Earth Alliance, an organization established by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, and investor and philanthropist Brian Sheth to help address urgent threats to the planet's life support systems, has announced an initial commitment of $5 million to help protect the Amazon rainforest from the more than nine thousand fires raging across the region.
According to the organization, an unprecedented surge in deforestation driven by large-scale cattle operations and feed crops as well as logging has led to a drier Amazon basin and fires that are nearly impossible to control. Brazil's National Institute for Space Research has reported more than seventy-two thousand fires to date in 2019, nearly double the forty thousand reported over the same period last year. The burning of sizeable swaths of rainforest is releasing significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere while destroying an ecosystem that absorbs millions of tons of carbon annually. The Brazilian Amazon also includes a hundred and ten million hectares of indigenous land that is critical for the survival, self-determination, and well-being of the basin's indigenous peoples.
To help provide critical resources needed to maintain the "lungs of the planet," as well as the Amazon's role in climate change mitigation, the planet's biodiversity, and the conservation of indigenous lands, the Amazon Forest Fund will distribute the $5 million and 100 percent of all donations to local organizations working to combat the fires, protect indigenous lands, and provide relief to the affected communities. Partner organizations include Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, the Instituto Socioambiental, and, in partnership with the International Conservation Fund of Canada, the Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida, Instituto Kabu, and Instituto Raoni.
Earth Alliance was created in July with support from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, whose operations were folded into the new organization; Emerson Collective; and Global Wildlife Conservation. DiCaprio, who visited Brazil two years ago and fought fires locally with an indigenous community there, called on governments to collaborate and do more.
"There is a major tragedy going on worldwide because of climate change and what's going on in the Amazon, which is really the lungs of the earth and vital to protecting us in the future," DiCaprio told Reuters. "The governments around the world, including Brazil, need to work together to make sure this doesn't continue....What's vital to protecting these forests is to protect the indigenous cultures there."
At the G7 summit meeting in France, French president Emmanuel Macron announced that the leaders of the Group of Seven nations had agreed to release up to €20 million ($22 million) in emergency aid to help countries battle the fires in the Amazon basin. Separately, the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom pledged $11 million and $12 million, respectively.
"Countries urgently need fire fighters and specialized water bombers. This will be the first step that will be implemented immediately," said Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, who was invited to join the summit. "The second phase is to protect these forests, protect the biodiversity they contain, and reforest this region of the world."
(Photo credit: GettyImages)