Amazon deforestation Essay

This essay has a total of 3235 words and 13 pages.

Amazon deforestation



The battle for the Amazon rainforest is a daunting task. It’s a long going battle between
miners, loggers, and developers against the indigenous people who call it home. It’s a
battle like any battle in a war; it affects lives, families, the economy, politics, and
the environment amongst other things. The main topic of this debate is the effects of the
Amazon deforestation on the people who live in it, this will be the focus of this research
paper. In this paper, I will discuss the history, causes, effects and solutions for the
Amazon rainforest deforestation.

Needless to say, the environmental problems of today started a long time ago, before
automobiles, electricity, and the Industrial Revolution. From ancient times to present
day, humans have changed the world in which they live. As population increase and
technology advances, more significant and widespread problems arise. The Amazon
rainforest has not been spared from this. The Amazon region has long been seen as a land
of great riches. “Early Europeans and others have long been fascinated by the Amazon,
with early visions of a land of gold, the legend of ‘El Dorado’” (Faminow 32). The
European invasion bought with it the increased population and new technologies that had a
drastic effect to the Amazonian region, which was once considered safe from exploitation.
This problem has continued to the present, with higher consequences. Ehrlich explains,
“today, unprecedented demands on the environment from a rapidly expanding human population
and from advancing technology are causing a continuing and accelerated decline in the
quality of the environment and it’s ability to sustain life” (98). As a result, the
Amazon rainforest is being destroyed at an alarming rate, affecting all those that live in
the region.

To understand the scope of the changes taking place, Howard Facklam has come up with some
staggering statistics, he says, “it was estimated at one point in the 1980’s that the
Amazon basin was being cleared at the rate of 50 acres a minute; another estimate put the
rate at 78,000 square miles per hear” (53). These are astronomical numbers when you come
to think of it, to put it into perspective, that’s roughly the size of the state of Idaho.
Such deforestation has an alarming affect, “it means the loss of a multiplicity of
products: Food, fibers, medicine, dyes, gums, and resins” (Facklam 53). Not stated in
Facklam’s statistics are the effects to the wildlife of the areas as they are drive out of
their natural habitat. What kind of condition will the Amazon be in if this trend
continues? If this rate continues, there might not be anything left of the rainforest by
the year 2050. This is why preservation and conservation groups are so militant in trying
to stop the terrible loss of the rainforest and all that it provides.

In what ways are the rainforests being destroyed in the Amazonian region? The groups that
get the most blame are the loggers and miners who exploit the land. Imaging, if you will,
a bulldozer driving down trees with reckless abandon in the lush forest. Not only is the
logger tearing down trees, but he is also tearing down an invisible wall that separates
the peaceful paradise of the jungle and the modern materialistic world. The purpose of
the loggers is not to destroy every tree standing in their path and cash in on it, rather,
the loggers are a picky breed. They are selective in the kind of trees they want. They
prefer the hardwood trees such as the balsa tree and huaca tree. In the effort to attain
these few types of trees, the loggers do more damage than needed. “Amazonian timbering
typically extracts one tree per hectare [2.4 acres], but it does so with enormous damage.
As logger move in with roads and skidders, they kill or damage more than 52% of those
trees that remain” (Hecht 141). So it’s not so much the logging itself that depletes the
forests, but the process of logging. It leaves these forests vulnerable to fires and
ruins their chances of spreading seeds and sprouts because they are missing the crucial
elements around them and their delicate ecosystem has been altered.

Along with the loggers come miners seeking gold and other minerals found in the forest.
Miners come in after the loggers to further strip the land of valuable resources. Mining
also carries with it it’s own ecological problems. For example, while mining, many of the
deposits are returned to the river, which normally don’t go there, like mercury for
example. These rivers have become poisoned and polluted in some parts, killing fish and
exposing those that live on and live off the river to diseases which they have no immunity
to.

Loggers and miners combined have caused many problems, one of which is increased violence.
Indigenous people are killed defending their land, and in turn, loggers and miners are
killed in retaliation. Also, the loggers and miners disrupt the serenity of everyday life
in the rainforest. “Many of the tribes leave their ancestral homes to flee the noise and
disruption of the miners (Smith 66). Obviously these loggers and miners must not think of
the areas they invade and destroy as a home. Invading the rainforest is no different than
bulldozers leveling out a suburb in the Twin Cities. Although the location and settings
are different between the rainforest and American suburbs, they do share a very important
similarity. That is, in these communities live human beings with minds, families, and
feelings.

Loggers and miners deserve the criticism they’re getting, but they are not the main
purveyors of the lands. The act that opened up the rainforest to developers was the
construction of the Transamazon Highway. “In 1970, the government commenced construction
of the Transamazon Highway to open Amazonia for exploitation and colonization. The
Amazon’s promise of riches would soon be tested” (Stewart 4). And tested they were.
Prior to the proposed highway, a majority of Brazil’s development was concentrated in the
northeast by the mouth of the Amazon River, and the south, where the forests weren’t quite
so dense. Taking what they could from the waterways of the Amazon and the lands that
surrounded the river, Brazil was mostly an exporting nation. They provided hardwood,
nuts, rubber, coffee, oranges, and cacao to North American and European buyers. Then a
shift came where heavy industrialization was targeted, causing Brazil to be considered one
of the larges industrial powers in the world. Industries such as cotton mills, textiles,
and auto manufacturing sprung up to solidify Brazil’s growth. All this was not enough to
sustain adequate living conditions among the people. The population was growing and food
was scarce. This called the politicians into action, thus proposing the monumental task
of constructing a highway into the deepest trenches of the Amazon forest. This action was
called the Program for National Integration, or PIN. Stewart goes on to say, “[it] called
for the construction of 14,000 km of highway throughout the Amazon to be colonized by
family farmers” (14). The deal looked good in writing, giving land to the lowly family
farmer, but as it turns out, there are two points to be made: First, much of the land was
already being occupied by indigenous people or Amazonian peasants, so it technically
wasn’t the governments to give away. Secondly, in what may have been a precursor to
trickle down economics, the land was given to the wealthy landowners who were supposed to
then let the family farmers work it, but it always didn’t work out that way. It’s kind of
like how agriculture is in the Midwest now. There are these huge conglomerates that are
buying huge amounts of land from struggling farmers. These companies in turn hire the
farmers to work the land, or handle the astronomical task of trying to compete with them.
It seems the farmers just can’t win in America or any for that matter. Only because of
the few who hold so much, the rich landowners.

This brings me to the next issue contributing to the destruction to the rainforest,
agriculture. I would like to address two areas: Cash crops and cattle ranching. Unlike
the upper Midwest and the plains where the land is suitable for raising crops, such is not
the case when trying to grow crops from converting rainforests. A common misconception
could be that the land that is able to sustain such lush forests should surely be able to
handle a couple acres of corn or beans. I would have thought that too had I not read a
little bit more into it. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Raising crops
in the Amazon is vastly different than how we do it in North America. Brazilian farmers
us a method called slash and burn agriculture. Judith Gradwohl gives a pretty basic
definition on the process of slashing and burning. “The forest lot is cleared, first by
cutting the vines, shrubs, and saplings. Then by cutting the canopy trees with machetes
or chainsaws. Vegetation is left to dry and then burned” (39). Planting takes place
before or shortly after the burn process to take advantage of the rich nutrients left from
the fire. Normally after the first crop, the plots nutrients begin to decline.
Apparently corn and other crops are unable to hold onto the nutrients that were so crucial
to the forest. This may be because of the humid conditions provided from the rainforest,
along with the shade provided by the canopy trees that kept the soil tempered. However,
without the shade and the roots to sustain the soil, erosion would wash what little
nutrients remained away. This leaves a bare plot that’s not very useful for anything
anymore. Slash and burn agriculture in essence ruins the very delicate ecosystem that
promoted growth in that area. Something as simple as opening up an area to direct
sunlight throws the balance out of whack. Because the soils are left less fertile, the
farmers must slash and burn new lands to raise more crops. This is a continuing process
that’s repeated over and over again, leaving behind it a deadly trail of unprotected land
causing more problems that it’s worth. For example, soil erosion into the rivers. This
makes once clear waters muddy and murky from added silt deposits. Figures range on the
extent of the damage of slash and burn techniques, but they fall in between 7 million and
Continues for 7 more pages >>




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