Monday, 4 April 2011
Preserving the beauty of The Amazon
Not long ago, I signed a petition to stop the government from selling off the UK’s forests – so did some half a million people, leading to a government U-turn. I thought about this yesterday when I read an article in The Observer about the Amazon rainforest and the danger it’s under. To be honest, I’m not sure yet how I can help, but in the meantime, I thought sharing it with you would be a good way to spread the news, get more people educated about the problems and interested in the cause.
The author of the article, Edward Docx, says that because levels of deforestation are falling, the Amazon rainforest isn’t in the news as much as it used to be, but the area is facing new problems.
Plans are afoot to build huge, hydroelectric dams in Brazil and Peru, and tribes living in the rainforest are concerned about the devastating effects this could have on their way of life. Docx explains that the dams could flood the territories of the tribes; they release vast amounts of the greenhouse gas methane; the construction would bring further roads to the area and change the flow and run of all river systems.
Oil, too, is a problem. Docx says that the government has effectively sold off half of the rainforest it owns for oil and gas extraction (almost 50% of the entire Peruvian-owned Amazon). Then there’s the ongoing damage of illegal logging.
As Docx says in his article, it’s all very well for Europe and the US to tell emerging economies how to run their countries, after they did whatever the hell they wanted for years and years. But he doesn’t excuse this, and neither should he.
I was astonished – and humbled – to learn that the Amazon rainforest covers 2.3m square miles (that’s larger than the whole of Western Europe). Its river releases into the ocean about 20% of the total freshwater of all rivers in the world. Roughly a fifth of the earth’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforest. There are over 200 species of trees in a single hectare and one tree can be home to 72 different species of ants alone.
It is estimated that some 69 tribes live in the Brazilian part of the rainforest and they’ve lived in the same way for thousands of years – “before the internet, the world wars, the US, the Tudors, Christ, Aristotle,” says Docx.
And when Docx describes waking up in the Amazon rainforest, he says: “Suddenly, the great awakening begins and the air is filled with a thousand different songs, chirps, squawks and screeches.”
How arrogant can we be to think we’re allowed to stop all that?
I haven’t been to the Amazon yet, but would love to hear from anyone who has. What did you think? What did you see and do? What were your experiences like?