In recent days it has come to the public's attention that fires are ravaging the Amazon rainforest. This has led to widespread outcry on social media about the lack of mainstream media coverage of the event.

The cause has gathered a lot of celebrity attention, from Leonardo DiCaprio to Gretta Thunberg. But why, exactly, should people care about the issue? What started the fires? And what can people do to help?

The answer to this question is not very straightforward. There is a lot of good information out there, but misinformation about the fires in the rainforest has also run rampant. Indeed, the CBC reports that misinformation is spreading, particularly on social media sites.

The spread of misinformation is alarming, because the fires in the Amazon are indeed concerning. The Amazon, often dubbed "the lungs of the planet," is a vital part of the world's ecosystem. The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) states that, "despite covering only around 1% of the planet’s surface, the Amazon is home to 10% of all the wildlife species we know about — and probably a lot that we don’t know yet."

Half of this important ecosystem is located in Brazil.

The Spread of Misinformation and #PrayForTheAmazon.

In their article, the CBC points out numerous instances of celebrities posting photos of a burning forest with the caption #PrayfortheAmazon, #prayforamazonia and #AmazonRainforest.

In many cases, these viral photos do not in fact, show the Amazon. Or, if it they do, they are outdated photo of a past wildfire. The above photo, posted by Leonardo DiCaprio, is actually a photo that was posted back in 2018.

What Is Actually Happening?

Forest fires are a natural occurence. However, scientists are warning that the current fires in the Amazon are not natural. According to Global News, the rainforest "is burning at a rate scientists have never seen before."

The main culprit of the fires is likely deforestation. Human activity like farming, mining and drilling are making things worse, reports Global News.

In Brazil, farmers burn rainforest to make room for ranching. Aactivists also blame the policies of current right-wing Brazilian president Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro's aggressively pro-business stance may be responsible for an increase in deforestation, according to the INPE.

What Can Montrealers Do?

There are many things that you can do to stop the Amazon from burning.

The next G7 summit begins tomorrow, August 24, and world leaders will meet discuss what can be done to save the rainforest.

You can call your elected representatives and let them know about your concerns, so that this matter remains a priority for world leaders.

You can also donate to charities dedicated to saving the rainforest, like the Rainforest Alliance or the Amazon Watch.

It's also important to remember that deforestation is happening in part because of the world's insatiable appetite for certain land-intensive foods, such as beef. Palm oil is also linked to massive deforestation. We can ensure that the food we eat is sustainably sourced to help quell the destruction of the Amazon.

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