Rainforests are the world’s richest and most productive ecosystems, containing half of all living species on the planet. Yet many of these rainforest are destroyed every year. If there is something in the world so full of life and sheer beauty then why do we continue to destroy what is already there? Catholics have been among those slow to realize you cannot forever trash anything without paying the consequences. We have been polluting the oceans, depleting topsoils, junking hazardous wastes, opening ozone holes in the atmosphere, and throwing millions of tons of carbon into the air. Planet Earth is hurting; some say it is dying, if it goes so do its inhabitants. All Christians and non-Christians need to be engaged in some serious examination of conscience here.
The rainforest is very important to the world for many reasons, most of them being very simple. One major reason is that the plants in the forest turn carbon dioxide into clean air, which helps to fight pollution. Also by absorbing carbon dioxide, the rainforests help deter the greenhouse effect. The plants and animals that can be found within the rainforest can provide us with food, fuel wood, shelter, jobs and medicine.
Traditionally there were three major causes of destruction to the rainforest: farming, ranching and logging. Farmers in the rainforest countries are often poor and cannot afford to buy land. Instead, the farmers clear the rainforest to grow their crops. Because the tropical rainforest soil is so poor in nutrients, farmers cannot reuse the same land year after year. In the years to follow the farmers just clear more land, destroying the forest piece by piece.
Ranching also causes destruction of the rainforests. Ranchers clear large areas of rainforest to become pastures for their cattle. This land does not cost them very much, so they can sell cattle at low prices. This in turn is all very profitable, ranchers continue to clear rainforest land so they can raise and sell more cattle.
The third major traditional reason for destruction of the rainforest is logging. Trees from the rainforest are used for building houses, making furniture and providing pulp for paper products, such as newspaper and magazines. Rainforest that was chopped down can grow back over time, but they will never have the same variety of plants and animals they once did.
In many recent years people have become more aware of the damage being done in rainforests across the world. This sudden awareness has helped in the development of many organizations focused on preserving rainforest ecosystems. Two examples these organizations are the Tropical Rainforest Coalition and the Rainforest Foundation US.
The Tropical Rainforest Coalition believes that “individuals are the ones who can truly make a difference.”This organization was established in 1991 during World rainforest Week and is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that has made a significant impact on the preservation of rainforests. The Tropical Rainforest Coalition builds coalition between individuals, corporations, businesses, learning institutions and non-governmental organizations seeking to reverse “the unsustainable use of the rainforest.”The mission of the Tropical Rainforest Coalition is to preserve the tropical rainforest ecosystems at the local level through enabling volunteerism and through community education, and at the international level through technical and financial support for recognized organizations involved in the conservation of the tropical rainforests.
The Rainforest Foundation US was founded by a vision of two people. These two people saw what was happening to the Amazon rainforest because of a man named Raoni. Raoni, the chief of the Menkragnoti Kayapo tribe, had wanted to vocalize his people’s troubles and in doing so protect their homeland in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The two people whom heard this were Trudie Tyler and Sting. The two of them together provided a vision and took Raoni’s story to the world and made millions of people aware of the looming ecological and cultural disaster that faced not only Raoni’s people but also the entire world. The mission of the Rainforest Foundation is “to support the igneous people and traditional populations of the world rainforests in their efforts to protect their environment and fulfill their rights by assisting them in various areas.”One way in which they were to receive assistance was in “securing and controlling the natural resources necessary for their long term well being and managing these resources in way which do not harm their environment, violate their culture or compromise their future.”The organization also provided assistance in “the development of the means to protect their individual and collective right and obtain shape and control basic services from the state.”
While there have been many organizations created to help save the rainforests, many individuals collectively have done their part as well. For example, an isolated community on the island of Java in Indonesia is the tackling the destruction of the rainforest by planting rice crops on the same land as fast growing trees. The Baduy people of Java regard to the small pocket of rainforest they live in as “sacred.”In order to protect their land they have made a rare concession to outsiders and have accepted to plant trees, known as Albassieh. The Albassieh tree is a legume, and like other legume it soaks up nitrogen from the air and returns it to the soil so that the land can be re-used for crops. The Baduy people have traditionally resisted agricultural modernization or interaction with outsiders and have also refused the threat to their land has prompted them to do this.
There have been organizations, as well as, individuals who have helped in the fight against the destruction of the rainforest. However, there have also been individuals and business that have not helped the problem but contributed to it. One example of this is the Canadian company known as BC lumber that destroys the Canadian rainforest every year for product supplies.
BC lumber does business with companies all over the world. These companies include Xerox, Kinkos, 3M, Cristol-Myers_Squibb, B&Q, Do-It-All, Magnet Stores, BBC magazines, Schwank (Germany) and Sainsburys/Homebase (UK). However, many of these companies have decided to move away from BC lumber “due to environmental concerns.”They have also issued statements in their intent not to purchase from them as well. Notable companies that have refused to act on these concerns are Home Depot and two subsidiaries of chemical giant Hoechst AG-Celanese (US) and Clariant (Switzerland).
There is an old saying “if your not apart of the solution your apart of the problem,” well Bob Hasan fits that statement quite well. Mohammad “Bob” Hasan did more damage to Indonesia’s rainforests that any other single individual. His actions in the past have included “ignoring environmental and conservation laws that limited and mananaged to clear cutting of the tropical rainforests.”Hasan believes that he is the “king of the jungle,” and his economic standing continues to grow so Hasan’s views and actions may never change.
The sad reality is that destruction of the rainforests continues at an alarming rate. Throughout the tropics, forests are logged for precious hardwoods. Others are burned to make way for large-scale farming or cattle raising operations. Topical rainforests once covered more than fourteen percent of the Earth’s land area. They now amount to less than six percent. At the current rates of destruction only a few tattered forests will remain in the next century.