Updated August 27, 2019. Academy Award-winning actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio pledged $5 million to protest the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon is burning. Fires have been devouring the forest, which supplies six percent of the Earth’s oxygen. Many call the rainforest “the planet’s lungs.” The Amazon rainforest is home to more than one million Indigenous people and is the most biodiverse region on the planet, home to half the world’s estimated 10 million species of animals, plants, and insects.
Earth Alliance, a nonprofit organization launched by DiCaprio, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Brian Sheth last July, started the emergency Amazon Forest Fund on Sunday, per Variety. The DiCaprio-backed fund will support local partners and Indigenous communities in their efforts to protect and restore the forest. The five groups are: Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida (Kayapo), Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), Instituto Kabu (Kayapo), Instituto Raoni (Kayapo) and Instituto Socioambiental (ISA).
Earlier this week, DiCaprio shared a post from the Rainforest Alliance, a nonprofit fighting to raise awareness of the fires. “There have been 74,000 fires in the Brazilian Amazon since the beginning of this year—a staggering 84% increase over the same period last year,” the post reads.
Along with donating to frontline response groups fighting the fire and spreading the word, one of the best individual actions to take is to eliminate of significantly reduce beef consumption. “Be a conscious consumer, taking care to support companies committed to responsible supply chains,” the post continues. “Eliminate or reduce consumption of beef; cattle ranching is one of the primary drivers of Amazon deforestation.”
Humans are to blame for 99 percent of the fires, “either on purpose or by accident,” Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at Brazil’s space research center (INPE) told CNN. If the forests are damaged beyond repair, it could spell disaster for the current climate crisis, emitting damaging greenhouse gases instead of life-giving oxygen.
Why Is the Amazon on Fire?
The global appetite for beef is behind 80 percent of Amazon deforestation, according to Yale’s Global Forest Atlas. The Amazon is the largest exporter of beef in the world due to the low cost of land. Cattle ranchers and farmers scorch the land to make room for cattle grazing land and soy — which are often interconnected. Tofu isn’t to blame here — 90 percent of the soy grown is turned into animal feed, according to environmental NGO Global Canopy.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has shown disdain for rainforest conservation. He likened Indigenous reserves in the Amazon to “chickenpox” and promised that “there won’t be a square centimeter demarcated as an indigenous reserve,” according to Quartz. A 2018 study from the Wildlife Conservation Society revealed that protected land managed by Indigenous people are critical in preserving the rainforests and managing climate change.
Bolsonaro also promised to scrap Brazil’s environmental ministry in favor of fusing it with the agricultural ministry. Quartz notes that many credit his election with emboldening illegal loggers to further encroach on protected forests. Earlier this week, he suggested that environmental organizations staged the forest fires to make him look bad.
Choosing elected officials who will act in the planet’s best interest was the final point of the post DiCaprio shared.
“When election time comes,” it reads. “VOTE for leaders who understand the urgency of our climate crisis and are willing to take bold action—including strong governance and forward-thinking policy.”
A Cry for Support
Five-time Formula 1 racing champion Lewis Hamilton also spoke out in support of the Amazon. “It is devastating to see our world suffer,” he wrote on Instagram. “More than a soccer field is being destroyed every minute everyday, the world needs to come together and help. If you haven’t already, please post about it, it is vital we continue to spark action.”
DiCaprio is a vocal environmentalist; he is the founder of the environmentally-focused nonprofit the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and has produced numerous documentaries highlighting climate change’s impact on the planet. Earlier this year, he was honored by the Waorani People of Pastaza in Ecuador’s rainforests for his support in fighting their cause to protect their home.
Numerous other celebrities have used their platform to raise awareness of the fires, including movie star and political activist Rosario Dawson, “Matilda” star Mara Wilson, Kim Kardashian, Ruby Rose, and English model and singer Pixie Geldof.