BY MILES PREKOSKI
It’s fair to say the forest fires in the Amazon have sparked global concern. Since late summer, the “lungs of the earth” have been burning at an unprecedented pace. Because there have already been 80,000 forest fires this year according to research from the National Institute for Space Research, the youth demographic has realized that the planet is decaying faster than we anticipated.
But what are we actually doing to help solve the environmental emergency in Brazil?
It was surprising to see the number of posts made by classmates on Instagram and Snapchat when news hit that Brazil was facing a potentially irreversible crisis. Students attached links to articles, asked for prayers and directed friends towards posts that claimed to be sources of help. There was a flood of awareness.
The problem is that students only go as far as to make a quick post on Instagram about the fires. That’s all they accomplish. But as global tragedies continue to get spotlights on social platforms, a post on social media should only be a fraction of what one does.
Many students often have the first instinct to ensure as many people are aware of the problem, and that’s a natural thing to do. After all, if more people know that the Amazon is burning, more people may want to help. But is it enough to simply know more about something? Surely our goal isn’t just to increase awareness of the Amazon fires: it’s to stop them.
CHS students are excellent at raising awareness. Take the Environmental Club, for example. When districts across the country organized climate change strikes on Sept. 20, students quickly planned a strike at the steps of the Monterey Town Hall. That Friday, more than 100 students gathered. Throughout the school year, clubs attend youth empowerment events, campaigns across schools encourage students to donate, and community service hours rack up in the quadruple digits.
Despite this, too often the majority of students allow awareness to supersede action. Nowadays, it’s easy to assume that spreading information in an engaging way will motivate change in your community.
Before exploring how to create awareness, it’s crucial to learn how to take action. To begin with, students should do more research about what’s going on in Brazil before simply asking for prayers. Since last summer, the country faces an 84 percent increase in fires, according to the country’s space agency. This mass clearing of land is connected to a call to action by President Jair Balsonaro at a U.N. assembly meeting in New York to expand deforestation rather than fight it.
As a result of the global demand for sugar, soy and oils produced in Brazil, the consumerism culture—undoubtedly present in the U.S.—drives less prevalent countries to take drastic measures, especially Brazil. According to the Morningstar database for currency, the average yearly wage in Brazil equates to just over $3,000. The economy is quickly declining, yet Brazil continues to go to extremes to provide natural resources.
In a sense, the Brazilian president is putting in effort to expand the economy of his home country by doing what seems easiest, but deforestation shouldn’t be the final answer. If students want to take further action, they should seriously consider whether it’s worth engaging in consuming the products causing the desire for deforestation in the first place.
Maybe that’s too much to do for the average student, but it doesn’t mean you’re at a dead end. Students can use their resources to show they care by donating to nonprofits on the frontlines. There’s a plethora of organizations building alliances between indigenous and environmental groups to protect the Amazon, all of which have extremely accessible systems to set up monthly and single donations.
If we’re willing to pay $10 every month to watch shows on a streaming service, we should be willing to give a donation of the same amount to make a difference in Brazil. Organizations like Amazon Watch, Rainforest Alliance or the World Wildlife Fund for Nature all deliver help in much more efficient ways than we can on the Monterey Peninsula.
It’s too easy to make it sound like you’re raising awareness when all that’s being accomplished is a miniscule repost. Finding ways to provide direct support should be the first step rather than asking for thoughts and prayers. It’s time to do more for less prevalent countries that need our help, and it’s time to help effectively.