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More than 1.5 million hectares of Californian landscapes have burned in the ongoing wildfires of this year, which continued northward to burn more than 253,000 hectares in Washington and 385,000 in Oregon. Forty lives and more than 7,000 structures have been taken by the fires across the three states, as of the time this article was written, making 2020 the worst year for West Coast fires in U.S. history.
The story goes similarly in the Amazon. According to satellite data from research agency INPE, there were 61 percent more fire hotspots in the world’s largest tropical rainforest in September 2020 than in the same month last year, burning through recently deforested, agricultural and virgin forest landscapes. It’s the Amazon’s the worst year for fires in a decade, and it’s far from finished.
In the second of a two-part GLF Live series about 2020’s fires, the California-based leaders of Amazon Watch, an Amazon protection organization, and the Earth Innovation Institute, focused on sustainable rural development, joined in conversation to discuss the ongoing burns: the causes, the devastating impacts and what can be expected in the months to come.
Leila Salazar-López is a mother; proud Chicana-Latina woman; and passionate defender of Mother Earth, the Amazon, Indigenous rights and climate justice. Since 2015 she has served as the executive director of Amazon Watch, leading the organization in its work to protect and defend the bio-cultural and climate integrity of the Amazon rainforest by advancing Indigenous peoples’ rights, territories, and solutions. For more than 20 years Leila has worked to defend the world’s rainforests, human rights, and climate through grassroots organizing and international advocacy campaigns at Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange. She serves on the Governing Council of the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative and the Amazon Emergency Fund. She is also a Greenpeace Voting Member and a Global Fund for Women Advisor for Latin America. In April 2019, she was acknowledged in Make it Better Media’s “17 Bay Area Environmentalists Making a Difference.” Earlier this year, she participated in TEDx Berkeley 2020 with a presentation entitled “Amazon Fires Ignite a Global Movement to Protect the Planet.” With fires raging again from the Amazon to California, threatening forests, communities and the climate, Leila is ever-committed to promoting action and solutions for climate justice. She is a 1998 graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Leila lives in San Francisco with her husband and two young daughters.
Daniel Nepstad, president and founder of Earth Innovation Institute, has worked in the Brazilian Amazon for more than 30 years, publishing more than 160 papers and books on the ecological processes, frontier dynamics and public policies that are shaping the region. In 2010, he extended his work to Peru, Colombia and Indonesia. A world authority on REDD and low-emission rural development (LED-R), he was previously Senior Scientist at Woods Hole Research Center, Chief Program Officer of Environmental Conservation at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and a Lecturer at Yale University. Dan co-founded the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) in 1995, Aliança da Terra in 2004, and was a founding board member of the Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS) in 2005 and INOBU (Indonesia) in 2015. He served on the REDD Offsets Working Group of California and is a member of the Science Committee of Acre State’s SISA program. He was a Lead Author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fifth Assessment (WG2, Chapter 4). Dan holds a PhD in Forest Ecology from Yale University.