Bringing the Amazon Into Focus

 Aerial image of burning in the Serra do Cachimbo Reserve in Altamira, state of Pará, Brazil. Image Victor Moriyama, Greenpeace

writer icon Dr. Erika Bjureby     Victor Moriyama, Greenpeace   |   Ethics     🕐 24. Sep. 2019

Inside Scandinavian Business are collaborating with Greenpeace in order to help put focus on the Amazon and what we can do as individuals. This piece has been written by Greenpeace's Forest Expert, Dr. Erika Bjureby.

The world's mightiest rainforest is on fire. Home to indigenous people and more biodiversity than any other tropical forest on the planet. The destruction of the Amazon is now being accelerated by the policies of a reckless Brazilian president. Since taking office in January 2019, Jair Bolsonaro has made things a lot worse by weakening the environment agency, attacking conservation NGOs and promoting the opening of the Amazon to mining, farming and logging, and weakening the land rights of indigenous people.

What we see now in the Amazon is not natural - intact rainforest hardly ever burns. Nor is this primarily the result of climate change, although it worsens the situation. The Amazon stores billions of tonnes of carbon. If the whole thing goes up in flames, we will lose the fight against climate change.

Why is this happening, and can we do anything to stop it from happening?
Global commodity markets, dominated by a few big traders, want more and cheaper animal feed and meat and Brazil is stepping up to meet the additional demand. Hence Bolsanaro’s attack on the Amazon and the indigenous people of Brazil.

The fires are not an accident. In early August, Brazilian farmers held a ‘day of fires’ where they met to start fires to clear land and to signal their allegiance to President Bolsonaro and his plans to open up the Amazon for development.

Bolsonaro frames conservation efforts and the rights of indigenous people as an enemy to be defeated. Yet, the idea of turning the most abundant, flourishing ecosystem we have ever encountered into a dusty monoculture is horrifying.

The ripple effects will devastate ecosystems and people’s livelihoods all over the world. Each year, fires reduce the rainforest’s ability to control its own microclimate and protect itself. Increasing the risk of next year’s fires to be again bigger and more numerous.

This downward spiral can be arrested. The world’s attention is on the Amazon. It will not last long before the news cycle moves on, we need to make use of this moment. There are three things we can do, right now, to help.

First, we can change our diet. Deforestation in the Amazon and elsewhere is driven by the global demand for beef and soy for animal feed. We can help protect the Amazon and the climate by eating much less meat and dairy.

Second, we can call out the big brands that buy soya, meat and other animal products from Brazil. A handful of leather companies are already withdrawing business from Brazil. Now, food companies need to act: Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC, we are looking at you.

Third, we can demand that our governments get involved. There are trade deals being finalized between the Bolsanaro government and the EU. The EU needs to press pause on those deals until the Amazon is protected. The EU may be feeling some pressure to get trade deals signed. It is up to us to make sure that Brazil’s government feel some pressure in the opposite direction.

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