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The Amazon Rainforest is on Fire: Here’s What You Need to Know

The Amazon rainforest has been burning at a record rate, and—is it just me?—we only found out about it yesterday on Instagram. For some reason, the shockingly large blaze has been left out of the mainstream media and discussions about global warming this summer. Here’s everything you need to know about the fire and how you can help.

State of emergency

Brazil declared a state of emergency over the rising number of fires in the region earlier this month. So far this year, almost 73,000 fires have been detected in Brazil—an 83 percent increase from 2018 and the highest number on record since 2013.

Cause

The fires are largely linked to people clearing out the land for farming or ranching, specifically for cattle to meet the world’s demand for beef. However, it’s made possible this year by the dry conditions. The Amazon rainforest is typically wet and humid; however, this year it’s been warmer and drier than usual.

How big is the fire?

You can see the smoke from space. The European Union Earth Observation Program’s Sentinel satellites captures images of “significant amounts of smoke” over the Amazon. And the skies darkened over San Paulo, Brazil, on Monday afternoon after winds carried smoke from about 1,700 miles away.

What is the impact?

Effects of damage to the Amazon go far beyond Brazil and its neighbors. The area’s rainforest generates more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen and 10 percent of the world’s known biodiversity. The Amazon is referred to as “the lungs of the planet” and plays a major role in regulating the climate. The world would drastically change if the rainforest were to disappear, impacting everything from farming to the water we drink.

What can be done?

If you’re a bystander, watching images of the devastation fill your social media feeds and wondering what you can do to help, there are a number of organisations doing work to save 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.
  • 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.

Consider changing your search engine to Ecosia.org, which plants a tree for every 45 searches you run. Also consider cutting back on or completely eliminating beef from your diet, which will impact the companies that have been setting the fires.

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