If Ned Stark lived in our world, he would have probably said ‘Doomsday Is Coming.’ Our Wall, the Amazon, is burning. Though the news has been an online buzz for three weeks now, the issue is not something new and the reasons behind it are far more disastrous than we could have anticipated. As much as 73,000 fires have taken place in Brazil this year and if you still think that ‘wildfires happen due to natural causes, then it’s time to have another look at the facts.
Fires are vastly attributed to farmers and ranchers who use them to clear forests for grazing cattle, and clear land for pastures. Loggers also raze forests for wood.
Not only that, the Amazon forests had also been opened up for activities like mining and farming which have also given way to illegal felling of trees. The reason behind all these is nothing but the weak functioning of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency.
Another major reason for these fires is the world’s Beef Consumption. Brazil is the largest exporter of beef in the world. Now, one must be wondering how beef is connected to the destruction of rainforests. Beef accounts for 41% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions which in turn account for 14.5 percent of total global emissions. Furthermore, the greenhouse gas emissions that the cattle produce which is Methane, has actually proved to be 25% more potent than carbon dioxide.
Knowing ‘why’ is just the beginning! Just like whitewalkers, these factors will only multiply exponentially in just a few more years and repeat themselves in many other rainforests out there if we don’t start working on protective measures with great urgency. Considered the lungs of the planet, the Amazon is being engulfed by a fire that seems to have gone out of control this time. This is why it is being treated as an emergency and potential existential threat and getting global attention. In reality, every rainforest faces the threat of wildfires each year. The bigger question lies in WHAT SHOULD AND CAN BE DONE through simple adjustments?
For hapless citizens around the world who wish to help, but unsure how, here are a few lifestyle changes we can incorporate to do our part in saving the world’s rainforests.
A regular consumer of meat? Simple, cut down the consumption to just once or twice a week. Human beings, with sufficient discipline, ought to be able to control their own eating habits when the stakes and consequences of not doing so are so high. This is not only about vegans and vegetarians!
Reduce the usage of paper. With technology becoming so handy and almost everyone owning a laptop or a mobile phone, notes can be taken down anywhere and at any time electronically. You just need to move your fingers fast! There’s no need to keep a separate notebook for every section of notes you take. To add to that, there is always the possibility of checking with websites like Rainforest Alliance for products that are rainforest friendly. In fact, products can also be purchased directly from such brands.
If you feel too lazy to step out, buy a sapling, and plant it, then technology is always there to make your job easier. There are several websites that plant trees based on the specific number of searches you run. Ecosia.org is one such search engine (though nothing can be more rewarding than than actually planting a sapling with one’s own hands)
Prevention is always better than finding a cure after the fact. If and when going camping, make sure that you don’t throw away burning cigarettes or matchsticks anywhere. Also, the campfire should be completely put out before leaving it unattended.
The Government should take steps at the earliest to educate farmers living near the rainforests regarding certain crucial factors. It has been repeatedly noted that illegal forest cleaning is the major reason for wildfires. Ironically, there remains a lot of unproductive land that can actually be used by farmers to graze their cattle. Also, new technical (technological???) advancements enable the transformation of cattle ranches into productive farms.
Last but not the least, there have been a number of laws, agreements, and initiatives taken by the Government to protect major rainforests like the Amazon, but their effectiveness will depend on how seriously we take them by setting the right example. Afterall, at the end of the day it is up to us to decide whether we will live responsibly or watch forests burn with apathy.