Lush green rainforests may be something you've pictured only briefly when dreaming about a tropical vacation but did you know that the health of the world's rainforests has a huge influence on the quality of your daily life?
The rainforest is often described as the "Lungs of our Planet". The Amazon rainforest alone is responsible for producing more than 20 percent of the oxygen we breath! As an added bonus, by taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen for us to breath, the rainforest actually reduces green house gases and fights global warming.
But sadly, we are losing the earth's rainforests to feed the world ravenous appetite for cheap lumber and agriculture. Check out these statistics. You're not going to believe them but they're true!
- 54 of the world's 193 countries have already lost 90 percent or more of their forest cover. Rainforests that once covered 14% of the earth's land surface now cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be gone in less than 40 years.
- 1.5 acres of rainforest are lost every second (that equates to 50 million acres a year: an area roughly the size of Oregon)
- Nearly half of the world's species of plants and animals will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next 25 years due to rainforest deforestation.
- We are losing approximately 137 plant and animal species every single day due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year!
- As the rainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases. Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources. Twenty-five percent of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients! Many more could be developed as only about 1% of tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists.
- Most rainforests are cleared by chainsaws, bulldozers and fires for timber and then are followed by farming and ranching operations. In Indonesia, the current rate of logging could totally wipe out native forests within only 10 years. The forest has already been totally wiped out in countries like Haiti and Ivory Coast where barely a tree can be found anymore.
Even worse is the fact that rainforests do not regenerate as our temperate forests in Vermont do. Once gone, they are gone forever and along with them the wonderful diversity of plants and wildlife that inhabit them.
So now that you know why rainforests are a big deal, you're probably asking yourself, "What on earth can I do about it?" Well, this is where green consumerism comes in. Everyday when you're shopping you make choices that effect the health of the rainforest. It's true. Do you buy products made of soy, beef or wood for example? If so, chances are very good that they are originating in the rainforest and are being produced illegally in violation of local conservation laws.
You can do you part for the environment by purchasing products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as being green and originating from sustainably managed forests. Ask the salespeople in your favorite stores if their products are certified? Ask where they came from. You may get a few blank stares at first, but eventually you'll be making a difference. Store owners are going to realize more and more that sustainability is important to their customers. If they are to stay in business, they are going to have to Go Green.
And YOU can make it happen.