The world as we know it is burning; and the Amazon rainforest shares that similar trait, but what most don’t know is that these fires were illegally and purposefully made by loggers and cattle ranchers who use the “slash and burn” method to clear land. This problem has been ongoing since the 60s, and environmentalists can conclude that 60% of global deforestation is due to cattle ranch farming (EarthSky). The Amazon rainforest produces 20% of the world’s oxygen while absorbing carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere. Although the oceans also produce a significant amount of oxygen and absorb a great amount of carbon dioxide, we must conserve as much of the carbon dioxide sinks as possible in order to keep balance and hopefully save ourselves from extinction. “If we can’t conserve the Amazon, we will lose the fight against the climate crisis,” says Kerry Cesareo, senior vice president for forests for the World Wildlife Fund, “We have already lost about 20% of the rainforest, the tipping point is 25%” (WebMD).
Deforestation will only speed up the process of climate change, leaving large portions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere making our world warmer, leading to a multitude of other grave effects on the climate. Other terribly concerning effects of deforestation in our critical ecosystems are the effects on mental health, the spread of disease, the hindrance to medical research, and adverse changes to our weather patterns. From all of this dreadful news about the horrors we cause in the climate, many young people of about 18-21 develop extreme anxiety out of the fear of not having a safe environment when they grow up, and the burden that they won’t have children because of the destroyed environment they do not wish the next generation to live in. Diseases such as malaria and dengue fever have emerged in areas with high pollution due to the felling of the world’s forests. Medicines to fight cancer extracted from the nutrients found in rainforest plants and quinine extracted from cinchona trees that only grow in rainforests will deplete significantly in the coming years. According to conservationist Paul Rosolie, “We don’t realize how interconnected everything is. If you were suddenly to turn off the Amazon, our temperatures and rain would change in an instant” (WebMD). Just as when plants release water from their leaves during transpiration, the rainforests release this water into the atmosphere. Less water is released into the atmosphere as trees burn, which can mean less rainfall and disrupted weather conditions (WebMD).
In other areas, deforestation leads to even worse problems that directly affect inhabiting animals. Elephants in Sri Lanka wildlife sanctuaries are targeted by deforestation due to the problem of railroad infrastructure in the lands that the elephants will march upon. Train tracks are built as close as 67 kilometers to the wildlife sanctuaries and have slaughtered several elephants in the preserves. Recently, a pregnant mother and her calves were killed on the tracks, and just a couple weeks after that three baby calves were killed by the train. 1, 200 elephants were killed by enraged villagers due to the death of 375 villagers being trampled by the animals who were not marching on their migration course due to downed trees from deforestation obstructing their natural migration route (Gulf News). Government officials plan to solve this complication by placing 2,651 kilometers of electric fencing separating the villages and wildlife preserves. Although this could be the solution to the problems being faced in Sri Lanka, this restricts elephants from grazing the world as they are supposed to, free and out of harm. Humans have taken their power for granted and greatly disrupted the balance of nature. The only way to solve these problems in Sri Lanka is to find humane and non-climate disturbing alternatives to keep the elephants and other wildlife in this area safe, for if we do not fight to protect these elephants, they will be extinct within the next decade (Gulf News). Indonesian orangutans are being stripped of their homes, separated from their families, and starved to death due to deforestation. Only a third of the orangutan population remains due to the fires that wipe out the forests that they live in, primarily due to cattle farming, but also soybean farming and harvesting of palm oil. These fires have killed two-thirds of the orangutan population. The apes remaining are starved, and only the lucky ones will be able to find nearby plantations and game preserves (Scientific American).
It is crucial to pay attention to the quickly adapting climate, although the earth is falling apart the lack of media attention and political action is devastating. We only have this Earth, this home, and this time. It is only now that we can take action, our effects on the climate are rapidly catching up to us, and if we continue to ignore or hold off on solutions to our world, we will pay the price dearly.
This is an image of the Sri Lankan Elephants crossing a railroad that is near their preserve; they have no place else to go, for on another route they could be outnumbered by villagers during their migration period. Photo Credit: Voice of Asia Newx
By Madison Elliott Staff Writer