Seven ways to fight fires in the Amazon

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Seven ways to fight fires in the Amazon

Danny Chivers explains how people outside Latin America can help defend the forest.

The recent fires in the Brazil have shocked the world. Already in 2019 there have been 74,000 fires - 84 per cent more than the same period last year. About half of the fires are in the Amazon. So if this continues, they could destroy as much as the fires in the early 2000s.

They are not yet the worst fires the Brazilian rainforest has ever seen (Global Forest Watch says this will be the third-highest rate of Amazon forest burning since 2010). Many people in the world are worried because:

1. they understand the dangers of losing the Amazon because more people care about climate change.

2. they are worried that the policies and statements of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are encouraging the fires.

3. there are many media articles that say the fires are because people eat meat. Vegans are trying to get people to change Western diets, so there is not so much demand for beef, so they don’t clear so much land in the rainforest.

So what can we do?

Learn more about what’s happening, and why. These fires are not just because of one far-right government, but because of big business: agriculture, mining, oil and finance areas have been making a lot of money from destroying the rainforest for decades. This is not only in Brazil, but across all the Amazon basin (Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Suriname and Guyana).

Support resistance in the Amazon. Bolsonaro’s government is planning big road and dam projects in the Amazon. This is not only to make money. It’s also to try to stop the indigenous forest peoples getting organised, because they have often fought against destructive governments in Latin America. There is a lot of resistance now and a big urban protest movement against Bolsonaro’s economic policies. More than half of Brazilians do not support the president now. We can help by looking for and sharing these stories of resistance, sending messages of support and joining solidarity protests.

Challenge companies that cause the destruction. Look at reports to see the international businesses and finance companies that are making money from the burning of the Amazon. If some are near you, think about pressure you can put on them through protests, boycotts, public shaming or divestment campaigns.

Stop your own government from making the crisis worse. The EU is about to agree a Free Trade Agreement with Latin American countries, including Brazil. This could mean more deforestation if we don’t protect it. Governments around the world could – and should – raise standards of products they import, to stop companies buying products from land linked to rainforest destruction. We need to put pressure on our governments to take these issues seriously – or choose new governments that will.

Give money to organizations that support the fight of indigenous peopleseg. the Indigenous Environment Network, Amazon Watch or the Rainforest Action Network.

Support local products. We can reduce or stop eating beef. We can make sure the soya products we buy are not from rainforest land. We can look for – and help to build – sustainable food and agriculture projects near us so we import less.

Organize against far-right politics.There are more far-right politicians like Bolsonaro now. Their supporters are internationally connected and working to build a global movement based on racism, division and hate, anti-environmental policies and climate science denial. We need to be just as well-organized, and challenge these ideas!