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The purpose of this paper is to discuss the deforestation of the Amazon rain
forest. This discussion emphasizes the social and geographic background, the impact of deforestation on the Amazon's people and resources, and the causes as well as some proposed solutions of the problem.
The Amazon rain forest is so vast it can be seen from the space shuttle. Will this statement be true ten years from now? The logs that are taken from the rain forest are money for today and the wasteland of tomorrow. Virtually all tropical rain forests may vanish in the next twenty-five years. (Richter) With the extinction of the forest will come the extinction of much of the world's most remarkable wildlife. In an editorial statement, The Economist magazine noted that the Amazon rain forest in Brazil contains
. . . nearly one third of all the worlds' tropical forest-and a
greater variety of plants than any other country. The Amazon
has more types of fish than in all the rivers of Europe; the trees
are home to more species of birds than in all the forests of
North America. ("The Month Amazonian Burns" 15)
The resources of the Amazon do not stop with the trees and animal life, for the plant life must also be included. Drugs derived from plants native to rain forest have been successfully used in the treatment of Hodgkin's disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, as an aid in surgery, for the production of sex hormones and the birth-control pill. About one-third of the world's medicines currently are derived from tropical plants. They are expected to contribute far more in the future, up to and including the possibility of life saving compounds
for cancer and/or AIDS. (Hope Reaches the Amazon) However, perhaps the greatest resource of the Amazon rain forest is its contribution to the world's oxygen supply. Indeed, the rain forest is so massive that it is estimated that deforestation, which entails burning a conservative estimate of 28 million acres per year, by itself contributes 20 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Rain forest destruction affects whether patterns and contributes to global warming, the so-called greenhouse effect, which is the heating of the lower atmosphere that occurs when carbon dioxide traps heat that would other wise escape into space. In addition to the foregoing it can be noted that the Amazon contains the world's richest deposits of iron ore and other mineral resources. In Brazil half the region's precipitation comes from the Atlantic. It goes out again in the Amazon River. But the other half derives from moisture radiated back into the air by the canopy of the forest itself. When much of the forest is removed the rainfall will diminish and the rest of the forest will deteriorate.
"Nearly 100 acres of tropical rain forest disappear every minute of every day". (Richter) Up to 8 percent of the two million square mile Amazon rain forest, an area about the size of California, has already been deforested. (White) When the big trees are cut down other species die also. Each tree is not quite like any other in the world when cut that patch of forest will never be the same again. Because of deforestation, millions of plants and animal species could become extinct before being given scientific names. (Richter) When observed as a living community, the forest is built in all its complexity upon the smallest of
organisms. (White) To destroy any part of the forest aids in the extinction of the total Amazon area.
Deforestation begin in a major way, with the government of Brazil, deciding that its 10 million poor rural families might be given acreage in the Amazon and allowed to engage in farming. Such a move, it was reasoned, would keep these people from adding to the number of extremely poor people already in the cities. It was felt that it would give them a chance at a livelihood that could, if they worked hard, raise them from the status of the destitute. However, slash and burn agriculture destroys more of the world's tropical forest than logging. One Brazilian congressman reportedly said the rain forest should all be cut down because it paralyzes de
Terminology mentioned in this term paper
Amazon rain forest,
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Keywords mentioned in this report
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