It’s hard to imagine that we would knowingly destroy something so valuable; could it be that we are destroying them before we realize their worth? Before we truly understand their biodiversity? And even before we fully understand the life and the ecosystems they support?
Massive deforestation brings with it many horrifying consequences – air and water pollution, soil erosion, the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the eviction and decimation of indigenous Indian tribes, and the extinction of many plants, animals and creatures. Fewer rainforests mean less rain, less oxygen for us to breathe, and an increased threat of global warming.
Confucius said, “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.” Clearly deforestation is man’s mistake. So how do we correct this mistake? Can we correct this mistake?
If deforestation ceased today, it would help immensely, but unfortunately would not be enough. We have lost complete species, both in plant and animal life; however, all is not lost. What we can hope for in bringing deforestation to an end is a new beginning; new species to evolving and the rebirth of this diminishing treasure.
With the rapid loss of Earth’s rainforests, it’s time to correct our mistake. There is no simple solution or quick fix, but there are definitely steps that can be taken to stop the deforestation and restore not only the damaged ecosystems, but the beauty of life that’s been lost.
Four Invaluable Steps to Saving Our Rainforests:
Step #1: Education
In the last 20 years, deforestation has claimed millions of square miles of tropical rainforests, and to protect their future we need to develop sound educational initiatives. Education programs and curricula for each grade level is vital as children of today are our future. Encouraging good global citizenship in school aged children will help them develop a deeper understanding of conservation challenges, as well as a healthy respect for the environment. Education cannot, however, stop with school-aged kids; adults need the same education about deforestation and preventative measures.
Educational resources are now becoming widely available to educators. For example, Paradise Earth Scholastic is Paradise Earth’s academic service and the Internet’s premier source for rainforest education, replete with educational curricula for first and secondary education, multimedia educational features, and resources for research and teaching. Paradise Earth Scholastic will be available online at www.paradiseearth.com by January 2009.
Step #2: Conservation Policies
Saving tropical rainforests is a worldwide responsibility, not just the responsibility of the country the forests are home to. Stronger policies prohibiting deforestation need to be written and enforced; our responsibility lies quite a bit deeper. If the international community wants to provide a higher level of protection of these forests, financial resources have to be a major part of the conservation strategy.
Historically, world governments have been willing to grant loans to tropical nations, and in some cases even cancel debts owed by them in exchange for environmental protection. For example, the British government recently assigned $150 million to preservation and sustainable development of tropical forests around the globe. Germany cleared Kenya of its $400 million debt when Kenya agreed to pass environmental legislation.
In 2001, President Clinton proposed $150 million in funds to assist developing countries preserve their tropical forests while strengthening their economies. Under the budget, $100 million would go towards conservation programs (through the U.S. Agency for International Development-USAID), while $37 million would be slated for debt-for-nature swaps under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act.
In addition to financial support, developed nations can also provide their conservation expertise to developing countries and assist in the planning of new protected areas.
Step #3: Restore & Re-grow
Though fully restoring our lost rainforests seems impossible, a myriad of studies and rebirth projects have been conducted worldwide.
In September 2008 the announcement came that the first Kihansi spray toadlet was born at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo. This little creature was last seen in the wild May of 2005. The birth of the Kihansi toadlet has renewed hopes that the species can someday be successfully reintroduced to its natural habitat in a remote gorge in Tanzania.
In other news, researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Sciences (BTI) on the Cornell campus are attempting what many thought was impossible — restoring a tropical rain forest ecosystem. Ten years after the tree plantings, Cornell graduate student Jackeline Salazar counted the species of plants that took up residence in the shade of the new-planted areas. She found remarkably high numbers of species — more than 100 in each plot. And many of the new arrivals were also to be found in nearby remnants of the original forests.
It may take hundreds of years to regain what has been lost, but every year we see evidence that the “impossible” is actually quite possible.
Step #4: Support Ecotourism
According to United Nations World Tourism Organization (http://www.unwto.org/sdt/mission/en/mission.php), sustainable tourism is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems.
Responsible ecotourism includes programs that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment while enhancing the cultural integrity of local people and their economy. From 1993 to 2003 alone, tourism to 23 countries harboring biodiversity hotspots grew by 100 percent.
At first glance, it seems that ecotourism was designed for the traveler, but its intent is much greater. Ecotourism creates jobs in food and beverage service, hotel and resort industry, transportation, and many other industries. Because Ecotourism relies on healthy ecosystems, it provides a powerful incentive to protect our rainforests. People who earn their living from ecotourism are more likely to protect local natural resources and support conservation efforts.
Correcting the “mistake” of deforestation could still be probable; but not without an overdose of human effort to finally bring an end to the demise oftropical rainforests. No matter how unreachable this goal may seem, our mistake still has a chance of being corrected.