Kika Dunayevich, Finalist, Local Letters for Global Change

The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest and a critical line of defense against climate change. Image courtesy of PBS NewsHour. Brazil, 2019.

The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest and a critical line of defense against climate change. Image courtesy of PBS NewsHour. Brazil, 2019.

This letter features reporting from "How Amazon Deforestation Could Push the Climate to a ‘Tipping Point’" by Amna Nawaz and Mike Fritz

Dear Senator Kamala Harris,

My name is Kika Dunayevich, and I first and foremost want to congratulate you on your bid for the presidency of this nation. I am writing to you from Mill Valley, CA, with a request to you as my senator.  While reading a Pulitzer Center article outlining the destruction and deforestation plaguing the Amazon Rainforest, “How Amazon Deforestation Could Push the Climate to a ‘Tipping Point’” by Amna Nawaz and Mike Fritz, I realized that immediate action has to be taken to conserve the Amazon Rainforest. As a senator, it is my hope that this letter will help you use your power to help make a meaningful and impactful change that will benefit humanity as a whole.

The Amazon Rainforest represents over 40% of the world’s rainforests, produces a steady supply of valuable rainfall while simultaneously absorbing enormous quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is home to hundreds of billions of tropical trees, boasts diverse ecosystems interconnecting millions of animal species with tens of thousands of plant species, and provides a whopping 6 percent of the world’s oxygen supply. It has been nicknamed “The Lungs of the Earth” for a very good reason, and at the moment it’s under threat of being destroyed completely.

President Bolsonaro of Brazil has taken drastic steps to reduce restrictions on developing this precious land, and with the addition of an unusually dry summer, fires have been spreading rapidly across the great forest, burning two Manhattans’ worth of vegetation every week. 4.6 million acres of forest were reduced to ash from January to July of this year.

As you are likely already aware, the wildfires are exasperated by decreased moisture content in both the soil and atmosphere, caused by the disruption of the delicate rainforest microclimate. As the Amazon is continually destroyed, this delicate climate is disturbed, leaving the soil exposed to the intense sun and significantly increasing the risk of both run-off water and extended droughts, as well as an overall decrease in atmospheric moisture content.

In fact, since Bolsonaro’s election in January of 2019, the rates of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest have increased roughly 40 percent. He’s approved the leveling of nearly 1,000 square miles worth of rainforest to pave the way for industrialized cotton farms, corn plantations, and cattle ranches. 

While Bolsonaro dismisses these rampant wildfires and insists that they proceed with the industrialization and development of the Amazon, climate activists are clamoring for steps to be taken to preserve what precious forest remains, and to outlaw deforestation and exploitation of the Amazon Rainforest in an effort to preserve this vital source of oxygen.

Unfortunately, we have now reached a point where global warming is an issue that affects every single human life on the planet at every moment of every day. Last winter, my home of Marin County experienced choking clouds of smoke in late fall as a result of the fires in Paradise. School was cancelled for a day when the air quality reached unhealthy levels of contamination, and when we returned to class, recess, lunch, and PE were taken inside the relative safety of the school.

The fire in Paradise was just one among many destructive wildfires that have spread toxic smoke across our valley  with unprecedented frequency in recent years. And it’s not just my community that’s being affected: in the U.S. alone there are extreme droughts afflicting California nearly annually, massive floods ransacking the Midwest, and hurricanes battering the Florida coast. These are by no means ordinary occurrences, and if steps are taken immediately, hopefully they never will be.

The fires are just one side effect of our increasingly unstable and volatile climate, which was disrupted by human activity, deforestation, and waste, among other causes. If drastic measures are not taken at once to conserve the Amazon Rainforest and what other precious wildernesses remain, human society will cease to function. Humanity will not be able to survive the scope of disaster that global warming will inevitably cause in the world if we do not act now.

I ask you, as a senator, to propose that the leaders of every developed nation unite to provide financial backing to Brazil to support the hundreds of native farmers relying upon the income obtained by the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest for a living. The funding would also hopefully allow Brazil to transfer the economy away from agriculture relying upon deforested Amazonian land and towards more sustainable forms of agriculture. In fact, there is evidence that conserving the natural humid climate that the Amazon produces could actually benefit the agricultural industry as a whole. If this is achieved, deforestation and development of the Lungs of the Earth can be outlawed completely. It is not a solution to the entirety of the issue of global warming, as human society is founded upon exploitation of natural resources, but it would be a massive step in the right direction.

I understand that this is a daunting, viscerally disturbing issue, and it is not easy to prioritize the long-term survival of the human race over the short term benefits of looking out for the interests of our nation and our nation alone, but I beg of you to try.


Kika Sabine Dunayevich

Kika Dunayevich is a 7th grader currently attending Mill Valley Middle School in Northern California. An avid writer, activist, naturalist, poet, and aspiring biologist, she has a passion for politics and 70s Rock n’ Roll. When not writing, you might find Kika playing banjo, studying genetics, or diving down a rabbit hole of political controversies. She lives with her mother, father, and a rambunctious cat.