Show mother nature mercy
Why the Amazon is burning because of us
The rainforest is on fire.
Across Brazil and into Bolivia, more than 600 million acres of the “Earth’s lungs” are being devoured by apocalyptic flame, with thousands upon thousands of fires tearing through the jungle where 20 per cent of the oxygen we breathe is born. In the final weeks of August, as dense, choking smoke drifted thousands of kilometres south, plunging Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, into utter darkness, the hashtag #PrayForAmazonas began to trend on Twitter.
But we are past the point of prayer. Prayer is a cry from the people for protection against natural forces beyond our control. It is a call to God or the universe to send mercy. But the Amazonian fires are not natural, and it is not us who need mercy from nature, but rather nature that needs mercy from us.
Unlike fires in the Boreal forest, which, although intensifying from the effects of the climate crisis, are still part of a natural and necessary process of regeneration, the fires burning in the Amazon have – to a large extent – been deliberately set for the purpose of clearing land for ranching and agriculture.
Brazil exports nearly 20 per cent of the world’s beef, more than any other nation, and anywhere between 60-80 per cent of the deforested regions of the Amazon are used for cattle grazing. It’s also the world’s largest exporter of soy beans – meaning that not even vegans can consider themselves off the hook for the role their consumption plays in the destruction of the rainforest.
Since the swearing-in of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in January 2019, the clear cutting and incineration of the rainforest has accelerated at breakneck speed, eating up the place that is home to hundreds of Indigenous tribes and 10 per cent of the Earth’s biodiversity the way consumption hollows the lobes of the lungs of some of literature’s most tragic heroes.
Bolsonaro was not shy about making clear his intention to open the rainforest for business during his election campaign, something that didn’t stop the CBC from reporting that his election “could open new investment opportunities, especially in the resource sector.” Nor has this prevented Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from continuing to negotiate trade deals with Brazil that are built on the destruction of the rainforest.
These fires are burning for us, because of us. The land is being cleared so we can continue to consume, the forest is being devoured because of our need to devour.
Prayer is not good enough. Nihilism and surrender are not acceptable. We must reduce our consumption – of wood, of paper, of soy, of dairy. Indigenous tribes in Brazil have asked that we eliminate the consumption of beef entirely.
We must donate to environmental movements that defend the rainforest, like Amazon Watch, The Rainforest Action Network, Amazon Conservation, and One Tree Planted. Sign the petitions on Change.org and the Greenpeace website. We must call and write our elected representatives and urge them to act on our behalf – our responsibilities as citizens do not end in the voting booth.
The rainforest is on fire, and we are burning with it.