

The Amazon rainforest is an important carbon sink, helping store carbon dioxide while removing it from the atmosphere. This means that along with the current deforestation issue, the fires have entered a vicious circle with climate change: greenhouse gas emissions go up with the number of fires, making our planet’s overall temperature rise as a result.

The Amazon’s 4 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles) of forests are often called the “lungs of the Earth”.

Deforestation in critical areas like the Amazon also affects the availability of freshwater supplies worldwide by negatively influencing rain seasons, destroying the biodiversity of the region, and further impacting human health, agriculture, and forests. Once it’s gone, the Amazon can never be recovered.

The bottom line is this: there are 80% more fires this year compared to last August, according to the Brazilian government. Meanwhile, deforestation has already increased by 39% in Brazil. These combined, are a deadly combination for our planet. 

How can you help aid in protecting the Amazon rainforest? 

  • Join bUnited today. bUnited is the fastest growing way to stop climate change now. Over 1,000,000 people have joined bUnited in the last 90 days.
  • Use less paper and wood products. And make sure that what you’re buying is rainforest safe by visiting the Rainforest Alliance
  • Eat less beef. The beef found in processed products and fast-food is linked to deforestation.
  • Sign Greenpeace’s petition telling the Brazilian government to save the Amazon rainforest and protect the lands of indigenous and traditional communities. 

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