Saving the Rainforests – Your Choice as a Consumer
Rainforests are biodiversity hotspots. They play a key role in our health through regulation of CO2, as well as medical and scientific advancement. They are home to more than 1/2 of the planet's animal and plant species. They provide for climate stability as fresh water sources. Unfortunately, rainforests throughout the world (not just the Amazon!) are facing high deforestation rates. The products we buy and food we consume on a daily basis has a direct impact on the preservation of these rainforests, and ultimately on our way of life in the future. Countries in South America, Africa, Indonesia, Australia, and even North America are experiencing incredibly high rates of rainforest deforestation due to agriculture, ranching, lumber/pulp and land development.
The most notable and largest rainforest affected by deforestation is the Amazon. The Amazon Rainforest accounts for over half of the Earth's remaining rainforest, is approximately NINE times the size of Texas, and covers most of the Amazon Basin, including the countries of Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Although most of the Amazon is in Brazil, the expanse of the rainforest makes the area particularly difficult to regulate. Each country has its own economic concerns and developing industries that affect deforestation to varying degrees.
The impacts of deforestation are severe. Take the last decade, for example, and you'll see that an area the size of the UK has been burned out of the Amazon, releasing millions of tons of CO2. In that same time, 6 new primate species have been discovered in the Amazon. Thousands of species have gone extinct. More than a quarter of all new medicines in that time owe their success to plants from the rainforest.
While various government entities throughout South America are committing to conservation, the biggest opportunity is for us as consumers – the problem will not be solved until an acre of land standing is worth more than an acre of land cleared. As consumers, we have to know what goes into our products. Where our coffee comes from, and whether it is shade grown. How our chocolate is sourced, or even the palm oil that goes into everything from French fries to toothpaste, from cosmetics to household cleaners. Saving the rainforests is our choice. And I know that for me, I do not want to be part of the generation who eliminated a potential cure for cancer, removed yet another indigenous tribe from their ancestral lands, or saw the last pink dolphin swimming the Amazon River.
In this multi-part blog, we'll talk about the effects of logging, farming and ranching, and then explore how our choices as consumers can make a real difference.
Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3 - I hope you find this information useful to you and join the conversation. Tom