Rainforests, tropical as well as the less-prevalent temperate rainforests, are the lungs of our planet and therefore, along with our oceans, are responsible for our atmosphere. Rainforests not only cleanse the atmosphere by consuming CO2 through photosynthesis, but the tropical rainforest is also home to millions of species of life. Bacteria, fungi, an untold number of insects and reptiles as well as huge assortments of birds and mammals inhabit all of the rainforests globally. Many important medicines have been discovered already and many more are awaiting analysis and discovery, so why are rainforests being destroyed?
One important aspect of rainforest destruction that doesn’t get much notice is the plight of the indigenous peoples, whose survival can be seen as a barometer for destruction of the habitat that they live in harmony with. In Brazil alone, there are an estimated 67 different tribes that are uncontacted and hopefully will remain so. Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya are still host to over 44 uncontacted tribes, but in both regions the aboriginal inhabitants are in great danger, both physically and with respect to their unique lifestyles.
Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya
Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya are virtually lawless areas where the rules are made by the giant multinational mining conglomerates from Australia, Canada and the United States. They are mining for gold while permitting illegal logging in their mining areas, which makes access easier for them. Meanwhile, the ancient tribes that have roamed the forest for over 50,000 years are being hunted like animals, with the Australian-administered area of Papua New Guinea being solidly on the side of the miners. Along with the rainforest peoples, the irreplaceable old-growth forests are being destroyed for very short-term gain from such activities as logging and collection of fuel wood.
The situation in Brazil is equally distressing, as every year millions of acres fall victim to slash-and-burn farming techniques, which produce fields that are only good for one or two seasons. What makes the situation in Brazil even worse is that the nation has ramped up industrial production to an unsustainable level, not just denuding the rainforests for the valuable lumber, but clearing huge areas to create huge mono culture operations using genetically modified soy, all for export to China which is building ports and highways through protected indigenous reservations.
Pollution and runoff
One would hope that Brazil would be a better steward of its life-sustaining Amazon rainforest ecosystem. Unfortunately, aside from a few federal police actions that are carefully orchestrated for the world press, the interior of Brazil is as lawless as the Wild West was, but with much more dire consequences. The soil in rainforests is very thin and fragile. With the torrential monsoon rains that fall for nine months out of the year, soil in disturbed areas is washed away into surrounding rivers, silting them up, choking all beneficial oxygen production from the aquatic plants and forcing the migration of any creatures that previously occupied these waters.
Dam construction in Amazonia
In Brazil, the indigenous tribes and supporters of rainforest conservation have been fighting a losing battle against giant hydroelectric dams like the Belo Monte Project for years, with the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court repeatedly overturning its own decisions. But as if that were not a destructive enough project, the administration of President Dilma Rousseff announced in September 2012 that Brazil was planning on building 23 more hydroelectric dams in Amazonia, “with the greatest care…”
Why are rainforests being destroyed?
The answer to why are the rainforests being destroyed is really simple: Short sightedness, greed, lack of oversight and enforcement of existing laws, and corruption along with incompetent government leaders. Without strong leadership at the national and international levels, the world’s rainforests will fall prey to a tragedy that will resound throughout the interconnected globe.