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Photos | The Jaguar Ecological Preserve | Ecotourism & Biodiversity Preservation
Atlantic Forest Corridors | Stop the Burning in the Amazon! | Our People

You can stop the burning in the Amazon!We have all heard about the burning of the Amazon rainforest. We know that the last couple of years heave seen the most burning. What seems like a hopeless disaster is in fact not that difficult to change.

One must first understand what causes the fires and accept that fires in the Amazon Basin are now a permanent part of the ecology of the region. Fires in the rainforest, however, can be avoided.

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Studies in Brazilian rainforest communities have shown that the people who suffer the most from out of control fires are those that live in those communities. An out of control burn destroys fences, buildings, and often kills farm animals. It is a mistake to think that poor farmers in the Amazon want the forest to burn. Fires destroy their clean water supply, medicinal herbs, and food-both gathered and hunted.

Setting fire to a previously cleared area is the poorest way to rejuvenate pasture. It is wasteful of forests, nutrients, and threatens investment. At the same time, it is a fast and cheap way to reduce weeds and pests, while providing nutrient-rich ash to the soil. The use of fire makes economic sense when forest is abundant and inexpensive. A long-term solution to out of control fires must come from an alternative model for regional development that favors greater investments on smaller areas of land.

The answer, then, is to improve the lives of people in those communities. First, they need help getting title to their land. If they own their land, they are more likely to want to invest and protect their investments. Second, they need help organizing into cooperatives. They can work together to create firebreaks and can notify each other when a fire is planned. This already occurs in some communities, and fines are levied on those that do not give advanced warning. Communities can work together when a member of the coop is burning to be sure the firebreaks are not broken.

Third, they need a vehicle to get their products to market. Rubber tappers in western Brazil have used a donated truck to get their products to market and have preserved a substantial area of forest. Local markets and investments in land lead to higher land prices. It becomes uneconomical to have out of control fires.

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