Planting Seeds to Save the Planet

About Deforestation in the Amazon

A recent survey shows that deforestation in the Amazon is responsible for as much as 10% of current global greenhouse gas emissions. Not only because forests which absorb carbon dioxide are being removed, but the burning the forests also emits vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The burning is often not contained in its intended area and has widespread implications including displacing indigenous communities and native villages.

Deforestation leaves behind dead plant material which indirectly depletes the organic carbon in soil and disrupts the balance of the ecosystem beginning with bacterium and invertebrates living in the soil.

Deforestation threatens the existence of many unique animal species who are now endangered. Deforestation has also decreased the gene pool and genetic variation, drastically altering the course of nature and evolution of species.

The Amazon basin is home to vast and undiscovered resources that could provide unknown medicinal cures, even potential cures and treatments for AIDS, cancer and other terminal diseases.

As of 2008, it is estimated that over 724,000 square kilometers, or 280,000 square miles of rainforest has been burned down since 1970. To compare, this is larger than the entire state of Texas. Or, in more eastern terms, it is over 5 times the size of New York, over 6 times the size of Pennsylvania, more than 38 times the size of New Jersey and more than 50 times the size of Connecticut.

Deforestation has lead to violence, including murder, targeted at local people and environmental activists who resist forceful and violent gunmen hired to burn down areas of the forest.

“As indigenous people intuitively grasp, the benefits the Amazon provides are of incalculable worth: water cycling (the forest produces not only half its own rainfall but much of the rain south of the Amazon and east of the Andes), carbon sequestering (by holding and absorbing carbon dioxide, the forest mitigates global warming and cleanses the atmosphere), and maintenance of an unmatched panoply of life. But the marketplace has yet to assign a value to the forest: It's far more profitable to cut it down for grazing and farming than to leave it standing.”

Scott Wallace
National Geographic magazine