We are taking the air out of our green lungs

We are all aware of both the importance of the Amazon rainforest and its endangerment. Nevertheless, deforestation reaches one peak after another and there is no improvement in sight. What is the reason for this? What are the consequences? And what can we do about it?


We are all aware of both the importance of the Amazon rainforest and its endangerment. Nevertheless, deforestation reaches one peak after another and there is no improvement in sight. What is the reason for this? What are the consequences? And what can we do about it?

Fascination Amazon Rainforest

There are many reasons why the Amazon rainforest is one of the wonders of the natural world. Here are the most succinct ones:

Animal species diversity

One in ten of the animal species known to us finds its home in the rainforest. This makes this ecosystem the most diverse in the world.

Photo by Diego Guzman on Unsplash

The cute squirrel monkeys feel even more at home in the Amazon rainforest than on Pippi Longstocking’s shoulder.

Photo by vladimircech on Freepik

For the jaguar, the Amazon rainforest is the last quiet place in Central and South America.

Photo by Ryk Porras on Unsplash

Like these two beauties, adult Amazon parrots generally travel in pairs. Therefore, one suspects that they form long-term relationships.

Green Lung

The rainforest gets its nickname from the fact that it is the world’s largest CO2 reservoir and produces 20% of the planet’s total oxygen.

Plant diversity

More than 40,000 different plant species live in the Amazon rainforest. Among them are many that are promising for the development of medicines and research into diseases of civilisation. So the next active ingredient against diabetes could be growing in the rainforest!

Rain provider

Last but not least, the trees of the rainforest evaporate a lot of water and thus produce rain. This not only supplies the forest itself, but also large parts of South America and prevents droughts. Can you imagine that there would be deserts here without rainwater?

After this small insight into the treasure trove of the Amazon rainforest, however, now the sad reality:

Every year 13,000 km2 rainforest are cleared!

In the time you have been reading about the beauty of this forest, it has become smaller by about 50 m2.

For years, our green lungs have been burning in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru without being given a breather in between. This development is not new, but under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro it has taken on uncontrolled, previously unknown dimensions. Illegal burning and overexploitation are easier than ever before.

The organisation ACELPA protects the Peruvian rainforest from such illegal deforestation. Here you can read how we support ACELPA in this.

But why is the rainforest being destroyed? There is an economic interest behind the clearing. 75% of the cleared areas are used as cattle pastures or for the cultivation of soya, which is needed as cattle feed. In addition, dams are built from wood and raw materials such as oil, gold and copper are mined from the cleared forest areas.

Here is an illustration of the current extent: on 22 August 2022, satellites of the Brazilian agency INPE recorded 3,358 separate fires in the Amazon rainforest. This is an increase of 22% compared to the previous year! At this point it is interesting to mention that fires in the Amazon rainforest do not occur naturally at all. Due to the high humidity here, it always needs human intervention. Such fires serve as a cover for illegal logging.

Some last important figures that make us aware of the problem. According to INPE, about 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the last 40 years. Compared to the amount of forest that is still standing, this figure does not seem too frightening. It becomes dangerous when the so-called tipping point is reached. From then on, the rainforest loses its ability to absorb CO2 and even releases some! This tipping point is reached as soon as an estimated 20% to 25% of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared. Therefore, the current record deforestation is seen as the beginning of the end.

The WWF has produced this useful graphic illustrating the chain reaction in the Amazon. (Copyright WWF Germany, 2015)
The WWF has produced this useful graphic illustrating the chain reaction in the Amazon. (Copyright WWF Germany, 2015)

We are heading for the tipping point

That sounds scary – but what exactly did it lead to?
As discussed, the rainwater produced by the rainforest prevents droughts. Without the forest, these would become more frequent and lead to crop failures, drinking water and food shortages

The unique biodiversity would also be and is already being destroyed: it is estimated that deforestation of the rainforest is wiping out up to 1,000 different species every day.

But giving up our green lungs would have even more far-reaching consequences. It is estimated that the rainforest has sequestered as much carbon from the atmosphere as will be released as CO2 in the entire world in 10 to 15 years. Burning down the rainforest would release these billions of tonnes of stored CO2. In addition, natural fires would occur if there is no longer enough rain produced here. This combination would acutely fuel climate change.

In addition, of course, the incomparable capacity of the Amazon rainforest to draw CO2 from the atmosphere would be lost. We know the consequences (global temperature rise, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, drinking water and food shortages, climate refugees).

Phew, that’s pretty infuriating.

But it is too easy to blame the local governments, states and farmers. The economically weak countries here are overshadowed by our large industrialised nations. Our politicians, as well as we as consumers, are jointly responsible and, above all, capable of removing the financial incentives for the deforestation of the Amazon.

So the important question follows:

What can we do?

We have put together a list of ways in which you can contribute to the protection of the Amazon rainforest, both in your everyday life and beyond:

  • In your next meal, skip the beef and dairy products (foods that deforest the Amazon to produce). If you find this difficult, you can do the rainforest a favour by buying these products from local organic markets.
  • When shopping, look for palm oil in the ingredients list and use equivalent products that do not contain palm oil.
  • We are all a bit addicted to coffee, so when we buy it we should make sure that it has been grown in a climate-friendly way. You can recognise this by the Fairtrade and/or EU organic logo:


But don’t fall for the big coffee brands’ own “eco” labels, whose guidelines they set themselves.

    • When buying cocoa and tropical fruits, you should also look for a sustainability label. For cocoa, in addition to the Fairtrade seal, there is also one from the Rainforest Alliance:

    The Fairtrade Seal of the Rainforest Alliance
  • If you use barbecue charcoal, make sure that no tropical woods sneak in. The barbecue charcoal will then bear a corresponding label. Unfortunately, the FSC seal is only partially reliable.
  • The same goes for leather, wood, paper and cellulose. If you hardly use paper because you take notes on your mobile phone, consider using washable rags instead of kitchen paper and recycled toilet paper. And the next time it’s time to replace wooden furniture, go for local woods or even save money by looking for second-hand furniture.
  • Follow indigenous influencers, such as @alice_pataxo@jessicakumaruara or @cunhaporangaoficial. In this way, you will gain insights into their lives with the rainforest and learn how nature can be used in a non-destructive way.
  • Become active!

Last words of encouragement

As you can see, these tips are mainly related to your individual behaviour. If you doubt what your actions as an individual can achieve, you can consider the following points:

Firstly, demand determines supply. If less conventional and more recycled toilet paper is bought, this will be reflected in the producers.

Secondly, you are also a direct role model for others with your (consumer) behaviour. If you put a vegetarian lasagne on the table at the next dinner, five other people won’t eat meat that night (or three, depending on how big your lasagne is)! Two prime examples of the snowball effect!

We can summarise that the animal and plant diversity of the rainforest and its abilities to store carbon, produce oxygen and generate rainwater make it a unique ecosystem. Nevertheless, it is cleared every day to make way for cattle pastures, soy fields and dams, or to extract raw materials. Soon, this will trigger a chain reaction that will turn the rainforest from a CO2 sink into a CO2 source and acutely accelerate climate change. To prevent this, we can make a considerable contribution to protecting the Amazon rainforest through small changes in behaviour.

Lastly, let us know what you think about the big topic of the Amazon rainforest! Or if you have further tips and experiences, please contact us via the contact form.

Emily Waltermann

Emily's favorite food is a vegan buffet and peanut butter; she is a freshly trained yoga teacher, but she still finds meditating difficult. She laughs at every single corny joke, likes bees, and loves the springtime.
Feel free to pay us a visit on Instagram! Here, we keep you updated on climate protection news, fascinating fun facts about our nature, and more tips.
We also appreciate if you share the article on your social channels:
Scroll to Top