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A Call from the Evergreen Woods

The "dominants", they lived better, had more conveniences, hoarded more resources and hence required more. Adjacent to them was a settlement of the "simples", lesser needs, lesser possessions blessed under the sky and lived off what nature provides. The “dominants” would encroach into the “Simples’” area inch by inch, day by day. The vast concretized landmass they owned, always looked petite in front of their skyrocketing greed. Decades passed by; the entire lineages of the simples had gone extinct leaving a very few of them in the small piece of land that is still eyed upon by the dominants. The dominants don’t know, if they encroach any further, the resources, they are so reliant on will be wiped off. Not just this, the colony they have established, bejeweled with mechanical conveniences will not be able to survive.

No one but us, the homo sapiens are the dominants, whose lifestyle is being kept up by wiping off the nature’s bounty, the forest and the entire ecosystem of innumerable species thriving in it. Undoubtedly, rainforest are no exception to that; they are in fact the worst hit! These areas of tall, mostly evergreen trees and a high amount of rainfall are Earth’s oldest living ecosystems. They are amazingly diverse and complex, sheltering more than half of the world’s plant and animal species in spite of the fact that they cover just 6% of Earth’s surface.

Why are rainforests important?

Rainforests are critically important to the well-being of our planet. Rainforests produce about 20% of our oxygen and store a huge amount of carbon dioxide, drastically reducing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. They absorb massive amounts of solar radiation and help regulate temperatures around the globe. Taken together, these processes help to stabilize Earth’s climate. Not just this, rainforests also help maintain the world’s water cycle. More than 50% of precipitation striking a rainforest is returned to the atmosphere by evapotranspiration, helping regulate healthy rainfall around the planet.

Tropical woods (teak, mahogany, ebony etc) and fibers (raffia, bamboo, kapok) are used in furniture, baskets and construction material. Spices such as Cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg are fetched from the rainforest. The Indian system of Ayurvedic medicines depends on many herbs and medicines obtained from the rainforests. In fact, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, 70% of plants useful in the treatment of cancer are found only in rainforests. Rainforest plants are also used in the creation of modern muscle relaxants, steroids, and insecticides. They are used to treat asthma, arthritis, malaria, heart disease, and pneumonia. The importance of rainforest species in public health is even more incredible considering that less than one percent of rainforest species have been analysed for their medicinal value.

Even rainforest fungi can contribute to humanity’s well-being. A mushroom discovered in the tropical rainforest of Ecuador, for example, is capable of consuming polyurethane—a hard, durable type of plastic used in everything from garden hoses to carpets to shoes. The fungi can even consume the plastic in an oxygen-free environment, leading many environmentalists and businesses to invest in research to investigate if the fungi can help reduce waste in urban landfills.

How have we harmed rainforest ecosystem?

Rainforests are disappearing at an alarmingly fast pace, largely due to human development over the past few centuries. Once covering 14% of land on Earth, rainforests now make up only 6%.

Since 1947, the total area of tropical rainforests has probably been reduced by more than half. Rampant deforestation could cause many important rainforest habitats to disappear completely within the next hundred years. Such rapid habitat loss is due to the fact that 40 hectares (100 acres) of rainforest are cleared every minute for agricultural and industrial development. In the Pacific Northwest’s rainforests, logging companies cut down trees for timber while paper industries use the wood for pulp.

In the Amazon rainforest, large-scale agricultural industries, such as cattle ranching, clear huge tracts of forests for arable land. In the Congo rainforest, roads and other infrastructure development have reduced habitat and cut off migration corridors for many rainforest species. Throughout both the Amazon and Congo, mining and logging operations clear-cut to build roads and dig mines. Some rainforests are threatened by massive hydroelectric power projects, where dams flood acres of land. Development is encroaching on rainforest habitats from all sides. Economic inequalities fuel this rapid deforestation. Many rainforests are located in developing countries with economies based on natural resources. Wealthy nations drive demand for products, and economic development increases energy use. These demands encourage local governments to develop rainforest acreage at a fraction of its value. Impoverished people who live on or near these lands are also motivated to improve their lives by converting forests into subsistence farmland.

Five decades ago Brazil incentivized millions of its people to colonize the Amazon. Today their logging yards, cattle enclosures and soy farms sit on the fringes of a vanishing forest. Powered by murky sources of capital and rising demand for beef, a violent and corrupt frontier is now pushing into indigenous land, national parks and one of the most preserved parts of the jungle.

What lies in future?

Experts warn that soon the water cycle will become irreversibly broken, locking in a trend of declining rainfall and longer dry seasons that began decades ago. At least half of the shrinking forest will give way to savanna. With as much as 17% of the forest lost already, scientists believe that the tipping point will be reached at 20% to 25% of deforestation even if climate change is tamed. If, as predicted, global temperatures rise by 4°C, much of the central, eastern and southern Amazon will certainly become barren scrubland.

How we can contribute from the comforts of our home

Three things to keeps away from.

Meat, paper, and palm oil are main drivers of deforestation in the Amazon basin. Fortunately, in India , we have an great fraction of vegetarian population, but that definitely doesn’t mean that we have a controlled consumption of palm oil and paper. On your next trip to grocers, please make a habit of looking for palm oil in the processed products and cosmetics you buy. A zero waste lifestyle will definitely keep you healthy and away from that as well.

Teach, act and support

Teach others about the importance of the environment and how they can help save rainforests. Unfortunately, caring for the planet is a less important topic in schools and hence what may seem ABCs to an environmentalist is actually nowhere in the knowledge of common individual. Spread it out and let people know how devastating the impact of our actions can be. Act out by coming out of the houses and planting trees, being an avid plant parent and support companies that operate in ways that minimize damage to the environment.

Go Local

When we buy local the impact is visible to us. When we get timber from a local forest, we see it depleting and we limit our consumption. In fact, local products will always be fresh to consume, sustainable, less packaged and processed.

Pass it on

Do your kids know the importance of trees and the forest and how is it important to them? Make the generation more aware of the environment so that if we play loose, they are there to take lead. After all its their future that we are nurturing today.

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