There are few places in today’s world that mankind hasn’t fully explored or understood, with the Amazon rainforest being one of the most important. Whether it’s due to its unique wildlife or its vital importance in balancing the earth’s atmosphere, few places are more vital to our way of life than the Amazon. It’s both a shame and hypocrisy, then, that our very way of life is also the leading cause of its destruction.
To fight this tragedy, it helps to be fully informed. So here are some answers to the most vital questions regarding the rainforest’s plight. What is the main cause, why is the rainforest so important in the first place and, most importantly, what can we do to prevent further destruction?
What’s The Cause?
The main cause, surprisingly, is not for paper or land development, but for cattle ranching. Central America is one of the biggest regions for cattle ranching in the world and all that beef requires plenty of land space. This has caused many countries, with Brazil being the primary leader, to tear down rainforests in a bid to meet demand.
Looking at Brazil alone, Greenpeace labels the country as the biggest exporter, with rapidly growing numbers. The export figures shot up from $1.9 million in 1996 to just under $20 billion 8 years later. Currently, the country plans to double its share of the industry by 2018 and one can only assume this will require double the land.
[blockquote]Brazil is just a byproduct of the system, feeding a demand it did not create.[/blockquote]Of course, Brazil is also just a byproduct of the system, feeding a demand it did not create. Much of that belongs to various countries across the world – notably the US, Russia and China – as well as our food-indulgent culture in general. By and large, cattle are not space-efficient livestock. Open pastures take up space, while alternatives such as intensive farming require vast amounts of grain to feed the cattle.
Why The Rainforest is Important
While it doesn’t happen under our own doorstep, the rainforest is vital to everyone for numerous reasons. Perhaps most importantly, it is the vital lung in the world breathing system, as all the plants and trees within the Amazon help produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. Cattle farming, consequently, do the opposite of this. Cows produce methane and other harmful emissions so, in addition to destroying the oxygen-generation foliage, the rainforest is being replaced with directly harmful alternatives.
[blockquote]The Amazon is a very unique ecosystem and when mankind destroys part of it, that system starts to come undone.[/blockquote]A figure from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization suggests over 300 million tonnes of carbon is released into the atmosphere thanks to deforestation. This is 300 million tonnes that would have stayed in the Amazon if the trees were not removed. Additional effects also include the increased possibility of fires, erosion and even pollution to the water quality in the rivers. The Amazon is a very unique ecosystem and when mankind destroys part of it, that system starts to come undone.
This is more important than many realize, as the Amazon is still home to plenty of unique wildlife and the common consensus is that much of it is still left to be discovered. This makes it an unrivaled location of scientific interest, yet the rate we’re destroying the forest makes it all but impossible to catalog and research everything within. Who knows how many species have gone extinct as a result, or how many we’re losing now?
What’s Our Best Tactic?
While it’s unlikely the rainforest will grow back any time soon, it’s important that everyone does their part to stem the tide. In this case, people wishing to protect the rainforest need to do what they can to prevent further beef demand, as this is the main drive behind deforestation.
[blockquote]Only by reducing demand for beef can we hope to prevent further damage to one of the earth’s most unique and vital regions.[/blockquote]There are many ways you can do this, such as eating alternatives to beef and, if you must buy beef, ensuring that it comes from local sources, rather than Central American ranches. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with being vocal about the cause. The Amazon is a classic case of sustainability and mankind’s disruption of natural systems. Not only are we losing part of the world’s natural lungs, we’re losing part of our own sustainability as a result. No other forest is big enough to take over the duties the Amazon is currently providing and neither has mankind, as a species, made any plans to replace this.
The parts of the Amazon we have lost will not grow back in our lifetime, but there’s still a chance to save what’s left. Our desire and demand for beef has made it the number one drive for land space across Central America. Only by reducing this need, can we hope to prevent further damage to one of the earth’s most unique and vital regions. Plus, don’t forget to make environmentally friendly activities a habit and ensure we leave our planet a better space for generations yet to come.
Tim Sparke is the CEO at 4 pumps and for several years, he has been an active advocate of organic farming and sustainability. He also has a passion for writing and he writes the blog at 4 pumps.