In case you don’t know, human consumption is destroying the rainforests of the world, unfortunately for us, they are vital to our very existence.So why are rainforests important?
Climate controllers :: Rainforests control our climate by absorbing CO2, acting as a store for carbon, and by making huge white clouds. White reflects heat, keeping the Earth cool. They are called rainforests because they make rain. The Amazon forest releases 20 billion tonnes of moisture every day, helping water crops thousands of miles away.
It is estimated that 12% to 20% of all current carbon emissions come from deforestation and so if we can help the forests to survive, they will help ensure our future survival. Climate change is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. If we bring the use of fossil fuels to zero and don’t halt deforestation we will still breach the safe limit of greenhouse gas concentrations. If we don’t act now it could, potentially catastrophically, narrow the time available to make the necessary transition to a low-carbon world (according to this IPCC report).
‘Rainforests are the glue that holds the climate of our planet together. Lose the forest and it will have devastating consequences for all life on Earth’
Livelihoods :: Millions of people make their living in and from the rainforest. We need to make the rainforests worth more alive than dead. Approximately 60 million indigenous people rely on the forests for their way of life. Many of these people are threatened by habitat destruction.
Biodiversity :: Rainforests cover 5% of the Earth and contain over half the world’s plant and animal species. This biodiversity has great medicinal and economic value. More than 70% of plants with anti-cancer properties are found here (according to the US National Cancer Institute). Agricultural scientists use wild strains of rainforest crops to increase yields and resistance to pests and diseases in cultivated varieties. Losing the rainforest could affect our food, water and health.Around 137 species of rainforest plants and animals are wiped out every day.
We are losing a treasure trove of potential innovations. Evolution will not make good these extinctions for a million years. We could feel the losses within a generation.Why are they cut down?
Our consumption helps fuel the destruction. Farmers in Brazil can make $3,000 per hectare by clearing forest and growing soybeans for export. Soybeans that end up in our supermarkets in many, many different products, even feeding the cattle that provide the meat for our burgers and pies.Over half of deforestation in Africa is carried out by poor farmers practising subsistence agriculture.Around 40% of the best-selling products in British supermarkets contain palm oil, linked to rainforest clearance in South East Asia.What can be done?
A solution is possible but we must act now – we need to make rainforests worth more alive than dead. One way is to pay countries to keep their forests standing through a process called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). The result: the trees stay standing, the world benefits from all the free environmental services the forest provides, countries develop cleaner energy supplies, and carbon stays locked up.A recent success story is in Ecuador, where the government has agreed to not extract oil sitting beneath one of the world’s most important rainforests in return for payments from the international community.
Use your purchasing power. When you shop, you can select products that are certified as ‘forest friendly’. Certification schemes include FSC and the Rainforest Alliance. You can also write to companies and urge them to buy products that do not contribute to tropical deforestation.Want more information?