The following is a piece of college coursework I found of mine. It’s written as a magazine article. I apologise for the fact that the style of writing is a bit accusing. I was feisty in my youth, okay?! Enjoy.
It’s common knowledge now that the world’s rainforests are disappearing at a rate of roughly two football fields per second. Everyone knows it, and if you didn’t, you haven’t been paying attention.
But I don’t want you to think “oh no, not another doom and gloom herald of disaster” and flip the page for the (much more right-here, right-now, you think) piece on how to look your best in the Winter fashions.
And I don’t want to drown you in statistics either. I’ll try to just stick to the basics and tell you only what’s really necessary. Promise. And if you already know all this you can skip straight to the solutions section.
Tropical rainforests contribute several incredibly important aspects to the global ecosystem that the masses are only just starting to realise; now most of them are gone. The saying: “you don’t know when you’ve got it good untill you lose it” rings true here.
These great swathes of green across the equator contain at least half of the plant and animal species of the planet. Now, species are dying 1000 times faster than scientists estimate they naturally would, if there was just evolution doing it’s thing with no human intervention. A large proportion of this figure is down to destruction of the rainforests . But this isn’t just a cry of morals, and loss of beauty, it’s also purely practical. If the world’s biodiversity decreases by half, the gene pool will be so debilitated and unbalanced that all the remaining species, including us, would be weakened. Because of the vast complexity of the Earth’s global ecosystem (let’s think James’ Lovelock’s Gaia theory) and how interrelated the web of life is, it is possible, probable even, that we wouldn’t survive at all.
And it doesn’t even end there with ecology. They also absorb vast amounts of CO2, without them we’d have the problem of climate change falling down on us much harder and faster than it already is. As if this isn’t enough, they also regulate the entire hydrological cycle. They contain a 1/5 of the world’s fresh water and there are droughts and floods where too much deforestation occurs.
This, of course, is hell for the indigenous people, but it also affects us. The Western world is farther away from self-sufficiency than ever before, with the best of the soils in the ‘third world’ countries being guzzled up to grow coffee, soya beans, cattle, tea, sugar and fruit for our consumption. Will we wait untill the food falls off our supermarket shelves untill we decide to do something?
Of course, it’s up to governments to fix everything, and of course one action by one individual isn’t going to make a significant difference to the numbers. But untill people get over that fact and realise that everything adds up, and that doing nothing is dangerous in the (not too) long term, we’ll never get anywhere. So here’s some ideas.
- Buy recycled paper, cards etc – Really, nothing else should be on the market, but you’d be surprised how much is made of virgin forest. On the upside, recycled paper is becoming much more common-place, and often isn’t any more expensive.
- Recycle your used paper – Most county councils run curb-side collections and if your’s doesn’t, you can always ask them to start one. It really doesn’t take much effort to throw something in a box instead o a rubbish bin. Come on, everyone needs to do this at least.
- Avoid fast-food outlets like McDonalds, Burger King, etc – they are all directly involved with this. They buy up the land, demolish the forest, and use the land to raise uncomprehendingly large numbers of cattle – which are slaughtered and turned into burgers. Vote with your pocket and tell everyone you know.
- If you’re buying something wooden, look for FSC or ‘sustainably managed’ labels - if enough people do this the logging business will begin to see there is money in sustainable management.
- Support ethical, sustainable projects and businesses such as ‘Raintree’ - see their website at www.raintree.com. They employ the local people to harvest herbs, roots and berries from the forests without damaging them. As well as conserving this vital habitat, this method also generates more income than cutting it down for logging or cattle farms. The indigenous tribes get to stay on their ancestral land rather than being evicted, and generation after generation can benefit economically from the rainforests while they thrive.
Loss of the rainforest, and deforestation in general, will have repercussions in our lifetimes; not in some far off generation we’re not obliged to consider. The effects are very real and anyone who denies this are simply in denial. All credible scientific bodies agree about the seriousness of climate change, and that it is happening now. They also agree that if the rainforest is lost, it will be a very short step from environmental disaster. This is because, as I have mentioned, the trees and other vegetation absorb huge amounts of CO2 – that infamous bane of the atmosphere – and therefore if they are not there to do this, we will have a greater concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Due to the enhanced greenhouse effect, this will cause a faster and more significant change to our climate.
If you don’t want these consequences to come to pass, the solution is simple: take steps to support the conservation of the rainforests and encourage your friends and family to do the same. If we do enough we should be able to save them.
It’s stupid to not try.