The Disappearing Rainforests
- We are losing Earth's greatest
biological treasures just as we are beginning to appreciate their true
value. Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth's land surface; now
they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining
rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years
- One and one-half acres of rainforest
are lost every second with tragic consequences for both developing and
- Rainforests are being destroyed
because the value of rainforest land is percieved as only the value of
its timber by short-sighted governments, multi-national logging
companies, and land owners.
- Nearly half of the world's species of
plants, animals and microoganisms will be destroyed or severely
threatened over the next quarter century due to Rainforest
- Experts estimates that we are losing
137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to
rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year. As
the rainforest species dissapear, so do many possible cures for
life-threatening diseases. Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold
worldwide come from plant-derived sources. While 25% of Western
pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less that 1%
of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists.
- Most rainforests are cleared by
chainsaws, bulldozers and fires for its timber value and then are
followed by farming and ranching operations, even by world giants like
Mitsubishi Corporation, Gerogia Pacific, Texaco and Unocal.
- There were an estimated ten million
Indians living in the Amazonian Rainforest five centuries ago. Today
there are less than 200,000.
- In Brazil alone, European colonists
have destroyed more than 90 indigenous tribes since the 1900's. With
them have gone centuries of accumulated knowledge of the medicinal
value of rainforest species. As their homelands continue to be
destoyed by deforestation, rainforest peoples are also dissappearing.
- Most medicine men and shamans
remaining in the Rainforests today are 70 years old or more. Each time
a Rainforest medicine man dies, it is as if a library has burned down.
- When a medicine man dies without
passing his arts on to the next generation, the tribe and the world
loses thousands of years of irreplaceable knowledge about medicinal
The Wealth of the Rainforests
- The Amazonian Rainforest covers over a billion acres, encompassing
areas in Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia and the Eastern Andean region of
Ecuador and Peru. If Amazonia were a country, it would be the ninth
largest in the world.
- The Amazon Rainforest has been described as the "Lungs of our
Planet" because it provides the essential environmental world service
of continuously recyling carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20
percent of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest.
- More than half of the world's estimated 10 million species of
plants, animals and insects live in the tropical rainforests.
One-fifth of the world's fresh water is in the Amazon Basin.
- One hectare (2.47 acres) may contain over 750 types of trees and
1500 species of higher plants.
- At least 80% of the developed world's diet originated in the
tropical rainforest. Its bountiful gifts to the world include fruits
like avocados, coconuts, figs, oranges, lemons, grapefuit, bananas,
guavas, pinapples, mangos and tomatoes; vegetables including corn,
potatoes, rice, winter squash and yams; spices like black pepper,
cayenne, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar cane, tumeric,
coffee and vanilla and nuts including Brazil nuts and cashews.
- At least 3000 fruits are found in the rainforests; of these only
200 are now in use in the Western World. The Indians of the rainforest
use over 2,000.
- Rainforest plants are rich in secondary metabolites, particularly
alkaloids. Biochemists believe alkaloids protect plants from disease
and insect attacks.Many alkaloids from higher plants have proven to be
of medicinal value and benefit.
- Currently, 121 prescription drugs currently sold worldwide come
from plant-derived sources. And while 25% of Western pharmaceuticals
are derived from rainforest ingredients, less than 1% of these
tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists.
- The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified 3000 plants that
are active against cancer cells. 70% of these plants are found in the
rainforest. Twenty-five percent of the active ingredients in today's
cancer-fighting drugs come from organisms found only in the rainforest
- Vincristine, extracted from the rainforest plant,
one of the world's most powerful anticancer drugs. It has dramatically
increased the survival rate for acute childhood leukemia since its
- In 1983, there were no U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers involved
in research programs to discover new drugs or cures from plants.
Today, over 100 pharmaceutical companies and several branches of the
US government, including giants like Merck and The National Cancer
Institute, are engaged in plant research projects for possible drugs
and cures for viruses, infections, cancer and even AIDS.
- Experts agree that by leaving the rainforests intact and
harvesting it's many nuts, fruits, oil-producing plants, and medicinal
plants, the rainforest has more economic value than if they were cut
down to make grazing land for cattle or for timber.
- The latest statistics show that rainforest land converted to
cattle operations yields the land owner $60 per acre and if timber is
harvested, the land is worth $400 per acre. However, if these
renewable and sustainable resources are harvested, the land will yield
the land owner $2,400 per acre.
- If managed properly, the rainforest can provide the world's need
for these natural resources on a perpetual basis.
- Promoting the use of these sustainable and renewable sources could
stop the destruction of the Rainforests. By creating a new source of
income harvesting the medicinal plants, fruits nuts, oil and other
sustainable resources, the rainforests is be more valuable alive than
cut and burned.
- Sufficient demand of sustainable and ecologically havested
Rainforest products is necessary for preservation efforts to succeed.
Purchasing sustainable rainforest products can effect positive change
by creating a market for these products while supporting the native
people's economy and provides the economic solution and alternative to
cutting the forest just for the value of its timber.