SAN MINIATO, Italy – The Amazon rainforest, also known as “the lungs of the world,” needs the global population to adopt radical changes such as eating less meat, managing waste adequately and curbing flight travel, if its ecosystem is to be saved, international conservation experts said Sunday.
A forum of environmental experts meeting in the Italian town of San Miniato in Tuscany called for urgent action to address the threats the Amazon rainforest faces, as deforestation inches closer to the point of no return.
“We can eat and fly less, but this is a political question, and everything we do will not be enough if we are not all convinced,” Fritz Hinterberger, president of the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI), told EFE.
The Amazon basin, which borders nine Latin American countries and spans 5.5 million square kilometers (3.1 million square miles), faces serious threats due to the rapid growth of the agricultural and mining sectors in the region, which in turn form part of a production chain that fuels the current global model of consumerism, the experts said.
In just half a century, the Amazon has lost 17 percent of its flora, which is dangerously close to the point of no return of 20 percent, after which the forest’s ability to regenerate would be severely compromised.
Tree felling to clear vast areas for the cultivation of soybean, which is widely used to produce animal foods, contributes to global greenhouse gasses.
Ironically, the conservation of forests could be pivotal to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, given vast expanses of greenery are an effective management system for the reabsorption of CO2 gasses.
According to SERI, in order to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement carbon emissions would have to be curbed to one ton per head by 2050, or 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) a day, bearing in mind that current figures in Europe suggest individuals contribute to 8 ton a year.
One kilogram of CO2 equates to eating around 200 grams of pork, two-thirds of which can be attributed to soybean production in Latin America, Hinterberger added, in order to illustrate the impact of a meat-eating diet on the planet and, specifically, the Amazon rainforest.
Hinterberger is of the opinion that whilst it would be positive for the European Union and other advanced economies to adopt policies with the view of saving the Amazon, there is a risk that emissions could increase elsewhere in the world, meaning it would be essential to implement a “structural global shift,” in order to address the threat.
Communities can play a key role, the president of SERI continued.
Measures that would aid the conservation of the rainforest include: adjusting lifestyles so they are more energy-efficient, increasing taxes on polluting activities, reducing consumption of meats and food waste, spending less and promoting local production, among others.
Michele Ieradi, director of Esri Italia, a geospatial technology company, is of the view that technology could play a key role.
Ieradi said that digital geography combined with artificial intelligence could analyze the state of forests and inform conversation decisions and carbon emissions policies.
There are also digital campaigns that encourage people to pay for the planting of trees where there is a need and to follow the progress via a phone or computer.
This is an effective way of reducing the distance between communities and the ecosystems that are under threat as well as raising awareness of the 33 million people that live in the Amazon basin.
Pope Francis has also launched an initiative to raise awareness of the risks the Amazon rainforest faces by creating a Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region which is set to meet from Oct. 6-27 in Rome.
The secretary general of the synod, Lorenzo Baldisseri, told the forum on Sunday that at the meeting they would broach new paths for the Church and a comprehensive environmental strategy in order to limit the exploitation of the jungle.
With governments such as Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro promoting policies that hinder climate action, the Cardenal said that whilst the synod would respect the sovereignty of governments, it would back the need to limit deforestation and that it would defend that native communities should not be persecuted.
Baldisseri was alluding to indigenous tribes who are, he said, the custodians of everyone’s nature and who depend on the forests to live, even though current development trends make it very difficult for them.