Although it hasn’t received as much media attention as one would expect, the Amazon (rainforest, not the mega online retailer in Seattle) is ablaze. These devastating fires have been burning out of control for most of August. Earlier this month, Brazil was forced to declare a state of emergency.
The number of fires this year is up 85% and it has broken the record previously set in 2013. It’s estimated that so far in 2019, Brazil has endured about 80,000 fires. 2,500 of them are active at the time of this writing but estimates suggest it could be as high as 9,000. NASA is monitoring the fires and reports that you can see the smoke from space. Last week, it appeared that about half of Brazil was covered in smoke.
Protestors have taken to the streets asking officials to dedicate resources to putting out the fires, while others have taken to social media to spread the word and to demand action. But it’s more than just deadly fires that are a concern. Fire is often used to help clear out land for farming and ranching. It works quicker than hacking away at dense forest. But while many of the fires have been set by humans, they can quickly get out of hand with a shift in the wind or miscalculations.
What’s at Stake with the Amazon Fires?
While it may seem like the Amazon is a million miles away from Madeira Beach, Florida there are several pressing concerns with these fires:
- Rising temps. The increase in the number of fires also means an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This makes the world’s temperatures rise. Rising temps have a lot of negative impacts on the planet, including water levels, intensity of storms, ability for species to find certain types of food, and much more.
- Oxygen depletion. The rainforest generates about 20% of the world’s oxygen and most of us know how important oxygen is.
- Regulation and purification. The Amazon rainforest is often referred to as the “lungs of our planet.” As the World Meteorological Organization tweeted, “Fires release pollutants including particulate matter & toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and non-methane organic compounds into the atmosphere.”
- As with all wildfires, countless animals’ lives are destroyed. Those that do live, may be in a strange area without the same resources. The delicate balance of predators and prey may be destroyed as some species are more adept at escaping fires than others. Also, some animals may be injured or need care that local groups aren’t in a position to provide.
What Do the Fires Mean to the Animals of the Amazon?
The Amazon is a vast area and while you may have been aware of the seriousness the fires hold for our oxygen needs, you may not have known about 10% of the world’s animal species can be found in the Amazon region.
But unlike areas like the western part of our country that is accustomed to fire as part of a regeneration process and circle of life, the Amazon animals are in a rich, damp area that is not often exposed to natural fires. Natural fires in that area are often low to the ground and are put out quickly with rain. When they are purposely set to clear areas, this is not the case.
Large, fast-moving animals like jaguars tend to do better in fires because they’re able to cover a lot of land quickly and get out of harm’s way with few predators stopping them. Sloths and anteaters, along with smaller animals like frogs and lizards, may have a hard time escaping the flames.
Animals in water may also be in jeopardy. While large bodies of water will offer protection, small creeks can have a fire burn right over them, making it impossible for animals without gills to survive because they can’t come up for air.
The Real Problem in the Amazon
The real problem in the Amazon isn’t the fires. They are only a symptom of the problem. The real problem is deforestation. Ranchers and farmers want to clear the land to keep up with the lucrative demands for their products. Paper manufacturers and industries that need wood are behind clearing the rich, dense forest areas.
While our government has instituted laws about harvesting trees and practicing sustainability, not all places have those types of laws, and those that do, may not always enforce them. Plus, some landowners and organizations don’t see the value in the laws and may try to circumvent them for their profit.
What Can You Do to Help?
Many organizations are helping to put out the fires but the issue goes beyond the current burning. If we only address putting out the fires, we’re not eliminating the cause. The cause is economic. As long as it’s lucrative to sell wood pulp and maintain beef production, paper manufacturing companies and ranchers will want to clear land.
If you want to help beyond this month’s burning, here are a few things you can do aside from donating to fire relief efforts.
- Cut down on the use of paper products and reduce your use of wood. When you do buy these products, look for companies/brands that follow sustainability practices.
- Reduce your beef-eating. Cheap beef like that in processed foods and fast food burgers frequently come from areas that practice and support deforestation.
- Support animal organizations that are helping with the crisis.
- Use Ecosia.org as your search engine. For every 45 searches you run, they plant a tree.
- Make your voice heard by contacting your representatives.
Here at Alligator Attraction, conservation and education are some of our top concerns. Our animals come to us from skin farms and other surrenders where their lives were in jeopardy. We give them a home where they can thrive so that they can help us build the relationships we need to get our conservation message across.
All animals and ecosystems are interconnected on this planet. For our future and the future of our children and their children, we need to practice smart stewardship and take care of the mighty gift that these living creatures and ecosystems are to us.