Why Deforestation Matters

by Zachary Corradino on February 20, 2014

Deforestation is a very serious environmental problem. At one time, rainforests once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface, but now they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that they could be extinct within the next 40 years as the rate of deforestation is currently at one a half acres every second. Because of this, there are very serious consequences for both the developing and industrial world.

Rainforests are being destroyed because governments feel that the value of timber is greater than the other living resources that exist there. Nearly half of the world’s plant and animal species and microorganisms will be destroyed within the next quarter century, if this issue is not resolved. Experts estimate that 137 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every day due to rainforest deforestation. This equates to nearly 50,000 species every single year and as these species disappear, so does the possibility of a cure for many life-threatening diseases. Currently 121 prescription drugs are derived from plants that are only found in the climate of a rainforest. Approximately 25% of all Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, but scientists have tested just 1% of the trees that exist in the rainforests. This means that there is the possibility of many more cures being found from rainforest ingredients.

Most rainforests are cleared by chainsaws, bulldozers, and fires. The timber gathered from the process is then sold for profit and the land is subsequently used for farming and ranching operations. Many giant corporations such as Mitsubishi, Georgia Pacific, Texaco, and Unocal participate in these types of procedures. Due to these companies clearing out rainforests for personal gain, the population of the rainforests has been diminished from nearly 10 million to less than 200,000 in the Amazon. In Brazil alone, nearly 90 indigenous tribes have been wiped out by deforestation. With these people, has gone centuries of accumulated knowledge of the medicinal value of rainforest plant and animal species. As mentioned earlier, so much medicine comes from rainforest plants. By wiping out these tribes, we lose the possibility of finding out the value of the nearly 99% of rainforest we have yet to discover.

The Amazon Rainforest has been described as the “Lungs of our planet”. This because it performs one of the most essential tasks for life on Earth: recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. It is estimated that more than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest. In addition to plentiful oxygen, nearly one-fifth of the world’s fresh water is found in the Amazon Basin. Because of this, nearly half of all species found on earth can be found in rainforests and at least 80% of the developed world’s diet originated in rainforests. Fruits such as avocados, coconuts, figs, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, guavas, pineapples, mangos and tomatoes; vegetables including corn, potatoes, rice, winter squash and yams; spices like black pepper, cayenne, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar cane, turmeric, coffee and vanilla and nuts including Brazil nuts and cashews.

Experts agree that if the rainforests were left intact, harvesting its resources would be much more lucrative than the land and timber that companies currently waste. Some of the most recent studies have shown that deforested land is currently worth $400 per acres. However, if the renewable and sustainable resources were harvested, the land could yield nearly $2400 per acre. If managed properly, the rainforest could provide an answer to the world’s diminishing resources as well as a profit for the landowner.



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