i d e a s f o r a c t i o n
Tropical rainforests are home to between 5 and 10 million species of plants and animals --- approximately half of Earth's life forms. These life forms are essential natural resources which sustains us in many ways. For instance, rainforests serve an important role in developing new varieties of fruits and vegetables and natural medicines such as the cancer drug, Taxol. But only half of the original rainforests exist today. And they are disappearing at a rate of two acres per second - an area the size of West Germany - every year.
Our rainforests are being destroyed for a variety of reasons. For example, cattle ranchers clear millions of acres of rainforests in Central America to raise beef to then export to developed countries. Over 120 million pounds of beef are imported by the U.S. from Central America annually. A large portion is used by fast food restaurants.
The destruction of the rainforest is also partially responsible for global warming. Specifically, forests act as a natural sink for carbon dioxide - the major "greenhouse" gas responsible for global warming. As rainforests are destroyed, higher levels of carbon dioxide remain in the atmosphere, leading to higher global temperatures. Burning rainforests further exacerbates the problem by releasing huge amounts of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Be a Green Consumer
Even from thousands of miles away, American consumers can have a tremendous impact on the destruction of tropical rainforests. You can help the rainforests in your everyday life:
Cut down on eating beef. Unless supermarket beef is labeled as US-bred, don't buy it. Avoid eating fast food hamburgers altogether as it is impossible to know the origin of the beef.
Search your local health food stores and supermarkets for rainforest food.
Buy clothes by Patagonia and Esprit. Both companies buy rainforest goods from wholesaler Conservation International.
Buy cosmetics that use rainforest products collected in a sustainable way by indigenous people. Rainforest Essentials and The Body Shop both carry beauty products that help the rainforest.
Don't buy tropical hardwoods. Instead, purchase furniture and other products made from temperate hardwoods such as oak, beech and walnut.
Write the World Bank and Educate Yourself Further
The World Bank is the world's largest source of development assistance, providing nearly $30 billion in loans annually to its client countries. The Bank's stated mission is to alleviate poverty by helping developing countries onto a path of environmentally sustainable economic growth. The Bank acknowledges that developing countries are, in most instances, much more vulnerable to environmental degradation than industrial countries. The Bank purports to ensure that its projects do not harm the natural environment by assessing environmental risks. However, more must be done in addressing global environmental priorities such as: biodiversity, climate change, ozone depletion, and pollution of international waters.
Write to the World Bank protesting the funding of development projects that destroy rainforests. Instead, urge the World Bank to allocate funding for projects promoting sustainable development. See Sample Letter on Back.
The World Bank
1818 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20433
Dear Mr. Conable,
I am writing to urge you to help prevent the destruction of tropical rainforests and to allocate funding for projects promoting sustainable development. Tropical rainforests are of one of the Earth's vital natural resources. The rainforests are located almost entirely within the borders of developing countries. These countries clear and destroy millions of acres of rainforest as a quick and easy means to earn money to serve their national debts. Cattle ranching and logging are the primary means for destroying rainforests.
Rainforest destruction has a lasting and often permanent affect on the environment. For example, burning rainforests for cattle ranching is partially responsible for global warming. Scientists predict that as global temperatures rise we will face an increase in crop failure, oceans will rise and flood coastal areas, and many species of plants and animals will become extinct.
The World Bank can play a powerful role in preventing the further destruction of the tropical rainforest by eliminating the funding of development projects that destroy the rainforests. In addition, I urge you to encourage funding for projects promoting sustainable development.
©1999 Earth Day 2000
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