Officials say the Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate. Earlier this month, Brazil declared a state of emergency over the rising number of fires in the region. So far this year, almost 73,000 fires have been detected by Brazil’s space research center INPE. That marks an 83% increase from 2018 and the highest number on record since 2013, Reuters reported.
What caused the fire?
While the rainforest is typically wet and humid, July and August, the onset of the dry season, are the area’s driest months, with “activity” peaking by early September and stopping by mid-November, according to NASA. The fires are largely linked to people clearing out the land for farming or ranching.
What areas are affected?
Satellite images show fires in the Brazilian states of Amazonas, Rondonia, Para and Mato Grosso. The state of Amazonas is most affected, according to Euronews.
It’s important to know that more than just Brazil is affected by the Amazon. The area’s rainforest generates more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and 10% of the world’s known biodiversity. The. The world would drastically change if the rainforest were to disappear, impacting everything from farming to the water we drink.
How big is it?
You can see the smoke from space. The European Union Earth Observation Program’s Sentinel satellites captured images of “significant amounts of smoke” over the Amazonas, Rondonia states and other areas.
The skies darkened over San Paulo, Brazil, for an hour Monday afternoon after winds carried smoke from about 1,700 miles away.
How has the public responded?
Social media started the hashtags #Prayfor Amazonas and #AmazonRainforest. Twitter users criticized media for giving more attention to the fire at Notre Dame and other news than to the rainforest fires. Social media users also called out billionaires for lack of donations.
Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has also faced criticism, with people charging him with lack of action and encouraging logging and farming in the Amazon. In early July, an anonymous senior Brazilian official told the BBC Bolsonaro encouraged deforestation.
NASA has been monitoring the fires. Over the past week, the Aqua satellite and Sentinel 3 have been tweeting images of the smoke on social media.
How can I help?
It’s unlikely you’re one of the people who can actually help douse the blaze, but there are other ways you can aid in protecting the rainforest.
- Donate to Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest.
- Donate to the Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988, the organization has saved over 23 million acres and counting.
- Reduce your paper and wood consumption. Double-check with Rainforest Alliance that what you’re buying is rainforest-safe. You can also purchase rainforest safe products from the alliance’s site.
- The World Wide Fund for Nature works to protect the countless species in the Amazon and around the world.
- Ecosia.org is a search engine that plants a tree for every 45 searches you run.
- Explore Change.org petitions. A lawyer in Rio Branco has accumulated over 77,000 of his 150,000 signature goal to mobilize an investigation into the Amazonian fires.
- Donate to Amazon Watch, an organization that protects the rainforest, defends indigenous rights and works to address climate change.
- Donate to the Amazon Conservation Team, which works to fight climate change, protect the Amazon and empower indigenous peoples.
- Amazon Conservation accepts donations (which can be tax deductible) and lists exactly what your money goes toward. You can help plant trees, sponsor education, protect habitats, buy a solar panel, preserve indigenous lands and more.
- Contact your elected officials and make your voice heard.
Originally published Aug. 21 at 12:24 p.m. PT.
Update, 1:24 p.m. PT: Adds more places to donate. Update, 2:38 p.m. PT: Adds background.