Rainforests are typically found in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America. They are integral to our survival and well-being. Some 40 percent of the world's oxygen is produced by rainforests, according to the University of Washington. If the rainforests disappear completely, millions of living creatures -- perhaps even significant numbers of us -- may not be far behind. It's not all doom and gloom, however. There are some very positive human impacts upon rainforests.
The speed at which rainforest destruction has occurred has been both stark and alarming. A positive step has been taken to combat the situation, however. Its ultimate goal is to completely eradicate destruction by radically changing the logging process. It involves something called afforestation. In simple terms, this is the process of planting a new tree for every one chopped down. Another initiative, selective logging, involves only cutting down mature trees. It's a process that provides newly-planted and younger trees a solid opportunity to replenish the rainforests. Since logging is unlikely to ever stop, the constant replacement of trees may ensure a positive future for rainforests.
Relief for the forests
Since 1989, Rainforest Relief -- a non-profit organisation -- has vigorously campaigned to turn human interaction with rainforests from negative to positive. The group's approach has been to encourage the use of alternatives to hardwoods. Mahogany is one of the world's most sought after hardwoods and is found in the rainforests of both South America and Africa. Rainforest Relief's high-profile work has succeeded in its aim to lower the amount of hardwood harvested for furniture, flooring, doors and construction. To date, the group has curtailed the use of rainforest-originated hardwood by more than 10 million board-feet. That's a lot of trees saved.
When words count
The most positive example of human impact on the precarious state of the rainforests has been that of bringing the reality of the situation to the world's notice. The World Wildlife Fund has attracted major media and public attention when it comes to spreading the word. The WWF has done more than just inform people of the truth about worldwide deforestation, however. It works closely with government agencies, forestry commissions, and logging companies. The reason: to identify and stop illegal logging, to modify trading treaties in favour of the environment rather than profit and to preserve the forests.
Situated between Brazil and Venezuela, the small country of Guyana knows a great deal about the dire state of the world's rainforests. Unlike the situation in many other nations, however, Guyana's Iwokrama rainforest is completely intact. The government wants to keep it that way, too. Under pressure to develop the rainforest as a means of generating revenue, in 2007 the government of Guyana offered to place it under the control of an international agency led by the UK. The idea was to preserve the forest by securing revenue from it in a fashion that didn't involve flattening it. Generating income from purified rainfall, eco-tourism and non-timber products was seen as a much better option. When governments make genuine, positive steps, there's hope for all of us. That includes the trees.
- Washington University: Forest resources special events mark UN International Year of Forests
- The Guardian: More than half of Amazon will be lost by 2030, report warns
- Queensland Government: Selective logging
- Rainforest Relief: Avoiding unsustainable rainforest wood
- The Independent: Take over our rainforest