The Disappearing Rainforests
Conserving the rainforest is a global issue of great importance.
Tropical rainforests provide a habitat for animals, a unique ecosystem
for vegetation, and an abundance of resources for humans, yet they are
being destroyed at an astonishing rate. Experts estimate that if these
endangered territories continue to be consumed in this manner, no more
will be standing in forty years (Rainforest). Examining the social,
environmental, and economic costs of the continued destruction of the
Earth's tropical rainforests will prove that deforestation for
short-term profit is ultimately not viable.
The social and moral implications of diminishing rainforest
biodiversity are great. From a human welfare perspective, the
livelihoods of tens of millions of indigenous peoples depend on the
forests, but thousands are being pushed out of their homes because
they lack the shelter and support that the forest once gave them
(Salim 3). These groups have "developed knowledge and cultures in
accordance with their environment through thousands of years, and even
physically they are adapted to the life in the forest" (Nyborg). For
many of the people living in these areas, the forest is the only
resource they have providing them with food, shelter and cultural
ties. With the invasion and destruction of their homeland, rainforest
peoples are also disappearing. Murdered or forced to move to
relocation settlements, many are exposed to new diseases to which they
have no natural resistance such as tuberculosis, influenza,
parainfluenza, measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, and the common
cold. Survivors are often introduced to the modern world and may
"become the dregs of civilization, riddled particularly with
alcoholism and venereal disease, often unable, even in the long run,
to adjust to and become useful members of the new society" (Newman
147). With the loss of indigenous tribes comes the loss of "centuries
of accumulated knowledge of the medicinal value of rainforest species"
(Rainforest), and a mystical culture that Western society has barely
begun to understand.
Not only are the forests of great importance to the welfare of people
local to them, they serve a vital role for the rest of the world.
Approximately 25% of all prescription drugs are derived from
rainforest plants and animals (Daniel). Traditional medicine, based
largely on tropical plants, nurtures 80% of the world's population"
(Chasmer 288). By destroying the numerous unknown species remaining in
the forests, possible cures of deadly diseases that afflict humans
might never be discovered. The moral consequences of knowingly
annihilating these species are tremendous, after all, "extinction is
forever, and the species we make extinct have no voice in the
decision" (Maser 121).
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