Millions of people around the world refer to The Amazon Rainforest as the ‘Lungs of Earth’, this is because it is the most biodiverse region in the world, it’s billions of trees absorb tons of carbon dioxide every year and slow down the rate of climate change, as well as produce 20% of Earth’s oxygen.
It is home to over three million species of plants and animals, and is responsible for carbon storage as well as precipitation levels. Models show that moisture from the Amazon Rainforest influences rainfall in regions as far away from it as Central America and the Western United States. The world is one large ecosystem, and this Rainforest plays an imperative role in keeping that system in balance. Just as we need our lungs to breathe, the Earth needs the Amazon Rainforest. It is no argument that the Amazon Rainforest has a crucial part in maintaining the survivability of Earth, but this forest also affects every single human being on this planet. The Amazon Rainforest acts as a shield for not only the region it occupies, but the entire world. This shield acts against external communities coming into contact with animals that are hosts for microorganisms that cause diseases. Cutting away at the forest causes fragmentation and holes in this shield, which opens new ways of entry and exit for organisms, putting not only the forest in danger, but also whatever lies beyond its walls. Invading the secluded forest to mine, raise cattle or cut down trees poses a dangerous health threat. The people who are entering these areas come into contact with new diseases that are easily spread to urban centers once they leave the forest.
The Amazon is home to billions of different species, and when outsiders destroy the forest, these organisms have no choice but to leave the forest and try to find new shelter. This response causes animals to come into reach with humans, most of which have never been out of the rainforest prior to destruction. Scientists have been warning officials across the world for nearly two decades now that the more forest land we destroy, the more risk we put ourselves in for contracting viruses that normally would only circulate among wild animals. Recently, there has been a new connection made between deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest, and the increased spread of infectious diseases, such as the novel coronavirus.
Ana Lucia Tourinho, an ecologist at the Federal University of Mato Grosso in Brazil states, “when a virus that wasn’t part of our evolutionary history leaves its natural host and enters our bodies, it’s chaos. The new coronavirus is rubbing that in our faces.” These viruses are not meant to live in a human host, but with the increasingly rapid rate of deforestation there is also an increase in the spread of infectious diseases. At the University of Warsaw in Poland a researcher, Aneta Afelt, predicts that the next severe infectious disease would come from Asia due to the region’s high levels of deforestation in the past 40 years. Deforestation creates an unnatural convenience for these foreign viruses, which remain isolated from humans, unless they are taken have the capability of infecting people. A study done by the IPEA in Brazil shows that for every 1% of the Amazon Rainforest cut down a year, malaria cases increased by 23%. An analysis done in New York by the Columbia University found that bats in Brazil carry at least 3,204 types of coronavirus, the analysis also showed that the Amazonian region is considered a likely center for epidemics due to the rapid increase in deforestation, which causes the equilibrium of the region to be knocked off balance at an abnormal rate.
The destruction of the amazon rainforest must come to a halt for many imperative reasons. Hopefully, with more people that learn about the direct connection between deforestation and the spread of new, infectious diseases, there will be a greater awareness placed on the fact that this rainforest is vital to life on Earth.
With these statistics, we know that the destruction of the rainforest can only lead to the destruction of humans, and at the rate that deforestation is occurring, we only have five years before the damage is irreversible.
In 2004, there was an 80% decline of deforestation due to Brazil implementing increased laws as well as law enforcement to protect the region. However, Brazil isn’t the only country that is home to the Amazon;Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, French Guiana and Guyana also house the rainforest. These countries must begin to make drastic changes to the laws that protect the rainforest to end this destruction. Brazil’s decline in deforestation would not have been possible without the pressure from people. We can learn by example from Brazil that pressure from civilians, environmentalists, businesses and a number of organizations all aid in slowing down the rate of deforestation.
We can begin to slow down this travesty by informing ourselves and others on organizations and companies that are actively donating and taking action to save the forest. Wildlife Alliance is now working hard to deliver a successful, hands-on model to protect the forest and wildlife living there. So far, wildlife alliance manages 10 ranger stations, which cover 119,552km of rainforest every year. These rangers have the responsibility of arresting poachers, dismantling sawmill operations in protected forest areas, inhibiting people from grabbing forest land for their private property, and confiscating bulldozers and chainsaws used to illegally cut timber. The wildlife alliance takes a hand-on approach like no other organization by accompanying the offenders to court and continuing to follow up on all court cases to ensure the proper legal procedure is applied. This response ensures that these offenders do not go back into the rainforest. On their website, you can find a list of other organizations that are taking similar measures to protect the forest, as well as a list of big companies that are not taking precaution and/or supporting companies that use the forest for profit. The more we can inform ourselves on companies that are turning the forest into business for profit, the more precautions we can take to not support these companies, whether that means stopping the support of a big business all together and not purchasing their products, or finding an alternative company that gives back to the rainforest and is assuring that they leave no footprints behind. Without the Wildlife Alliance’s support, the Southern tropical rainforest would be at risk of demolition for profit from agriculture, industry, and real estate sales. The Wildlife Alliance’s approach has proven successful in maintaining continuous rainforest cover, has achieved zero elephant poaching since 2006, and supported the recovery of populations of ungulates and small-medium carnivores.
The loudest voice is the voice of the people, the more that people stand up to rainforest lobbyists and companies supporting deforestation, then destruction of the rainforest will slow down. Learning about the importance of protecting the rainforest leads to more measures being taken to support organizations that ensure they will protect the Amazon Rainforest; whether it is through a hands-on approach like the Wildlife Alliance, or through supporting the fight to make new laws and spread awareness on this topic, every ounce of support helps to save the Amazon Rainforest.
“Rainforest Protection – Law Enforcement.” Wildlife Alliance, 11 May 2020, www.wildlifealliance.org/cardamom-protection/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw9b_4BRCMARIsADMUIyqRVMiXgmYoStB1udQh20GjgHOAo6Jtj1xQ-DkeVgTzfDJyF1IQEUcaAqurEALw_wcB.
Butler, Rhett A. “The Importance of the Amazon Rainforest.” Mongabay, Mongabay, 16 Apr. 2020, rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/amazon_importance.htm.
“DeFazio Introduces ‘Act for the Amazon Act’.” Congressman Peter DeFazio, 10 Sept. 2019, defazio.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/defazio-introduces-act-for-the-amazon-act.
“Deforestation and Pandemics.” Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Alliance, 1 Apr. 2020, www.rainforest-alliance.org/articles/deforestation-and-pandemics?gclid=Cj0KCQjwo6D4BRDgARIsAA6uN1-VVNMW6A14ujzelmBod6Dh4-LSfoMxPJ8uuvdzuJWMHpghBoof5qIaAmudEALw_wcB.