Rainforests are one of the biggest oxygen generators on the planet today. They are one of the last great unexplored frontiers of mankind and many of today’s greatest medical marvels come from the plants and animals that call the rainforest their home. As these rainforests begin to disappear, however, so do our hopes of a better world.
With current deforestation techniques, the last vestiges of the rainforests on the planet could be gone within the next 40 years.
Rainforests used to cover 14% of the total surface of the planet. Today they cover about 6% of the total surface of the planet. Only 1% of the trees and plants of the rainforest have been tested for medical use, but 25% of the pharmaceuticals that are currently in use came from research into these plants and trees. We are losing an estimate 137 plant, animal, and inspect species every day due to deforestation. It is time to take action before we lose any more.
- Just 1 hectare of rainforest can contain over 750 types of tress and 1,500 species of animals.
- The percentage of the world’s diet that developed from within the tropical rainforest: 80%.
- There are over 3,000 known fruits that develop in the rainforest, but only 200 of them are now in use in the human diet.
- The number of fruits from the rainforest that native tribes use: 2,000.
- Over 120 prescription drugs that are sold worldwide come from plant-derivatives that originated from the world’s rainforests.
- There were an estimated 10 million native tribesman living in the Amazon rainforest 500 years ago. Today that numbed is thought to be around 250,000.
- The average age of a medicine man for a tribe in the Amazon: 70.
- The amount of rainforest that is deforested every second right now: 1.5 acres.
- Over 100 pharmaceutical companies are involved in medical research that includes rainforest materials to find medical cures.
- The percentage of the world’s fresh water that originates from the Amazon Basin: 20%.
The problem with rainforest deforestation is that we have placed one priority over another. Instead of using the rainforest as a resource, we are eliminating it to create other resources. The land is being transformed into ranch lands, farms, and other food producing plantations. With over 3,000 fruits in the rainforest, there should be plenty of food that can come from the trees and plants that call this area home. When the timber and cattle from a farming operation are put to a monetary value, it may reach $400 per acre. For the rainforest in its natural state, however, the value may reach $2,400 per acre. We’re costing ourselves money, health, and potentially killing the planet in a slow and methodical way. It needs to stop.
The Rainforests Contain An Amazing Diversity
- A single pond in Brazil may sustain a greater variety of fish in that one small area than is found in all of Europe’s rivers.
- The total tree diversity in a single 25 acre plot of rainforest in Borneo is equal to the total tree diversity in the entire United States.
- One tree in Peru was discovered to be the home of 43 different species of ants.
- The number of species of fish in the Amazon exceeds the number found in the entire Atlantic Ocean.
- It is estimated that 100 million species of animals may exist in the rainforest, but only 1.4% of them have been named to date.
Here’s a sobering fact. Scientists today know more about the stars in the sky and the planets that rotate around those stars than they do about the millions of plants and animals that call the rainforest their home. It is certainly a difficult environment and one that can put a scientist at risk while performing work, but native tribes have been living there for centuries. It can be done. Until we come together to make an effort at discovering the plentiful bounty that the rainforest has to offer and then preserve it, we could be losing the cures for some of our worst diseases, like cancer or ALS, right now. Logging concessions are sometimes sold for $2 per acre. What does that mean? That companies could be making $2,398 per acre in pure profit.
What Are The Consequences of Rainforest Deforestation?
- It is estimated that 15% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that remain in the atmosphere are due to the results of deforestation.
- In the Amazon, about 17% of the total rainforest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly due to cattle ranching.
- When items like oil, gold, or even mahogany are discovered, it does not matter how far into the rainforest these items happen to be because the value exceeds the cost of obtaining them.
- Fires that are used to clear and prepare rainforest lands for other use destroys as much of the forest as agriculture and logging combined.
- About 50% of the wood that is illegally obtained from the rainforest is used for fueling needs, such as home eating or cooking.
- Scientists have estimated that a third of the world’s arable land has been lost through soil erosion and other types of degradation since 1960.
- If carbon emissions from deforestation were taken into account, Brazil and Indonesia would rank in the top 10 of the world’s worst polluters.
If we know the consequences of what rainforest deforestation is actually doing, then there is the chance to create change. Until these statistics are widely known, however, and people are shown why they should care about the elimination of over 100 species per day, nothing is going to happen. Of course all deforestation activities will never be eliminated. People will choose to illegally log, occupy, or use rainforest lands for their own purposes. Our goal, not as a country or society, but as the human race, should be to limit these illegal activities as much as possible so that in the next generation, the rainforest has a chance to recover.
Can Anything Be Done To Stop Rainforest Deforestation?
- 85% of the deforestation that has been occurring in Paraguay has been eliminated with the enforcement of a 2004 law that allows for zero deforestation.
- 10 African countries have developed a co-existing partnership to help save the Congo Basin rainforest, which is the second largest in the world.
- Protected areas, which exist in over 100 countries, have proved key to the preservation of some species, such as the mountain gorillas that live in the forests of the Virunga Mountains in East Africa.
- Only 7 countries are responsible for 60% of the rainforest deforestation that is occurring right now.
- In the United States, over 830 square miles of forest were lost between 2001-2005.
- Some areas of West Africa have lost over 90% of their rainforest canopy in the last 100 years alone.
Changes can be made to help protect the rainforest, but it needs to start from the top. When governments get involved, as Paraguay has done, it has helped to eliminate a vast majority of the deforestation that was occurring within their borders. In other countries, like the United States, rainforests have become protected lands. No one wants to keep someone in poverty or increase world hunger simply because we’re protecting the rainforest, but we need to find better solutions. What lands exists where cattle ranching can occur? How can we provide people with food to eat and water to drink while keeping the remaining rainforests intact? They are tough questions, but questions we must begin to ask if we are going to keep our planet a survivable place to live.
If We Are To Act, We Must Do It Now
- More than 50% of Indonesia’s rainforests have been deforested in the last few years and 70% of what remains has already been sold for plantation purposes.
- Data from Google, in conjunction with the University of Maryland, shows that the world lost 230 million hectares of trees between 2000 and 2012.
- About $4 billion globally was spent between 2010-2012 to help prevent deforestation, or about 1% of what the total amount of retail spending is from a global perspective annually.
- On average, trees in tropical forests hold about 50% more carbon per hectare than trees outside the tropics.
- Brazil says the rate of deforestation in the Amazon increased by 28% between August 2012 and July 2013.
- Deforestation in the Amazon destroyed an area almost as big as the UK between 2000 and 2010.
Soy farming, cattle ranching, and timber are never going to be as profitable as what a rainforest can provide, but that’s with a long term perspective. What we’re dealing with today is a short-term perspective. Countries and farmers have debts that need to be paid. Trees seem like a good way to pay for these debts, but new plantings take time to develop. Cuttings are exceeding new plantings. In the last decade, from an overall perspective, rainforest deforestation is down from previous decades. The bad news is that it is beginning to increase once again, especially in the Amazon Basin. When will we say enough is enough? If we wait too long, we may not be around to say anything at all.
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