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    The Amazon Rainforest Is On Fire And We Can't Turn Our Backs On It Now

    Don't turn your back on it and its people now.

    If you weren't already aware, a record number of fires have burned — and are currently burning — the Amazon, the wildlife, and the homes of the residents who inhabit it.

    NASA / AP Images

    72,843 fires have been detected in the Amazon so far this year, which is an 83% increase over the same period of 2018 according to a report by Reuters and data collected by Brazil’s space research center, National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

    The fires have even plunged the city of São Paulo in Brazil into near darkness due to the traveling smoke.

    🌎Just a little alert to the world: the sky randomly turned dark today in São Paulo, and meteorologists believe it’s smoke from the fires burning *thousands* of kilometers away, in Rondônia or Paraguay. Imagine how much has to be burning to create that much smoke(!). SOS🌎

    According to the NOAA, "The Amazon rainforest was relatively fire-resistant thanks to its natural moisture and humidity" and that the "wildfires there today are caused by a combination of droughts and human activity," aka, increases in regional deforestation.

    WATCH: Brazil's #AmazonRainforest is currently battling a record number of fires.

    The Amazon is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet," so these fires are not to be ignored. Here are some of the ways the Amazon is vital to our planet and those who inhabit it:

    1. According to National Geographic, more than 20% of the world's oxygen is produced by the Amazon.

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    The Amazon rainforest absorbs about 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide in a normal year, according to researcher Fernando Espírito-Santo. This helps to lower the greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

    2. In relation, organizations like the World Wildlife Fund fear that, while the forest is currently a sink for cardon dioxide (meaning, it's absorbing more than it's putting out), the "savannization" of the Amazon could cause it to become a source for carbon dioxide instead.

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    "Savannization" in this case means transforming into a "dry savana" that is caused by drought and deforestation.

    3. 20% of the world's fresh water is in the Amazon Basin. This water is used by the locals and also supplies hydropower for millions of people.

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    "Its river accounts for 15-16% of the world’s total river discharge into the oceans," according to the World Wildlife Fund.

    4. The area is also home to a vast array of people that call it home. According to the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), Indigenous people make up about 9% (2.7 million) of the Amazon’s population. This includes 350 different ethnic groups, more than 60 of which still remain isolated.

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    The Amazon Basin as a whole is home to over 30 million people.

    5. Rainforests also "hold an estimated half of the world’s plants and animals, many of which have yet to be catalogued," according to National Geographic. The Amazon alone is home to 40,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species, 3,000 types of fish, 430 mammals and 2.5 million different insects.

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    6. Foods like bananas, citrus, cassava, avocados, cashews, Brazil nuts, vanilla, sugar, coffee, and tea originate from tropical forests.

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    On the flip side, industrial and subsistence agriculture account for up to 70% of deforestation in Latin America. There are definately sustainable ways to consume these foods that further the deforestation epidemic, but it's worth noting that the rainforest has given them to us.

    7. Finally, many modern day medicines have roots in the rainforest. In fact, 70% of the plants found to be useful in cancer treatment are found only in rainforests.

    Agustavop / Getty Images

    It's worth noting that the medicinal effects of these plants are often first discovered by the Indigenous people who live in the areas in which the plants are found.

    If you'd like to help out the Amazon rainforest and those who call it home, consider donating to these organizations:

    - Amazon Watch supports the Indegenous people who call the Amazon home.

    - The Rainforest Action Network works on preserving rainforests and protecting the climate.

    - The Rainforest Trust purchases and protects endangered tropical forests.

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