Let’s start with the most direct route. One of the most effective organizations to contribute to is the Rainforest Trust. Their project in the Peruvian Amazon supports the local indigenous communities to getting recognised as having land rights and is seeking to give the title for more than 6 million acres to 220 communities. An acre of rainforest can be protected for a donation of $0.76 and 100% of your project gift directly funds vital conservation action.
The Indigenous peoples of Amazonia have lived in a symbiotic way with the rainforest for millenia. They are the keepers of deep knowledge about the ecosystems they live within and are indispensable to its effective protection. Protecting the rights of indigenous people and their land claims in the Amazon can be one of the most effective ways of halting deforestation.
Amazon Watch is a pioneer in this area and has been working to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin for the last twenty years. It partners with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability, and the preservation of the Amazon’s ecological systems.
The Guardians of the Forest, a volunteer monitoring force of the Guajajara tribe, are one of the last lines of defense for the rainforest in the heart of an industrialized Amazon. The Guardians, led by international activist Sônia Guajajara, struggle to leverage what few resources they have to fight for the life of the planet. You can watch the film about their work here.
Traditional fire management practices may also hold many answers. Controlled fires, which were widely banned by colonialist authorities, had long been used by indigenous peoples to maintain their land and forests and to protect their peoples from large-scale wildfires. Watch the film from If Not Us, Then Who here.
3. Fund this Independent Fire Service in the Amazon
The Brigada de Alter, or Forest Fire Brigade, are an independent group of firefighters operating in the Alter do Chão region of Pará state in the East Amazon. They are dedicated to fighting fires in the forest, which they call ‘our only and one boss’ and are in the process of training another 30 people to become fire fighters. The website is in Portuguese, but contributions can be made online by Paypal to [email protected]
4. Stop Eating Beef
No product creates more deforestation than Beef. It has been responsible for 75% of the deforestation in South America between 1990 and 2005. Brasil is now the world’s largest exporter of beef and its cattle herd has grown from 158 million heads in 1996, to 219 million in 2016. Cattle ranches require big open spaces and the fires used to clear land often get out of control and destroy areas much bigger than were intended. Indeed, 80% of the deforestation happening in the Amazon is illegal, with 80% of that land used for cattle ranches.
5. Boycott Burger King and Support the Soy Moratorium
The problem with beef is not just in the deforestation that is required for grazing, but also the land use and deforestation that is motivated by soybean production for livestock.
80% of the world’s soybean crop goes to feed cattle, so making sure that the supply chain that is used for any beef that you are eating, even if it is not from Brazil, is essential. Some organisations are doing better than others at this, but none are doing worse than Burger King.
If soybean agriculture was redirected away from deforestation towards degraded land in South America (of which there is 500 million acres), it could completely change this dynamic. The Soy Moratorium, a voluntary zero-deforestation agreement enacted in 2006 and renewed indefinitely last year, brought clearcutting in the Amazon to historically low levels, until last year. But while deforestation in the Amazon plunged, agricultural production expanded.
6. Support Rainforest Alliance and Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organization working at the intersection of business, agriculture, and forests. They are directing 100% of the funds donated in August via their Instagram to frontline groups in the Brazilian Amazon, including the Brazil chapter of their Indigenous federation partner COICA and their longtime sustainable agriculture partner IMAFLORA. Rainforest Action Network are directly supporting communities affected by the Amazon Fires and have a campaign to contribute to them here.
7. Join the Global Climate Strike
To really address the issues behind deforestation and climate change, we need comprehensive action from all the World’s governments and peoples to effectively organise for the reality of a world with a disrupted climate. This is what Global Climate Strike, led by young people from around the world, is calling for. On September 20th, millions of people will walk out of their workplaces and homes to support the youth movement, who have been organizing school strikes every Friday.
It’s an act that can really help to show the scale of the movement and to underline the magnitude of the urgency that is called for to deal with global situation.
8. Join an Extinction Rebellion action
If you want to act even more directly to protest the slowness of the global response to the threat of climate change, Extinction Rebellion (XR) have been organizing highly effective actions of non-violent civil disobedience. XR began in London on October 31st 2018 and then organized an action in which six thousand people participated in shutting down five bridges over the River Thames in London. The movement has now spread internationally, co-ordinating itself around a statement of 10 shared principles and values.
XR are focused on actions that, in their own words are ‘more likely to take risks (e.g. arrest / jail time)’ than traditional campaigns, but if you are ok with a risk of being arrested and passionate about these forms of civil action, XR could be for you.
9. Join the Regenerative Culture Movement
To combat deforestation and extractive industrial agriculture, we don’t just need better legislation and a political will to do more. A fundamental shift in worldview is required that moves beyond ‘sustainability’ and into regenerating the planet we live on. This may seem obvious, but regenerative design, meaning the design and building of whole systems that support life and respect and rebuild the environment that sustains them, are in their infancy.
One great starting place to learn about this is Daniel Wahl’s book ‘Designing Regenerative Cultures’. The book covers the finance system, agriculture, design, ecology, economy, sustainability, organizations and society at large, not just regenerative agriculture.
The Bloom Network is an international network of people who are committed to building new models of regenerative culture. From preventing food waste, to creating new forms of collaboration that incentivize and reward regenerative actions, Bloom is connecting initiatives around the world. You can join here.
10. Sign the Petition
It’s not much. You can barely call it an action at all, but here’s at least a click that you can use to sign the Avaaz petition. Maybe if you’ve read this far, do it anyway, but please don’t stop there!
Mark Heley is a media campaign strategist and author of Fukushima: What You Need to Know, and The Everything Guide to 2012. Co-founder of Peace 2012, collaborator with unify.org, Voices of Amerikua and The Bloom Network.
This article was republished with permission from Voices of Amerikua, an Esperanza Project partner publication, and Mark Heley.