Beep...beep...beep. Great Grandpa's pulse was steady. He had been lying in his deathbed for over two weeks now. The doctors had done everything they could. They said it was only a matter of time.
Jim, only ten, was talking to his great grandfather.
"Great Grandpa, what was a rain forest? We sort of studied them in school, but can you tell me more about them?"
"Come closer, my boy. You should know why I'm really dying. A long time ago there were beautiful rain forests which were home to two-thirds of the five to ten million species of plants and animals on the planet. People lived there too. You know, they say there might have even been a cure for many diseases in those forests, but there was not really enough time to look for them.
"The rain forests supplied the world with much of its oxygen. And when they destroyed the forests, the air got more polluted and it became harder to breath."
"Is that why we wear oxygen masks?"
"Yes, and that's also why we wear 700 sun block. When the forests were destroyed, the global temperature rose five degrees. The trees also filtered the air so the ozone wouldn't disappear. But once the trees were gone, there was nothing to protect the ozone from pollutants, and us from the sun's harmful U.V. rays."
"Yeah, but weren't there other forests to help the ozone?"
"Yes, but when they destroyed the rain forests, they did it by burning and bulldozing. All the smoke from the burning only made it worse."
"Didn't anyone realize all the harm they were causing and stop, or at least slow down the process?"
"You see, the companies were so involved in making money that they were tearing down the forests at a rate of 50 acres a second. They were also causing at least one species of animals to become extinct every day."
"But, why would they do it? What did they need with all that land?"
"Well, the land was used mostly for cattle ranches."
"What did they do with all that beef and what happened to the people?"
"Here's one of the saddest parts. Ninety percent of the beef was exported to the United States for fast food restaurants and pet food. Even though their own country needed the beef more, they sold it to the country with the money.
"The natives of the forests lost their jobs. They couldn't be employed by the people destroying the forests because most of the companies were owned by the same people.
"With the need for beef growing, the world's population growing and the need for more money, the forests began to be torn down faster. The animals in the rain forests started dying from lack of space and food. More plants and animals became extinct. And with the tropical deforestation, CFC's couldn't be filtered."
"Didn't ANYONE try to save the rain forests?"
"Yes, many many people did. Environmental groups like Greenpeace and Rain Forest Alliance tried. Ben & Jerry's ice cream shops had a flavor called Rain Forest Crunch with Brazil nuts and cashews from the rain forests. They made it to try to make South America see the economic value of saving the rain forests. People like actor Kevin Costner supported The Nature Conservancy and singer/songwriter Sting was the founder of the Rain Forest Foundation. But, it wasn't enough. The forests were almost gone by the turn of the century.
"I, too, tried to save them. I spent my entire life trying to conserve the tropical rain forests. But, people just didn't seem to care about their future. I gradually lost my sponsors and my will to go on. With the environment getting worse, and me getting older, I just lost my will to live."
"But, Grandpa, it isn't too late. You can still fight this thing. You can still survive."
"Can't you see I'm tired of fighting. I've been fighting all my life. If people just cared, then the forests would still be here and it wouldn't be so hard for me to breathe and have hope in the world. I tried, Lord knows I tried, but obviously it didn't make a difference. I give up on the world. No one cares about the future, no one cares."
And with that, Great Grandpa closed his eyes, a single tear ran down his cheek, and his pulse faded.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.