This essay by Lisbeth Cobena was awarded co-second place in the 2020 contest sponsored by the St. Louis Chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions.
“The Earth does not expect you to save her, she expects you to respect her”
The Amazon Rainforest is the largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest in the world. Located in northern South America and with a basin of 2,300,000 square miles, the Amazon Rainforest extends across eight countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Hosting more than ten million different species of animals, plants, insects, and 30 million people including 350 indigenous tribes, the Amazon Rainforest is the home of the largest and most biodiverse flora and fauna in the world. To illustrate the immensity of this statement consider these facts: one single tree in Peru was found to harbor forty-three different species of ants, a total that approximates the entire number of ant species in the British Isles, and the number of species of fish in the Amazon exceeds the number found in the entire Atlantic Ocean.
Today, dams, roads, and farms blemish the Amazon Rainforest, threatening all those that call this vast forest their home. So far, twenty percent of the Amazon Forest has already been destroyed and lost forever with an estimated 2.7 million acres of forest burned each year due to human activities . Thus, the Amazon Rainforest which once was known as the “Lung of the world,” is now an alarming producer of CO2 due to deforestation. The destruction of this irreplaceable forest is causing the extinction of millions of species and endangering the people who live in the areas ruined by environmental and cultural devastation.
The leading cause of deforestation and logging in the Amazon Rainforest is the growing and insatiable demand for products from this tropical forest. Such as soy, meat, corn, palm oil, coffee, sugar, fruit, chocolate, among many others. The American corporation Cargill, for example, has been highly criticized for the damage it has occasioned in the Amazon Rainforest over the last two decades. However, little action has been taken from part of the company to prevent, revert, and end its deforestation link to soy animal feed. Its most essential customers like McDonald’s, Burger King, Costco, and Walmart also refuse to take responsibility for this issue. There is no interest in decreasing the demand for these products.
Pursuit of Oil
High contamination due to inadequate machinery, practices, and infrastructures used to extract oil is also link with the damage done to the Forest. Oil companies come to the Rainforest every year from all over the world, saying they have come with flawless technology that will extract the oil without damaging the land and provoking oil spills. However, these technologies bring atrocious disaster, and after the damage is done, companies refuse to take responsibility. In 2018, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador ordered the company Chevron to pay $9.5 billion in compensation for environmental damage after Chevron deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste in the Amazon rainforest indigenous lands . Up until today, the oil spill caused by this company is still found in rivers and trees.
International Cooperation is Needed
New policies should be implemented not only in the countries that constitute the Amazon Rainforest but also in the international countries whose great demand and consumption of the Amazon goods are directed to revert the damage that has been done to the Forest. For example, by limiting the amounts of bananas that will be exported per year. Even if it means for international companies like Walmart to reduce their availability of fruit on the market, if the demand for products declines, companies like Cargill will be forced to mitigate deforestation for plantations to avoid unnecessary costs. Countries can also help the Amazon Rainforest by spreading awareness about overpopulation to reduce future consumption, educate people about foods that damage the land, and offer healthier and sustainable alternatives.
In conclusion, Wildfires, oil spills, deforestation, logging landslides, floods, others are only the beginning of a series of catastrophes that deforestation, fossil fuels, and industrial development are causing, driving to the destruction of entire ecosystems, species, and cultures. The collapse of the Amazon Rainforest caused by oil extraction, illegal logging, gold mining, and deforestation affects climate change, tribes, and the world population. Today, more urgently than ever before, we must stand with indigenous peoples in their struggle to protect our planet’s last wild places for their and our future generations.
What the United States can do to save and protect the Amazon Rainforest is spread awareness about how many international corporations are abusing overseas territories. Its citizens can reach higher governmental entities so that justice is practiced upon the tribes affected by oil spills and deforestation. U.S advanced technology can be used to find more sustainable ways to supply the growing population. It will also help the undeveloped and developing countries that are part of the Amazon Rainforest to forecast future climate conditions and work together with strategies to create new sources of income. The United States, with its global influence, can bring together other nations, so more ideas and rentable solutions are sought. The implementation of new international policies that protect nature needs to be applied at an alarming rate. These countries cannot change their economic and political situations, and external help is needed before it’s too late.
2 “Cargill: The Worst Company in the World – Mighty Earth.” stories.mightyearth.org/cargill-worst-company-in-the-world/index.html.
3 “Chevron Must Pay for Environmental Damage in Ecuador, Court Rules.” Mongabay Environmental News, 25 Sept. 2018, news.mongabay.com/2018/08/chevron-must-pay-for-environmental-damage-in-ecuador-court-rules/.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.