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The #1 human cause of deforestation in Latin America?  Surprise…it’s the cattle industry.

Daniel Beltra)

A burnt area of the Amazon rainforest in Itaituba 2, a protected area (Photo: Daniel Beltra)

Why are rainforests important?  First of all, rainforests help to slow global warming by significantly absorbing  CO2 in our atmosphere.  So as a result of deforestation, there is an increase in CO2 emissions.

The rate of deforestation has increased significantly in the past few decades.   Deforestation is now the #2 human cause of CO2, behind fossil fuels.

As for a cause of deforestation?  For the Amazon rainforest, it’s meat:

“Cattle ranching is now the biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon, and nearly 80 per cent of deforested areas in Brazil are now used for pasture.  The cattle industry has ballooned since the 1970s, giving Brazil the largest commercial cattle herd in the world. Since 2003, the country has also topped the world’s beef export charts and the government plans to double its share of the market by 2018.” – “How Cattle Ranches are Chewing up the Amazon Rainorest” Greenpeace (1/31/09)

Greenpeace is currently developing their campaign to pressure the Brazilian government to stop deforestation in the Amazon.

Rainforests help us in many other priceless ways.

Here are some very interesting facts about rainforests:

  • We lose about 50,000 plant, animal and insect species a year due to deforestation.
  • While 25% of Western pharmeceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less than 1% of tropical plant species have been tested.
  • The Amazon is described as the “Lungs of our Planet” because it provides more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen, by continuously recycling carbon dioxide.
  • Of the 3,000 plants that the U.S National cancer Institute has ID-ed as active against cancer cells, 70% are found in the rainforest.
  • Experts agree that there is more economic value in leaving the rainforests intact than cutting it down for timber or the cattle industry.

The rainforests, as you have read, provide immense value to humanity.  But in a matter of decades, much of that value has been forever lost due to the cattle industry and the rising global appetite for meat.

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