G-7 Leaders Back $20 Million Package To Help Fight Amazon Fires
NOEL KING, HOST:
The G-7 nations yesterday pledged $20 million to fight the wildfires in the Amazon rain forest. Brazil and Canada are also pledging more than $10 million each. But Brazil's president says he won't take the money. Nigel Sizer is the chief program officer at the nonprofit organization Rainforest Alliance. He joins us now. Good morning, sir.
NIGEL SIZER: Good morning.
KING: The G-7 nations are the world's seven largest economies. What do you make of a pledge of $20 million?
SIZER: Well, it's really only symbolic. It's less than Americans spend on popcorn in a typical day. It's less than the price of a fancy apartment here in New York City, where I'm sitting. And so it's not surprising that the Brazilian government has rejected this offer. There's a lot of politics around this, as well. The fact is that Brazil has the resources and the expertise to address this challenge. Since the Bolsonaro government came into power at the beginning of this year, they have systematically defunded their environmental protection agencies. And what we really need to see now is a change in the politics and the direction of policy in Brazil. That's key to addressing this problem going forward and preventing further fires and illegal deforestation.
KING: I just want to be clear on something here. You're saying Brazil doesn't need that $20 million pledge.
SIZER: Brazil is a modern, huge, industrialized economy. They have hundreds of millions of dollars sitting in their Amazon Fund. They've reduced the budgets of the agencies which are charged with addressing these kinds of challenges. And another thing, I think, to think about here, which we've been seeing from Rainforest Alliance over the last couple of days, is a massive outpouring of support on social media from around the world. The people of the world actually are pledging more resources than the G-7 has been committing. We've seen millions and millions of dollars coming in as a result of several different social media campaigns to raise money for this.
Individuals are doing more, it seems, than these governments. If you go to the Rainforest Alliance website, you can see how you can directly support efforts and get money to frontline groups on the ground in Brazil who are fighting this charge.
KING: Let me ask you about the ground because the rain forest is home to hundreds of indigenous tribes. What does this mean for people's lives there?
SIZER: Indigenous leaders are extremely concerned. They're most concerned about threats to their rights by the new government in Brazil, which has basically said they do not support strong indigenous lands. And this is particularly problematic because science shows that when indigenous people are given control of the forest, they do a better job of managing it and protecting it than governments or others do. So working with indigenous people is a key part of the strategy to protect the Amazon.
KING: OK. So we have indigenous folks who live there, on one side. But then there are also the plant and animal species that live in that rain forest, and there are many, many of them. What is the potential effect of these fires on the Amazon's biodiversity?
SIZER: Well, the Amazon is home to more species of animals and plants than anywhere else on earth. And when the forest is cleared and burned, that habitat is destroyed and those species are lost, eventually. It's also key in global climate regulation. And most important, in some ways, it's - for Brazil and for the world - it's really important for our global rainfall and weather patterns. Imagine three million square miles of trees pumping water from the soil into the atmosphere, driving rainfall across Brazil, the hemisphere, and even as far away as Europe and Africa. In fact, it's Brazilians that are most harmed by poor management of this ecosystem. It's a huge agricultural country and depends on good management of these resources. It's key for Brazil and key for the world...
KING: And key for the world.
SIZER: ...That this is managed well.
KING: Nigel Sizer with the Rainforest Alliance. Thanks so much.
SIZER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.