There's a lot that can be done from outside Brazil to help conserve the Amazon rainforests. Here's a practical list of ideas to combat deforestation and make a positive impact on climate change.
What is causing the fires?
July and August are the dryer months in the Amazon, when wildfires are most common. But in 2019, over 70,000 individual fires have been detected, almost double last year's numbers. The cause is said to be human: loggers, miners, and those starting fires by accident. You can see the smoke from space in this tweet from NASA.
Large-scale forest loss affects the planet as a whole since trees provide oxygen and offset the greenhouse effect. So, how can we help?
Avoid buying "cheap beef"
Brazil is the world's largest exporter of beef. And since the United States is one of the top consumers of beef and veal (coming in second place worldwide for 2018 according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), it stands to reason that US beef trends are contributing to deforestation.
Specifically, rainforest beef can be found in fast-food hamburgers and processed meat products. For example, Burger King has been linked with massive deforestation events due to its connections to the soybean trade. Currently, Americans on average eat three burgers per week, and beef's popularity in the US is still growing.
Avoid buying beef from brands without a transparent and sustainable meat sourcing policy. Check the Forest 500 company rankings, and filter by Commodities > "Beef" to see how these companies are doing.
Or, choose more plant-based proteins for your diet. Some say that a plant-based diet has not only weight loss benefits but can also support mental clarity.
Demand sustainable palm oil
Palm oil is a vegetable fat found in many packaged foods and personal products. It adds a smooth consistency, extends shelf-life, and can withstand high heat. It's so versatile that it has become the most consumed vegetable oil in the world today.
Since the oil palm tree grows best in tropical environments, unsustainable deforestation has accelerated in recent years to keep pace with demand. This impacts the rainforests in Latin America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia.
It may not be so simple to avoid buying palm oil altogether. Instead, do a little research on which of your favorite brands use palm oil sustainably, and stop buying products from those who aren't doing their part.
You can also use this guide to find which products in your home use palm oil.
- Greenpeace petition which asks the Brazilian government to protect the lands that are home to indigenous and traditional communities.
- Change.org petition which asks the Brazilian government to end rainforest deforestation by burning.
- Protect an acre of rainforest through the Rainforest Action Network.
- Support art and documentary projects at the Amazon Aid Foundation.
- Help the indigenous peoples of Brazil through Amazon Watch.
- Alternative search engine which invests ad revenue toward tree-planting efforts. As of September 2019, the engine is powered by Microsoft's Bing.
All these things above are great when one person gets involved. But real change happens when impact multiplies. So, share your concern for the environment in positive ways. That is, make conservation attractive! In spite of deforestation, there are lots of people out there who care about the environment too, and we're all in it together.
Updated May 22, 2020.