The destruction of the Amazon rainforest has been profound and consistent over the last several decades, but in the last few years it has drastically accelerated and is nearing a critical point. As we have seen little progress from conservation efforts, our only hope has been that the rainforest can rebound on its own, but research is showing that this will not always be the case. The damage to the Amazon is making it more susceptible to and less equipped to recover from environmentally damaging events and activities like droughts, logging and fires. The changes to the rainforest are becoming irreversible.
As humans, our responsibility for climate change should not be up for debate. There exists mounting and irrefutable evidence demonstrating how anthropogenic carbon emissions since the industrial revolution have warmed our planet. Yet, there are still people who want to attribute global warming to so-called natural changes in the climate and other unfounded theories. While these people may continue refusing to accept the blame and eschewing their responsibility to do something about it, no one can refute our responsibility for transforming the dense, lively Amazon rainforest into a barren, grassy savanna. This is a significant point in the movement for increased environmental efforts, and we should focus on this rainforest not only because of our undeniable responsibility but also because of the inevitable global impact that will arise from losing that ecosystem. We, as humans, currently have the chance to prevent a large-scale physical impact on the Earth.
Greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide sit in our atmosphere and trap radiation, heating the Earth. The deforestation of the rainforest releases a striking amount of carbon dioxide into the air. A healthy Amazon can store carbon in its trees and soil, but if we damage the ecosystem, we will release 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air. If the world wants to reach a state of carbon neutrality, the Amazon is one of the best assets right now, but it could become one of the biggest adversaries.
The policies of world leaders have always shaped the capabilities and progress of environmental movements. Given his ambitious promises to prioritize environmental issues, Joe Biden’s election should give us hope that the U.S. will reestablish itself as a global leader in conservation efforts. While this will help, as Biden has offered to contribute billions of dollars to help maintain the Amazon, we first need to solve the problem in the home of the Amazon. Jair Bolsonaro took power in Brazil in 2019, and, since then, the rate of destruction to the rainforest has increased dramatically, with an over 40% increase of forest fires and deforestation having occurred over the past three years. Brazil’s president severely weakened the government's ability to prevent and respond to logging and other illegal activities damaging the Amazon. Norway and Germany also put together the Amazon Fund to help Brazil in its conservation efforts, but they revoked the money, rightfully so, after observing Bolsonaro’s practices. Fortunately, Bolsonaro’s unethical rule may soon come to an end. Brazil will hold its presidential election in October 2022. Currently, Bolsonaro’s competitor, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is leading the polls. We can hope that if da Silva were to win, he would make the Amazon one of his priorities and reinvigorate the effort to save it by working with Joe Biden and other foreign leaders to get the funding back.
The Amazon should be the number one priority right now in the fight against climate change. While policymakers argue about how much money to put where, stalling efforts to implement protective policies and failing to adequately push for the implementation of renewable energy technology, we should focus first on saving the vast area of natural infrastructure for removing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it. We are nearing the point where our selfish actions and negligence could make an irreversible impact on our planet, and we are past the point where we can continue to ignore our responsibility to act.