The Amazon Fires: What You Need to Know

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How did the wildfires start?

Farmers and cattle ranchers started the wildfires to clear land with support from Jair Bolsonaro, the new Brazilian president, who campaigned on weakening environmental protections for the rainforest to open it up to economic development. According to the Brazilian Space Agency, the fires in Brazil are up an unprecedented 83 percent and largely concentrated in the Amazon. In addition to encouraging fires, Bolsonaro has also cut Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency’s budget by $23 million, making containment of the fires even more difficult.

Why should you care?

The Amazon produces 20 percent of the world’s oxygen and the crisis could unleash stored carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating the rate of climate change. Many scientists also believe that the rainforest is ripe with many unexplored medical cures. Additionally, the Amazon is crucial to evapotranspiration, or the way in which water is transported from land to the atmosphere. That is key to maintain the planet’s ocean currents and weather patterns.

If the Amazon system were to be destroyed, the damage would be nearly irreversible. The diverse animal and plant life would not be replaced for 10 million years  over 30 times as long as the human species has existed.

What can you do to help?

It has become a cliché, but educate yourself and others on the crisis. Awareness creates pressure on officials to resolve crises.

You can also donate to one of these verified charities aimed at saving the Amazon:

Amazon Conservation Association

Amazon Conservation Team

Amazon Watch

Rainforest Foundation US

Rainforest Trust

Rainforest Action Network