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.
The fires have even plunged the city of São Paulo in Brazil into near darkness due to the traveling smoke.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6. Foods like bananas, citrus, cassava, avocados, cashews, Brazil nuts, vanilla, sugar, coffee, and tea originate from tropical forests.
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.
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.