We’ve all seen images of the Amazon forest fires. You may have already heard the news that these fires are more extensive than those in the past, with over 80,000 fires this year. You may have also heard folks explaining that this is fire season, and this is normal.
These Amazon forest fires are not normal
The fires in the Amazon Rainforest this year are not the result of lightning strikes or even accidents. They’ve been deliberately set; they’re the result of cattle ranchers, farmers, logging and mining companies, and other industries deliberately burning the forest in order to clear the land to make a profit. This deliberate destruction is blessed and supported by Brazil’s extreme anti-environmental President, Jair Bolsonaro, who supports the greed of industry over the health of some of the world’s most important forested land. It was even a platform of his campaign. As a result of domestic and international pressure, Bolsonaro signed a decree on August 29 banning fires to clear land for 60 days, but this may be a public relations ploy. Since enforcement of existing laws to protect the Amazon is lax, there is no reason to believe that future fires will be prevented, and the fires already started are still raging.
These fires are tragedy for Brazil, as people are experiencing severe health problems from the smoke inhalation and are at risk of losing their homes. Over 34 million people call the Amazon region home, including Indigenous peoples who cannot survive without a thriving rainforest. This is a tragedy for the thousands of species that call the Amazon home: one in ten known species on earth live in the Amazon and are at risk. And it’s a tragedy for the entire planet since the Amazon is a major carbon sink, helping to slow the progress of global warming. The current destruction of the Amazon is so extreme that the forest is reaching a tipping point where it could degrade into a savannah. Once that happens, the forest cannot be restored.
Actions to Take
If you are appalled by this destruction, here are actions you can take:
- Join Events around the Country on September 5 for the International Day of Action for the Amazon. The day of action is sponsored by Act for Amazonia, Amazon Watch, and Extinction Rebellion to call attention to the plight of the forests and Indigenous peoples.
- Put Pressure on the Worst Companies. While the companies directly responsible for the destruction of the Amazon are largely Brazilian, they work closely with US agribusiness companies like ADM and Cargill, and these companies are financed by some of the largest banks and asset managers in the world, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and BlackRock, which is the world’s largest asset manager with $6 trillion in assets. BlackRock is one of the largest investors in Brazil’s agribusiness sector and announced plans to expand its operations in Brazil after Bolsonaro was elected.
Sign these petitions with Green America and our allies:
- At the Grocery Store: According to a new report from Mighty Earth, several major food companies purchase beef, soy and other products from Cargill and Brazilian firms like JBS that are implicated in the destruction of the Amazon. If you are a customer of Ahold Delhaize stores (Giant, Stop & Shop, Hanneford, and Food Lion), McDonalds, Costco, Walmart, or Nestle, let them know that you are concerned about the fires in the Amazon, and want them to take action to get products out of their supply chain that drive destruction in the Amazon.
- Use Your Banking and Investments to send a message. If you haven’t moved your money to community development banks and credit unions that support local communities and away from megabanks that finance the climate crisis, you can use our Get A Better Bank database to find a great option near you.
And, if you are investing in stocks and bonds, take action to divest from fossil fuel companies, agribusinesses, and megabanks by moving your assets to socially responsible investments.
- Use Your Purchasing Power, especially when buying meat or wood.
- Beef and Leather: Since 2017, most of Brazil’s beef has not entered the US market, but processed Brazilian beef can still appear in products on US shelves like beef jerky and corned beef. Also, leather goods in general may come from Brazilian cows. VF Corp., owner of Timberland, Vans, and Northface, issued a statement that it will no longer purchase Brazilian leather. Use your consumer voice to encourage brands you buy from to follow suit. Avoid processed beef and leather products, and in general, to address climate change, try to eat less meat, shift towards a vegetarian diet, and buy less new clothing.
- Wood products: Logging for wood in the Amazon is a major cause of deforestation. Some of these wood products can enter the United States. If you are purchasing tropical hardwoods, look for products that carry the Forest Stewardship Council certification. Better yet, purchase reclaimed woods.
- Take Action to Protect US Forests. While the Amazon rainforest is unique, all forests are important to the environmental health of the planet. In the midst of the Amazon fires, the Trump Administration announced that it is seeking to open up the Tongass National Forest to logging. The Tongass is the largest intact temperate forest in the world and is one of the great natural treasures of the US. It is also a major source of carbon sequestration. Political and legal pressure have preserved the Tongass before, so call your Senators and Representative in Congress and tell them to fight for the Tongass forest and oppose the Administration’s attempts to sell off one of the nation’s most precious assets.