The following excerpt is copyrighted by Rainforest Action Network

Rainforests are the richest, oldest, most productive and complex land ecosystems on our planet.

They cover less than two percent of the earth’s surface (or seven percent of its land surface), yet they are home to approximately 50% of all earthly life forms. As world renown biologist Norman Myers exalts, “rainforests are the finest celebration of nature ever known on the planet.”

Sadly, however, we are destroying this glorious celebration of life with wanton abandon, and demonstrating a frightening lack of foresight. If deforestation continues at current rates scientists predict nearly all tropical rainforests will be eliminated by the year 2030.

Globally we are losing:

  • 86,000 hectares (214,000) per DAY: an area equivalent to New York City
  • 1 hectare (2.4 hectares) per SECOND: equal to two U.S. football fields
  • 31 million hectares per YEAR: an area larger than Poland

In Brazil:

  • 5.4 million acres are lost per year.
  • 6-9 million indigenous people inhabited the Brazilian rainforests in 1500. In 1992, less than 200,000 remained.

In Ecuador:

Ecuador, a country of 270,000 square kilometers, formerly held 132,000 square kilometers of rainforest. With a deforestation rate of 4% per year only 44,000 square kilometers still exist. Every year another 3,000 square kilometers are deforested.

Species Extinction:

  • Distinguished scientists estimate that an average of 137 species are driven into extinction EVERY DAY, or 50,000 each YEAR.
  • While you read the statistics below, approximately 149 acres of rainforest will be destroyed.
  • Within the next hour approximately six species will become extinct.

While extinction is a natural process, the alarming rate of extinction today is specifically human-induced and unprecedented. Experts agree that the number-one cause of extinction is habitat destruction. When habitat is reduced, species inevitably disappear. The leading causes of habitat destruction in rainforests are logging, cattle ranching, mining, oil extraction, hydroelectric dams, and subsistence farming. Indirectly, the leading threats to rainforest ecosystems are unbridled development, often funded by international aid lending institutions such as the World Bank, and the voracious consumer appetites of industrialized nations.

If rainforests were left intact and sustainably harvested for fruits, latex and timber, an average hectare could produce approximately $6,800 worth of commercially viable goods year after year, as opposed to $1,000 per hectare (limited to one year) if clear-cut for commercial timber, or $148 if used once as cattle pasture. Groups such as the Rainforest Action Network are assisting rainforest communities with long-term plans for sustainable harvesting of rainforest goods, such as Brazil nuts, tagua nuts and sangre del drago.

However, it is not the small-scale unsustainable use by local people that is causing the majority of damage, but rather the large-scale plundering of resources by multinational companies such as Mitsubishi and Texaco, as well as misguided aid projects. As consumers, we are directly linked to this chain of destruction. As consumers we have the ability to demand more responsibility and foresight on behalf of the corporations exploiting the earth’s resources. See Organizations to Contact for more information about actions you can take to help save the world’s rainforests. Its not too late!