Unless you have been living under a rock, or doing some extended commercial diving underwater, you would have heard by now that the Amazon rainforest in Brazil is burning at a catastrophic rate.
However, the problem is much bigger. From Siberia to Central Africa, Turkey and France to Indonesia and Malaysia, large-scale deforestation and forest fires are happening all around the world. While it may seem like the Amazon is too far away for most of us to be able to lend a hand, the truth is, that every little action that we do could help positively impact a forest near us. Here are some EASY ways for you to help!
1. Go digital
With the current focus on reducing plastics and the abundance of recycled paper products, we often forget that paper is also a resource that can—and should—be conserved.
PADI has already made a move toward reducing paper by offering a range of digital manuals. PADI digital manuals are readily available on your account whenever you want to refer to them, which is a lot more convenient than carrying your paper manual all over the world.
There are also many mobile apps to replace your physical dive log, such as Dive+ and Deepblu, which offer cool features such as underwater photo white balance correction and integration of photos and videos into your dive profile. You can also meet other divers, and check out their dive logs and photos of dive sites.
2. Eat less meat
Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef, with a record 1.64 million tons sent to its top markets China, Egypt and the European Union (EU) in 2018, according to the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association. And the vast majority of the fires in the Amazon have been set by loggers and ranchers to clear land for cattle grazing.
The other major crop driving deforestation in the Amazon is soy, with soybeans mainly fed directly to livestock such as pigs, poultry and more cows, in the United States, the EU and China.
We need to reduce the demand and consumption of meat products, particularly beef, if we want to help save the Amazon. You do not have to turn vegan or vegetarian overnight like celebrity chef Eddie Huang, but do consider participating in global movements such as the 7-Day Vegan Challenge or Meatless Mondays and make a big impact with a small dietary change.
3. Support indigenous people
All around the world, indigenous people are fighting for the right to their ancestral land and resources. While there are many laws enacted to support the rights of indigenous people, most still suffer from lack of access to essential services, such as healthcare and education, and are disadvantaged in the political decision making process.
As travelers, you can support the indigenous people of any country that we visit by supporting their social enterprises. In the Philippines, this could include unique woven products and textiles, such as the Ifugao fabrics that are supporting the Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMO).
You can also go off the beaten track to experience the lives of the indigenous people. Some examples are trips to the Batak tribe in Palawan, Philippines, and trips to the Penan tribe in Sarawak, Borneo. These trips help bring income into the tribes and also allows them to appreciate and preserve their unique cultural heritage.
Ifugao celebration © Jacob Maentz (jacobimages.com)
4. Do what you do, with better partners
Searching for the next awesome dive destination? Do it with Ecosia, which is a search engine that plants a tree every 45 searches you make. They run their servers on renewable energy, and have projects in Brazil, Peru, Indonesia, Ethiopia and many more places, and have planted over 65 million trees so far.
Do you use Alipay? If so, make sure you sign up for Ant Forest, which gives you carbon credits when walking, riding a bicycle or using public transport. You can exchange your credits to buy land or plant a tree in one of the many reforestation projects and protected areas in China. In the last three years, they have planted 122 million trees.
While you’re at it, get a different perspective of local sights during your travels by joining kayaking, trekking, bicycling or walking tours instead of traveling in a car. This way, you consume a lot less resources and produce less emissions. You can get in touch with great independant local travel hosts on travel apps such as AirBNB Experiences.
5. The true lungs of the Earth
While it is absolutely shocking watching the Amazon burn, let us not forget that marine habitats around the world are equally in danger of being destroyed. In fact, more than half the oxygen that we breathe comes from marine photosynthesizers, like phytoplankton and seaweed. Coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves are being damaged daily and we should do what we can to protect them.
As divers, we should already know the many things we can do to protect the ocean, such as using reef-safe sunscreen, cutting down on plastic, and keeping our hands and fins off the coral. We can also actively work towards to protection of the ocean by participating in the Project AWARE Dive Against Debris citizen science program, making #EveryDiveaSurveyDive by sending marine debris data collected from your everyday diving.
There are also many islands and their surrounding reefs around the world that are protected solely from the income by dive and snorkel tourism. One of these in the Philippines is the amazing Danjugan Island in Negros Occidental. In Indonesia, Misool Eco Resort and Wakatobi Dive Resort are leading the region in marine conservation through tourism.
Danjugan Island © Yoshke Dimen and Vins Carlos, The Poor Traveler
Every breath you take, every move you make, affects the ocean, and the forests. Everything blue, and green, and in between, is counting on you. Choose wisely in your daily life and travels!
Cover photo: Forest Fires From Space © NASA, International Space Station Science.