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  • Leonardo DiCaprio is a strong advocate for environmental rights and climate change debate.

    Leonardo DiCaprio is a strong advocate for environmental rights and climate change debate. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 August 2019

The current fires are the forest's worst disaster in recent years, and the Hollywood star had already questioned last week the reason why there was “virtually no media coverage.”

United States actor Leonardo DiCaprio announced Sunday that he will contribute up to US$5 million to help "preserve the Amazon" after the devastating fires of recent days.

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The actor made the announcement through Earth Alliance, an environmental organization he created with businesswoman and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, and investor and philanthropist Brian Sheth.

The Amazon, which has been burning for more than two weeks straight, is seen as essential in the fight against climate change thanks to the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it absorbs. The largest tropical forest in the world also provides 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen and is home for an estimated million indigenous people and three million species of plants and animals.

The current fires are the forest's worst disaster in recent years, and the Hollywood star had already questioned last week the reason why there was “virtually no media coverage” of the catastrophe for more than 16 days.

Dicaprio’s statement contrasts with the announcement made by the world's richest countries, whose leaders met at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in France.

All the countries composing the group, including France, Germany, the U.S., Britain, Italy, Canada, and Japan, expressed last week their “deep concern” about the fires raging in the Amazon. However, it appears that the concern in question had more to do with their businesses in the region than with authentic environmental considerations, as it is reflected by the small amount of US$20 million they pledged to donate.

Brazilian climate scientist Carlos Nobre said he worries if 20-25 percent of the ecosystem is destroyed that the Amazon could reach a tipping point, after which it would enter a self-sustaining period of dieback as the forest converts to savannah. Nobre warned that it is not far off with already 15-17 percent of the rainforest having been destroyed.

According to Brazil's National Institute of Space Research (INPE)  which keeps track of the nation’s fires via satellite images, fire sources throughout the South American country so far this year, are 83 percent higher than in the same period in 2018.

The donations and visibility that celebrities' denunciations provide to such an environmental cause are certainly important, but they do not constitute a sustainable way to solve problems that are much deeper, and directly related to the interests of both local and foreign businessmen, according to experts.

Environmentalists and non-governmental organizations attributed the record number of fires to farmers and ranchers setting the forest alight to clear land, and to loggers destroying the forest for its wood.

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