Earth Alliance, the environmental foundation created by Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio, pledged $5 million to help fight the more than 9,000 fires that are currently scorching the Amazon.
On its website, the non-profit said it created an emergency Amazon Forest Fund with an initial commitment of $5 million. The money will go to focus resources on the necessary protections to maintain the "lungs of the planet."
The Earth Alliance said the funds will be distributed directly to its partners in the region and the indigenous communities protecting the Amazon. Those groups include:
- Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida (Kayapo)
- Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB)
- Instituto Kabu (Kayapo)
- Instituto Raoni (Kayapo)
- Instituto Socioambiental (ISA)
Amazon fires releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
"The destruction of the Amazon rainforest is rapidly releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, destroying an ecosystem that absorbs millions of tons of carbon emissions every year and is one of the planet’s best defenses against the climate crisis," wrote the Earth Alliance on its website. "Indigenous peoples’ land covers about 110 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon, making the region critical not just for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, but also for the cultural survival, self-determination, and wellbeing of the Amazon's indigenous peoples."
According to the Earth Alliance, more than 72,000 fires have been reported so far this year, which is up from the 40,000 fires Brazil's National Institute for Space Research recorded at this point last year. NASA said it amounts to an 84% increase in the number of fires from a year ago. The non-profit pointed to an "unprecedented" surge in deforestation that leads to a drier region for the cause of the fires. With less rain, when fires break out on dry grasslands, it's almost impossible to control them.
Environmental groups step up for the 'lungs of the planet'
The increase in fires this year in the Amazon has resulted in outrage, concern and an outpouring of help. The Amazon rainforest is considered to be the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet and one that needs to be protected. Since news surfaced of the surge in fires this summer, many environmental groups have stepped up to lend support.
Forest fires are a normal occurrence in the Amazon during the dry season from July to October. However, environmentalists are worried that human activity may be making matters far worse. The Earth Alliance pointed to large-scale cattle operations and feed crops as well as logging, as the primary drivers for deforestation in the Amazon.