One environmental issue which doesn't get the attention it deserves, in the UK at least, is the deforestation of rainforest all over the world. The Rainforest Foundation reports that rainforests once covered 14% of earth's land surface; today they cover a mere 6%. In short, over half of the world's rainforest has already been deforested. But around 150,000 square kilometres of tropical rainforest, equivalent to the size of England and Wales, continues to be destroyed every year.
Throughout nations such as Indonesia and Brazil, rainforest has been systematically destroyed. It is estimated that by 2030, if current trends continue, only 10% of the world's rainforest will remain. This is one of the greatest environmental catastrophes of this or any era, and for that matter an utterly preventable one.
While I am a little sceptical about some of the predictions related to climate change, the rainforest issue nevertheless has relevance in this matter. Rainforests are known to regulate temperature and weather patterns. The negative effect on climate of the decimation of the Amazonian rainforest was noted in a Daily Telegraph article in February, 2011. While governments have made a small amount of effort to slow this process, frankly it has been too little, far too late.
Deforestation still occurred in the Amazon on a massive scale, and is set to continue, with not even close to the same level of media, public and political attention as climate change. Why is this? The most rudimentary reason in the world, the explanation that underpins many of the most illogical decisions in the world - there's money to be made. Chopping down trees makes money for corporations, and in some cases governments, thus it is tolerated and even encouraged.
This is not something that is merely leading to climatic problems, nor destroying the natural beauty and landscape of incredible nations and indigenous populations. It is also decimating the natural habitats of wildlife. Only last month it was reported that palm oil plantations are destroying the Sumatran apes' habitat, leaving just 200 of the animals struggling for existence in Indonesia's rainforest.
Additionally, rainforests also offer a huge natural source of water. The Rainforest Foundation notes that rainforests "act as giant reservoirs of moisture and warmth", releasing water steadily throughout the year which is then utilised by farmers, particularly in the resource poor Third World.
It says everything about how unhealthy our culture has become that we've chopped down over half the rainforest in the world, depriving some of the poorest parts of the world the most fundamental resource because timber is considered too economically valuable not to accumulate rabidly. Perhaps one day we will wake up to how upside-down our values have become; hopefully it won't be too late for us as a species.
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