Into the Depths of the Amazon
Unfortunately, the Amazon is endangered as well as exotic. Through the intervention of humankind, much of the rainforest is being destroyed to make way for "progress". It is not a simple tale of the loggers and the natives, but is almost as complex as the interactions of the flora and fauna in the forest. Many different groups are involved and each sees the forest in a different way, making the problem all that more difficult to resolve. While the Amazon Rainforest does cover over 2.2 million square miles of the basin, time is running out as over 80 acres are being lost every minute.
The Amazon rainforest holds millions of species of flora and fauna, some found nowhere else on earth. It is a treasure chest that hasn't even been fully opened, as the Amazon still remains partially unexplored. There are many more plants and animals that anywhere else on earth. And we are destroying them without even understanding what they are. Many cures to illnesses have been derived from rainforest plants but if we lose the species we'll never know that it held a cure for cancer. In addition, another problem is that people don't understand what they are doing. The Amazon, though it is host to millions of lifeforms, is not full of fertile soil. The organic material that builds up from all the plants and animals such as dead leaves, skin, and various other materials is what allows plants and animals to thrive. Without the forest, this is quickly washed away by rain and the once fertile soil is fertile no more.
The rainforest takes in CO2 and releases oxygen. Without it, we would probably have more global warming to deal with as well as a lack of oxygen. A few trees here and there cannot compare to what we would lose if we lost the Amazon as a producer. Already, we are causing changes in the Amazon as flooding patterns are changing due to the immense destruction of rainforest. This flooding creates fertile soil and is crucial to the farmers long the river. If we continue in this madness, we will only hurt ourselves. We must try as hard as we can to stop it.
Who is responsible?
One of the largest problems with stopping this destruction of the rainforest is that it is not being done by just one group of people. It's not just the loggers trying to make a buck off lumber. They take wood considered to be good in other countries and ship them. Replanting is not always an option they can take, though some have grand dreams about shipping other woods and replanting better to preserve the stock. Without the replantation, the trees become rarer and rarer until they are impossible to find. If that day comes, we will all be in trouble.
The Brazilian government encouraged poor people to go into the rainforest, settle on
new land, and paid them to do it. They are not any richer as a result, but remain out
there. There isn't always enough land to go around and trouble arises when they dispute
over land with the Amazonians. Ranchers clear land for cattle, destroying vast areas for
their cattle. The land they build off of is poor without the organic fertilizer created by
the rainforest and the ranchers usually must move on. There is a need for better education
in the Amazon, as most don't understand why their crops fail soon after the land is
cleared, but there is also a need to stop the destruction as soon we can.
The Amazon's original keepers
And what of the Amazonians? They are trapped between the old and the new. While they
have their traditions, our world encroaches upon them at every turn. Everyone wants their
land, from the poor people without land to the rich businessmen with much land, and they
cannot defend themselves with spears against guns. Our world has brought both opportunity
and disease. They must use our medicine to fight against new illnesses that we bring, yet
their illnesses require their traditional cures. They want their tradition and their old
world, we are destroying both. They cannot exist in the way they were before anymore, but
they know the Amazon better than any of us. If we listened to them instead of stealing
from them, we could improve our usage of the Amazon.
Where do We Fit?
The problem is not going to be solved by talking alone. People have attempted to raise money for the Amazon through numerous ways, though not all that money is going back to where it is needed. While the people are still poor, while the money is spent outside the Amazon, and while the Indians keep giving up their treasure to the exploiters, the problem is not solved. Many people see the Amazon rainforest as a resource that can be used until none is left. The great size of the forest contributes to many illusions. We must help to dispel these illusions if we every want to save the forest. A moderate estimate of how many acres of rainforest are lost every minute of every day is 80 acres a minute. That's roughly the size of fourteen football fields. If any progress is to be made, we must hit the problem at its core by making a difference and changing the course of the present.
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