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Climate Change Isn't Going Away, But Our Trees Are

Living in Michigan, sometimes I can forget that deforesting rainforests is a constantly growing problem. I can’t see the thousands of trees being clear cut. I can’t see burning fields. And I can't see the millions of animals now without homes. Without actually seeing these things happen, it is difficult to fully understand its effect, and challenging to whole-heartedly care about this issue. I feel that this is a common roadblock with global problems. When the conflict is occurring miles and miles away, without any direct negative impact on ourselves, it’s easy to forget it's happening as we get busy with our day to day lives. But forgetting doesn’t always mean you don’t care; you may just not know how to care, or what to care about.

I spent the past few weeks in Tarapoto, Peru, and Brazil, to investigate Global Goal #13, Climate Action, and what various individuals are doing to tackle and accomplish the goal.

Prior to this trip, I unfortunately can admit, global warming and protecting rainforests wasn’t on the top of my list of things about which I was passionate. It wasn’t until arriving in Peru and passing field after field of beautiful landscapes up in flames, that I began to truly understand the depth there is to this global issue. In spite of knowing it would destroy their soil and harm the atmosphere, these farmers were purposely burning their land to quickly clear cut. To save a few hours, they were flooding their fields with smoke, eliminating all organisms and nutrients essential for the growth of their future plants. Being able to witness and experience this act, gave me the understanding necessary to dive into the issue, to learn more, to care deeply, and to act.

Peru and many other South American countries are continuously faced with the issue of poor soil and the loss of biodiversity due to deforestation and burning.

Over half of the world's plant and animal species live in tropical rainforests. With these forests being destroyed at a rate that causes them to completely vanish in 100 years, it is vital that we innovate new, sustainable ways to protect our forest and to save our planet.

Deforestation is doing more than just ruining habitats, it also is an extreme contributer to global warming. Eighteen percent of greenhouse gases are emitted from cutting down and burning trees. That’s three billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. To put this number in context, it’s like burning thirteen million railcars full of coal. That is more than what transport emissions let into the atmosphere.

With trees being the solution to removing carbon dioxide from our air, it is devastating how we continue to destroy them, harming our atmosphere, our earth, and ourselves.

Geologist, Augustine Fromageot, feels very passionate about solving the deforestation crisis. He moved from his home in France to Tarapoto, Peru where he now works diligently to create sustainable solutions.

Upon arrival, Augustine took us to the cacao farm he runs to give us a hands-on understanding of his methods.

Expecting a monoculture farm plotted in straight rows, I was very surprised to step into a ‘farm’ that was revealed to feel more like a jungle. By creating a polyculture environment, Augustine had replenished the destroyed soil quickly using fast-growing, nutrient-attracting plants such as banana trees. Scattered throughout the various plants were the cacao bushes thriving happily in the shade.

I had never seen a farm like this before; a farmer could profit, rebuild biodiversity, and grow completely sustainable and organic crops.

I was also very inspired by Augustine himself and his story. He originally worked to find gold in rainforests, but with seeing the destruction this industry caused, he quit his job and devoted his life to his passion of saving the environment.

Although I cannot drop out of school and start a farm in Peru, there are still many little things I can change in my daily life to do my part. I can use less paper, replace disposable bags and containers with reusable ones, and buy produce locally, organically, and/or rainforest alliance sustainably certified.

Doing these things may seem small, but if everyone works together to take small steps in the right direction, the United Nations targets for Climate Action will be accomplished by 2030.

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