Sustainability made simple

The Amazon is up in Flames – 9 Things You Can Do

Rain Forest Burning
Photos: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay; © Kitty, Wayhome Studio -

The Amazon forest is burning and the world is looking on helplessly? Not anymore: In addition to the thousands of people sharing images throughout social media, we too can take action.

The Amazon rain forest provides 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen and is home to ten percent of our planet’s species. The forest is known as the “Lungs of the World”; they help to stabilize the global climate. The Amazon rain forest is vital to our survival.

Currently hundreds of square miles of the rain forest are up in flames – and have been for weeks. In Brazil, these are the worst forest fires the country has seen for years. According to the news outlet Reuters, 72,843 fires have been registered in this year alone – a new record. 9,507 new fires have been recorded since the beginning of August. The causes for these aren’t seasonal dry periods – it’s arson.

By setting the forest on fire, farmers want to clear trees to make way for grazing lands for their cattle. Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter; the country has more cows than people. The second-biggest contributing factor to deforestation of the Amazon is soy cultivation, an area of agricultural production that the acting president Jair Bolsonaro is intent on bolstering.

The Amazon rain forest is under threat – but it’s a long way off. Still, we, the people in the United States and North America, can help:

1. Don’t Buy Meat, Eggs or Milk from Factory Farms

According to the NGO Amazon Watch, the United States are one of Brazil’s three largest trade partners – together with China and the European Union. The states purchase about 11 percent of Brazilian exports. Soy from the Amazon region finds its way into North American productions chains in the form of animal feed on factory farms.

When you buy meat, choose organic and regional products. Also: Consuming less is always more. Have a look at our 5 steps to becoming a bit more vegan.

2. Make the Switch to a Sustainable Bank

A number of major US banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup invest millions in the Brazilian livestock industry and soy production and consciously play their part in the destruction of the rain forest (The NGO Amazonas Watch has conducted detailed research compiled an in-depth report here). Sustainable banks neither invest in the deforestation of the rain forest nor in weapons or nuclear business. Making the switch to a sustainable bank is also one of our top 10 choices for sustainable consumption.

Sustainable Bank money in hand
Sustainable banks don’t invest in questionable projects. (Photo: CC0 / Unsplash / Christian Dubovan)

3. Avoid (Conventional) Palm Oil – it’s also Destroying the Rain Forest

Palm oil plays a subordinate role in the Amazon region (most comes from Indonesia and Malaysia). Nonetheless, Brazil comes in at 12th place among palm oil producing countries. However: The rain forest is the rain forest. You play your part in saving it, too, when you decide against palm oil – especially conventional palm oil.

So: Check the ingredients of products such as lipstick, shampoo or instant noodles, before you buy them. And check out this list by the WWF. It lists everyday items, which might contain palm oil.

Have a read: We’ve compiled a list of additional unsustainable items you can eliminate from your home.

4. Save Paper and use Recycled Paper

The United States is North America’s largest producer of paper. The wood used in paper production in some parts of the country seldomly comes from domestic tree farms. More often it’s imported from places such as Canada, China – and Brazil. Paper is made of wood and the need for wood is a driving force in the destruction of the rain forest.

Gleaming white fresh fiber paper has nothing on recycled paper produced from reused waste paper products. Recycled paper may seem slightly gray and dusted, but it’s way more sustainable.

5. Support Reforestation Efforts

Use Ecosia instead of Google. For every search entry this sustainable search engine plants trees – also in the Amazon rain forest. The organization Plant for the Planet also plants trees in efforts to rescue our forests.

6. Don’t Buy Furniture made of Tropical Wood

The wood used in the manufacture of furniture and other products (such as paper) comes from the Amazon – amongst other sources. Brazil plays but a minor role – countries such as Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand export far more. However, when it comes to South America Brazil is at the head of the pack. Reports by the NGO Oro Verde claim that a large portion of tropical timber is cleared and sold illegally.

This is why you should only consider purchasing furniture and other wood products when these have been produced sustainably.

7. Do without Leather

Brazil is a leading exporter of leather – 80 percent of Brazilian leather is bound for export. Whether leather products originate in Brazil, is difficult to discern. Nonetheless, here are a couple things you can always consider:

  • If possible, buy leather products second-hand.
  • Be thrifty when it comes to leather products.
  • Buy leather products from sustainably producers.

8. Spread the Word

Inform yourself and stay up to date on publications and reports compiled by NGOs such as Greenpeace or Amazon Watch. Share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with images using the hashtags #PrayforAmazonia, #Amazonrainforest or #AmazonFires. This way you’re guaranteed to inform as many people of the situation as possible and keep them up-to-date. Because: The protection of the rain forest is essential to the continued existence of human-kind.

The more noise we make, the lesser the chances are that politicians, companies and other decision-makers will overlook what needs to be done. We hope you share this article and get more people active in taking action in confronting the pending threat to our rain forests and tackling climate change as a whole.

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This article was translated from German by Evan Binford. You can view the original here.

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