Fires in the Amazon aren’t something new. Farmers and ranchers have routinely been doing this to clear the forest for cattle ranching, oil production, and logging.

The Amazon, as the largest rainforest in the world, is integral to the health of our entire planet. It produces nearly 20 percent of the oxygen from our earth, puts an enormous amount of water into the atmosphere, and absorbs more than 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year.

The survival of the Amazon Rainforest is critical to the survival of us all, but this isn’t the only reason we should protect it. Over 300,000 Amazonian indigenous people have territories that makeup 23 percent of the Brazilian Amazon. Destroying their land represents a huge violation of basic human rights.

Here are five ways you can help curtail the need for fires, ultimately protecting the rainforest and the people and animals who call it home.

1. Eat less meat – or give it up altogether

Cattle ranching accounts for about 80% of deforestation in the Amazon, and most of the recent fires in Brazil were originally started by ranchers and farmers to clear away grazing land for their cattle. This is a simple supply and demand situation. As people eat more beef, farmers need to raise more cows, and thus, more space is needed for the cattle. As a result, ranchers and farmers start fires to clear away the forested areas and create open land. Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter, providing close to 20 percent of total global exports, so reducing the demand for beef can help to protect the remaining parts of the forest.

For help with eating more plant-based foods, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day.

Cows in field
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

2. Understand your palm oil use

Palm oil is the world’s most used oil, making up a third of all vegetable oil consumed across the world. The financial incentive to produce this oil, which is used in everything from toothpaste to pizza dough, is contributing to deforestation across the world. While most palm oil production has historically come from Malaysia and Indonesia, Brazil set its sights on the lucrative palm oil trade and has been increasing the amount of land given over to oil palms over the last decade.

Although the average person may not realize it, palm oil is readily used in many everyday products. In the kitchen, the oil is used to make peanut butter spreadable and to give chocolate a creamier texture. Palm oil is also responsible for making your lipstick smoother, acting as the foaming agent in soaps and shampoos, and keeping ice cream from melting. While it’s incredibly difficult to avoid palm oil altogether, you can make sure that you use brands that are certified sustainable by the Rainforest Alliance or the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Also, palm oil is usually only found in processed food, so focusing on a diet of whole foods – or foods with a short list of ingredients – will reduce your palm oil consumption too.

For help with reducing your palm oil consumption or avoiding it altogether, see our tips on How to Avoid Palm Oil and our list of 15 Palm-Oil Free Products for More Eco-Friendly Snacking.

3. Reduce your wood and paper consumption and learn to refurbish and upcycle

The high demand for timber products is another factor that contributes to deforestation in the Amazon and all over the world. In the practice of logging, vast areas of trees are cut down by machines, destroying the rainforest and its habitats in the process.

Reducing the demand for wood and paper products, like toilet paper and furniture, can lead to a reduction in the need for logging. Look to products that use recycled wood and paper, learn to utilize your old timber products to create something new, and reference Rainforest Alliance to buy rainforest-safe products.

For some repurposing and upcycling tips and hacks with refurbished wood, see Where to Find Old Wood for Fun Carpentry Projects and How to Make a DIY Cutting Board from Repurposed Wood. To do the same with plastic, check out The Ultimate Guide to Cutting Your Paper Waste and 7 DIY Projects to Do With Used Paper and Cardboard.

Deforested Amazon rainforest with smoke
Photo by Jamie Morris on Unsplash

4. Donate to nonprofits that are working to protect the land

Several organizations are working to protect the Amazon rainforest and reverse the damage done by fires. If you can, donating can go a long way toward their mission. A few organizations to consider are listed below.

  • Amazon Frontlines defends indigenous rights to land, life, and cultural survival in the Amazon. With an on-the-ground approach, Frontlinescommunities are working to protect indigenous lands from oil drilling, mining, and deforestation.
  • Rainforest Action Network offers a “Protect-an-Acre” conservation program that distributes grants to frontline communities and indigenous-led organizations to secure protection for millions of acres of forests.
  • Amazon Watch partners with indigenous and environmental organizations to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous people in the Amazon.

5. Lend your voice

Regardless of which country you hold citizenship in, your voice matters. Even though most of us can’t vote in Brazil, our politicians can still make a difference so vote for leaders who stand up for protecting the planet rather than corporate interests. Show support by adding your name to petitions, like Greenpeace’s challenge to Bolsonaro’s government to save the Amazon rainforest and protect indigenous lands, or the World Wildlife Fund’s call on the countries of the region, including Brazil, to protect the Amazon, combat deforestation and reduce the causes of fires. You can also sign this petition to demand accountability for the fires. Lastly, speak with your wallet by making informed purchase decisions about what to buy and supporting ethical companies.

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