the Razing of the Rainforests

February 26, 2010
By , Grand Haven, MI
The Razing of the Rainforests
By Anonymous

Humans have always had the desire for more of everything. More food! More water! More money. But one thing that humans have wanted most is space. Our hunger for land has destroyed ecosystems everywhere. In the past decade, populations have skyrocketed and our need for land has gone the same direction. With more mouths to feed, our demand for food has also escalated. This means we require more land for agriculture and raising livestock. How do we solve this problem? Destroy pristine natural habitats. How else?

One of the types of ecosystems we destroy is rainforests. Although the primary concern is over the decimation of the Amazon rainforest, the worst destruction occurs in Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and other parts of South America. Experts think that the last remaining rainforests will vanish in less than forty years. One and a half acres of rainforest disappear every second. That means every minute, ninety acres of habitat are lost. Logging concessions in the Amazon are sold for as little as $2 an acre while logging companies harvest timber worth thousands of dollars per acre. Loggers are there to cut down wood that is most in demand: hardwoods. The teak, mahogany, and rosewood are usually shipped out to the lucrative markets of Tokyo. When commercial loggers come in, they cut down the big trees first. This almost destroys the upper canopy, in which most of the birds of the rainforest live. After a plot of rainforest has been logged (even if it is given a chance to regrow) the complex ecosystem it once was is lost forever. Because of the canopy, only one to two percent of sunlight actually reaches the forest floor. When timber is felled, plants and trees that have for centuries lived in the sunlight deprived and damp environment of the forest floor cannot survive out in the open. So they become extinct.

In Borneo, an industrial timber mega corporation purchased thousands of acres of rainforest. The company presented 2000 Malaysian dollars to12 longhouses of local tribes. This payment came up to the price of approximately 2 bottles of beer for each community member. Since 1986, this company has managed to extract and extirpate about a third of Borneo’s rainforest (about 6.9 million acres). In addition to ecological casualties, the local tribes have been ousted from the area or forced to work for the company for slave wages.

As our demand for meat increases, so does the destruction of the rainforest to create grazing land and farmland. Innumerable Central and South American rainforests have been lost to cattle operations. Ranchers and farmers must soon move to a newly cleared plot of land due to the poor quality of the soil. These government schemes seldom make a profit, as they are actually selling cheap beef to industrialized nations.

A pulpwood project, which included a Japanese pulp mill and power plant, has been in operation since 1978. The company burned down land in the Amazon and the fifty six hundred square miles of rainforest were replanted with pulpwood trees. 2000 tons of surrounding rainforest wood are extracted daily to produce 55 megawatts of electricity to run the project. The pulpwood project manufactures more than seven hundred tons of pulp daily, worth about $500,000. It’s seven hundred vehicles use twenty eight hundred miles of roads constructed through the Amazon.

The worlds largest pulp mill is the Aracuz pulp mill located in Brazil. Its two units annually produce one million tons of pulp. Aracruz extracts and extirpates the rainforest just to keep itself in business and has displaced thousand of indigenous tribes. Aracruz’s biggest clients are the U.S, Belgium, Great Britain and Japan. The developing world requires two hundred million tons of wood annually just to make paper. It appalls me that there are so many recycling bins, but not enough recycling. In our haste to produce paper, we are always looking for wood. By 2020, four billion tons of wood will be consumed just through the paper industry alone!

So What’s at Stake?

Beginning as a tiny stream of water in the Andes, the Amazon journeys 4000 miles across South America until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean, where it is 200 to 300 miles in diameter. 1,100 tributaries feed this river. Seventeen of them are more than one thousand miles long. The Amazon River Basin contains over two thirds of the world’s freshwater. Over 2000 species of fish have been identified in the Amazon River- that’s more species than the Atlantic Ocean! The Amazon has the most diversity of plant species on Earth. It is home to half of Earth’s species of plants, animals, and microorganims.

Although Brazil is blessed with such an ecological treasure as the Amazon rainforest, it engages in some of the worst rainforest destruction in the world, decimating more than 2.7 million acres annually. Rainforests in general contain numerous plants with medicinal properties. One fourth of today’s medicines are found in the rainforest.
“Destroying the rainforests would turn what is a significant carbon sink into a significant source,” says Peter Cox, professor of climate system dynamics at the University of Exeter. Rainforests are the Earth’s living lung. Since they are responsible for 40% of Earth’s oxygen, the destruction of rainforests is escalating CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

The rainforests, especially the Amazon are our greatest ecological treasure. Losing them would be a grave mistake. Like I mentioned before, the population has skyrocketed in the past decade. Indigenous tribes have felt the outside pressures of increased demand for resources and land. One thousand years ago there were about ten million Indians living in the Amazon rainforest. Today there are fewer than 250,000. The tribes of the Amazon are bookshelves of thousands of years worth of medicinal knowledge. A single Amazonian tribe may use more than 200 species of plants for medicinal purposes alone. Whenever a shaman or healer dies without passing his knowledge to the next generation, all the valuable knowledge vanishes. I am a staunch believer that humans can coexist with rainforests if we make the right choices and benefit from it. I will not stand for the razing of rainforests. Will you?


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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Victor said...
Mar. 9, 2010 at 8:21 pm
Wow! Your writing is so deep! Great work! It's clear you must have spent a lot of time on this!
Victor said...
Mar. 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm
Wow! Whoever you are, you've got talent!
You really convinced me to help save rainforests, everywhere! I love your writing!!!!!!!!
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