Friday, April 10, 2009

Rainforests - Part One

This is the first in a series of posts on the Rainforest, an expansive subject. Most of us know that rainforests are important and they are in serious trouble. But perhaps we don't know exactly why they are important or how we, especially those of us who live no where near them, can help. Let's start with why they are important ... here are a few facts:

  • Tropical rainforests are the single greatest terrestrial source of air that we breathe (they generate over 20% of the world's oxygen). They take in vast quantities of carbon dioxide and, through the process of photosynthesis, convert it into clean, breathable air. This also helps prevent global warming.

  • They are home to between 50 and 70 million different life forms ... two-thirds of all the living species on the planet.

  • Nearly half the medicinal compounds we use every day come from plants endemic to the tropical rainforest. That means that if we are to find a cure for such diseases as AIDS or cancer, it'll probably come from the tropical rainforests.

  • Almost half of all the world's rain falls on these forests. Vegetation traps the water in the soil and slowly releases it back into the air where it evaporates. This causes clouds to form and rain to fall ... filling rivers and streams ... and supporting life. One-fifth of the world's fresh water is in the Amazon Basin.

  • Rainforests regulate world temperatures and weather patterns. Trees are like big air conditioners. They lower the temperature, filter air, remove carbon dioxide, and absorb storm water. Fewer trees equate to higher temperatures everywhere.

  • Indigenous people live in the rainforest. From a moral standpoint, it is wrong to destroy their home ... and in the process their lives. With the loss of indigenous people, we lose valuable information on sustainable practices ... practices that, we are now realizing, will ultimately save our lives and the earth.

OK ... so the air we breathe, the food we eat, the clean water we enjoy, the medicine we need, the knowledge on sustainable practices that we require and our weather all have origins and/or links to the rainforest. They are important and their survival affects every single one of us. Their survival, however, is in serious jeopardy. Read on:

  • Worldwide, rainforests are being lost at the rate of an acre-and-a-half every second.

  • It is estimated that accessible rainforests will be completely wiped out in 45 years.

  • The earth is losing more than 400 species to extinction each day. This is a greater rate of species extinction than occurred 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit earth. When the rainforests are gone, 90% of earth's unique life forms (the majority of which have not yet been identified) will be lost forever.

What will happen to humans if the rainforests are lost? Some say that it is unlikely that we will survive because life is entirely dependent upon the integrity of the world’s biological fabric. Not everyone agrees with this analysis ... but all agree that life, as we know it, will drastically change for the worse.

There are many reasons why rainforests are disappearing ... agriculture, logging, mining ... to name just a few. Solutions are hard to find and, quite frankly, need to come from government leaders and policy makers to have the kind of impact required to save these precious resources. But we can help. Once again, there is power in our choices and our purchases. As long as we, the consumer, continue to buy and use products which negatively affect the rainforest ... and as long as those products continue to be big business ... we will continue to see the current rate of demise. Here is a list of products that, in coming posts, we'll take a look at:

  • Rainforest wood
  • Petroleum
  • Bananas
  • Aluminum
  • Paper
  • Gold
  • Steel
  • Beef
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Rayon
  • Flowers
  • Palm Oil
  • Soy

Saving rainforests, throughout the world, is crucial to our lives. We can help by knowing where products come from and refusing to purchase products that contribute to deforestation and destruction of, possibly, our most valuable resource.


Stay tuned for our next post ... Rainforest Wood.


As always ... I would love to hear from you!

15 comments :

  1. Great post. Looking forward to the whole series.

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  2. Thanks a lot to write about very important subject,unfortunately we can be understand our sources when we loose them,so rainforest,water sources,mineral deposits very important our lifes,if we prevent drought and soil erosion we must be protect likethis valuable.I m thinking we have to protect for climate and rain stability.I hope we will leave habitable wörld next generation .Best wishes

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  3. SF, as usual you touch the wick. I look forward to the rest of the series. It is, without doubt, the most important of all the issues we face at the moment.

    I your list of rainforest products, don't forget rubber which came originally from the Amazon until stolen by the British and propagated in Kew gardens from where it was exported to Malaya. For some great info read a book called One River(can't think of the auhtor's name offhand). He was an ethno-biolgist who spent 50 years in the Amazon and surrounding areas.

    AV

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  4. I agree small footprints, we people do not pay attention towards such important things... Things will surely change drastically if we don't do something about saving the rainforests...

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  5. Wow--45 years doesn't seem that long away. I remember when my daughter was in grade school and they taught then about saving the rain forest. Her dream has been to visit one--she's 25--I hope one is there when she finally gets to go!

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  6. Thank you, AV, for the book recommendation and the heads up on rubber. Most of the information I've come across so far doesn't talk about it so ... I'm going to do a little digging.

    SF

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  7. a few years ago Amber got to go to Costa Rica and she planted a tree in the rain forest! I think that is just cool.
    Kelli

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  8. Recently I posted on a related topic, how forests (especially rainforests) generate wind and rain:
    http://gaiatribe.geekuniversalis.com/2009/04/08/how-forests-generate-wind-and-rain/
    So destroying the forests can disrupt weather patterns to the point of drying out an entire continent. It is hypothesized that this may explain Australia's condition.

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  9. You touched on it in post but maybe the most important reason (for humans) to save the rainforests is the scientific research into the properties of various exotic plants hold the keys to all sorts of new medicines.
    If the rainforests are destroyed those cures are destroyed as well.

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  10. Most true. Survival of several species of god's creation will be lost totally for everm due to the greed of man,who happens to be the enemy of nature. Let us all act responsibly to leave this earth in good health for our progeny. This is an urgent need of the hour as you say the doomsday is just 45 years away from now.

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  11. Excellent post Sf. I hate to see those photos of vast areas of the rainforest that's been cut down...... miles of barren land with the remains of tree stumps.... and then compare it to the lush growth and the infinite number of species that once lived there. It's heartbreaking.

    The thing is though that local people make their living from the palm oil plantations, etc. They're poor people and want to enjoy the pleasures that people from other countries enjoy, so they're going to take what work is on offer. I think one of the most important aspects is to try to develop alternative means of income for those people, so they can enjoy a good standard of living without harming the environment.

    I look forward to reading your future posts on this subject. :)

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  12. Chocolate is on the list - oh ...dang....and Paper - all papers? all chocolates?

    Wonderful article, though, as usual!

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  13. todays posting is very informative and motivating.

    we lived a few years in Puerto Rico near th El Yunque Rainforest. aside from the mosquitos it was a natural wonder. very beautiful.

    we we lucky to have.

    thank you for the post.

    ..
    .ero

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  14. Sometimes the entire prospect of responsibility can begin to overwhelm us--or at least me...

    I do what I can, and otherwise have to put blinders on to what is currently out of my reach to change...

    i grow as much of my own food as I can-- no where NEAR what I'd like, but... BABY STEPS, OUI?!

    I see the little garden I tend attract myriad birds; butterfies have attended of late. Bees will be back in another three weeks...

    These contribute.

    And I give Thanks...

    Cygnus

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  15. Very interesting post on a vital topic. I'll be back. Thank you for your work! I'm glad to have found you.

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