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Please help save rainforests !

The Amazon rainforests and the cloudforests of the Andes together account for more than 40% of all butterfly species on Earth. If deforestation continues at it's present rate, the rainforests will have entirely disappeared within 50 years, and almost half of the world's butterfly species could by then be extinct, with nothing more than museum specimens and photographs remaining.
Please visit the rainforestportal and mongabay websites where you can find masses of information, and take part in on-line petitions to save the Amazon and the rainforests of Africa and Asia.

Please support rainforest conservation :

sign on-line petitions

reduce consumerism

reduce your mileage

boycott tropical hardwoods

boycott South American beef

boycott oil palm products

support eco-tourism

support rainforest conservation organisations

Reduce consumerism !

Increased wealth breeds increased consumption and increased disregard for the consequences of our actions. Every product we buy creates a massive impact on the environment. Rainforests are clear-felled to make way for the mining of iron, copper, aluminium and gold. Every plastic item we buy uses mineral or vegetable oil as it's source, resulting in massive degradation or destruction of rainforests for the oil industry. Timber consumption by the building, furniture and pulping industries severely degrades yet more forested habitats.

Do we really need the latest gadgets, when we managed to get by perfectly well in the past without them ? Do we really need to upgrade our mobile phones, televisions, computers, hi-fi, cameras and everything else quite so often ? Much of the time all we are doing is trying to be fashionable, or to impress our friends with our purchases, when we could put our hard-earned money to much better use, with significantly less damage to the environment.

Do we really need to get a new car, motorcycle, refrigerator, washing machine etc, or could we get by with the existing one for a year or two longer ? We can save a great deal of money by making things last longer, and repairing rather than replacing.

Every time we replace an item, we also have to dispose of the old model, creating mountains of waste, and polluting the soil, rivers and sea with chemicals. Every time we buy an item we demand fancy packaging, which places yet more demands on the dwindling rainforests. Recycling helps to an extent, but is not the real answer - only a small percentage of materials are recyclable, and the recycling industry itself places yet more demands on the environment.

Reduce your mileage !

Every time you put fuel in your car you are contributing to rainforest destruction, because all fuel now contains over 5% bio-fuel. Bio-fuels are grown primarily on former rainforest that has been deliberately burned down to make way for soybean and oil palm plantations.

Boycott tropical hardwoods !

The furniture industry has a huge impact on the quality of the remaining areas of rainforest. When timber is extracted, it is inevitably the oldest and largest trees that are selected. Removing these trees totally alters the structure of the forest. It is not always realised that a rainforest is in effect a vast collection of sub-habitats including the understorey, mid-canopy, upper canopy, forest edge, and "light-gaps" where trees have died and fallen. It is precisely this huge array of ecological niches which allows such a diverse and abundant variety of butterflies and other wildlife to exist.

Removal of the older trees also virtually eliminates the dead wood that is so necessary for beetles - a major food source for birds, small mammals and reptiles. The heavy machinery used to extract timber crushes most of the younger trees. The result is an even-aged thicket where the diversity of birds, mammals and insects is less than 10% of that found in mature rainforest in the same vicinity.

Please don't buy furniture made from tropical hardwoods. Oak and pine extraction from temperate woodland also impacts on the environment, but most nowadays comes from sustainable sources - woodlands that are replanted to maintain a continuation of habitat and timber. There is no such thing as a sustainable rainforest - it takes 1000s of years to reach a condition where it can support a high bio-diversity.

Boycott South American beef !

In Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Costa Rica and many other areas of the neotropics, vast swathes of primary rainforest are clear-felled every year to create pastures for cattle grazing. The thin soils, poor in nutrients, are only capable of sustaining low quality grasses for about 5 years, after which the land becomes virtually useless for cattle ranching. Within a few years desertification begins, and all that remains is dust.

Cattle in the neotropics suffer badly from infestations of ticks and other parasites, so the grassland is deliberately burnt at the end of each dry season to destroy the parasites, and to release nitrates into the soil to stimulate the growth of fresh grasses. These annual burns regularly become totally out of control, destroying yet more of the little rainforest that is left, and drastically lowering the humidity of the entire region, with devastating effects on the remaining forests and their wildlife.

Buying South American beef, much of which is exported as low quality meat used in hamburgers, sausages, pâté and dog food, creates even more demand, which can only be met by further destruction of the forests. Beef and other meat products from the UK, Europe, North America and New Zealand are more environmentally friendly because a much higher density of livestock can be supported by a given area of land, due to the deeper and more nutrient-rich soils.

Boycott oil palm products !

Massive areas of rainforest in Borneo, Sumatra, West Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are being clear-felled and burned to make way for immense oil palm plantations, causing the annihilation of wildlife on a catastrophic scale. Only a few small areas protected as nature reserves or national parks now remain, and even these are now severely threatened by commercial interests and governmental policies which seek to downgrade their protected status of such areas and open them up for exploitation. Already 90 percent of the natural forest has gone, with massive reductions in butterfly populations.

Palm oil has become a much sought after commodity - as well as being used in food products, it is finding growing use as a so-called environmentally friendly bio-fuel, but it's large scale deployment will cause the extinction of the orang utan, one of the most well-loved species on the planet, and the loss of thousands of species of butterflies, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

We need to ask ourselves whether we need to consume such vast quantities of palm oil. Much of it goes to create plastic packaging. We can reduce the impact by demanding simpler environmentally friendly packaging from supermarket chains. Card packaging is far less destructive, because it is biodegradable, and can be produced from sustainable temperate woodlands.

Eco-friendly employment for indigenous people !

One of the major problems facing the environment is poverty. In countries where governments are corrupt and distribution of wealth is unjust, the poorer people cannot be blamed for funding their family needs by resorting to environmentally damaging practices. Governments and industry need to generate forms of employment that minimise impact on the environment. They must also provide funding to educate the next generation - many children never get the chance to venture beyond the towns and cities, and never get the chance to appreciate the wildlife in their own countries. Wealthy countries need to provide the funding and education that enable indigenous people, particularly the children on who the future depends, to learn about and gain access to the forests, because without their support forests and other wildlife habitats will disappear entirely.

Support Eco-tourism !

Less developed countries often lack the financial, educational and technical resources necessary to create an effective National Park and conservation infra-structure. Private nature reserves, in the form of commercial eco-tourism venues, are therefore essential if habitats are to be protected from other forms of development.

Eco-lodges and their surrounding private nature reserves create a high demand from tourists for the retention of the forests. Many of the most important forest areas in Brazil, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, Guyana, Argentina, Kenya, Uganda, Gabon, Madagascar, India, Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Thailand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia are protected almost solely by virtue of the demands of eco-tourism.

Reduce carbon emissions !

The climate of the Earth has changed many times over the millennia, and will change many more times. These changes are known to be triggered by natural events such as meteorite strikes, major volcanic eruptions, solar activity, continental shift, and by changes in the vegetation structure.

In the late 20th century we discovered that human activity could also trigger climate change. It was feared that nuclear war or the burning of oilfields might trigger a new ice age. Then came the fear of global warming caused by the release of ozone-destroying chemicals from aerosols. Fortunately these fears have proven largely to be unfounded or unrealised but this has led to public apathy and serious distrust of scientific predictions.

Current evidence e.g. receding ice-caps and raised average global temperatures however leaves absolutely no doubt that our climate is changing, and that extremely high levels of carbon emissions are the major factor triggering the build-up of the greenhouse gases which are thought to be the primary cause of global warming.

We all need to make immediate and major changes to our daily lives if we are to avert disaster. We need to use less fuel, which means less driving, fewer flights, more efficient home insulation, and more efficient manufacturing processes.

Energy policies must be changed. Fossil fuels must be abandoned, nuclear reactors decommissioned and alternative energy sources such as wind generators, tidal power and solar energy must receive massive research funding, with the aim of eliminating the usage of fossil fuels.

Support Rainforest Conservation organisations !

Supporting rainforest conservation is not just a simple case of making an occasional conscience-relieving donation to Friends of the Earth or Rainforest Concern. Any such donations are of course valuable because they can fund vital research projects. What is more important, is that be adding our names to the membership lists of such organisations we raise their profile, enabling them to attract further funding.

Funding is absolutely vital. Scientific surveys, including the production of wildlife inventories, can demonstrate that a site has high bio-diversity, or that it is home to particularly rare or threatened species. Such data can be used to raise the protected status of a site from a weakly protected local nature reserve to a highly protected national reserve. Scientists conducting such studies have to be paid - they don't work for nothing !

Lobby Politicians !

None of us trust politicians. We are all sceptical about their promises and have little faith in their commitment to the environment. Some of it is our own fault however because politicians know that high profile subjects like health, pensions, immigration and employment are the real vote winners. We need to change that. We need to bombard our politicians with letters and e-mails telling them that issues of climate change, wildlife protection and rainforest conservation are important to us, and to demand that they improve governmental policies to meet our demands if they expect to get our votes !

Sign on-line Petitions !

Petitions can have a major influence on government policies.

By way of example the petition raised by Ecological Internet to save Cristalino State Park in Brazil brought a massive response. This vast rainforest reserve, one of the most bio-diverse habitats on Earth, was going to be downgraded in status and opened up for development. The petition directed at the Brazilian Prime Minister, brought about a reversal of policy. Thanks to the petition the forest was saved from destruction, ensuring the survival of the 1600 species of butterfly that breed there, not to mention the 600 birds, the tapirs, giant river otters, anacondas, capybaras and myriads of other wildlife.

To find out more about the threats to rainforests and the environment, and to access on-line petitions, visit the Rainforest Portal website.

Sungai Tahan river, Taman Negara, Malaysia © Adrian Hoskins

 

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