Amazon Watch, a nonprofit founded in California in 1996, was named a winner of the 2021 Make It Better Bay Area Philanthropy Awards. As its executive director, Lelia Salazar-Lopez works to protect the Amazon rainforest from deforestation while advancing the rights of the indigenous people who live there.
Salazar-López is a mother; a proud Chicana-Latina woman; and a passionate defender of Mother Earth, the Amazon, indigenous rights and climate justice. She first fell in love with the Amazon in high school when she saw incredible photographs of the rainforest at an earth fair.
When she finally traveled to the Amazon a few years later as an environmental studies intern, she realized how important the indigenous people of the Amazon are to the preservation of the rainforest, and how much they can teach us — through their knowledge, culture and traditions — about how to sustainably steward the land.
Climate stability and the health of the entire planet depends on the health of the Amazon, and it’s under massive threat, according to Salazar-Lopez. “Ecological collapse is being driven by multiple factors, including deforestation from legal and illegal logging, mining, oil and gas extraction, agricultural expansion, mega dams and the continued colonization of the lands of Indigenous people,” she says. “Scientists have said the rainforest would be at a tipping point at 20–25% deforestation. Unfortunately, parts of the Amazon rainforest have reached 21% degradation. This is very concerning. The tipping point is here.”
Make It Better Foundation’s Sharon Krone recently sat down for a live virtual event with Salazar-Lopez to discuss the dire threats to the Amazon and why its preservation is essential to the health of the entire planet. Salazar-Lopez shared these three important ways you can support Amazon Watch and the urgent work they’re doing to save the rainforest.
1. Sign the pledge to end California’s consumption of Amazon crude oil
According to Amazon Watch, California is the largest destination for crude oil exports from the Amazon rainforest. On average, the state receives 50% of the crude oil extracted from the Amazon each year. The state’s government holds a crucial role in ending the extraction. “We cannot call ourselves a climate leader if we’re continuing to support the extraction and expansion of fossil fuels in the Amazon,” Salazar-Lopez says. “We want to see the state of California make a commitment to not import any more fossil fuels from the Amazon.”
2. Donate to Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch distributes nearly a third of its budget directly into the hands of indigenous leaders, communities and organizations through its Amazon Defenders Fund (ADF). Last year, the organization redistributed $1.9 million dollars to empower indigenous initiatives to resist destruction and defend their territories. “When you donate to Amazon Watch, your donation directly supports indigenous rights, resistance and solutions to defend the rainforest,” Salazar-Lopez says.
3. Join Amazon Watch on social media
Amazon Watch has an active social media presence, frequently posting about ways you can get involved, support their mission and share the cause with others. “We use social media to uplift and amplify the voices and the solutions and the resistance of the indigenous peoples,” Salazar-Lopez says. “Those are our leaders, those are our guides and many of them are superstars. If you follow us on social media, you’ll find many sources of inspiration.”
FOLLOW ALONG: Amazon Watch is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (@amazonwatch).
Watch the full discussion below:
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Carrie Ruehlman is a former magazine editor and communications professional turned freelance writer and editor. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and husband, Michael. She also serves on the board of The Tiny Miracles Foundation.