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Friends Fighting for the Amazon

The Amazon Rainforest, spanning across nine South American countries, is the largest and most impactful rainforest whose health has worldwide consequences. Both man-made and wildfire deforestation has been threatening the Amazon for decades, but in the recent past, major national and international events are creating an even greater cause for concern. Last year, researchers found that estimations of the Amazon’s carbon emissions from forest fires were only one fourth of the actual output, creating much concern. Paired with the election of Jair Bolsonaro, a conservative politician with support from agribusiness lobbyists , to the Brazilian presidency, protecting the rainforest is becoming an increasingly daunting task.

Fighting to save the Amazon has been an international effort, but perhaps the most noteworthy frontrunners aren’t far from home. Indigenous groups have been some of the greatest advocates for protecting their home. One year ago, indigenous leaders, nicknamed “Guardians of the Forest”, met with UN members to offer their support for the Paris Agreement. They discussed how Native Americans have been setting the example for humans giving and taking from the Amazon, creating a mutually beneficial relationship. In fact, deforestation in the lands that they control is eighty percent lower than outside their areas. The Rainforest Alliance, a non-governmental, non-profit organization, recognizes the important role that indigenous groups play in saving the rainforest, and has provided them guidance to participate in the global economy. Ensuring the survival of indigenous peoples in turn ensures the survival of the Amazon.

Another group is turning away from inconsistent policy makers and turning to loyal advocates- the Amazon Aid Foundation. The NGO focuses instead on using the arts and humanities to spread awareness worldwide. They have even gained fairly powerful attention as representatives met in the Vatican. There, they screened films produced by the non-profit, and Pope Francis himself commented on the Catholic Church’s duty to the Amazon. Their primary goal, however, is to encourage artists and musicians to work for change. They do not stop with professionals, though. The Amazon Aid Foundation wants children to get involved, building a generation that speaks out against environmental injustice and petitions their governments. The group collaborated with teachers to create lesson plans that will fit into Common Core Curriculum and show how the humanities and liberal arts can be used to make change. The Amazon Aid Foundation is bringing forth new methods for protecting the rainforest because relying on governments has had inconsistent success.

Governmental power in South America, like the rest of the world, is shifting. Despite policy changes, governmental volatility continues and the problem in the Amazon only worsens. What is needed is a change in culture alongside legislation. The Rainforest Alliance and the Amazon Aid Foundation are taking on this challenge. They are making deforestation a worldwide issue because it has worldwide consequences. Indigenous groups have strong relationships with the Amazon that spans over hundreds if not thousands of years, and ensuring that their insight is shared with international leaders is a great step in creating realistic regulations. Raising a generation that understands their role in the environment and calling for people across all fields to advocate for the rainforest creates a social expectation of environmental justice.

As of now, the agrobusiness economy is lining its pockets with industries relying on the Amazon’s destruction. Once the rainforest is gone, its funds will be depleted, so even currently profitable businesses will suffer. These organizations are working towards much needed cultural change and should receive funding from the US government. Currently, the these businesses based in the Amazon benefit from worldwide consumption. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the world to join the movement. A shift toward a long-term mindset is required and that is what the Rainforest Alliance and Amazon Aid Foundation need help promoting.