Imagine yourself in a green forest. Hear the brightly colored birds singing above you; see the trees stretching over your head for hundreds of feet, rain trickling down the trees, filling up leaves with water. Imagine monkeys swinging from branch to branch and green mosses and grasses filling the area around you. Then suddenly you smell fires burning a little farther away, and hear large machines tearing down the forest. You hear trees cracking and falling; animals are swarming at you trying to escape the destruction.
The resources you use every day, being replenished by this forest, are disappearing right before you. Chico Mendes, a leader who died fighting for the Amazon described the importance of the rainforest, through his efforts, At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realize I am fighting for humanity. (108 quotes) CO2 we humans put into the earth everyday is sinking into the rainforests everyday, and the forests replenish us with oxygen. Now there is so much destruction in the Amazon it is becoming dry and temperatures are increasing. Not only is the destruction contributing to global warming, but it is the second leading cause of climate change just behind fossil fuels. Why do we continue to do this to ourselves?
Between 1978 and 1996, 12.5% (200,000 sq. miles) of the Amazon rainforest had been destroyed. It continued to be destroyed at a rate of 8000 sq. miles per year until 2000 (Timeline Brazil). In 1997 200,000 sq. miles were destroyed by fire. Then in 1998 another forest fire spun out of control and 400 firefighters were sent to the northern Amazon. Forest fires continue to destroy the forest. In 1998 and 2005, Brazil had seen two of the worst droughts since 1983. What is causing these severe changes? And how is all the destruction affecting us?
Large amounts of the Amazon are turning to dry savanna every year. Temperatures are rising, and less rain is falling every year in Northern South America. The rainforest normally absorbs our CO2 and acts as lungs for the earth, producing 20% of the world's oxygen. Now the deforestation is contributing to global warming, and less forest is available to soak up the CO2 in our atmosphere. Water levels are lowering and causing severe changes in our weather. Both the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation must be urgently and significantly reduced in order to save the world's biodiversity and people from catastrophic climate change (Volpi).
In the worst case scenario, by the turn of the century, temperatures will raise 5 to 8 degrees Celsius, converting the Amazon into a full savanna. 'If pollution is controlled and deforestation reduced, the temperature would rise by about 5 degrees Celsius in 2100,''within this scenario, the rain forest will not come to the point of total collapse.' (Astor). Already between 1990 and 2000 the air temperature in the Amazon increased by .5 to .8 degrees Celsius. Because of the higher temperatures, the area has become much drier, less fertile for forest growth, and less precipitation. This drying has enormous effects on the amount of forest fires.
Trees come crashing down, dying from the dry temperatures. Plant and animal life normally shaded by these trees are exposed to the sun, and begin to dry. Within a year the fallen tree releases 2/3 of its carbon dioxide stored during its lifetime. Just last year the Amazon Basin suffered the worst drought recorded in history. Their tides fall 30-40 feet between seasons, which are more than most areas in the world. The Amazon River shrunk so low people were able to walk across. He [Otavio Luz Castello] pointed out what was happening on Wednesday, standing on an island in a quiet channel of the giant river. Just a month ago, he explained, it had been entirely under water. Now it was jutting a full 15 feet above it. (Lean). Water life became endangered, and transportation in the area became scarce.
Not only is the temperature change causing extremes within the area of the Amazon, but it is affecting the world around us. "We believe there is a vicious cycle (Lean). The rain forests, which are becoming much drier and hotter, supply a large amount of moisture in the air. The winds blow the moisture northeast and the moisture sinks into the Atlantic Ocean. A substantial amount of temperature in the ocean is controlled by the temperature of the moisture in the rain forest. Now, as a result there is less moisture in the air, causing drought. Then, because heat rises, moisture stays closer to the surface of the Atlantic causing more frequent hurricanes. A few degrees higher and small hurricanes get big, while big hurricanes turn to monsters (Running Out of Air).
This brutal climate change is constantly affecting the plants and animals in the area. The Amazon River dolphin, for example, is severely endangered due to deforestation along the river, overfishing of its food source, and agriculture pollution from the area being put into the river. Not only is wildlife being destroyed, but the food chain is constantly losing pieces to its puzzle. One tree is destroyed. All the birds that then depended on that tree become endangered. They lost their food source, and their home. What about the green grasses below that needed nutrients left from the bird in order to grow? Or the shade from the tree to survive? Those are now gone. Any animals that fed off of those grasses have now become endangered. It is a never ending cycle that continues to get worse as deforestation continues.
Why do we continue with slash and burn agriculture, and illegal logging? What can be so important that we kill hundreds, if not thousands of species of wildlife? Cattle, soy, mahogany furniture: are they all important enough to destroy our planets well-being?
Ranchers continue to plow down the Amazon for cattle grazing, while soy farmers prefer the land that is underneath the rainforest. It is fertile and able to produce better products. After a few years of farming the land becomes much less fertile, and more forest is chopped down for more land. The new findings suggest that the international demand for soybeans and other Brazilian crops is driving industrialized farming operations to clear-cut and cultivate large tracts of virgin forest.(Plowing Down The Amazon.) Farmers leave 80% of the land the previously destroyed unworked, and 75% of logging is illegal.
An average of 4,000 mahogany trees are exported every year, and it is predicted that within the decade that species of tree will become extinct. Using wood more sparingly and buying recycled products then avoiding wood products without the "FSC-certified" label are just two small steps that can contribute to solving this problem. It would take $60 billion a year to keep the deforestation under control, in comparison it is less than a third of the money spent on Iraq. Brazil continues to lack law enforcement on the deforestation. It has only 1,100 fulltime employees for its forest reserves, while US National parks have 32,000 (Running Out of Air).
Global warming is increasing drastically, and we are losing our rainforests that are supposed to protect us from it. Animals are dying, as agriculture operations and logging are growing. Temperatures continue to increase, causing severe droughts and hurricanes across the western Atlantic. Amazon countries need to commit to stop deforestation, for the benefit of present and future generations. (Volpi).
Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a dry hot desert, out of breath, and no water. A desert once home to the world's largest tropical rainforest, and second largest river.
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