Crisis in the Amazon Rainforest

We are rapidly altering our planet in dramatic, destructive ways. Modern industrial practices have pushed us to the brink of irreversibly destroying the natural support systems that all life depends on. Our future survival depends on us fundamentally transforming our relationship with the planet and each other.

No place is that change more important than in The Amazon Rainforest, arguably the world's greatest remaining ecosystem. The Amazon is the largest and most bio-diverse tropical rainforest on Earth. Often called the "lungs of our planet," this region gives life by continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. An estimated twenty percent of the earth's oxygen is produced here. Its complex system of rivers is one of the world's most important, containing twenty percent of the earth's fresh water. In a single second, the Amazon pours more than fifty-five million gallons of water into the Atlantic Ocean.

More than 400 diverse indigenous tribes have been living in the Amazon for millennia and now their environment and culture is being severely damaged by western-based industrial-scale development. Like so many of the plants and animals of the Amazon, many of these peoples can now be considered threatened, even endangered.

Oil_on_the_Corrientes_-_8These “development” projects put the river systems and rainforest at great risk, threatening not only the people of the Amazon, but potentially all life on the planet.  We are witnessing a period of mass deforestation driven by the uncontrolled extraction of raw resources: oil and gas production, mining and logging add to the destruction wrought by cattle ranching, industrial agriculture, road and rail construction and massive hydroelectric projects and dams. These activities devastate indigenous communities and biodiversity. Today, more than thirty percent of rainforest in the Amazon has been cleared, which experts say would take a millennium to recover. At least 20,000 square kilometers of rainforest are currently being decimated every year -- an area approximately, equivalent to the size of Wales, or almost the size of the state of Maryland. That’s 54 square kilometers a day, and 2.3 square kilometers per hour.

If allowed to continue at the present scale and pace, every person on this planet will also suffer the repercussions of this destruction.  

Rainforests are storehouses of living, breathing, renewable natural resources that have for eons, by virtue of their richness in both animal and plant species, contributed a wealth of resources for the survival and wellbeing of humankind. These resources include food, clothing, shelter, fuel, spices, industrial raw materials, and medicine. They also provide vital ecosystem services, such as fresh water supply, recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen, biomass production, the regulation of climates, soil formation and retention, provision of habitat, and water and nutrient cycling. This complex, intricate and interdependent system is delicate, however, and we have upset the balance. Disturbing one component of the system can trigger unknown effects or even destruction of the whole.

It has taken only one century of human activity to destroy a substantial part of what nature has spent many millennia evolving. It's time to wake up...