THE DESTRUCTION OF MAN KIND Essay, Research Paper
“We know there will be problems in environmental terms, many
serious problems, but it is a matter of economics. There won’t be any
complete disaster, and what we cannot solve, well, that’s the price we have
- Eduardo Albuquerque Barbosa
There is a constant war that is being fought in the rainforests of
South America. The death toll is one that far surpasses any other war in
history. Vietnam and World War II had minimal loss of life compared to this
never ending battle. It is predicted that by the year 2020, the casualties will
reach 150 per day. This total does not even include the loss of human life
due to the lack of oxygen and the unsuitable living conditions. This
horrible scenario would be the result of mankind’s failure to cooperate and
live in harmony with the environment, especially the rainforest of South
America. In the end, the destruction of the rainforests will mean the
destruction of mankind.
The devastation of the rainforest may be compared to playing a
game of Russian Roulette. One-forth of existing medicines are derived
from tropical plants whose homes are in the rainforests of South America.
For every acre that is lost in the burning season, there is one acre less that
we have for possible life saving medicines. About 70 percent of plants
used in anti-cancer drugs come from the rain forest. We are slowly
destroying ourselves and the environment. Whether we realize it or not,
the world could quickly come to an ecological halt. Every day 144,000
acres of the rainforests are cut down, slashed and/or put up in flames.
In 1974, Brazil started a forest fire of 20.6 million square feet (3,900 square
miles). The fire ragged out of control and was later marked the largest
forest fire in Brazilian history. This 1974 fire is now considered small to
others in the past recent years. On average the burning season lasts up to
four months out of the whole year. During this period of time, it is not
uncommon for the majority of South America to be covered in a thick
blanket of smoke. The bulk of these fires, when combined, are equivalent
to the great inferno of 1988 at Yellow Stone National Park. Emitted from
these devastating fires every year are billions of carcinogens and
poisonous gases that end up in the atmosphere. The gases and pollution
have been building for many years, and scientists believe that the
atmosphere is due to reach its saturation point very soon.
The greed for money and lust for land are just two flames at the heart
of the fire. At the expense of innocent lives of rainforest dwelling animals
and local environmentalists, large corporations can some how justify there
murderous means. Rainforests cover only a mere seven percent of the
earth’s land surface, yet they contain 50 percent of the world’s species.
Along with the thousands of animals in these century old forests, there are
many tribes of Indians who are subjected to torment and usually death
from the large companies. Heartless Corporations such as Endesa,
Arboriente and PICOP ignore the blockades of the FPA, “Forest Peoples’
Alliance”, and the perpetual pleas of the Scientist’s who predict, “tropical
species are disappearing at a rate that could conceivably reach as high as
150 species a day by the year 2020″ Landry, (5). Unfortunately this battle
comes down to economics versus environment, and so far the environment
is losing the war.
Chico Mendes’ death finally brought the much needed world wide
attention to the rainforests. Until 1988 the astonishing figures produced by
environmentalist and scientists never had much weight on the conscience
of countries outside of the Amazon Rain Forest. The death of Mendes was
the second death of a NCRT, National Council of Rubber Tappers, member
in recent times. The fight, ” at first, was only about ecology, and defending
the fishes, the animals, the forest, and the river. They didn’t realize that
humans were also in the forest” Rodrigues, Revkin (1). Though Chico was
a rubber tapper in the town of Xapuri, he spent most of the year traveling
around the world trying to gain support in his fight against the destruction
of the rainforest . Chico’s non-violent approach won him much favor from
the United States and all of the other rubber tappers. Chico Mendes once
said, “If a messenger came down from heaven and guaranteed that my
death would strengthen our struggle, it would even be worth it. But
experience teaches us the opposite. Public rallies and lots of funerals
won’t save the Amazon” Revkin (1). Mendes had recently returned home
from a six week long visit and rally in the United States. Three days before
Christmas he was shot dead in the doorway of his house. Hundreds
attended Chico’s funeral, and despite his asking for no flowers, since he
knew they were going to be picked from the forest, someone left one
bouquet on his coffin. Mendes gave his life for the rain forest. In essence,
he was the first “Green Martyr” of the Amazon, and hopefully not the last.
It is the ruthless logging companies along with the complete
ignorance of the local peasants and governments that aid in the yearly loss
of the hundreds of thousands of acres of essential rainforest. In Latin
America cattle ranching for export trade is the chief culprit in rain forest
The bullheaded ranchers fail to see the effects of their burning the land.
After land is burned and raped of the minerals the land becomes dead.
These are some of the problems but, ” Land degradation caused by
grazing is by far the greatest challenge in Latin America” Caufield, (113).
There is a false illusion of an endless rainforest, so every couple of years,
the ranchers move on an either try and sell the land or burn more of the
rain forest and convert it to pastures. The U.S. does not offer much help,
the destruction of the rain forests takes five cents off the price of an
American hamburger. The United States buys up three quarters off all
Central American beef exports. Perhaps after all there are more criminals
than we think, the US is also directly responsible for the devastation of
mankind. Maybe the South Americans just support our greediness and
“necessity” for food, which the majority of goes to waste. Maybe not, but
we are to immersed in our own fervor to realize that we are digging our
own grave. Despite all of the attacks on the ranchers in the past decade,
“it is still good business to clear virgin forest in order to fatten cattle for
say five to eight years and then abandon it” Caufield, (112). The answer to
our problem is already known, but we just do not want to listen. Science
does not lie therefore sooner or later mankind will start to feel the major
effects of rainforest devastation
The long term effects from the deforestation of the Amazon are
already showing worldwide. The one major effect is the earth’s climate.
The “greenhouse effect” is caused by the rise in the level of CO2 in the
atmosphere. Eventually this could make the temperature rise five degrees
every couple of years, and in theory cause London and New York to be
under sixteen feet of water.
The scientists of the world are not all in agreement on every issue but, “in
some way shape or form there will be drastic changes in the climate as a
direct result of rainforest destruction” Shiguango, (7). The destruction of
40 million acres of rain- forest a year causes a major dent on the species
living in these regions. Magnificent and beautiful creatures of God are
being innocently killed by the destruction of their homes. In the last twenty
years, four major damns have been built in Latin and South America. The
most recent, The Tucurui Dam, is twelve miles long and when filled, the
reservoir will destroy 800 square miles of virgin forest and put an end to
over 10,000 different species, not including the 9,000 Indians who once
lived at the bottom of the basin. What seems to be a small aspect in our
life now will have a profound effect in the future. Simple items that we take
for granted now, such as tropical woods, bananas, nuts and other
materials such as rattan will soon be available in much smaller quantities.
The effects of deforestation maybe still inconspicuous to many, but soon it
will start to effect us all in one way or another.
Through our own imprudence and default we have let the innocent
lives of billions of people and animals, around the world, fall into the hands
of cattle ranchers, peasants and government officials. We have yet to learn
that the environment will always promise us life and a future, and
economics will only keep us happy for a while before it destroys us. Thus
the war between the two has been going on for nearly 200 years, and it is
not close to being over. The distant light at the end of the tunnel is faint.
The spreading of knowledge is a slow process that takes many years.
Hopefully, if we work together to save the rainforest we can make up for
our own negligence and win the war against ourselves.
1. Andrew Revkin, The Burning Season (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
2. Robert M. McClung, Vanishing Wildlife of Latin America (New
York: William Morrow, 1981)
3. Catherine Caufield, In the Rainforest (New York: Random House,
4. Jamie Shiguango, “An Experiment in Rainforest Conservation”
Cultral Survival Quarterly Spring 1988: 56-59
5. Alexander Shankland, “Brazil’s BR-364 Highway: A Road To
Nowhere” Ecologist July/Aug. 1993: 141-147
6. Sue Landry, ” Saving the Rain Forest: A Patch of Hope” St.
Petersburg Times 27 Feb. 1994, 1f+(1-14)