Rainforests: Labrynths of Life

Longwing Butterfly, Manu National Park, Peru

Rainforest eco-systems compose the earth’s greatest and most marvelous biodiversity of animals and plants. To give you an idea of how much life exists in rainforests consider this: there are about 320 species of butterflies in all of Europe, but in one Peruvian park, Manu National Park, there are over 1,300 species. Not only are rainforests incubators of life but they have a direct impact on you. At least a quarter of western medicine, including cancer treatments, is derived from rainforests. Only 1 per cent of discovered plants have been tested for their pharmaceutical properties – and that’s just what has been discovered so far.

What’s more, rainforests are a critical link in the earth’s atmospheric balance by storing CO2, regulating temperatures as well as weather patterns and maintaining the Earth’s limited supply of drinking and fresh water.

Man at his best, in touch with nature

But let’s not forget the 50 million indigenous people who live under the wild and vibrant canopies, and whose habitat is under threat. We could learn a lesson or two from their ability to co-exist in harmony with the forest – arguably a more civilised way of life – free from Western avarice. Rainforests are threatened by unsustainable agriculture, ranching, mining and logging. Here are some nasty facts to get your activist mojo flowing:

Due to deforestation rainforests have been decimated to almost third of their original size. Every second of every day a swath of rainforest the size of a football field is mowed down. At the current rate of loss, between 5-10 per cent of rainforest species will be wiped out each decade. In one year, fires from the Amazon alone produced 500 million tons of CO2, estimated to be 10 per cent of the world’s total annual atmospheric emissions.

About half of Indonesia’s Orangutan’s have perished due to Palm oil industry. Yes, it sounds like it’s all going up in smoke and sawdust. But while the inevitable push for development gives rise to a rainforest crisis there are some small but very significant changes you can make in your everyday life. Small things count when a lot of people do them.

 The grass roots of it: plant trees. You can eat ‘em, lie in their shade, and if you plant two trees close together, one day you’ll be able to sling a hammock between them.

 Be creative when you recycle: there’s no need to buy note pads when you can use the back of an envelope to write your shopping list.

 You might be a hippie but getting on board with the online world saves trees: think online bank statements, bills, emails, books, and newspapers.

 Avoiding products that include palm oil is tricky as it is not legally required to be labeled – so you can email the Health Minister and ask her to please sort it out – Nicola.Roxon.MP@aph.gov.au

Adopt an acre of rainforest anywhere in the world

“Let us remember, always, that we are the consumers. By exercising free choice, by choosing what to buy, what not to buy, we have the power, collectively to change the ethics of the business of industry. We have the potential to exert immense power for good – we each carry it with us, in our purses, cheque books, and credit cards.” Jane Goodall, “A Reason for Hope”



About Keri Algar

Keri has an insatiable appetite for travel, discovery and surf. You may find her among the happy isles, smiles and empty barrels of Melanesia, or swinging her hips at a Spanish fiesta, underwater in Mexico, on top of the Argentine alps, or at home in New Zealand with her nose in a book. She is delighted by difference - both people and places, and is inspired by those who follow their own path through life with passion and courage.

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