If only the Amazon fires sparked the same panic as Notre Dame.

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It’s easy to dance when our Earth is turning, but how do we sleep while our beds are burning? For the estimated 400 tribes native to the Amazon, this is an everyday battle and it is becoming apparent that unless we do something soon, our beds could be next. 

So what do we do? As Greta Thunberg states openly and earnestly, and with wisdom well beyond her years, we panic. I am not suggesting we panic in the traditional sense. Don’t lose control of rationality and make decisions based on fear. That kind of panic will only exacerbate the issue.  We need to feel stress and uncertainty and we need to act on those feelings rationally. It’s not too late, but it won’t be long before it is. 

When fire tore through Notre Dame in April, Parisians panicked. They acted immediately and they acted appropriately. Billionaires and Tycoons pledged enough money and within hours of the blaze to completely rebuild the church. As well as that, emergency services showed rapid response in putting out the blaze that threatened to completely destroy the UNESCO Heritage site and global media coverage was immediate and extensive. 

So how does accidental arson become world news within minutes, while fires raging through the Amazon Rainforest, killing endangered flora and fauna and indigenous tribes is kept out of mainstream media for weeks. Where is the panic?

International leaders are calling for action while the Brazilian military continue to battle the flames, but researchers are now warning that it is not enough to call for action. We must take action. If the fires continue to spread into the forest, the flames could potentially cause massive transformations to the Amazon, drying out wet jungles and causing wastelands which will release thousands of years of trapped carbon into the atmosphere. This will wreak havoc not just in the Amazon, but all over the globe, accelerating climate change and destabilizing temperatures. This is no longer climate change, this is a climate crisis. The changes are happening faster than we can maintain or control. 

According to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, there have been around 100,000 wildfires across the country this year. That is a 45% increase compared to the same period last year. Around 53,000, more than half of the fires have occurred in the Amazon biome—the highest number in this region in a decade.

There are things we can do as individuals to make small but significant differences. The first is to stop making excuses for your actions. “It’s just one straw”, or “one coffee cup doesn’t make a difference” are no longer good enough. Take responsibility for your actions and be consistent in your lifestyle changes. Buy a reusable coffee cup or make a reusable cutlery roll from the things you have at home. Switch to wash cloths instead of paper towels. Say no to plastic straws, bags, wrapping and bottles. Have one meat-free day a week. If it’s feasible, ride a bike to school or work. Buy second-hand clothes and accessories. The simplest way to have a direct and positive impact is to head to https://ealliance.org and make a donation. Every cent counts!

These fires, caused by a spike in deforestation, are devastating to say the least, and until we panic and react the way we have to the Notre Dame fire, we are sealing our fate and the fate of generations to come. It is time to panic. It is time to fight and it is time to react as if your children's lives depend on it. Because as dramatic as it sounds, they do.

Author: Anne Cottier