The Destruction of the Earths Rain Forests
In the time you can read this sentence, eight acres of tropical rain forest will have been bulldozed and burned out of existence (Bloyd 49). However, this destruction has been neglected and overlooked for years. Many people do not understand the long-term consequences of losing the earths rain forests. The rain forests have provided people with many natural resources and medicines. The benefits that rain forests provide to people will be destroyed if the depletion continues to be disregarded.
No matter where a person lives, even if it is not near a rain forest, the complete destruction of rain forests will affect living conditions. For years rain forests have provided countries around the word with valuable resources, minerals, lumber, and energy. In Brazil alone the rain forests contains 45% of Brazils hydroelectric power. The minerals found in the rain forests of Brazil are estimated to value 1.6 trillion dollars, while the lumber that the rain forests can provide total 1.7 trillion dollars (In the Forest 1). Nutrients from decomposing organisms can be found throughout rain forests, including in soil and in trees. To continue destroying forests also destroys the important materials that they are providing to humans.
The rain forests also provide important exports such as oil, nuts, and rubber. Brazilian nuts have become an important export and coffee has been South Americas main source of money. After Charles Goodyear learned how to use rubber to benefit humans the demand for it increased. The Amazon began to provide rubber for tires made around the world. Today the Amazon still provides the world with a large supply of rubber. Deforestation of rain forests decreases the amount of rubber South America supplies, and businesses will soon have to find a new supply of this resource.
The plants found in the rain forests can be useful to everyone around the world. The Kayapo, a people of the Amazon, are dependent upon plants in the Amazon. A research team came into the area that the Kayapo people inhabit. A team of scientists researched 1,200 plants in the area. Their results have shown that 98% of these plants are used in the Kayapo society. Of all the plants 45% of them were never known to science until the research team came (McCuen 58). The benefits of many more unknown plants could never be discovered if rain forests are continually destroyed. It is estimated that 95% of the plant and animal life in the rain forests of the Amazon will be destroyed before anyone has had a chance to test them for beneficial properties.
Despite proof from scientific research that many plants found in the rain forests help to cure viruses and diseases, the destruction of forests still continues. In the Unites States one fourth of all drugs that are prescribed have their roots in rain forests (McCuen 14). Rain forests contain a numerous amount of plant species that have not been discovered yet. One of these very plants could help to cure or treat medical patients, including those patients with AIDS or even cancer. Some plants found in the rain forests have been tested and are currently being used.
SP-303 is a compound extracted from a plant found in South America. Two products have been derived from this compound: Provir and Virend. Provir helps treat respiratory infections in children, while Virend is a topical ointment used to treat the herpes simplex virus (Carr 5). Other products from medicinal plants include products that treat thrush and also non-addictive painkillers. The National Cancer Institute also determined that 70% of the plants that may help treat cancer grow in the rain forest (Jackson). Today many modern scientists work with shaman to determine the importance and value of plants in the rain forests. Destruction of the rain forests destroys these valuable plants, which may cause the loss of a cure for AIDS or other major diseases or cancers of all kinds(Medine 1).
The presence of rain forests on earth affects the climate around the world. If forests are destroyed no one can predict what will happen to the climate around the world. Rain forests provide fresh air. The trees found in the rain forest remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air by storing it in their roots and leaves. Trees in the Amazon store 75 billion tons of carbon dioxide (Carr 1). The trees also release oxygen. This helps fight pollution and also provides oxygen necessary for human life. By absorbing carbon dioxide rain forests help prevent the greenhouse effect and global warming. The threat of global warming is also increased as rain forests are set on fire. Fires increase the amount of carbon dioxide found in the atmosphere, therefore increasing the greenhouse effect and causing climate changes worldwide (Patent 8). As trees continue to be cut down the amount of rain the forests receive begins to decrease and the area will no longer be able to support the variety of life that it does now. The cycle of absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen is vital to all life.
Studies have shown that in rain forests that are not disturbed the nutrients it provides are rarely swept away by rainfall or rivers. Once depletion of trees begins to occur the valuable nutrients in the soil also begin to disappear. When rain falls in rain forests it often amounts to four to five inches in just one rain storm (Perry 25). Without trees this rain erodes the top layer of soil and the nutrients found in the soil. The soil also runs into rivers disturbing any nutrients that settled at the bottom of the river.
Besides the valuable plant life that would be destroyed thousands of animals would lose their homes. It is a known fact that rain forests contain the greatest biodiversity of any climate area on the earth. The disappearance of the rain forest is the greatest threat to animal life. Rain forests currently cover 7% of the earth; however it is estimated that more than fifty percent of the species of plants and animals are found in these forests (Bloyd 50). More than three hundred species of animals are faced with the treat of extinction in China because of the depletion of the rain forests (McCuen 15). E.O. Wilson of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University has determined that deforestation of the rain forests is responsible for the loss of 4,000 to 6,000 species a year- an extinction rate 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate before the emergence of humans on Earth (Carr 7). The most important thing to consider is that once something is destroyed is can never be recreated (Patent 8). Once rain forests are completely gone along with the life it once offered nothing could bring it back.
For thousands of years indigenous people have lived in rain forests around the world. They have lived peacefully in the forests without harming it for centuries until recently. There are more than one thousand of these indigenous groups worldwide. At one time in Brazil there were more than one million indigenous people that made up part of the population. Today only 200,000 natives call the rain forests in Brazil their home (Medine 1-2). The industrialization and destruction of the rain forests angers the natives of the area. The indigenous people use and care for the resources of the biosphere with respect, because it is our home, and because we know that our survival and that of our future generations depend on it (McCuen 52).
Many governments more than welcome the destruction of the rain forests to increase profits of the country. They try to bribe the indigenous people to give up their land for logging, mining, and other reasons. The natives cannot live in the rain forests while destruction continues. Their supply of food is destroyed, their water is contaminated, and their land is burned. The natives cannot just move on to find a new lifestyle without losing their culture and dignity. Being forced out of rain forests the natives will be forced into the less fortunate areas of cities. They will also be given the poorest jobs since their knowledge is the rain forest, which is of little use in a big city (Bloyd 54). As stated by Evaristo Nkuang of Peru, We either disappear with the forest, or live with the forest. We have no other place to go (McCuen 53).
Businessmen seeking a greater profit cheat many villagers of rain forests. Greed has taken over both villagers and businessman. In Peru in the village of Asariamas logging of rain forests is illegal. Two crews of loggers were found in 1996. The men were logging mahogany trees. When the villagers discovered the crews they accepted a bribe of $1,100 for 55,000 feet of mahogany logs instead of reporting the loggers to the government (Kemper 16). When the men were finished they left the area without paying the people of Asariamas. Not only did they not pay, but they left with 300,000 feet of mahogany rather than the 55,000 feet that was planned to be taken (Kemper 16). The villagers had accepted the bribe only because they have very few sources of income.
Logging is one of the biggest threats to the rain forest. When loggers come in to cut down trees, they are often only looking for a certain kind of tree that has some value. Because of this loggers destroy large areas of rain forests just to find a large enough supply of the wood they are looking for. This is called selective cutting. However, the trees that the loggers do not cut down usually do not survive once surrounding trees are removed. Since most trees are intertwined by roots and vines the trees left over soon fall down. Two-thirds of the trees in an area where selective cutting occurs are damaged from this (Bloyd 52). Another way of logging is known as clear cutting. This is the more damaging form of logging, and it destroys all the trees in an area.
Most of the lumber that is illegally cut goes to countries like the United States. The lumber is then used to build homes, to make furniture, and to make paper products. The majority of the wood cut down is used as a fuel. After a rise in the prices of oil people began to turn to wood as a source of heating. Since 1976-1986 the use of wood for burning to produce heat has increased 35% (McCuen 14). An estimated 1.5 billion people using wood as a fuel are relying on the destruction of rain forests for the wood (McCuen 14). In most rain forests logging is illegal, but this has not stopped anyone. Madidi National Park opened in January of 1997. In only eight months guards of the park had discovered forty-eight logging camps all of which were there illegally (Kemper 22).
Settlers burn the rain forests to make room for new farms and houses. In 1987 in Rodonia State in the Amazon an alarming 8,000 fires were started by people turning to the rain forests for a new home. The combination of burning and certain weather patterns worsens the devastation caused. In 1998 in the Brazilian rain forest, 15,000 square feet of land was destroyed in the rain forest due to a terrible fire (Linden 98). The effects of El Nino caused a drought in the rain forest, which increased the size of the fire. Because of areas that were already burnt by settlers or thinned because of logging sunlight hit the floor of the forest making the area more vulnerable to fires. A common form of destroying forests is known as slash-and-burn agriculture. People burn the forests are cut the remaining trees for farmland. As with all farming in rain forests this produces unsuitable farmland. The land is farmable for only two or three years or until all its nutrients are used (Bloyd 52). The farmers then turn toward a new area of land to destroy.
More than 10 billion people are estimated to be living on the planet by 2050 (Medine 1). Each year the population of the world increases. With more and more people more land is needed. People begin to turn to rain forests for a place to live. The forests are cut down so humans can have a nicer and less crowed place to reside. The population in the Amazon was expected to increase by as much as 1.5 billion by 2000 (McCuen 15). Although the increase was not as severe as expected the population of the Amazon did increase. As farmable land becomes harder to find people to turn to the rain forests.
The rain forest have proved, however, to have soil that only supports the life of the rain forests. With trees gone the soil receives less rain, and the rain that it does receive washes away its nutrients. The land of rain forests then becomes farmable for only about two seasons (Medine 1). Some people realize that this land is not suitable for farming, but people than turn to subsidy farming. Subsidy farming had its peak years in Brazil in 1983 to 1987 (In the Forest 2). In an effort to increase the agricultural production of the rain forests the government of Brazil offered subsidies to those who tried to farm land. People began to burn the rain forests to clear land. Much of the land cleared was to merely collect the money and was never really used for farming.
An increasing population also leads to the paving of roads, which has a tremendous impact on the survival of rain forests. Out of all the destruction that has occurred in the Amazon 75% has been within thirty miles of a paved road (Linden 98). The latest concern is the paving of a highway called BR-163 in Brazil. The paving of this road, as with all other paved roads through rain forests, is the threat of a considerable increase in settlement. A paved road would open parts of the forest that would have been impassable to settlers. Seeking places to build houses and businesses these settlers would begin to burn the area. Ecologists have determined that paving BR-163 would destroy 580,000 square miles of the rain forest, which is one-third of the forest (Linden 98). An ecologist, Daniel Nepstad, stated that this could be the beginning of the end of the Amazon (Linden 98).
One of the most profitable resources the rain forests can provide is oil. Every country in the world uses oil, and most rain forests in the world are rich in oil. The Peten, a rain forest in Guatemala, is one such forest. Each day Guatemala uses 250,000 barrels of oil. Out of this oil Guatemala only supplies one-third of it and imports the rest (Bryce 10). During times of crisis the price the country pays for oil increases immensely. To help save money the country has been extracting more oil from the rain forests. However, it is not that easy. Crews enter the forests creating roads and causing damage to once unharmed land. The government of Guatemala granted two large oil companies the right to remove oil from the Peten. The area that was given to the oil companies is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve that is supposed to be restricted from any cause of environmental destruction. However, the government has ignored the promises of the reserve with the hope of producing large amounts of oil and profiting from it.
The oil being removed from the Peten is just one example of how governments continue to destroy forests despite laws not to do so. A Philippine native, Oscar Lapida, was walking in the rain forest of Palawan. As he was walking he came across a stash of kamagong logs. Kamagong is a type of tree that is almost extinct. The secret supply of the kamagong logs was worth almost one million dollars (McCuen 34). Lapida contacted the government to inform them of the logs. He later learned that it was the government that was holding the kamagong logs.
The destruction of rain forests has continued to increase over the years; losing approximately 80 acres per minute every day and night (Medine 1). Despite efforts by some governments, national parks, natives, and environmentalists the rain forests disappear at alarming rates. The rates from year to year vary, but no matter what the loss is per year the forests are still being destroyed. Only about 4% of rain forests is protected by reserves; however not even these areas are completely protected (Bloyd 55). Some believe if this depletion continues rain forests will be extinct in eighty years (Bloyd 54). 95% of El Salvadors rain forest has already been destroyed due to humans (McCuen 15). As much as 20% of all rain forests have been destroyed so far. Of this 20%, 75% has occurred after 1960 (McCuen 23). Each year an area of the rain forest the size of Wisconsin is lost because of damage caused to it (Carr 1).
Each year new estimates are made to how much of the rain forests have been lost. Nothing has been as shocking as the recent studies that show that the destruction is much worse than thought. Scientists use satellites to determine areas where deforestation has occurred. These image taken from satellites fail to show areas where surface fires have occurred and areas where only a few trees have been removed. Logging and burning often occurs in areas that are too small to be seen by a satellite. For three years a group of ecologists researched to find the real damage that has been caused. The results show that the deforestation was underestimated by 43% (Monastersky 228). This only increases the problem that the rain forests face.
The fact needs to be faced that rain forests will eventually face total destruction if things continue the way they have been. The destruction occurs simply to better the lives of people who do not need it and for short-term economic gains (Carr 1). Complete cultures that most humans know nothing about are disappearing faster than ever. The destruction is unnecessary and causes more harm than anything else. The benefits of destruction will not last forever and future generations will have no other places to turn to for valuable resources and medicines. After all the rain forest is a library for life sciences, the worlds greatest pharmaceutical laboratory, and a flywheel of climate. Its a matter of global destiny (Carr 7).
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