BEHIND THE FIRES
The Amazon rainforest is burning.
What’s driving the rapid increase in fires? Experts point to the clearing of forest for farmland to raise cattle and grow soybeans to feed farmed animals.
In half a century, around 17 percent of the forest’s vegetation were destroyed, this is equal to an area larger than mainland France, England, and Belgium combined, or the American state of Texas.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, from 1990 to 2005, over 80 percent of the deforested area in the Brazilian Amazon was converted to pasture. During that time, Brazil’s cattle population increased by 40 percent, and the country became the largest beef exporter in the world.
In 2019, the Brazilian Amazon’s deforestation rate increased dramatically. An area of 7,701 km2 of primary forest was cleared, the equivalent of 713,100 soccer fields. This year the trend has worsened. From January to June, the deforestation rate increased by 25 percent compared with the same period in 2019.
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and helps buffer against global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide—2 billion tons of it per year. The Amazon rainforest holds around 150–200 billion tons of carbon.
When they burn, trees and plants release stored carbon. Destroying large blocks of rainforest accelerates climate change by releasing massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
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People Who Call The Forest Home
The Amazon is home to more than 30 million people, among them 1 million indigenous people across 400 tribes. The indigenous communities depend on the forest, and they have sustainably cared for it for thousands of years. They have no power to stop the fires that destroy the only home they’ve ever known and threaten their very existence.
Scientists warn that if deforestation in the Amazon reaches a critical point, between 20 and 25 percent, the water cycle will be too disrupted to support rainforest ecosystems, lengthening dry periods and triggering a shift to degraded savanna vegetation in two-thirds of the Amazon.
Loss of Biodiversity
Over the past 40 years, the total number of birds, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles who populate the global ecosystem has dropped by 60 percent. The primary culprit is agriculture, particularly the industrial-scale production of meat, dairy, and eggs. Raising animals for food already uses two-thirds of the world’s agricultural land. As our swelling population’s demand for animal products requires more and more land, unspoiled areas and the beings who live there are at risk. Ten percent of all species live in the Amazon.
MERCY FOR ANIMALS’ FIGHT
Wearing paper gas masks, holding signs, and pushing a 10-foot-long barbecue grill, Mercy For Animals activists in Brazil sent a powerful message: The Amazon is burning, and the world’s appetite for meat is fueling the fires.
The eye-opening demonstration took place in September 2019, on the renowned Paulista Avenue in São Paulo. A burning rainforest smoked under the grill’s bars, and on top of the grill sat a massive “steak.” Read more.