Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Rainforests - Part Three

This is the third article in our Rainforest discussion (you can read earlier discussions here: Part One and Part Two). Today we'll talk about a few more products from these precious forests and how our actions can help.


In 1960, oil was discovered in the Ecuadorean Amazon (called the Oriente). During the 1970s, drilling began and over the next 28 years, over 17 million gallons of crude oil were spilled from the main pipeline ... toxic spills killing plant and animal life. Drilling has, and is, occurring in the rainforests of Columbia, Thailand and Nigeria, as well. It generates toxic pollutants, hurting the land and indigenous people ... and it creates new roads. We learned in our last post that new roads enable farmers and illegal logging operations to venture deeper into the forest resulting in deforestation. In addition, oil drilling operations create airstrips and developments ... both of which pose a threat.

All petroleum products are bad for the earth ... and they are everywhere. There are the obvious products ... gasoline and home heating oil. And there are the not so obvious ... cosmetics, candles, plastic bags, paint and even some foods. There are alternatives ... paraffin free candles, natural cosmetics and reusable shopping bags, to name a few. The list of petroleum based products is huge ... therefore, read labels and know what's in your products. If a petroleum derived ingredient is included, look for something else.


Simply put, paper comes from trees ... and as previously discussed, deforestation due to logging is a real problem. The US is the largest per-capita consumer of pulp and paper products in the world. While the US is also a major producer, more and more of the pulp and paper products used in the US are imported.

We can make a difference by reducing our use of paper. Whenever possible, choose electronic versions of receipts, documents, bills, etc. rather than paper versions. When paper is necessary, use both the front and back of each sheet. Remove your name from junk mail lists. Ask companies not to send catalogs your way. Share books and magazines ... or opt for digital versions. For more ways to reduce paper, just type in the word "paper" in our search bar (upper left part of the side bar) for earlier articles on the subject.


The largest iron mine in the world, the Las Carajas mine in Brazil, is using up nearby forests to process iron into steel. It's estimated that the mine will be active for 50 years and in that time will consume 16% of the Amazon for charcoal to fuel the processing of iron.

Whenever possible, avoid steel. If you can't avoid it, be sure to recycle it.


Nearly 80 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon results from cattle ranching. Consider this ... more than 38,600 square miles has been cleared for pasture since 1996, bringing the total area occupied by cattle ranches in the Brazilian Amazon to 214,000 square miles, an area larger than France. Brazilian beef is mostly exported to Europe ... however, it has characteristics that some U.S. markets see as favorable. Amazon cattle are effectively "free-range", "grass-fed", and possibly "organic", depending on the definition.

What can we do? Eat less meat. Regardless of where one lives, eating less meat is good for the planet. And, since Brazilian Beef has attractive characteristics ... it's possible that eating less meat will also be good for the rainforest.

We continue to see how our purchases matter ... and how vitally important it is to be informed consumers. In our fourth and final article, we'll talk about bananas, aluminum, gold, coffee and chocolate.

As always, I would love to hear from you!