Review of Literature

IV. Destruction of the Rainforests

The cause of the destruction of the rainforest was put very simply by the Forest Alliance of British Columbia (1996): "The global population has more than tripled this century, and will continue to grow for the next 50 years, particularly in developing countries. World population is expected to reach ten billion by 2050." Because the number of people living on the planet increases every year, the number of forest products needed also increases, forcing temperate and tropical rainforests to be cut down.

Almost half of all tropical deforestation has occurred in South America.

"The rainforests of the world are disappearing at a rate of 80 acres per minute, day and night, major climatic and other environmental changes will occur if this continues." (Costa Rica Rainforests Outward Bound School, 1996) The destruction of the rainforests cause carbon dioxide to be released, which in turn allows the greenhouse effect to occur. The greenhouse effect raises the temperatures all around the world, and can cause ice caps to melt. When ice caps melt, the sea level rises, causing major flooding around the world.

Traditionally there were three major causes of destruction to the rainforest: farming, ranching, and logging.

Farmers in rainforest countries are often poor and can't afford to buy land. Instead, these farmers clear rainforest land to grow their crops. Because tropical rainforest soil is so poor in nutrients, farmers cannot reuse the same land year after year. In following years, farmers just clear more land, destroying the forest piece by piece.

Ranching also causes destruction of the rainforests. Ranchers clear large areas of rainforest to become pastures for their cattle. This land does not cost them very much, so they can sell cattle at low prices. Because it is very profitable, ranchers continue to clear rainforest land so they can raise and sell more cattle. "During the 1980s, about 16.9 million hectares of tropical rainforest was cut down and replaced with farms and grazing land for cattle." (Forest Alliance of British Columbia, 1996)

The third major traditional reason for destruction of the rainforests is logging. Trees from the rainforest are used for building houses, making furniture, and providing pulp for paper products, such as newspapers and magazines. Rainforest that was chopped down can grow back over time, but they will never have the same variety of plants and animals they once did.

The Amazon rainforest still remains as it was years ago, with less destruction occurring than in many other forests, because it is very large and remote. But the Amazon may not remain so peaceful for long. Transnational corporations are now targeting the Amazon and the other rainforests because of the latest problem of in rainforest destruction: Greed.

Corporations have convinced many rainforest countries that it would improve their economies by allowing the companies to use the land, and now these countries economies have become dependent on it.

Oil companies often attempt to trick and bribe the Indians into signing over to them the rights of the land. But the people have begun to fight back, for example: "Occidental Petroleum's use of coercion to get the native communities to sign away land rights violates Ecuadorian and international law protecting indigenous people, and runs counter to company policies that state Occidental will "protect the environment, health and safety of the communities in which we operate."" (Wright, 1996)

Although Occidental is attempting to fight local governments, the oil produced if Occidental were to win the land would only satisfy the petroleum needs of the U.S. for thirteen days.

The rainforests are disappearing rapidly, and mainly for correctable problems that should have been corrected years ago.

"Tropical rainforests once covered more than 14 percent of the Earth's land area--they now amount to less than 6 percent." (Tropical Rainforest Coalition, 1996)

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