Amazon Burning: How Can a UAE Resident Help? |

Amazon Burning: How Can a UAE Resident Help?

What you as a UAE resident should know and can do about the Amazon rainforest fires

Posted on

22 August 2019

Last updated on 27 August 2019
Amazon Burning: How Can a UAE Resident Help?

Photo credit: Reuters

'Our house is burning', Emmanuel Macron dubbed the Amazon fires as an international crisis

The Amazon rainforest in Brazil has been on fire for three weeks. Often considered as the Earth's "lungs" due to its vast forests trapping carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, each year it traps an estimated 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, making it a vital carbon store that plays a significant, natural role in slowing down the pace of global warming.

Spanning at a massive 5.5 million square km, it's the largest rainforest in the world and is home to nearly 3 million plant and animal species, and 1 million indigenous people.

Thousands of trees are burning in the Amazon, pumping an alarming amount of carbon dioxide into the world's atmosphere, damaging the climate, local biodiversity, indigenous communities, and contributing harm for the entire planet.

According to Greenpeace, the wildfires are so intense that the smoke reached the city of Sao Paulo, located over a thousand miles away. Brazil’s space agency said that trees are being burned away at the rate of five football pitches every minute that passes. Figures show that 9,250 square km of the rainforest was lost between January 1 - August 1, 2019.

Records from the National Institute for Space Research (IPNE) found that there has been a staggering increase of 84% more fire outbreaks in 2019 - more than 74,000 fires - than in 2018. In August, over 40,000 outbreaks happened within less than five days.

How did the Amazon rainforest fires start

Due to the wet and humid environment of the Amazon rainforest, there are few chances for a natural wildfire. According to environmental experts, the majority of fire outbreaks in the Amazon were instigated by people as a method to clear the land for development. Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at IPNE, said that most of the rainforests are caused by human action, either on purpose or by accident.

After loggers collect wood, they burn the remaining land in hopes of selling the plot to farmers.

Dr. Meg Symington, Ph.D., the Managing Director for the Amazon at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), emphasised in an interview with Bustle, "Except in very rare cases, all of these fires are set deliberately by people. To make way for agriculture and cattle pasture, landowners clear cut forests and then ignite fires during the dry season to completely clear the land."

However, these fires can quickly get out of control and spread beyond the burn site.

Thus, allegedly the fires were started by forest loggers.

Whose responsibility is the Amazonian crisis

The Amazon rainforest lies in Brazil, so technically remedying the crisis is in the Brazilian governments' hands. Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro initially said that the fires were normal, resulting in the head of Brazil's space agency to get fired in July after Bolsonaro disputed the official deforestation data from space satellites. He said that such claims made were false and argued that the organizations themselves were setting the fires to hurt the Brazilian government.

After presenting no evidence to his claim, he backed off from it and said that the country does not have the resources to fight large wildfires and warned other countries against interfering. He believed foreign money aimed at saving the Amazon will undermine Brazil’s sovereignty.

It was announced by the Brazil government that they will organise the military to handle the wildfires, however, as of now it remains unclear exactly how the armed forces will be deployed.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the fires an international emergency and “ecocide,” criticising the Brazilian government for not dedicating more effort in protecting the rainforest.

What can UAE residents do about this

Since the unfortunate news of the Amazon rainforest wildfires, UAE residents have taken to social media, reposting countless tweets, Instagram stories, Facebook posts, and more to spread awareness about the problem and its contribution to global warming.

Outside of social media, here are some small, but effective ways UAE residents can help the Amazon rainforest and our planet overall.

1. Support organisations helping the Amazon rainforest

  • Amazon Watch
  • WWF
  • Greenpeace
  • Imazon
  • Amazon Conservation Association
  • Rainforest Trust
  • Rainforest Foundation
  • Friends of the Earth
  • International Rivers

2. Reduce your use of paper and wood

Elevate the pressure on the remaining Amazon rainforests by cutting down on your use of paper and wood products. Logging companies cut down and burn parts of the rainforest to meet customer demand for paper and wood items, such as office paper and furniture.

3. Be a conscious-consumer when buying Brazilian products

Think twice if buying Brazilian beef and other imported products, unless their business practices have been certified by non-profit organisations such as Rainforest Alliance. According to WWF, "Forests are being cleared to rear livestock for meat and dairy, and to grow crops to feed the increasing livestock populations. Less demand means less deforestation."

4. Incorporate sustainable products in your daily routine

Plastic packaging and single-use plastics such as plastic shopping bags and utensils should be a big NO. Opt for items such as recycled dining ware, reusable coffee cups, and other products that are ethically-made.

5. Be part of the emergency help

If you have the time, commitment, and personal resources, you can join well-established non-profits based in the Amazon who work local Brazilian civil society groups, indigenous people, businesses, and local governments to increase commitments towards conservation and reversing climate change. Refer to the list of organisations you can donate to as a starting point.