Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) was at the steps of City Hall on Thursday condemning meat companies that have links to the wildfires that occurred in the Amazon in August.
There were a record-breaking 72,843 fires in the Amazon this year, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). This was an 80 percent increase in fires from 2018.
The fires resulted in more than 2.2 million acres of the Amazon’s rainforest, fauna and flora that stretched out into Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay to be burned down, according to the INPE report. Most of the fires are believed to be manmade by cattle ranchers to clear a pathway for livestock.
As of October, hospitals in Brazil reported a 36 percent uptick in the hospitalization of children in cities near the fire because of pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrous dioxide in the air. Researchers do not have an approximate death toll as of yet, according to the report.
“Climate change is a challenge to our future that isn’t going away,” said Costa. “That shouldn’t preclude us, however, from taking a bold stance against deforestation, which only accelerates the effects of this man-made phenomenon.”
Costa, the chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, has proposed a resolution that would demand the city to cut ties with any business associated with the deforestation of the Amazon.
“Just as the loss of trees in the Amazon can exacerbate climate change in New York City or Los Angeles, we can make real change by taking a stance against businesses whose practices have sparked these wildfires.”
The Amazon produces six percent of the world’s oxygen, according to the Science section of The Atlantic.
The rainforest has also been responsible for absorbing two billion tons of carbon dioxide, which makes it a vital part of preventing climate change, according to the AP.
It is also the home to 10 million species of plants, insects and animals, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
One of the supporters at the event included Edita Birnkrant of NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean Livable and Safe Streets), an animal rights organization.
“This exciting resolution takes to task the very companies that are responsible for the devastation of the Amazon and calling out animal agriculture as the culprit of this,” said Birnkrant. “For the city to be a leader in this and to divest out of these companies directly responsible for this irreversible devastation is a historic step for New York City, which is a leader around the world.”
The goal is to get other cities to follow suit and make a worldwide statement that deforestation is not acceptable and to provide concrete steps to change that, according to Birnkrant.
“We only have one planet, that’s the one thing we all have in common and we all have to live on it, but if the air is unbreathable, if the water is undrinkable, if the climate keeps warming up and there is more extreme weather patterns, more devastation and more deaths that’s very scary for people to see,” said Birnkrant. “A crisis requires some real action.”
Omowale Adewale, one of the organizers for Black VegFest, a black-led vegan festival, agrees.
“We are all interconnected,” said Adewale. “Whether we eat the food or produce it, all this production is contributing to global warming and is exacerbating health conditions right now.”
Adewale sees climate change as a major factor that could cause food supply around the world to dwindle within a decade.
“At Black VegFest we try to get people knowledgeable about the subject who can talk about what we can do in terms of the ecosystem and what we can do to preserve the environment and stave off the disaster of climate change,” said Adewale. “It’s going to affect our community, but if we actually stopped eating meat, maybe companies would have an incentive to producing fewer animals.”