An environmental organization co-founded by actor Leonardo DiCaprio announced Sunday that it has formed a $5 million fund to help protect the Amazon rainforest from ravaging fires.
Earth Alliance, which DiCaprio launched in July with Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth, said its newly created emergency Amazon Forest Fund aims to finance “key protections needed to maintain the ‘lungs of the planet.’”
The organization, which is led by an independent team of scientists and conservationists, made an initial commitment of $5 million and encouraged people to donate.
“These funds will be distributed directly to local partners and the indigenous communities protecting the Amazon, the incredible diversity of wildlife that lives there, and the health of the planet overall,” the organization wrote on its website.
The local organizations that Earth Alliance is financially supporting include Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida, Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, Instituto Kabu, Instituto Raoni and Instituto Socioambiental.
Fires are common in Brazil’s annual dry season, but Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said that as of Aug. 21 more than 75,000 fires had broken out across the Amazon since the beginning of the year, threatening indigenous peoples’ land as well as the area’s biodiversity. That number is a huge increase from the 40,000 fires Brazil had at this point last year.
The flame-engulfed rainforest have brought global concern over the region’s ability to curb the effects of climate change as far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rolls back environmental protections. Emboldened by Bolsonaro’s anti-environmentalist policies, farmers have been setting illegal fires to create mass deforestation for cattle and crops, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
While Earth Alliance did not mention Bolsonaro’s name in its Amazon Forest Fund announcement, it did say that the fires were caused by a surge in deforestation thanks to “large-scale cattle operations and feed crops ―much of it illegal ― along with some impacts from logging.”
Bolsonaro blamed environmental groups and non-governmental organizations for the blazes, claiming without evidence that the fires were set in retaliation for the Brazilian government recently cutting environmental funds. The Brazilian president has previously described rainforest protections as a hurdle for economic development.
Over the weekend, Bolsonaro said the Brazilian military will fight the fires. The announcement came in response to widespread criticism and protest of the president’s handling of the blazes. Celebrities, including DiCaprio, brought attention to the fires on social media, while French leader Emmanuel Macron threatened to block a European Union trade deal with Brazil over the fires.
“The largest rainforest in the world is a critical piece of the global climate solution,” DiCaprio said in an Instagram post. “Without the Amazon, we cannot keep the Earth’s warming in check.”