in the Soil
Frances E.S. Campoy
rainforest undergrowth. Source
beauty, majesty, and timelessness of a primary rainforest is indescribable,
according to Leslie Taylor, author of Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest.
It is impossible to capture on film, to describe in words or to explain to
those who never had the awe-inspiring experience of standing in the heart
of a primary forest. Rainforests are filled with beauty, life, and new
discoveries waiting to be exposed. By virtue of their richness in both animals
and plants, they represent a store of living and breathing renewable resources
that contribute to the wealth of resources for the survival and well-being
of the human race.
humans manage to strip away the beauty of the rainforest and overuse its
natural resources for the technology they have become dependent on. In fact,
because of humanitys selfish carelessness, the rainforests are
disappearing. Many plants and animals are being driven to extinction, and
since the rainforest is a fragile system, where everything is interdependent,
upsetting one part can lead to unknown damage or even the destruction of
the environment itself. Therefore, to save the environment and humankind,
the total destruction of the rainforest must be prevented and should be illegal.
The Mindo Nambillo cloud forest reserve
is threatened by a new pipeline. Source
Article on Ecuador: New Oil Pipeline Threatens Fragile Ecosystems and Communities
from Amazon Rainforest to Pacific Coast: Source
humanity has become dependent on materials obtained from the rainforest.
One example is petroleum, where our dependence on its use makes it almost
impossible for the human race to survive without it. Current usage allows
people to make space in rainforests for farmlands, for growing crops and
grazing cattle, for roads, transportation, buildings, businesses and shelters,
and for mines for the consumption of coal.
than 50 years, more than half of the worlds tropical rainforests have
been consumed for human benefits. This massive deforestation may bring many
ugly consequences, such as air pollution, loss of potential medications,
the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the loss of biodiversity
through extinction of plants and animals, which may have a harmful effect
on people and the atmosphere.
(brown) versus Remaining Forested (green) over the last 8,000 years.
also leads to the extinction of many valuable plants and animals because
the biodiversity of the tropical rainforest is very immense. Harvards
Pulitzer-Prize-winning biologist Edward Wilson estimates that we are losing
over 137 species of plants, animals, and insects every single day because
of rainforest deforestation. Thus, hundreds of thousands of species are becoming
extinguished before they even have been identified. There is a possibility
that the loss of animals and plants may affect the food chain. If one species
becomes endangered, it could leave a surpassing amount of another species
because there are not enough predators to prey off that species.
rainforest is also an important component of the process that provides medication
for mans everyday life. Its resources can and will affect mans
welfare. According to Taylor, rainforest plants are complex chemical storehouses
that contain many undiscovered biodynamic compounds with unrealized potential
use for modern medicine.
Periwinkle: scientific name, catharanthus roseus, also known as vinca
rosea. Although mildly poisonous, there are two drugs extracted from it:
vinblastine, used in the treatment of Hodgkins disease,
and vincristine, used in the treatment of leukemia. Also used
as an alkaloid to help treat diabetes.
that can be obtained from the rainforest plant known as the Madagascar Periwinkle
increase the chances of survival for children with leukemia. Although threatened
in the wild by deforestation, the plant can be cultivated for its known medicinal
properties. But other plants, holding other unknown potential medicines,
could succumb to deforestation-caused extinction without their benefits ever
being identified. The United States National Cancer Institute already has
identified 3,000 plants that are active against cancer cells. Seventy percent
of these plants are found in the rainforest. Twenty-five percent of the active
ingredients in todays cancer-fighting drugs come from organisms found
only in the rainforest.
is not just a home loss for animals and plants, and the medications they
produce, it is also a home loss for humans. There were an estimated 10 million
Amazonian Indians living in the Amazon Rainforest five centuries ago. Today
there are less than 200,000. In Brazil alone, European colonists have destroyed
more than 90 indigenous tribes since the 1900s. As their homelands continue
to be destroyed by deforestation, rainforest people continue to disappear.
With them has gone accumulated knowledge of the medicinal value of rainforest
species. Most medicine men and shamans remaining in the rainforests today
are 70 years old or more. Each time a rainforest medicine man dies, it is
as if a library has burned down. Taylor stated, When a medicine man
dies without passing his art on to the next generation, the tribe and the
world loses thousands of years of irreplaceable knowledge about medicinal
plants. As these medicine men disappear, humans are slowly losing their
chances of possible discoveries of cures from some dreadful diseases that
afflict many people. The knowledge that many medicine men hold may be the
answer to many of the problems the human race encounters.
the canopy of a temperate rainforest. Source
humanity will experience change in the worlds climate patterns because
of the lack of rainforests. The Amazon Rainforest, the worlds greatest
remaining natural resource, is the most powerful and bio-actively diverse
natural phenomenon on the planet and has been described by Taylor as the
lungs of our planet, because it provides the essential environmental
world service of continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. As soil
loses its minerals, nutrients provided in the plants are being depleted as
part of the destruction of the rainforest. In addition, the rainforest is
responsible for its own rainfall; deforestation would cause a sudden decrease
in rainfall. This decrease in rain would contribute to making drought
a major concern. The destruction of the rainforest would alter the climate,
unbalance the environment, and would lead to global warming.
warming is one of the major threats to the worlds climatic conditions,
and the key component to this dilemma is the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse
effect happens when the Sun emits short-wave radiation, which passes through
the atmosphere to Earth. The Earth then radiates some of the Suns energy
back to the atmosphere in the form of long-wave infrared radiation. According
to Ian Bowles and Glenn Prickett in Reframing the Green Window,
Although nitrogen and oxygen, which the atmosphere is almost entirely
composed of, do not retain heat, certain trace gases, such as carbon dioxide,
methane, ozone and nitrous oxide, trap some of the infrared radiation.
This is what keeps the planet warm.
To keep our planet warm, the
greenhouse effect is needed in the environment, although
too much of it could also be hazardous to the
atmosphere. Billions of tons of greenhouse gases have
been spewed into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels
and have thrown the system out of balance, says
renowned environmentalist Jeremy Leggett. Sadly, human
activity is changing the composition of the atmosphere.
The main contributions of gas emissions that result in
global warming are: carbon dioxide, produced by
fossil-fuel combustion including coal, oil, gas, and
through the burning of vegetation in deforestation;
methane, produced by biological decay, animal waste, and
biomass burning; and chlorofluorocarbons, produced by
fertilizer use and the burning of fossil fuels.
dipterocarp forests can reach heights of over 200 feet. Beneath their lofty
branches, one finds a burgeoning world of living things.
the greenhouse gases affect most plants and many animals that thrive under
specific climatic conditions in particular habitats. The effects could result
in countless ecosystems being forced to migrate, or widespread extinction.
Global warming would also melt polar icecaps, creating rising sea levels
and coastal flooding. Bowles and Prickett write that fresh-water aquifers
could be contaminated by salt-water intrusion from a sea-level rise, placing
dwindling fisheries that lie near the ocean at risk. In addition, agriculture
would be adversely impacted by global warming. The worlds most important
food-exporting nations, such as United States, Canada, and France, would
most likely suffer drought and drier soil conditions.
is growing evidence that past emissions of greenhouse gases could already
be altering the Earths climatic weather patterns and temperatures.
There is a dramatic increase in atmospheric concentrations of each greenhouse
gas. In 1850, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about
265 parts per million (ppm). By 1995, the number had jumped to 359 ppm,
representing a 170 billion ton increase in this warm blanket of gases that
has accumulated since the beginning of the industrial revolution, according
and Odil Tunali in World Watch: Getting
The worlds concentration of carbon dioxide will continue to increase
because of the loss of trees that filter the air and the because of air pollution
from transportation and industry. This will provoke a serious problem for
the atmosphere unless humans take responsibility and take charge of the
humans have grown accustomed to their everyday life, there are several ways
that they can alter their habits to save the existing rainforest without
completely giving up using its resources. By reducing paper and wood consumption,
recycling paper for future use, reducing oil consumption, limiting gas emissions
from industrial businesses, banning clear-cutting, requiring companies to
plant new trees after the old trees are cut down, and promoting the use of
sustainable and renewable resources, destruction of the rainforests could
be stopped. By creating a new source of income through harvesting the medicinal
plants, fruits, vegetable oils and other sustainable resources, the rainforest
would become more valuable alive than cut or burned.
conclusion, the excessive destruction of the rainforests is hazardous to
life, and future destruction must be limited. The clearing and burning of
rainforests releases vast amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide,
methane, chlorofluorocarbons and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Through
photosynthesis, forests absorb and store atmospheric carbons, and this is
how the carbon in the atmosphere is balanced. In deforestation, more
and more carbon is released into the atmosphere, while there are fewer and
fewer forests to remove it.
stop using the rainforests resources would be unrealistic. Taking
responsibility and setting limits on the amount of resources that are taken
from the rainforest, on the other hand, will benefit the
atmosphere, the environment and the future generations to come. In addition,
the rainforest is a beautiful peaceful shelter for living and breathing
organisms. What a great tragedy it is to see humanity destroy the Earths
valuable resources where there are so many amazing things waiting to be
discovered. The rainforest is a fragile environment, just like a footprint
in the soil, and the human race is like the ravishing wind, erasing the footprint
from its existence, never being fully able to follow the path in which it
Links of Interest:
Ian and Glenn Prickett. Reframing the Green Window.
Conservation International and Natural Defense Council, 1994.
Christopher and Odil Tunali. World Watch: Getting Warmer, Volume 8.
Lester Brown, 1995.
Malcolm. The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Disease in a World Out of
Balance, The New Republic, 1995.
William F. Fragments of the Forest, Natural History, July
Jeremy. Global Warming: The Greenpeace Report. Oxford University Press,
Sarah, Cameron and Matthew. Preserving the Rainforest, May 12, 2003.
Theodore. Rainforests - Whose Treasure?. Enteractive Inc., 1995.
the Rainforest. May 12, 2003.
Leslie. Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest. Prima Publishing, 2003.