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Deforestation of The Amazon

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The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, covering 2,100,000 miles across South America. Since 1978, the Amazon has lost about 300,000 miles of rain forest. By the early 2000s, more than three-quarters of forest clearing in the Amazon was for cattle-ranching. However, it’s not just cattle-ranching, the Amazon has been dug up to build dams, for minerals and materials, and plowed over to establish towns and build streets and highways. Yes, all this development is helping South America modernize with the rest of the world, but it has become increasingly clear that not only biodiversity and habitats will be lost, but the quality of life for people now and hundreds of years from now will also decrease.

Deforestation in South America has been declining over the past decade but it still is happening at a very alarming rate. The 3 main culprits of deforestation are Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. Brazil is home to 60% of the rainforest, but also accounts for 75% of the destruction (https://wwf.panda.org/our_work/forests/deforestation_fronts2/deforestation_in_the_amazon/). Deforestation decreased in the mid 2000s due to increased law enforcement and government support. In 2019, levels of deforestation rose to an all-time high since 2011. The increase has led to a major growth of the Brazilian economy (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/08/27/how-beef-demand-is-accelerating-amazons-deforestation-climate-peril/). That is attributed to land clearing for pasture by commercial and speculative interests. The Brazilian government is making more money, but it is decreasing the chances of survival for animals and humans. The loss of habitats for animals and plants is the most dangerous effect of deforestation. 70% of animals and plants live inside the rainforest, and with deforestation many of these animals aren’t made to thrive outside their communities. Did you know the Amazon is responsible for 20% of the earth’s oxygen? (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/no-the-amazon-fires-wont-deplete-the-earths-oxygen-supply-heres-why). Imagine what it will be like without these trees from the Amazon? Think about all the green-house gases that will be released into our earth’s atmosphere. Not only are we failing ourselves, but our grandchildren and future generations as well. We’re destroying not just animals’ homes, but the indigenous people communities. These are communities that have been here for thousands of years and will be wiped off the face of the earth in a matter of months or years!! These people rely on the streams and animals nearby to survive and we are taking away their way of life to modernize South American societies. It’s not right that these people will be stripped from their homes, something needs to be done!

Research scientists Frank Merry and Gregory Amacher have been in the forefront of the Amazon for nearly 20 years (https://cnre.vt.edu/about/newsmagazine/articles/201602/saving-the-amazon.html). They have conducted over 6,000 household interviews with some of the indigenous people in effort to shine light on this ongoing problem. They have begun working with Brazilian agencies to create boundaries for these people and enforce laws related to the United States Homestead Act. (What is the Homestead Act? Homestead Act accelerated settlement of U.S. western territory by allowing any American, including freed slaves, to put in a claim for up to 160 free acres of federal land.) A Virgina Tech Study discussed new research that shows that when climate change and deforestation impacts are taken together, up to 58% of Amazon tree species could be lost by 2050, of which 49% would have some degree of risk for extinction. (https://news.mongabay.com/2019/08/deforestation-climate-crisis-could-crash-amazon-tree-diversity-study/)

One of the simple ways to make a difference to help the Amazon forest is to cut back on meat. Yes, as weird as that sounds Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef with little to no grazing areas, they are forced to create their own. The method used to create grazing areas for cattle are fires, this method resets the climax community of the forest and pushes it to younger stages causing even more problems for native species as the climax stage was the preferred habitat. When it is changed, they are no longer able to thrive and are forced to move to a different area creating more competition between other species. Once the vegetation grows enough to sustain enough cattle they are released to graze and create almost 14.5 percent of gas emissions as they emit methane into the air as they continue to eat ( https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/04/6-pressing-questions-about-beef-and-climate-change-answered ). The cattle industry has a supply and demand relationship and the more we demand meat so that we can eat at fast food restaurants or even barbequing. They are willing to produce and export to meet the needs of the people because this is what helps bring revenue to the people and government as they lease the areas out to the people so that they can graze the forests. The cut back on beef would slow the production needed to be exported, cutting down the amount of rainforest needed for grazing lands and would help lower the amount of gas emissions we are putting into the atmosphere.

Another benefit that this brings would be the for the native species that live in amazon forest as they have cut down and burned it is creating fragmentation of the areas. Habitat fragmentation is the process of when a large community of land is cut up into several smaller pieces. This destroys habitats for several animals and can lead them to even extinction as 37 species went extinct in the amazon rainforest (https://www.ran.org/fact_sheet_rainforest_animals/). The slowing of cattle and timber industry can’t stop the fragmentation that has already happened but can stop if from continuing on. With this it also allows the rainforest to come back and heal itself slowly and go back into the climax stages in the community where the native species thrive in. it would also bring back native species into the area which benefits the indigenous people as some are using methods of hunting and gathering. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to help make a difference it’s the little things that matter the most from bringing awareness to the problem or lower the amount of beef someone buys from the markets or fast food restaurants, anything helps when we are losing the Amazon rainforest at a devastating rate.

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