The rainforests are one of the most precious resources on the whole planet. It has taken millions of years for the rainforests to become as incredibly complex as they are today. With many of us currently living in cities, it is hard for us to imagine the life, beauty, and biodiversity held in the rainforests. Rainforests are an integral part of this beautiful world we all share together. They provide a vast amount of renewable resources that if properly used, in harmony with nature, would last indefinitely.
The Lungs Of The Earth
Commonly referred to as the “lungs of the Earth,” the rainforests play a major role in the production of one of our most precious necessities- oxygen. The world’s rainforests contribute significantly to the world’s oxygen supply by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen for us, essentially taking bad stuff out of the air and replacing it with pure air.
Habitat For Many Plants And Animals
They also provide a natural habitat for more than half of the world’s estimated 10 million species of plants, animals, and insects. The biodiversity in rainforests is unmatched anywhere in the world. It’s estimated that one hectare (2.47 acres) of the Amazon Rainforest may contain over 750 types of trees and 1500 species of plants. One square mile of the Amazon Rainforest contains as many species of birds as all of North America.
Most of the food we eat today originated in the tropical rainforest. Less than one-tenth of the different types of fruit in the Amazon is eaten in the western world today. Most of the fruit in the Amazon is new to Westerners and a lot of it is medicinal. Rainforest plants are still wild- meaning they are not yet cultivated. This means they’re high in alkaloids in which they use to protect themselves of disease and pests. These highly medicinal plants would have the same effect on us if we consumed them, making us disease-resistant too.
Pharmaceuticals Come From The Rainforests
Recently, pharmaceutical companies have begun to realize the potential of the medicine found in the rainforests. Of course, they don’t want to tell you about the plants’ medicinal properties, they isolate the main active ingredient and synthesize it so they can patent it for maximum profit. Today, over 100 pharmaceutical companies and several branches of the government are researching the plants in the rainforests for potential treatment of many different major diseases. Many of pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, yet less than 1% of the rainforest plants have been tested for medicinal value. Imagine what we might learn if we studied the other 99%.
Of the small amount of plants that have been tested, many of them have been found to be very useful in fighting a wide variety of different illnesses. A popular example is the plant called rosy periwinkle being used to create the drugs vincristine and vinblastine, which are successfully used to treat leukemia. There’s a good chance that cures to all of our diseases are sitting in a rainforest right now.
Meanwhile, as these undiscovered medicines sit there, companies are tearing down the rainforest for profit. The rainforests are a beautiful treasure that Mother Earth has created for us through thousands of years of work. Sadly, we have destroyed a large portion of it in only a few decades. If we continue on our current path of destruction, the last remaining rainforests may be gone in less than 40 years. An area about the size of a football field is destroyed in the rainforests every second. That adds up to more than an area twice the size of Florida each year! As they destroy this precious land we are losing plants and animals that we will never get back. Many of which may be highly useful in the future.
Indigenous People Still Live In The Rainforests
Besides plants and animals, the rainforests are home to some of the most ancient tribes. By tearing down the rainforests, we destroy the habitat these people have lived in for thousands of years. Ten million Indians are estimated to have lived in the Amazonian Rainforest only a few centuries ago, today the number has dwindled down to less than 200,000. As we destroy their land we destroy them. These tribes depend on the land for their food, water, shelter, medicine, clothes, and everything else needed for survival.
Many of the medicine men and shamans of these tribes have accumulated knowledge passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years about the magic found in rainforest plants. These men understand plants and life in such a way that us Westerners cannot conceive. Every time we lose one of these knowledgeable individuals, we lose valuable information that the world needs now more than ever. When this happens, it’s like the Library of Alexandria burning down.
What Is Driving The Destruction Of The Rainforests?
- Logging timber- furniture, building materials, and other wood products.
- Fuel wood- One single steel-making plant alone in Brazil uses millions of tons of wood each year to produce charcoal.
- Paper- 200 million tons of wood from the rainforests are used each year to make paper.
- Cattle farming- Rainforests are being torn down so that cattle can be raised. Farmers operate at a loss and only survive because of government subsidies. So governments are encouraging rainforest deforestation. According to the Rainforest Action Network, 55 sq. feet of a rainforest is destroyed to make one hamburger.
It’s Up To Us To Make A Difference
I remember watching a video in elementary school about saving the rainforest. I specifically remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have to try to save the rainforests. There are all kinds of environmental protection groups that focus on that and people wouldn’t let it get out of hand like that. Environmentalists would never let it happen and no one would destroy the rainforest beyond being repairable anyway.” Now that I’m older I know just how wrong I was. That’s a naïve way of looking at it. I presume that is the way many people still think of it today, until they realize that we are the ones responsible for making sure it doesn’t happen.
I’m important we all remember the rainforests and acknowledge their role on this planet with us. We’ve all heard of the “butterfly effect,” right? The butterfly effect is when one small change in a complex system can make a huge difference somewhere else. Well, destroying our land and other species at unprecedented rates will surely impact the us all in some way; and it won’t be good.
The best way to help save the rainforests is to make it financially beneficial to do so. From buying recycled paper to using less paper; from eating less meat to spreading awareness, we are all doing our part. One of the best things we can do to save the rainforests are to buy foods and herbs from the rainforests, such as cacao, acai berry, and pau d’ arco.
- The rainforests are one of our most precious resources that took tens of thousands of years to develop.
- Commonly referred to as the “lungs of the Earth,” the rainforests purify and produce oxygen for us.
- Rainforests have the most biodiversity of all places on earth. They’re a habitat for more than half of all species, including human tribes.
- More than any other place, the rainforests is likely to hold the keys to the medicines of the future.
- At our current rate of destruction, the rainforests may be all gone in less than 40 years.
- Save the rainforest by refusing to buy rainforest paper and meat; instead buy rainforest foods and herbs.