The Trump administration’s trade war with China is directly contributing to the fires that have been decimating the Amazon rainforest in recent months.
Brazil, Argentina, and the United States are the world’s largest producers of soybeans, which China imports to feed cows, pigs, and other animals raised for food. As Washington and Beijing are unable to come to an agreement, China is buying more Brazilian soybeans. And with Argentina holding back sales, because the country’s election uncertainty has prompted economic fears, Brazil now dominates the market.
Farmers in Brazil cut down or burn sections of the Amazon rainforest to clear land for grazing cattle and growing soybeans, mainly used as feed for animals at factory farms. With competition in the soy market decreasing and demand for soybeans growing, more and more forested land in Brazil is being destroyed.
Unfortunately, it is easier than ever for farmers, cattle ranchers, and loggers in Brazil to get away with clearing land. Amazon deforestation rates have surged this past year, with the government’s view of nature as little more than a resource to exploit. 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 period in 2018.
Environmental organizations and researchers say the Amazon fires have been 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.” And with farmers ramping up soybean production, many people fear further destruction.
What can you do to help?
The entire world will feel the effects of these fires, and we are all culpable for the destruction they cause.
The United States is Brazil’s third-largest export market. In response to the fires, lawmakers in Congress recently introduced federal legislation calling for a prohibition on importing certain Brazilian products from industries linked to the fires.
The bill, H.R. 4263, will have the greatest chance of success if more cosponsors sign on. Visit BehindTheFires.com to urge your representative to cosponsor this legislation.