The Amazon is on Fire. Let’s do something about it…

Have you heard? The Amazon is on fire.

And, spoiler alert, this is a big problem…

Presumably, like us, you’ve been concerned about what is, and isn’t, being done to tackle this COLOSSAL crisis.

The Amazon is burning, the Arctic is burning, grasslands and wetlands are disappearing, and coral reefs are dying. We need to take a hard look at what drives deforestation and desertification, and what we as individuals can do to protect the planet. 

Now don’t worry, we’re not going to get preachy… We have however thrown a ton of hours into researching what us as individuals can do and we’re now sharing our findings with you, so you have the information you need to make a difference. Knowledge is power, my friends, let’s get to it!

Firstly though – I put my money where my mouth is and this week I donated $5000 of my own money to help protect the Amazon. We donated $2500 One Tree Planted – And thus planted 2500 trees in the Amazon. The other $2500 was sent to a volunteer fire fighting unit in Brazil who are fighting fires in the Amazon and need equipment. You can help out simply by reading this post, taking away some lessons and of course commenting below 🙂

In this article, we’re going to discuss why it is important to protect tropical rainforests, and ecosystems all over the world, to mitigate the effects of the growing climate crisis.

deforestation in the Amazon

Amazon Deforestation. (Source: Richard Whitcombe and Shutterstock)

Corporations (wankers), financial institutions, and our global food system drive deforestation and destruction around the world for short-term profits.

We make daily decisions that encourage these industries, and we have the power to restore balance to the broken regenerative loop that life on planet Earth depends on. The planet is absolutely amazing, and it can regenerate if it is given time.

Change starts with education. With knowledge, comes awareness and with awareness comes solutions.

Solutions start with questions, like what is driving the Amazon fires? What is driving systematic habitat loss around the world, often at the expense of indigenous cultures and wildlife? What is desertification and how does that pertain to climate change? How do politics play a role? Trade laws? How do we find a balance between an economy that supports the environment and supports people?

How do you and I play a role? And how do we leave a better world for the next generation of broke backpackers to explore? 

 

How Can We Save the Amazon… and the World?

Millions of acres across Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay are burning, releasing enormous amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Agriculture, mineral and oil extraction, and the logging industry drive systematic habitat destruction in the Amazon and around the world. These industries are driven by consumers’ increasing demand for petroleum and plastic, paper, and food.

Let’s look at what drives big business and trade in Brazil, for example. According to the latest statistics by the OEC in 2017, Brazil’s largest export is soybeans, worth over 25B. The next largest export is Iron, worth 20B. Crude Petroleum is third at 17B. Raw sugar is exported at 11B and coffee 4.8B.

The entire meat industry is worth 15.6B; poultry represents 42% of that number. Brazil exports most of its meat to China and Hong Kong.

 

Why Does Climate Change Matter?

Because the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 1 in 4 human deaths globally is caused by living or working in an unhealthy environment, due to environmental risk factors such as chemical exposures, and air, water, and soil pollution. Climate change is estimated to cause 250,000 human deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.

The direct damage costs to health will be $2 billion to $4 billion a year, and that number doesn’t even include the costs our food system has on health and the chronic disease epidemic bankrupting the US.

We are currently living in the sixth mass extinction and losing an incredible amount of species every day.

Our generation can choose to follow this slippery slope down a path of no return or to turn around and get to work. We have the power, creativity, innovation, and tenacity to create a better world, but it ain’t gonna be easy… We’re going to need warriors.

climate change

Source: Shutterstock and Nicole S Glass

Don’t let this become last week’s news.

It’s important to understand that governments and companies around the world encourage Bolsonaro regime’s policies when they enter into trade agreements or invest in agribusiness companies operating in the Amazon.

It’s easy to blame loggers and farmers, but ultimately, the Amazon fires are a result of industries that are funded by modern consumerism. When you or I purchase certain products, we are unfortunately supporting the bastards ripping apart the planet for profit.

Instead, go out of your way to support organizations that give people a livable wage. Support your local economy instead of buying food and products from thousands of miles away.

For those of us who can put food on the table tonight and every night, we must ask what food we are putting on the table, for the way we eat is largely responsible for the destruction of the Amazon, the grasslands of North America, the jungles of Asia, and the oceans of our planet.

Look – it’s pretty fucking simple, eat less meat (specifically from industrial farms). Avoid Brazilian meat altogether. Avoid soybeans or anything that is farmed destructively. Avoid palm oil. Take to the streets and burn flags outside the Brazilian embassy, and maybe throw some rocks.  Attend organised and peaceful rallies, apply pressure over social media to Bolsonaro’s administration, make it clear that when wankers like the current Brazilian administration do take power, they’ve been spotted, and we know they are shit heads and we will not BUY THEIR SHIT (metaphorical or physical).

 

Step 1: Change The Food System

Agriculture has been the strongest performing sector of Brazil’s economy in recent years, and Brazil is doing what they can to increase production to cater to the demands of the world’s second-largest economy, China.

Bolsonaro’s oldest son, Flávio Bolsonaro, a senator and part-time Gollum impersonator, has introduced a bill that would eliminate a requirement that rural properties in the Amazon maintain 80% of their native vegetation. (Source) Such policies are catastrophic for biodiversity.

This isn’t just happening in Brazil. The world’s industrial food complex encourages us to buy food shipped from thousands of miles away.

This food system uses mono-crop, tilling, chemical, and slash-and-burn agriculture, which all contribute to deforestation, and the loss of biodiverse habitat.

Our food system turns healthy soils into dust. Dirt runs off into our water and leads to mudslides, dustbowls, and acidification in our oceans while chemicals seep into our waterways.

Slash-and-burn agriculture. Source: Dennis Wegewijs and Shutterstock

Without forests or healthy soil, we can’t grow nutrient-dense foods. In 1965, only 4% of Americans had a chronic disease. Today, 46% of America’s children have a chronic disease. (Source)

Bottom line: our food system is destructive for both human health and planetary health. There is no doubt that we need technology to reform our energy sector, an equal contributor to climate change, but we need to work with nature to rebalance our food system.

Below, we’ve put together steps for how WE can change our food system and reverse climate change in the process.

Through our actions, buying power, and collective evolvement, we can build a better food system that nourishes us, heals our planet, and is more economically lucrative.

 

1. Support Regenerative Agriculture

Here’s how it is guys – we need healthy soil to store carbon instead of release it. We need trees, grass, and vegetation to keep soil from falling apart and ending up in the river systems.

How do we put this cycle back into balance? Watch the video below to understand just how simple the solution can be.

Practices like no-till, cover crops and composting help to build healthy soils. Regenerative farming mimics a natural ecosystem by incorporating microbes, insects, birds, plants, and animals within a circular system that builds soil, improving fertility and the availability of nutrients. It does all this while still producing food for human consumption at a profitable yield. (Source)

Several methods are currently being used all over the world. Here are three of the main regenerative practices:

  1. Holistic Planned Grazing uses animal impact on grasslands to restore them to a natural condition, even regenerating deserts back into grasslands.
  2. Permaculture focuses on the plants and their interrelationships.
  3. Food forests construct multi-layer forest with plants that work together with each other and produce food at every level, both for humans and for wildlife.

Trees and agroforestry work great in humid regions, like the rainforests. Holistic grazing with large animals is the option across the earth’s arid regions. All of these systems work in harmony with nature.

Soil health means improved wildlife habitat and populations, economic growth within communities, greatly improved nutrient-dense food, and water security via less drought and flooding. (Savory Institute)

 

How to Support Regenerative Farms

First, we can support small farmers in our communities as they transition to no-spray and no-till, regenerative farming methods. This can be as simple as visiting your local farmer’s market and asking farmers about their methods.

Next, we can support non-profits that are working to address global climate change through regenerative farming.

Non-profits like Farmer’s Footprint are helping American farms convert into regenerative farming. Their founder, Zach Bush MD says conventional-spray farms that switch from conventional farming to regenerative farming see higher crop yields in one year. I highly recommend watching the documentary to learn more about how regenerative farming is not just healthier, but produces more yield. More yield, more money.

Rizoma is a company doing the same in Brazil; they have a goal to regenerate over a million hectares of land in Brazil by 2030.

The Savory Institute is working around the world to regenerate the world’s grasslands and deserts. They work in countries like Australia, Brazil, the US, and Zimbabwe.

Furthermore, we should support Indigenous cultures that live in harmony with their environments.

Amazon Frontlines has joined forces with Land is Life to raise funds for our indigenous allies in Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. All funds raised will go to supporting frontlines brigades now fighting these fires and help them build political and technical capacity to protect the forest in the future.

Amazon Watch works with indigenous communities to protect their rights, as well as the rainforest.

 

2. Grow Your Food

Planting a garden will simultaneously build soil and minimize your carbon footprint.

Here are 5 ways to can make your garden a regenerative part of the planet:

  1. Do not use chemicals – if you don’t want it in your body don’t put it in your food. It ends up in you, me, and our water.
  2. Use cover crops. Keep soil covered to protect and build soil. Do not turn the soil over as this releases carbon into the atmosphere.
  3. Encourage biodiversity – it is the key to life on this planet.
  4. Grow food – this means way fewer food miles! Think about the carbon footprint to transport food from South America to Europe, or New Zealand to the US!
  5. Compost!

(Kiss the Ground)

Maybe you don’t have the space to grow a garden. Start with trellises or small plants! You can grow herbs in your kitchen window. Use your community’s garden space. Don’t know about one, look it up! Don’t have one, start one!

Food Forests and community gardens can be utilized in urban areas, like on roof-tops, parks, and neighborhoods! We believe city planning should incorporate gardens, food forests, and sustainable energy. It’s better for air quality, our health, and the planet.

Using permaculture and agroforestry methods I discussed above is a great way to help the environment and feed yourself. These methods of growing food become less labor-intensive as your garden becomes more sustainable.

Here is a great resource for permaculture farming that you can use at home: Gaia’s Garden

 

3. Compost!

In the US, over 50% of waste is compostable materials. That’s 60 billion pounds going to landfills each year.

Trillions of microbes that live in soil transform waste back into life. In landfills, organic “waste” creates methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas up to 68% more potent than CO2. (Source)

Composting mimics the natural regenerative process that happens in biodiverse, soil-healthy systems. It transforms organic material into nutrient-available organic matter. Living in a small space, apartment or somewhere without a yard doesn’t have to keep you from composting. Your city should provide a compost bucket. If you don’t have one, ask for one! 

If we don’t compost we, again, fail to complete the cycle of life. Hopefully, you are seeing a pattern here!

 

4. Eat Local, Buy Local

So you can’t grow all of your own food? We get it. We’re travelers; we’re busy’ and we rent apartments. The next best thing you can do is to support your LOCAL community, wherever that might be.

farmer's market

The average meal in the US travels 1,500 miles to get from the farm to plate.

Carbon emissions are the number one cause for climate change, and the long-distance transportation of food requires large quantities of fossil fuels and pollution. Fresh food from other countries requires airfreight, which generates 50 times more CO2 than sea shipping.

Moreover, this type of large-scale transportation requires food to be picked unripe and then uses preservatives to keep it stable…

This food is no more nutritious than it is sustainable. Change this system by supporting your local food growers whenever possible and learning to love what grows in season.

Make the farmer’s market a part of your weekly routine. This way, you KNOW where your food comes from and how many miles it travels. Support farmers versus an industry that robs them.

Want to save the rainforest? Don’t eat meat, or fruits and vegetables from Brazil, when you can support your local community. Most of Brazil’s meat supplies a country that is 16,622 km away. (Yes, most of Brazil’s meat is going to China.)

Local Harvest: Lookup local organic farms and ranches near you (including farmer’s markets)

 

5. Buy a CSA Box

Can’t make it to the weekly farmer’s market? The best way to support your local farmer is by investing in a weekly CSA Box. You get a fresh box of produce delivered to your doorstep, or available for nearby pick-up.

CSA boxes are extra awesome because they provide farmers capital in advance to secure their business.

 

6. Connect Back with Nature

As we diverge from nature, we rely on lab-created foods; we mine, pillage, and drill into the earth without a second thought of the long-term repercussions.

By reconnecting to nature, we have more at stake to protect it. How we treat the planet impacts human biology, and there is a deep interdependence of ecosystems and every species within them (including us).

How much more motivated will we be to protect the places we spend time in?

Aside from helping to build soil, we should also plant trees in the fight against climate change. In the case of the Amazon fires and deforestation, you can donate to the Rainforest Network to protect an acre of rainforest.

Planting trees is a great way to support the planet but we also need to prioritize the protection old-growth forests (known as primary forests). These forests are much more biodiverse and better at absorbing CO2. Protect your forests!

We can also learn from indigenous societies. Over 370 million indigenous people are living in ninety countries in all regions of the world.  400 groups live in the Amazon alone. These people spend much more time in nature and have deep and spiritual roots to the land. They go to great lengths to protect the environment because they understand this connection.

 SUPPORT GLOBAL REFORESTATION! We’re working with One Tree Planted in lieu of what is happening in the Amazon. We will plant a tree with One Tree Planted for every comment on this post from now until the end of September.

 

7. Support Rotational Grazing; Do Not Support CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)

Unsustainable agricultural activities, particularly soy production and cattle ranching continue to pose a major threat to the Amazon. Converting forest to pasture for beef cattle, largely in Latin America, is responsible for destroying 2.71 million hectares of tropical forest each year. 

The current beef industry plays a huge role in environmental destruction, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, it is a major solution to climate change.

Two-thirds of Earth’s land surface is covered by savannas, prairies, and deserts. In these dry ecosystems, the soil is prone to drying out and eroding as the climate warms and droughts worsen.

desertification in the world

Satellite photo of Desertification throughout the world. Source: Savory Institute.

Dry eco-systems thrive when large grazing animals (like wildebeest, elephants, bison, cows, and sheep roam, graze, and rotate on these lands. The problem is that we’ve lost countless wild ruminants, like the bison in the American prairies, to human development and farmland that is used for the mono-crop industries and CAFOs.

We start to see “desertification” when we a) burn the earth and its sources, think fossil fuels and systematic fires and b) remove ruminants from their natural habitats, which rotate over grassy habitats with their predators.

Desertification causes the soil to turn to dust, and since soil holds carbon and water, it’s really important.

CAFO cattle feedlot

CAFOs. Source: Sentient Media

We can observe the positive impact ruminants have on dry climates in nature – think wildebeest migrations in East Africa. Cows that are managed in the right way can replicate the native herds that once covered the planet’s grasslands.

Through holistic rotational grazing, farmers are replicating nature with tremendous results. Wild herds lived in fear of predators, and for protection they travel in tight bunches, moving quickly.

If farmers keep cattle moving across the landscape, animals churn the soil with their hooves, fertilize it, stomp grass to create mulch (compost), and stimulate plant growth. This feeds animals (and us) with nutrient-rich soil. This practice prevents over-grazing, builds topsoil, and reverses desertification.

Please, watch this video below to learn about alternatives to CAFOs.

If farming focuses on soil, we put carbon back into the ground and improve water cycles. For example, the dirt on CAFO operations absorbs water at the rate of LESS than a 1/2 inch an hour! A regenerative farm’s soil can absorb a 1/2 inch of water in 4 seconds.

When water is NOT absorbed we see topsoil run-offs and mudslides. We see nitrates and phosphates leaving the soil and going into our rivers and oceans, which create dead-zones.

Right now, CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) require the food system to destroy millions of acres of grassland and tropical forests (like the Amazon) to grow crops people can’t eat. We ship these crops thousands of miles and turn them into animal feed, ethanol, and industrial oils.

Eating wheat, flour, soy, rice, and corn that are grown on these massive industrial mono-crop farms contribute to declining soil health, deforestation, desertification, and therefore, climate change too.

Eliminating animals and attempting to use fire to keep grasslands in check doesn’t work either. We can’t replace natural decay and it exposes soil, leading to desertification. Just Africa alone is burning 1 BILLION hectares of land a year, and it still leads to desertification. The Savory Institute is saving grasslands in Africa and throughout the world through rotational grazing.

More fires burn in Africa than anywhere else in the world. Over 70% of the fires burning worldwide on an average August day are taking place in Africa.

Desertification doesn’t just cause climate change; it causes hunger, social unrest, and war.

Earth’s drier climates require large grazing animals to complete the circle of life. If we bring livestock right to the grass and use a rotational grazing process that does not require the transportation of feed, water, fertilizer, antibiotics, hormones, or chemicals, we begin to seriously to address climate change.

Resources:

Joel Salatin and Polyface Farm: Joel calls himself a grass farmer and his methods of regenerative agriculture have influenced thousands of farms around the world. The local farms I (Ana) buy in California are using his techniques.

Savory Institute: Working to reverse desertification in Earth’s drylands. They also work with companies that go from “land-to-market” in a sustainable way, which brings us to our next point…

 

Step 2: Vote With Your Dollar

 

1. Support Sustainable Companies Across the World

We understand that going completely off-the-grid without supporting global trade is impossible, but creating an awareness of how this trade affects other people and this planet is important.

If you want to learn which companies are behind deforestation in the Amazon, a new maps and analysis from Mighty Earth, based on data from NASA, CONAB, and Imazon show which global companies are most closely linked to the fires.

Source: Nasa and Imazon, from Mighty Earth

Ahold Delhaize, McDonald’s, and Walmart/Asda are just a couple of the companies that buy soy and meat from JBS, Bunge, and Cargill, and sell to the public.

Cargill is the world’s largest food and agriculture company, and Brazil’s largest trader of soy. Companies like JBS (beef and poultry processor) and Cargill (soy trader) use the destructive mono-crop and CAFO systems we’ve discussed.

When you buy food and goods, try to support sustainable companies that provide fair-trade wages. Supporting co-ops is a great place to start.

Buying from a company that works hand-in-hand with small family farms might cost a couple of dollars more, but as someone who has visited these farms, I assure you those few dollars are worth it, especially when you see how conventional crops are sprayed and labor workers are treated!

Resources for Sustainable Companies:

Better World Shopper: See if your favorite brands support the environment, human rights, animal protection, etc.

Greener Choices: Learn what the labels and certifications mean, which foods are sprayed most, which fish have the most mercury and support commercial fishing, chickens with arsenic, etc.

If you are tight on money, consider cutting back on the number of luxury goods you buy to focus on quality or shift around your food budget by eating out less. You can also focus on fresh produce and meat versus “healthy” packaged food. To put prices in perspective, a Snickers bar costs around $4.50 per pound…!

There are tons of for-profit companies also working to do good in this world. This means doing your research and being a conscious buyer.

 

2. Use Less Plastic and Petroleum

By 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans by the pound than fish in the sea. Plastic is made from petroleum.

20% of the Amazon has been deforested, and new fossil fuel extraction, mining, and large-scale hydroelectric dams cause even more deforestation, despite indigenous people’s rights and territories.

The oil industry is leading to deforestation in the Amazon and around the world. It’s no secret that the oil industry is dirty. The best way to combat this is to CONSUME LESS, period. Walk and bike whenever possible. (Soy is one of the main crops used for ethanol to power our cars too.)

Next, is to eliminate single-use plastic and reduce overall plastic use. Use reusable bags, buy products in bulk, and say no to straws.

We wrote an article on how to use less plastic.

Want to save the world? Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.

The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.

 

3. Use Less Energy

Through simple actions every day, we can drastically lower our energy use. A few examples include: turn off your lights and set automatic switches for outdoor lighting. Don’t leave the heater or AC on when you’re not home. Switch to energy-saving appliances.

 

4. Buy Less Wood and Paper

Buy less paper and wood, considering Amazon deforestation is largely driven by logging. We have other options, such as hemp, that can be more sustainable. Re-use, reduce, and recycle.

 

5. Do Not Buy Products with Palm Oil or Soy Oil. Avoid Vegetable Oils.

The orangutang population has been devastated by farmers clearing their habitat to plant huge mono-crop forests of nothing but palm… If you love orangutans, you should seriously avoid palm oil.

Rainforests are cleared for palm oil plantations, in which the palms are cut down after two or three decades, releasing more carbon into the air. Palm Oil is used to make cosmetics and detergents but mostly used for food.

Moreover, soybeans are not just used for livestock feed and ethanol, but also cheap soybean oil. Over 75% of Brazil’s soy is exported to China, according to the OEC, and China is also the number one producer of Soybean oil.

The US accounts for 34 percent of the world’s soybean production, just behind Brazil, where soybeans are the country’s dominant oilseed (along with canola/rapeseed, sunflower, and flax seeds), according to the USDA.

Soybean oil and palm oil commonly appear in cooking oils, packaged foods, shortening, and margarine.

Bottom line: these oils are bad for the environment, and they’re also bad for your health.

Turn over any packaged food in your pantry. Walk into any restaurant kitchen and I guarantee you’ll encounter soy, corn, palm oil, or canola oil.

Vegetable oils have infiltrated the entire industrial food complex because they are dirt cheap to produce, but we have already discussed the catastrophic results of mono-crop farms on this planet.

Vegetable oils were originally invented as a way to get rid of what was then an industrial waste product (crude oil) from cotton production. Enter Crisco – hydrogenated cottonseed oil developed in the 1880s, later to enter the pantries of every American household and now households all over the world.

The process to extract oil from “vegetables” like soy and canola use:

  • Heat
  • Chemical solvents
  • Bleaching
  • Deodorizers

While this article was not written to address the history of these oils or the repercussions on our health, it is important to address that this industry is driven by financial opportunities and not the well-being of consumers.

There is also staggering evidence that these oils are causing degenerative diseases and the decline of brain health. Refer to the book Deep Nutrition, which does a great job of showing the connection between chronic disease, cognitive health, and industrial seed oils.

To circle back, as of 2016, Americans were consuming more than 28 billion pounds of oils annually, with soybean oil comprising about 80 percent of that number. (Source)

There is a clear connection between the modern industrial food system, chemical farming, our inclining rates of chronic disease, and climate change.

 

6. Support Slow Fashion

The fashion industry as an entirely different beast than what we’ve focused on in this article, but it is well worth mentioning. Slow Fashion is an awareness of the processes and resources required to make clothing.

It focuses on buying better-quality clothing that will last for longer and values fair treatment of people, animals, and the planet. Essentially, quality over quantity.

 

7. Consume less, period

Energy has to be expended to create. Consume less shit; do you really need half of it anyway?

By consuming less, we can cut carbon emissions, reduce toxic and chemical exposures, discourage unfair wages and child labor, save energy, and encourage the growth of sustainable and fair-trade companies. Again, we encourage quality products over quantity.

 

8. Offset Your Carbon Footprint

Using less combustible fuels is also incredibly important when it comes to our carbon emissions. Choose to walk or bike when possible. Minimize flights.

On that note, we are a travel blog. While we promote slow travel and land travel whenever possible, we also do fly… While it is not a perfect solution, one of the best ways to help offset your carbon is through companies like Chooose Today and Cool Effect. They work with individuals AND businesses, so consider introducing a carbon-neutral plan with your place of work.

 

Step 3: Vote with your Ballot

Brazil is a perfect example of how policy affects habitat protection.

Multiple scientific and environmental groups are calling Bolsonaro out for policies and rhetoric that have encouraged rampant deforestation. (Source)

The Bolsonaro administration has rolled back environmental regulations, provided amnesty to illegal deforesters, and encouraged rhetoric against indigenous peoples, scientists, and activists.

Bolsonaro supports the expansion of mining operations and large-scale farming in the region and has extinguished the agency responsible for deforestation control in the Amazon and Cerrado (Brazil’s savanna). (Source)

One of Bolsonaro’s first official acts as president was to transfer the agency charged with supporting indigenous people, FUNAI, under the Ministry of Agriculture.

There are organizations helping indigenous people fight these policies. We can support organizations like Amazon Watch, who works with indigenous communities to protect their rights, as well as the rainforest. Your donation will go directly to their work with indigenous communities to stop the destruction and defend their rights and homes.

The thing is this isn’t just happening in Brazil, it’s happening in countries all over the world, most famously the US, whose current administration is ALSO rolling back regulations, like the Clean Water Act, set by the environmental protection agency, and threatening public lands for oil extraction.

 

Trade Wars Matter Too

Brazil became a key beneficiary of the trade war when tariffs on US soybeans made Chinese buyers look elsewhere to import the crop. While Brazil exports most of their soy to China, they also account for around 33% of the EU’s total soybean imports

A trade deal struck in June between South America’s Mercosur bloc of countries and the European Union was supposed to open up even more markets for Brazil’s beef-packing industry. The EU’s trade accord with Mercosur has been 20 years in the making and was Europe’s biggest response to Trump’s assault on the multilateral trading order.

Since the Amazon fires have sparked world outrage, however, the EU is now looking to block Beef imports from Brazil.

Why does all of this matter? Because we can control how industries evolve as the consumers that drive it. Furthermore, as voters, our voices shape policies and elect officials that consider the environment in economic decisions.

Bolsonaro has challenged criticism of his government’s environmental policy”

“We preserve more [rainforest] than anyone. No country in the world has the moral right to talk about the Amazon. You destroyed your own ecosystems.” (Source)

We think Bolsonaro’s policies and rhetoric are catastrophic, but we must also ask ourselves what our role as consumers and voters have to do with the destruction of the ecosystems in the Amazon, around the world, and in our backyards.

Europe has destroyed up to 90% of its wetlands. (Source) The US has lost at least half their grasslands to farming. The African savannas are burning. Deforestation on this scale isn’t just happening in the Amazon – a similar amount of forest is lost in Indonesia every year due to palm oil farming.

What is happening in Brazil’s Amazon is also happening in the Cerrado, Brazil’s tropical savanna that covers more than 20% of the country. We are actually losing the Cerrado at a faster rate than the rainforest. On a global scale, grasslands store 15% of the world’s carbon and house an important component of the world’s biodiversity. (Source)

In summary, we need ALL of these ecosystems to thrive if we want to maintain balance. We must support local and indigenous peoples, regenerative agriculture, clean energy, conscious consumerism, and an economy that values life.

We’ve discussed many solutions for changing things from the bottom up, but we need to also challenge our management and policy development.

Getting money out of politics is an entirely complicated subject in itself, but it is essential for creating a sustainable world. Often, much of what is responsible for climate change is due to corporations buying and selling elections.

 

What to Watch Out for in Politics

Vote for politicians who do NOT take handouts or donations from corporations and super PACs.

  1. Backsliding and Money: special interests groups due to their best to erode environmental laws. One of the most powerful groups you’ve never heard of is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). They work side by side with some of America’s most powerful corporations to push pro-corporate laws into legislation.
  2. “Revolving Doors:” This is when people switch their employment back and forth between government and industry. A perfect example is the former VP of public policy at Monsanto, who also worked at the US Food and Drug Administration.
  3. Astroturfing: Sponsors of an organization make it seem “grassroots” to manipulate public opinion. They go as far as creating fake comments on articles and social media posts to discredit the other side.

 

We Can Have High Tech and High Nature – Let’s go Green

Oil extraction and mining are driving forces behind the Amazon’s deforestation and destruction of wildlands around the world. These developing countries are trying to catch up to world leaders and their economies by using their own natural resources.

We clearly need technology to reform the energy sector. What if these developing countries can help pave that way forward?

Solar and wind have the power to be so much more sustainable than combustion-based energy. In Germany, renewable sources account for 28% of power consumption in 2014.

Technology works best when distributed versus centralized. Our iPhones and computers are a perfect example of this. Implementing distributed technology, like rooftop solar, rainwater collection, and community gardens are a start. (Source)

Here is an example of indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon using solar to stop the expansion of the fossil fuel frontier.

On the other hand, watch out for some “clean” energies that aren’t really clean. Bioenergy, for example, is an energy that is pivoted as “clean” energy, but it just makes energy from biological materials like burning wood for heat and electricity and using soy and other crops to make biofuels. This also leads to deforestation. (Source: Our Earth, Our Species, Ourselves)

 

Corrupt Subsidies

Subsidies we pay for with our taxes create an allure that junk food, fossil fuel, and plastic is cheap.

If fossil fuel subsidies were eliminated prices would show closer to their true costs. Deforestation is driven by government subsidies for logging. Many governments look the other way, like in Brazil, as forests are illegally cleared at the expense of indigenous peoples.

Big Agriculture buys government influence, subsidies, and food safety regulations.

The US Farm Bill subsidizes bushels of corn, soy, and sugar beets from farmers. Most bushels are sold to Big food companies to make oils, livestock feed, and processed sugars like high-fructose corn syrup. Cargill (one of the companies linked to the fires) is one of the biggest companies doing just that.

Family farms continue to topple under mounting debt, and banks only give loans to farms if they use GMO seeds. This isn’t just happening in America, but worldwide. We pay for the government subsidies with our taxes, and we pay with for the pesticides with our health.

Get money out of politics and we’ll see the TRUE costs of food, energy, and water. We can use that money to promote green jobs and training and land protection.

 

Step 4: Support Grass Root Organizations

It’s going to take serious policy overhauls and conservation efforts to curb deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and beyond. Support organizations that are fighting the good fight.

I have already mentioned the following organizations, but here they are in one easy-to-reference list. You can donate to all of these organizations through their sites.

One Tree Planted: These guys are awesome. One tree = $1. They work with reforestation partners around the world that need your support to help get trees in the ground. We will PLANT A TREE FOR EVERY COMMENT ON THIS POST from now until the end of September.

Amazon Watch. They work with indigenous communities in the Amazon and help them defend their rights and homes.

Amazon Frontlines: They are raising funds for supporting frontlines brigades now fighting these fires and help them build political and technical capacity to protect the forest in the future.

Survival International: They work with indigenous groups all over the world, many of which are in the Amazon to give them a voice on the global stage.

World Wildlife Fund: The World Wildlife Fund, another international NGO, focuses on reducing human impact on the environment to conserve wildlife and protect endangered species. They are promising to offer emergency relief and advocation for stronger laws in the Brazilian parliament.

Rainforest Network: Your donation protects an acre of rainforest.

Rainforest Trust: Buy land through the Rainforest Trust.

Chooose Today: Offset your carbon footprint. They work with individuals AND businesses. Consider proposing a carbon-neutral plan with your place of work.

Cool Effect: Offset your carbon footprint by year or month. You can also offset individual flights.

Farmers Footprint: They are on a mission to restore 5 million acres in the US by 2025!

Kiss the Ground: They are a non-profit organization that focuses on rebuilding the soil. If you were especially inspired by this article’s part on soil health, look into their soil advocate program.

Savory Institute: They are impacting habitats around the world through holistic management. Listen to Allan Savory’s Ted Talk below for more information.

 

Further Resources:

We mentioned several books and references in this article. Some here are referenced again.

Reduce Your Plastic Consumption: Our article with solutions to eliminating single-use plastic.

Better World Shopper: See if your favorite brands support the environment, human rights, animal protection, etc.

Greener Choices: Learn what the labels and certifications mean, which foods are sprayed most, which fish have the most mercury and support commercial fishing, chickens with arsenic, etc.

Local Harvest: Tools, studies, and data for global sustainability.

Joel Salatin and Polyface Farm: He calls himself a grass farmer and methods of regenerative agriculture have influenced thousands of farms. The local farms I buy from are using his techniques.

Kiss the Ground: How the food we eat can reverse climate change.

Our Earth, Our Species, Ourselves: Addresses our current environmental crises and a new way of life that will sustain us and our world.

Omnivore’s Dilemma: A brilliant exposé on the food system.

Hidden Life of Trees: Learn about the complex life of trees and how important they are for our planet.

Holistic Management: A Commonsense Revolution to Restore Our Environment: Fossil fuels and livestock grazing are often targeted as major culprits behind climate change and desertification. But Allan Savory, cofounder of the Savory Institute, says the bigger problem is our mismanagement of resources. Here are his solutions.

Deep Nutrition: Cate Shanahan, MD, examined diets around the world known to help people live longer, healthier lives, and she does a great job of showing the connection between chronic disease, brain health, and industrial seed oils, sugar, and processed food.

 

10 Things You Can Do Today to Reverse Climate Change

We need to ask ourselves how our “wants” have created an unsustainable system that destroys more life than it creates. We can vote for a better world with our voices, our dollars, our ballots, and our actions.

We discussed a lot of ideas in this article to fight the Amazon fires and destruction of ecosystems around the world. If we can each implement at least one of these solutions into our daily lives, then we already begin to create a positive change.

1. Reduce Use of Combustion Fuels – Walk and Bike. Offset your carbon footprint through companies like Chooose Today.

2. Protect and Plant Trees – Vote to protect your old-growth forests AND plant new trees. To make it easier for you, we’re going to donate a dollar and plant a tree with One Tree Planted for every comment on this post from now until the end of September. 

3. Do not buy palm oil or soybean oil – These two crops alone are responsible for most of the world’s rainforest destruction. They’re mostly in junk food and cosmetics.

4. Stop using single-use plastic! Plastic ends up in our oceans. Read our post on how to reduce plastic consumption!

5. Support Regenerative Farming – Working WITH nature to grow healthy food in healthy soil. It’s good for you and the planet.

6. Do not eat meat from large industrial farms – Support Rotational grazing farms that are carbon negative.

7. Buy Local – This is one of the best ways to minimize your carbon footprint and support your local economy.

8. Plant a garden – Small steps forward.

9. Compost – Food waste is a huge problem and contributes to methane gas in our atmosphere.

10. Consume Consciously – Read labels, ask questions, and research the companies you vote for with your dollar!

It’s 2019, people. It’s time to take responsibility for our personal health and that of the planet!

shutterstock amazon image

Amazon Rainforest (Source: Gustavo Frazao and Shutterstock)

This article was written by Ana Pereira and Will Hatton