The Burning Amazon

The burning amazon
What Can we do?
Amazon Rainforest Fires

What Can We Do?

The Amazon rainforest is burning, and it’s upsetting. Large clearances are occurring to make way for cattle farming. There’s a lot of hysteria regarding the burning in the Amazon, and for a good reason. The Amazon rainforest is rich with biodiversity and is a significant carbon sink. A study in 2014 found that in a typical year, the Amazon can absorb around 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and releases approximately 1.9 billion tons of carbon through the decay of old trees. [1] This study, however, didn’t take either deforestation or forest fires into account.

The obvious solution should be to prevent further burning and start reforestation in the affected areas. The Brazilian government has now banned forest clearances, yet in only the first two days following the ban, 40,000 fires were started. [2] Local people need to farm in the Amazon to eat and make a living. As far removed as we are in the west, there is only so much we can physically do to help mitigate the climate impact of this.

Image result for amazon rainforest fire
Image: NASA Earth Observatory

In this article, I propose focusing on the things we can affect, despite being half a world away. The changes may seem small and might be meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but a large group of people making small differences will add up. Really, who wants to sit around pondering the climate catastrophe without even trying to make a change?

The good news is we can plant trees! In 2018/2019 the UK the government has funded a massive 2 million trees through woodland creation schemes. [3] The woodland trust encourages both community-led projects and businesses to get involved in planting trees. They are open for applications from communities for FREE planting packs for next year (March 2020) to help make Britain a little bit greener and a little bit cleaner. Click the link here to make an application. [4]

Image result for ecosia
Image: Ecosia

If you don’t have permission to plant trees on land near you, consider using services such as Ecosia. Ecosia is a free search engine that is run entirely on renewable energy. They use revenue from ads to plant trees in areas that need them across the globe, including South America! [5]

Image result for forest app
Image: Forest App

Other services such as the Forest app, allow users to collect coins in-game and purchase the planting of a real tree. [6]

The WWF has listed conversion to agriculture as a significant driver for deforestation in the Amazon. Not only is land being burned to make room for cattle ranching, but there is also a rising demand for palm oil and soy. [7] Reducing our consumption of products containing these ingredients may help to curb the market need and therefore prevent further deforestation.

There is also the potential for more successful projects to enrich virtually lifeless plots of land with organic matter. Two researchers, Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, organised for a Costa Rican juice company to deposit 12,000 tonnes of orange peels in 1997. Fifteen years later the land yielded more productive soil, higher biomass and a greater variety of tree species than nearby untreated plots. [8] Could this be repeated in efforts to rewild other parts of the world?

739 orange peel 3
Image: Daniel Janzen & Winnie Hallwachs (sciencealert.com)

Please leave a comment if you have any other potential solutions or mitigation strategies on this topic.

[1] https://www.livescience.com/44235-amazon-rainforest-carbon-cycle-measured.html
[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/amazon-fires-rainforest-capitalism-bolsonaro-climate-crisis-zizek-a9091966.html
[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-49163306
[4] https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/free-trees/
[5] https://www.ecosia.org/?c=en
[6] https://www.forestapp.cc/
[7] https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation
[8] https://www.sciencealert.com/how-12-000-tonnes-of-dumped-orange-peel-produced-something-nobody-imagined

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