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Ecosia: Search engine that plants trees worldwide sees 1,150% spike in users as Amazon fires rage

Ecosia pledges a million extra trees in six months in response to President Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental policies

Jane Dalton
Tuesday 27 August 2019 09:17 BST

A search engine that puts advertising profits towards planting trees had a surge in users reportedly of 1,150 per cent because of the fires devastating the Amazon rainforests.

Ecosia, which donates most of its revenue to reforestation, enjoyed a spike in popularity last week in response to worldwide alarm over the destruction in Brazil and neighbouring countries.

The rush by internet users to help tree-planting emerged as G7 countries agreed to create a $20m (£16.3m) fund to help Amazon countries fight wildfires.

The search engine, whose projects include the Atlantic Forest on Brazil’s east coast, says it can plant a tree every 0.8 seconds thanks to a rise in downloads of its search app and browser extension over recent months.

In reaction to the policies of President Bolsonaro, which have driven tree loss, Ecosia says it has committed to planting a million extra trees in Brazil over six months, reconnecting remaining forest patches. Although the area is 2,500 miles from the Amazon, the company says deforestation there is “oppressive”.

Brazilian military planes began dumping water on fires in the Amazon state of Rondonia over the weekend as the record number of fires continued to ravage the rainforests.

Since Mr Bolsonaro took office on 1 January, deforestation of the Amazon has risen quickly, with one group saying it has increased by 20 per cent in the past year, as he favours development and agricultural expansion over environmental protection.

Environmental groups say the Amazon fires have been deliberately started, as people clear the land to expand cattle farming, and Mr Bolsonaro has been accused of encouraging the destruction.

Ecosia, which is based in Berlin and runs its servers on solar energy, uses 80 per cent of its profits for tree planting and reforestation schemes around the world.

Working with local schemes, the non-profit company says it has planted at least 60 million trees in 15 different countries.

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The company told Business Insider that it normally sees around 20,000 downloads of its app and browser extensions a day on average but that spiked to 250,000 on Thursday.

Christian Kroll, Ecosia’s chief executive, said Ecosia became the top-ranked iOS app in Brazil on Thursday.

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