As the Amazon rainforest burns in Brazil—satellites have detected thousands of fire alerts over the last week—Leonardo DiCaprio’s new organization pledged $5 million to help local organizations run by indigenous communities protect what’s left.
The new Amazon Forest Fund, launched by an organization called Earth Alliance that DiCaprio cofounded last month, aims “to focus critical resources for indigenous communities and other local partners working to protect the life-sustaining biodiversity of the Amazon against the fires currently burning across the region,” DiCaprio wrote in an Instagram post announcing the emergency fund. The fund, which is asking for public support, will give 100% of donations directly to organizations fighting fires and protecting indigenous lands. One group, for example, is the Instituto Associação Floresta Protegida, which represents 17 communities of the Mẽbêngôkre and Kayapó people located in the Brazilian state of Pará, where farmers declared a “fire day” earlier this month to burn forested areas to clear more land for agriculture. Farming—from producing soy and palm oil to cattle ranching to supply food companies around the world, including the U.S.—is one of the primary drivers of deforestation in the area.
DiCaprio cofounded the Earth Alliance with billionaires Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth in July, merging the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation with the Emerson Collective and Global Wildlife Conservation in the latest iteration of his fight against climate change. Rain forests, which can suck up more than 2 billion metric tons of CO2 each year, are a crucial part of that fight. “The largest rainforest in the world is a critical piece of the global climate solution,” DiCaprio wrote in another Instagram post. “Without the Amazon, we cannot keep the Earth’s warming in check.” The world’s rain forests are already beginning to lose some of that ability to absorb carbon, and fires, of course, accelerate the process. As Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has weakened rain forest protections in a bid to boost the country’s economy, other countries are committing funding to help fight the fires, recognizing the importance of saving the forest because of climate change; the G7 pledged $22 million for fire-fighting planes in the region, after French president Emmanuel Macron called the fires an international crisis.