If a tree falls in the woods and no one?s there to hear it, does it make a sound? Or rather, if a tree falls in the woods and no one?s there to hear it, does anybody even care? This saying epitomizes the world?s current view on deforestation, most notably in the Brazilian Amazon, which is known as ?The Lungs of the Earth.? Deforestation is defined as the long-term or permanent removal of forest cover, usually accompanied by burning, which is then converted to a non-forested land use. Deforestation doesn?t just affect the indigenous people living in the Amazon or on a grander scale, the people of South America; rather, it arguably affects the entire world. More than 12 percent of the 2 million square miles of Brazilian Amazonian rainforest, which produces one-fifth of the earth?s oxygen, has been deforested and converted to farmland or grazing for cattle (www.rainforest.org).
This may not sound like that large of a problem, but as a result of deforestation, Brazil now accounts for nearly 10 percent of the world's greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. "Tropical rainforests once covered more than 14 percent of the Earth?s land area? they now amount to less than 6 percent" (Tropical Rainforest Coalition, 1996). Basically, if something isn?t done soon, then the world won?t have enough oxygen to support itself.
Some would argue that there is nothing that they can do or that they?re only one person. But one person can save one tree, and that?s one more tree that won?t be cut down. Some also argue that there are no solutions to deforestation when in reality there are; people just don?t realize that they?re there. Here is a list of three possible solutions that could curtail any more careless logging of the Brazilian Amazon. First, people around the world could ?buy? acres of rainforest. The Adopt-An-Acre Program, which was started by The Nature Conservancy and Earth's Birthday Project in 1990, has combined their efforts to educate children all over the country about the conservation of rainforests. Because of their diligent efforts, $5 million has been raised and 150,000 acres of rainforest saved (www.savenature.org). These facts alone show that the adoption program works, but the downside is that many underprivileged children and schools won?t be able to finance this kind of endeavor. Many people also don?t have the time or the manpower to organize and supervise fundraisers or bake sales or other types of charities that would allow them to purchase these acres of rainforest.
Secondly, people could be informed on the benefits of non-timber uses. If the rainforest is left untouched, medicines, animal products, nuts, rubber, fruits, oils, and firewood made from naturally felled trees could all be harvested without causing any further harm to the virgin forest. Recent studies have shown that the value of non-timber forest products usually exceeds the value of timber in tropical forests (Revington). More than 25 percent Unfortunately, many people don?t see the need to sell these products when they can just as easily cut down trees with almost 100 percent profit. As recently as October 31, 2001, two Brazilian men were arrested for illegally cutting down mahogany trees in the Amazon that would have netted them more than $7 million on the international market (www.greenpeace.org). This just proves that some people would rather make an easy dollar than try to save the world from devastation.
Finally, the best way to conserve what?s left of the rainforest is an extensive recycling program. Companies all over the United States have been created with the specific goal of recycling everything from wooden pallets to newspapers to sawdust. Millions of trees could be saved if people threw their newspapers not into the garbage can, but into a recycling bin. Purdue has become mindful of recycling, with every computer lab on campus boasting at least two recycling bins that are used for wasted or discarded paper. Retail stores are also becoming more recycling minded; they are starting to sell more and more wood products that have been made from recycled paper. If people don?t feel like they should recycle, then they can still help the rainforest by buying recycled products. Buying recycled products produces a positive domino effect: if a person buys recycled paper, a tree isn?t cut down, which means more oxygen is produced. But there?s also a negative domino effect: if people choose not to have anything to do with recycling, then more trees will be cut down, which means less oxygen is produced, thereby causing a rise in the greenhouse effect, which will cause the ice caps to melt, making the sea level rise, and finally causing major flooding that will occur all over the world (www.greenpeace.org). It?s a vicious cycle, but only if we make it so.
In conclusion, if every person in the United States, as well as the world, tried to recycle, then millions of trees could be saved, thereby increasing our oxygen. If people were more aware of how serious a threat deforestation is to everyone on the globe, then people would be more prone to recycle instead of just tossing things away in a garbage can. People everywhere believe that deforestation is ?someone else?s problem? or that ?it won?t affect me.? But according to Greenpeace, which wants deforestation to be abolished by 2010, said, ?In 1970, only 1 percent of the Brazilian Amazon had been deforested. By 2000 almost 15 percent had been destroyed. This means a forest area the size of France was lost in only thirty years? (www.greenpeace.org). This illustrates how dangerous and threatening deforestation to the Brazilian Amazon truly is. Until the United States and the rest of the world comes to their senses and realizes that in their haste for wood products they?re, in reality, reducing the amount of breathable oxygen that they have, then by the year 2050, that same oxygen will be cut by one-fifth. Deforestation is the second-hand smoke of the world. Within fifty years, how breathable will our air really be? Unless people everywhere start to realize how detrimental deforestation really is, then we will leave nothing to the next generation except a tainted, asphyxiated planet.
Works Cited Effects and Solutions to Deforestation. www.greenpeace.org. 3 Nov. 2001.
Effects of Deforestation in Brazil. www.rainforest.org. 2 Nov. 2001.
Revington, John. ?Stopping Tropical Deforestation.? New Renaissance. November 2000.
November 3, 2001 http://www.ru.org/stopping-deforestation.htm.
Adopt-An-Acre Program. www.savenature.org. 1 Nov. 2001.