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Amazon Destruction


By Ally Helmers

amazon2 Take a breath… now exhale and thank the Amazon Rainforest for 20% of your oxygen. Inhale again and consider that 1/5 of that same rainforest will be destroyed by the end of this year, according to “Rainforest Facts” at

The Amazon often referred to as the “lungs of our planet,” acts the world’s largest recycling bin. Its trees clean and filter the world’s air by absorbing carbon dioxide, CO2, from the air and then releasing oxygen back into it. The Amazon runs across much of South America, and covers more than two and a half million square miles. It’s much larger than any other Rainforest which is why environmentalists around the world are in a panic to safeguard this vast ecosystem.
The rainforest is not only a major source of oxygen, but also the greatest protector of biodiversity. The canopy covering Amazonia is believed to contain at least half of the world’s species, many of which are threatened or endangered. Tying the diverse ecosystem together are 30 million types of insects that in turn are the food supply for the one-third of the world’s birds that call Amazonia home. These creatures balance the food chain and, consequently, the stability of our entire planet.

But today, the flora and fauna of this Brazilian rainforest are being destroyed by cattle ranching, oil, illegal lumbering and mega agribusiness which clears land to plant fields of soy. Its trees, also a valuable source of shelter for many of the forest’s animals, are being burned at increasing rates. These fires moreover release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further polluting it; and seriously tipping the world’s atmospheric balance for the rainforest regulates the earth’s climate.

Another major concern according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, are the 2100 rainforest’s plants that are active ingredients in drugs used in cancer treatment. These cancer-fighting plants have the potential to save millions lives in the future. Vincristine, for example, is vital in the treatment of acute childhood leukemia; it is extracted from the rainforest’s periwinkle plant.

The Amazon is a critical part of medical research with new discoveries of drugs to treat conditions such as AIDS, diabetes, and Alzheimer. Has the world carefully considered the impact on future medical research once a quarter of the Western pharmaceutical base is demolished?

The destruction of the Amazon rainforest is a worldwide concern. Brazil cares about the condition of the Rainforest, but it also has to balance it with the economy and the well being of its people. Is it right that environmental protection laws are evicting small Brazilian farmers from the land they have worked on for years? Should the underdeveloped countries of the world, like Brazil, be told what they can or can not do with their natural resources? Does the world have the right to hold Brazil responsible for the world’s air supply?

The answers to these questions are of critical importance to the world and will take time to discover. However today you can choose to be part of the solution by purchasing sustainable products like solar-powered lights or organically made clothing, which provide environmental, as well as social and economic benefits.

Remember to breathe before you buy. Go one step beyond smart consumption and get active. Check out for information on how to volunteer for a “Save the Rainforest” campaign. Get your community involved by starting awareness campaigns in your school and neighborhood. If everyone does a small part, we can all breathe a little easier.

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0 0 188 02 June, 2007 Green, News, World June 2, 2007

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