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Burning Needs – California & the Amazon

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Selfie atop the 213-foot research tower in the Amazon where scientists study precipitation, climate change, temperature, photosynthesis, and the future of life if drought conditions continue. 

In the face of fires here in California or the tens of thousands that burned across the Amazon this summer, it’s easy to become discouraged and to feel that there’s little any one of us can really do. Below are three things you can do to get educated, support others, and build future leadership for the Earth. Leave a comment with other ideas or words of encouragement. Thank you dear readers! ~Kristine

This morning two large fires burn in California – the 30,000-acre Kincade in Sonoma County and the nearly 5,000-acre Tick in Los Angeles County—and even as I write several smaller fires are starting near our house due to windy, low-humidity conditions common for this time of year. Fire is a part of being Californian, our land needs it to be healthy and to open seeds, grow new trees and plants, regenerate the soil, and thin out overly dense forests. Fires in California tend to start by accident, as when electricity lines fail or a spark from something as benign as a lawnmower or automobile lights a fire. Then the winds come and there’s no fighting fire. There’s just containing it, evacuating from it, and helping those who need food, shelter, and support.

Evacuation Map - Kincade Fire

Evacuation map for Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, courtesy of Esri, CGIAR, USGS | Esri, HERE, Garmin, FAO, METI/NASA, USGS, Bureau of Land Management, EPA, NPS | Cal Trans QuickMaps | County of Sonoma | NASA, Esri


Here at home, we have our go-bag ready, bottles of water in the car, flashlights with fresh batteries in case the power goes out, and we use Twitter, Facebook and good old-fashioned television to monitor all the fires that affect our family and friends. My sister and parents have been evacuated multiple times over the years and several of our friends have lost everything in past fires.

Fire in other parts of the world has also been on my mind, especially this past summer when the myriad conflagrations in the Amazon captured worldwide headlines. I had the chance to see a part of the Amazon River and rain forest myself in late summer. Some 28,000 fires were burning in August alone, most set on purpose to clear forests for illegal cattle ranching, soy production and to seize land. If this continues, it could permanently transform the Amazon to a dry savanna and rapidly accelerate the planet’s climate catastrophe. It’s bad for indigenous peoples, wild places, wildlife, and it turns out, it’s bad for us all.

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Amazon rain forest from atop a research tower in Belterra along the Tapajós River, photo by the author.

Scientists are modeling the data in an exciting recent report and expect that further losses in the Amazon forest could affect precipitation patterns here in California, which impacts the food we grow not just for the United States, but for Canada, the European Union, and China, just to name a few countries that import fruits, vegetables and dairy products from the Golden State.

In August and September, many organizations launched rapid response online fundraising campaigns, as well as partnerships with companies looking to get their employees involved in helping the Amazon. I’ve been inspired and daunted. The Amazon is nearly the size of the United States, and it’s in nine countries in South America. But we have no choice. Humanity needs the trees in our tropical forests to remain standing.

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A river or the sea? In some places I visited, the Amazon is twelve miles wide!

Here in California we need healthy forests in the mountains to store the snowpack so that we have clean drinking water, irrigation for our food, and water for businesses such as tech firms that rely on water in Silicon Valley.

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The Sierra Nevada provide the snow that melts into the rivers that feed our farms, families and businesses in California. Photo by the author.

Here are three things you can do to take meaningful action to protect trees no matter where you are:

  1. Read and learn. It’s critical to understand what is happening, because whether you’re in New York or Nairobi, you need water and air. The causes of fire, the weather conditions, and the impacts are all different. But there are wonderful resources to get educated and keep up on the changes to our planet. Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Help Others. Give money if you can. Send messages of support. Words have power, people need your encouragement. It’s easier than ever with Facebook and other social media sites. Here are some ideas for giving if you have the means to do so:
  1. Vote for candidates that get it. People need water, air, and all that nature provides in order to survive. Political candidates who understand the relationship between weather, rainfall, groundwater, forests, soil, snowpack, the oceans and our health and economies deserve to be in office. Here are a few places to research candidates, help people to vote, and stay abreast of the intersection of politics and the environment:
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With open arms we can work together to support each other. Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by the author.

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