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Cool Earth and the Amazon

If you've been following our journey over the past two years, you probably already know that part of the reason we're doing this rally is to raise money for charity. Each team that participates in the Mongol Rally raises at least 1000£ for charity, with at least 500£ of that money going to the official charity of the rally, Cool Earth.

As avid outdoorswomen and hikers, Team Get Ovary It is particularly jazzed to be supporting Cool Earth, and we want to tell you why!

What is Cool Earth?

Cool Earth is a UK-based NGO that was founded in 2007. They work in tandem with local rainforest communities to mitigate deforestation and promote sustainable practices. Their goal is to combat global warming while providing employment for local communities.

As a part of their mission statement, Cool Earth outlines three main goals:

  1. Keep rainforests intact.

  2. Ensure everyone has a say.

  3. And share everything they learn.

This is one of the things we love about them as a team. Not only are they fighting to protect the rainforest, but they really consult the communities they're working in to make sure that they're doing this in the best way possible. They do this by partnering with local non-profits who are already doing sustainable work in the communities and work with them to figure out how they can help support the existing work. And once they've done this, they monitor and report on the outcome of their work and share the results with the world, so that others can learn from both their successes and mistakes.

In 2015, Cool Earth was named Charity of the Year in its category at the Civil Society Media Charity Awards and best International NGO at the PEA Awards. They've worked in over 52 countries, including Peru, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Ecuador, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon. And collectively, they've helped protect 99,162 hectares of rainforests across 3 continents and stored 15,679,250 tonnes of carbon! Pretty amazing, right?

Why the rainforest?

So you might be saying to yourself, "Well that sounds great and all...but why do I care?" Let's break it down a bit.

A butterfly in the Amazon

The rainforest is home to over 6 million species of plants and animals. It holds 1/5 of the world's fresh water, traps 1/4 of the world's carbon, and produces 1/5 of the world's oxygen. The Amazon, in particular, is the world's largest carbon sink. This means that if the Amazon disappears (as it's quickly doing), there will be 2 BILLION extra tons of CO2 in the atmosphere each year when it's gone.

Further, the Amazon is currently home to around 30 million people, who depend on the rainforest for food, shelter, and traditional medicine. And speaking of medicine, over 120 prescription drugs sold worldwide today are derived from rainforest plants.

Unfortunately, though, we're seeing widespread destruction of the rainforest on this planet. Rainforests are self-sustaining, but if a forest's size is reduced too much, the whole forest ecosystem will fail. Scientists predict that if things continue the way they are, the Amazon Rainforest will collapse in the next ten years.

Why is this happening?

The mass deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest began in the 1970s when Brazil's military regime saw the potential for profits deep in the forest. The rainforest was 5 million acres of resources, but it was mostly inaccessible.

So the government started building the Trans-Amazonian Highway, which connected the more rural parts of Brazil. At the time, most of the population of Brazil lived in the southeast (think Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), but the government wanted people to move out west to help cultivate the land. So, they offered free land along the highway. Cue land rush.

The growing Arc of Deforestation

Most people turned their land into pastures to raise cattle, and when they needed more, they would take another plot and convert that into pasture as well. This equated to about 20,000km of deforestation and created the Arc of Deforestation.

At this time, there was also an increase in meat consumption. Between 1960 and the early 2000s, meat consumption around the world almost doubled. As a result, there was an increased need for soybeans, which served as a high protein feed for farm animals. This was a huge economic opportunity for countries like Brazil that were suitable for growing soybeans. By the early 2000s, farmers took over the pastures and turned them into massive soy farms. Ranchers who sold their pastures moved their cattle further into the rainforest, clearing more of the Amazon, often illegally. As this happened, the Arc of Deforestation expanded.

Marina Silva, Minister of Environment

This garnered the attention of environmental activists, and the Brazilian government finally stepped in. With the help of Marina Silva, the Minister of Environment, the Brazilian government expanded the amount of rainforest under government protection (from 28% to 47% by 2012), added more reserves where business was strictly banned, and created Sustainable Use Reserves, where business like nut harvesting and rubber, which didn't destroy the rainforest, were allowed. Additionally, more land was demarcated for Indigenous people who preserved the forest, and this became a shared and sustainable space.

The remaining land was pasture, agriculture, and remaining rainforest. To prevent further deforestation in the unprotected rainforest, the government strengthened the Forest Code, which said that farmers could old clear 20% of their private land. The key to enforcing these regulations was strengthening Ibama, a police force that tracked and fined people for illegal deforestation.

And it worked! Deforestation fell by more than half by 2006.

At the same time, there was pressure on the fast food industry for their complicity in this deforestation, so sever companies got together and, in 2006, signed a soy moratorium whereby they would only buy soy from existing farms. Three years later beef companies signed a similar agreement. As a result, deforestation plummeted to record lows, while at the same time, the beef and soy industries continued to grow due to more efficient techniques!

But then, enter the Ruralistas, a group of conservative politicians who represented the interests of the agricultural industry. They began gaining influence, and between 2003 and 2012, they went from holding 17% of seats in congress to holding 30%. This was enough power to convince the president to weaken the Forest Code. And in 2016, they had 44% of the seats and pushed the president to slash Ibama's budget, essentially crippling the agency's ability to enforce the new regulations. They also passed a law that made it easier for people that illegally seized land in the Amazon to keep it, and this just emboldened more people to do that.

In 2018, Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing congressman and ally to the Ruralistas was elected president. On his second day in office, he transferred the Forest Service (which had previously been under the environmental ministry) to the agricultural ministry. Throughout his presidency, Bolsonaro worked to systematically weaken the environmental ministry. As a result, deforestation increased significantly, primarily in the protected areas.

By August of 2019, there were over 30,000 fires burning in the Amazon (three times as many as there were in August '18).

Amazon rainforest fires 2019

In the last 50 years, it's estimated that 17% of the Amazon has been deforested. If this rate reaches 20-25%, the entire Amazon could collapse. It wouldn't be enough to cycle all the water it needs, causing trees to die, which would release a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

So what can we do?

Well, there are a few things that we can do as individuals to help support the environment! Let's dig into them.

  1. Support Environmentally Conscious Companies. Our voices as consumers carry weight. When we shift our spending to green and eco-friendly companies, we're telling the industry that we prioritize the environment, and that will have a ripple effect on other companies.

  2. Limit Consumerism In General. We buy so many things that are wrapped in plastic or placed in plastic bags, and so often, these purchases end up sitting in the back of closets where we forget about them. Before you make your next purchase, ask yourself if you really need it. And if you do, try to find an eco-friendly company you can buy it from!

  3. Buy Local or Grow Your Own Food. Globalized food companies create a lot of waste and drive up food production, which increases farm sizes in developing countries which usually don't have conservation laws. Not to mention the environmental toll of transporting that food from one side of the world to the other. Try visiting your local farmers market or start a backyard garden! You'll be surprised how delicious the vegetables will taste.

  4. Compost. Composts are such a great way to turn food waste into something productive rather than just sending it to a landfill. And it can also help create soil for your own garden! Try looking into home compost systems or see if your city has something set up.

  5. Donate. And then finally, one of the easiest ways to help protect the environment is to donate to organizations like Cool Earth, which are actively working to combat deforestation and climate change. You can help Get Ovary It support Cool Earth, by donating here, and plus, we give some pretty cool perks! Go check it out!


Cool Earth. “Cool Earth | Working to Support Rainforest Communities to Improve Lives, Reduce Deforestation | Climate Change Charity.” Cool Earth, 3 June 2021,

Cool Earth. “What Is the Mongol Rally?” Cool Earth, 13 Feb. 2018,

“The Destruction of the Amazon, Explained.” YouTube, uploaded by Vox, 21 Nov. 2019,

“How Does Preserving Rainforests Benefit Us Medically?” ThoughtCo, Accessed 24 June 2021.

“Why Are Rainforests Important?” Rainforest Concern, Accessed 24 June 2021.

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