Yes, the rainforests are still burning

The rainforests still need our help. Justin Raycraft (Flickr)

We’re forgetting that the planet is burning

By Olivia Wiens

Remember the Amazon rainforests? And how it was severely burning in August? But then our digital society perfectly demonstrated our extremely short attention spans by forgetting about those fires within a week? Yup, those ones.

They’re still burning! But since we’ve been preoccupied with political scandals, destructive hurricanes, mass shootings, and all of that other wonderful stuff, we’ve put this environmental crisis on the back-burner. So let me catch you up on how the Amazon rainforest has been doing these past couple of months.

In late August, more than 40,000 fires were reported in the Amazon, many of which were caused by deforestation. While the initial news about these fires quickly spread (pun very much intended) throughout the internet, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, whose pro-business ideals essentially diminished deforestation laws, continued to deny the severity of the issue well into September.

However, with pressure from, well, everyone, Bolsonaro quickly realized that, despite his personal beliefs, action was required. Since then, he has issued 43,000 troops to help fight the fires, as well as created a 60-day fire ban. Approximately 5,000 Bolivian troops have also been sent to help extinguish the fires.

Despite these efforts, almost 20,000 new fires formed in the month of September, and Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported that there has been a 41 per cent increase in fires over the entirety of 2019 compared to the previous year. Fortunately, the fires dissipated by 35 per cent in September, but there are still thousands of fires that need to be put out.

Now, like I alluded to previously, as a digital society, we tend to have the attention spans of goldfish. We hear about a serious, worldly issue through social media and it spikes our attention. We continue to see these posts pop up on our timelines, talking about how dire our situation is, but as time goes on, these posts become less and less frequent. Inevitably, our dire situation doesn’t seem so dire anymore, but that’s only because it’s not flashing on our phones for us to effortlessly see.

When was the last time you saw a post regarding the state of the rainforest? Personally, I can’t remember the last time I scrolled through one. Since most people, including myself, don’t actively look for updates or news articles, as soon as the information isn’t shoved in our faces, we tend to lose interest in the issue.

Furthermore, we’ve all seen the posts on Instagram with the caption “we will donate one dollar for every repost we get!” or something of the like. And, of course, we repost it. Why not? Any contribution is a good contribution, right? However, and I am equally guilty of this, that repost is where the contribution stops. It’s unfortunate that people feel validated by sharing a picture from an account that states they are allegedly going to donate one dollar for every repost they receive. As those awareness posts dwindle, so does our involvement.

Maybe we aren’t meant to fixate on issues too much. We are told it’s unhealthy, which is true, but are these the kinds of issues that we are meant to quickly move on from? Are worldly issues like the fires in the rainforest and Hurricane Dorian meant to be social media trends? Here this week, gone the next. Maybe we feel powerless as individuals, so we contribute the one dollar that wasn’t even ours to give, and then ignore what we cannot help. We move on. Scroll down to the next meme.

But maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t have to be like this. Just because our eyes stray away from the fires doesn’t mean they aren’t still burning. Of course, we’re not expected to strain our eyes against the blazing flames for two months straight, but what if we kept them in our peripheral?

Instead of completely turning our backs to them, we could simply keep the state of the fires and how they are being combated in our line of vision. Read updates, follow credible news accounts, stay updated on what our world is going through. If you are able, donate to charities that are fighting to save the rainforest, such as Amazon Watch, Amazon Conservation Team, or Survival International, all of which are working with Indigenous communities to help restore the forest.

Although it is easy to feel small and insignificant when discussing this massive issue, we are only insignificant if we are unaware of what we can do. Ignorance is our greatest enemy when it comes to making a difference in this world, so educate yourself on what can be done. Make yourself significant. Only then will you truly make an impact on this planet.

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