2019 Aug 23
Our planet is self-destructing – what are we doing about it?
Across the world, climate change has resulted in one of the hottest seasons on record this July. More than 9000 people have been evacuated due to flames spreading across Spain’s Canary Islands, Denmark has been desperately dispatching firefighters to curb fires in Greenland, and major wildfires have been surging through Siberia. More and more disasters are occurring across the globe.
The Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon wildfires have been occurring for over 3 weeks now with barely any media coverage, sparking an international outcry. How this issue was kept under wraps for so long remains a mystery and the smoke from these raging fires can now be seen from space.
- Contains 3 million SPECIES of plants and animals.
- Is home to 1 million indigenous people.
- Contains 20% of the world’s total volume of river water.
- Contains 1.4 billion acres of dense forest.
- A massive 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced here.
- More than 80% of the world’s food has its origins here.
- 70% of plants with anti-cancer properties are found here.
- And over 73,000 fires have ravaged the Amazon in the year 2019 alone.
One important fact begs our attention – the fires that are destroying this precious reserve and the life within it are not natural. Humans are to blame. It is human activities such as deforestation for farming, mining and drilling that have led to this ongoing tragedy and it can be traced back to when Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro came into office on January 1st. Since he assumed leadership, there’s been an 83 percent increase in fires started when compared to 2018. His pro-business stance and promises to find alternative uses for the Amazon forest has brought on much criticism as this is assumed to have encouraged farmers to use more and more of the Amazon’s land for farming.
With more trees lost through deforestation, the Amazon loses more moisture, the forest gets drier as more of its water cycle is disrupted, and this makes way for more fires. The ultimate effect? Carbon is released into the atmosphere, and with the Amazon holding nearly half the world’s tropical forests, it’s essentially a carbon bank that could fatally exacerbate global warming.
Recently, the flames have been surging in Amazon basin and the smoke from these fires have spread more than 1700 miles to São Paulo, plunging more than half the country into darkness. Satellite maps even show the smoke spilling over into neighboring countries such as Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.
The Death of Iceland’s 700-year-old glacier
This August, Iceland mourned the loss of 700-year-old Okjokull, the first of its major glaciers to die, and claims all other glaciers will have the same fate within the next 200 years. Glaciers on the Nordic island are symbols of eternity and the melting of one due to climate change, due to our very own doing, is an unfathomable tragedy. A geological map composed in the year 1901 shows the Okjokull glacier at an area of approximately 15 square miles. Satellite images from the Nasa Earth Observatory show Okjokull as a solid white patch in 1986 stretching 6 square miles according to Icelandic geologist Oddur Sigurosson. Today, satellite images show nothing but a brown, barren land with a spattering of snow and ice – a sad remnant of what once was.
Though the glacier was officially declared dead by scientists in 2014, the death of the Okjokull in Western Iceland was mourned by a formal funeral last Sunday, renaming the glacier as just “Ok”; the Icelandic word for glacier, “jokull,” no longer applies. Hard-hitting plaques were laid where the glacier once was with a resounding message:
“This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”
Ella, Sri Lanka is ablaze
In Sri Lanka, a fire erupted in Ella on the 22nd in a steep and nearly inaccessible area, making it hard for firefighters to douse. Learn more about that here:
Why Sri Lanka Needs to Pay Attention
Donate to organizations such as the Amazon Watch to support the indigenous people in their fight against this appalling deforestation. Donate to the World Wide Fund/ the Rainforest Action Network/ the Rainforest Trust/ the Amazon Conservation Team to help the countless species of animals and plants being killed off in this inhumane way.
Be a conscious consumer. Reduce your consumption of paper and wood based products or buy rainforest-safe products. Also try to reduce your meat consumption and be more conscious of where these meats come from. The field of agribusiness is popular no matter which country you pick and due to lack of regulation and ethics, this often leads to manipulation and destruction of land that have been reserved for nature. In Brazil, we’re seeing the effects on a massive scale. In Sri Lanka, Ella’s fire is making headlines but many of our other beloved lands such as Wilpattu or Sinharaja too are at risk.
These disasters are not one country’s problem alone. This marks the beginning of an international crisis and should we ignore the warnings, we’ll be dooming Earth, ourselves and every other living being to a fatal fate. After years of neglect and abuse, Mother Earth is being forced to self-destruct. We need to step up to the plate and work harder towards bettering our home.