With an alarming number of fires raging in the Brazilian rainforest in 2019, there’s been a flurry of stories detailing how individuals might take action to help save and protect this precious and irreplaceable natural resource.
Since January more than 70,000 fires have been recorded in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest – a staggering figure that represents an increase of 84 percent over 2018, according to the National Institute for Space Research.
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People around the world have watched in horror and dismay as the fires rage on, as by many accounts, destruction of the forests may very well speed up climate change.
Perhaps even more troubling, the region’s traditional fire season has merely just begun. According to the World Resources Institute, 62 percent of forest fires in Brazil typically take place between September and year’s end.
While several factors are contributing to the fires, the primary trigger is deforestation undertaken by loggers and also ranchers who are clearing land for cattle grazing to support meat production.
All of which can seem very discouraging for those wishing to help in some way. But as many articles have already pointed out, there are numerous things that can be done from afar to help.
One of the most direct and tangible steps you can take is to reduce beef consumption. Specifically, Brazilian beef, which is majorly contributing to deforestation. By some estimates, 70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon is due to cattle ranching.
There are also numerous organizations you can support financially, whose efforts are focused on protecting the rainforests and supporting local, indigenous communities.
A recent CNBC article identified some of the top non-profits working in the region including Rainforest Alliance; Rainforest Foundation US; Earth Alliance; Amazon Watch and Amazon Conservation Team.
Rainforest Action Network’s Protect-An-Acre (PAA) is another important program you can support financially.
Since 1993, the Protect-an-Acre program has distributed more than $1 million in grants to more than 150 frontline communities, Indigenous-led organizations, and allies, helping their efforts to secure protection for millions of acres of traditional territory in forests around the world, according to the RAN website.
Reducing your meat consumption and supporting the efforts of non-profits are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to impacting the survival of the planet’s rainforests. There are many other lifestyle choices and changes you can make as well. For instance, you could actively work to use less paper on a daily basis, thus reducing the need for cutting so many trees.
Still, other options include not buying wood that comes from a rainforest (avoid mahogany, rosewood, and ebony.)
You might also consider selecting sustainably sourced fruits and vegetables and other foods. Hint: look for the Rainforest Alliance Certified symbol on food packaging.
As important as all of these efforts are, none of them touch upon how travelers specifically may play a role in helping to protect and preserve the Amazon rainforest for future generations.
Justin Frances, CEO of Responsible Travel, recently told TravelPulse that travel has a critical role in this pressing issue.
“A visit to the Amazon can contribute to making the case for protecting the rainforest for responsible tourism versus logging, deforestation, and mining,” began Francis.
Recent research in Tambopata, in the Peruvian rainforest, analyzed the profitability per hectare of tourism versus crop and cow farming, logging and mining, added Francis.
The research, from faunalytics, found that ecotourism is actually more profitable in the long term than any other common use of the land.
Unsustainable logging, on the other hand, was determined to be more profitable than ecotourism in the short run—but after five years of logging activity, there are simply no more trees left to harvest, and logging becomes impossible, states the report.
“You can make a quick buck from logging in the short term, but this destroys the forest and leaves the land unusable,” Francis continued.
Interestingly, the study also found that ecotourism can make other local industries more profitable. Which stands to reason.
A small nature preserve next to a town or a logging site, for example, is far less appealing to visitors than a larger area that’s been preserved, states the report.
Looking for trips that allow you to show your support for the Amazon?
Responsible Travel offers Amazon holidays designed to ensure your money is making a political and economic point about conservation, as well as benefitting local communities and biodiversity.
Adventure Life is another company that offers Amazon experiences.