For almost a week, uncontrolled fires in the Amazon have dominated the news cycle. The fires are so bad that the state of Amazonas declared a state of emergency. According to Brazil’s space research center, the country’s northern and western regions have seen an 83 percent rise in the number of fires in the first eight months of 2019 compared with the same time period in 2018.
Environmental organizations and researchers say the Amazon fires were intentionally set by cattle ranchers and loggers. Cameron Ellis, senior geographer at the Rainforest Foundation, told VICE that ranchers burn down forests to clear land for their cattle, but the fires often get out of hand and “escape into surrounding forest, much of which is suffering from drought.”
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) states on their website that cattle ranching is the “number one culprit of deforestation” in “virtually every Amazon country.” In fact, 70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon is attributable to cattle ranching. WWF also writes that cattle pastures increase fire risk and contaminate the local ecosystem. In spite of all this, cattle ranching in the Amazon is expanding.
Global demand for meat is spurring the devastation in the Amazon. According to Reuters, in 2018 Brazil exported 1.6 million metric tons of beef, the highest volume in history. Abiec, a Brazilian meat packers association, expects the number to reach 1.8 million metric tons by the end of this year.
What can you do to help?
Eating more plant-based foods is one of the best things we can do for the environment, from protecting waterways and the ocean to preventing deforestation.
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