The Vanishing Amazon Rainforest
The Vanishing Amazon Rainforest
The clock is ticking. The emergency real. Experts believe that in 30 years the Amazon rainforest will likely be, just a memory. . .
By Megan Wallin
The Amazon rainforest has been under threat for decades. Despite its indisputable ecological value and unspeakable beauty we are at risk of losing this incredible natural resource. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has vowed to protect the forest and reduce harmful emissions. His words don’t match his actions. Unparalleled development continues, transforming forest into farmland or deforested deserts. The entire ecosystem has been disrupted, all for the price of temporary, but immediate profit.
A Ravaged Landscape
According to Reuters, Brazil’s ecological losses have increased 1.8 percent just during 2020, losing roughly 1,062 square kilometers of forest to greed and corruption. But logging isn’t the only issue to blame in this scenario. Farmland conversion, wildfires, droughts and pollution have ravaged the land. More than one billion acres of rainforest have been transformed into public, government or miscellaneous use since the year 1990.
The worth of an intact and thriving Amazon rainforest amounts to approximately a whopping $8.2 billion , but the forest is losing its value both economically and environmentally. This world wonder spreads across Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. The Amazon rainforest extends over millions of miles, and provides a safe habitat for thousands of tropical animals. Furthermore, it is home to at least 500 tribal communities.
A Cycle Of Connection
Commonplace flavors like cinnamon, pepper, coffee, chocolate originated in the rainforest, along with 6% of the earth’s oxygen. In a cycle of connection, every bit of life in the Amazon exists to maintain an environment that cultivates that life, from animal waste that adds to the soil nutrients to the food chain that keeps its variety of organisms in check.
Results Of Destruction
The destruction of the forest takes a toll on the Amazon’s ability to absorb CO2, a new study found. An estimated one fifth of affected land now produces greenhouse gases where it once acted as a carbon sink. At a time when we need a reliable tool to fight climate change, these studies point to an opposite outcome—unless something is done before more trees disappear.
A Dire Prediction
Professor Carolos Nobre, co-author of the noted study, told BBC, “It could be showing the beginnings of a major tipping point.” He predicted that current actions could lead to a savanna-like landscape within 30 years, transforming from lush rainforest into dry grassy plains.
“[The Amazon] used to be, in the 1980s and 90s, a very strong carbon sink, perhaps extracting two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from the atmosphere,” stated Nobre. “Today, that strength is reduced perhaps to 1-1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Professor Nobre said, “if we exceed 20-25 percent of deforestation, and global warming continues unabated with high emission scenarios, then the tipping point would be reached.” We are currently, he stated, at 17 percent.
Debate Continues On When
But doomsday isn’t imminent say other scientists. While the general consensus indeed points to a serious and impending environmental concern, timelines are arbitrary. Due to the number of factors and possible lurking variables at play, scientist and UCL professor, Simon Lewis, warns against making global warming predictions. “Some people think (the tipping point) won’t be until three-degrees warming—so towards the end of the century, whereas other people think we could get (it with) deforestation up above 20 percent or so and that might happen in the next decade or two,” he stated in a BBC interview. “So it’s really, really uncertain.”
Models and theories aside, the only certainty at the moment is that the Amazon rainforest’s effectiveness as a natural weapon against climate change is decreasing. The current leadership in Brazil doesn’t appear to be providing tangible protection as tribes continue to fight against destructive logging and damaging land use practices.
Loss Of Indigenous Lands
The Awa tribe, a group of people named one of most threatened in the world, still maintain their existence as hunter-gatherers within the eastern Amazonian region of Maranhão. They have lived by eating small animals they cook themselves over a fire, knowing the rainforest’s secrets, and enduring changes wrought by a more urbanized world beyond their borders. Now, they face the loss of their home and their way of life.
Pirai, Speaks Out
Pirai, a tribal member, recorded his observations for a BBC reporter. “The chainsaw is still buzzing just like the days you came here,” he said. “The loggers are coming back. Loggers, farmers, hunters, invaders…they are all coming back. They are killing all our forest.” Life continuing as it has relies heavily on the forest staying as it has; instead, it’s being pillaged of its natural resources.
Need A New Policy
Without concrete policy changes and alternatives to the economic benefits enjoyed by those who currently thrive off Amazonian profits, they say, it’s unclear how much longer the rainforest will survive. Watching as thousands of kilometers of land are turned into farms every year, activists and critics are calling out the empty political promises of leaders, specifically politicians such as President Bolsonaro of Brazil.
We have the data. The survival of rainforest and all who live there is at stake. But the threat extends beyond the rainforest, creating mass environmental consequences for the rest of the world for years to come.