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
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
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
Removal of the older trees
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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 !
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 !
on-line Petitions !
Petitions can have a major influence on
By way of example the petition raised by
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
To find out more about the threats to
rainforests and the environment, and to access on-line petitions,
Rainforest Portal website.
river, Taman Negara, Malaysia ©