I recall when I first realized that the rainforest was in trouble. I was a freshman in high school. It was shortly after my middle school years when I discovered the ozone layer was depleting — at the cause of humans and their inventions — during a science report. It was also shortly after I started a recycling program at my school and rid the lunch service of styrofoam serving plates. I had a grand idea that we could put donation cups in every classroom to raise money to purchase acres of the rainforest to keep them safe from destruction. Instead, I found myself trying to fit into a new high school environment when I had to move a year later. I wrote a poem about the rainforest destruction in creative writing class. It received an honorable mention in a contest. It didn’t save any acres of the rainforest. That was about 13 years ago.
Two years ago, the rainforest was still being eradicated. We’ve seen the movies. Medicine Man. Fern Gully. Read the books. The Great Kapok Tree. The Rainforest Alpahbet. (Can you tell I am a primary teacher?) I had been doing projects to help save the primates in SEAsia with my third grade classrooms. I decided that we would also do a small fundraiser to help save the rainforest. We made rainforest mix and sold it, earning enough to save a couple acres of the rainforest. We sent off the check to the address in the magazine and patiently awaited the arrival of the certificate. It never came. Where had our money gone? Had it done any good? Unfortunately, we’ll never know the answer to that.
There are certain times when the destruction of the rainforest comes to the fore front of the media. Other times, it sits on the back burner. Remember when McDonald’s was accused of making hamburgers from cows that were raised in the rainforest? Recently, a nun was murdered in Brazil for her efforts to protect the Amazon and the many tribes that still live deep in the forest. And last week there was an article in The Independent about “The man who killed the rainforest: Blairo Maggi.”
I thought I was on my way to being an environmental saint with all of the things I have done to “Help Save the Earth.” I don’t eat meat. So, I don’t impact the production cows from the rainforest of the food they feed on, grown in the rainforest. Then as I read this recent article, I discovered that Blairo Maggi is also referred to as the “Soy King.” The current crop which is wiping out the rainforest is SOY BEANS. AHHHHH. As a vegetarian (with many vegan principles) I consume soy products to provide my diet with protein. Could I be impacting the destruction of the rainforest by being a soy consumer? I was devestated. I continued reading the article.
I was surprised to read that the soy Maggi produces is in fact used for cattle feed. Although this made my conscience feel somewhat better, it also stated that most of the soy that the UK imports is from Brazil. How would I know if the soy I was purchasing came from one of Maggi’s farms? I still haven’t anwswered that question. But I did find myself disliking Maggi as I continued to read…
To me, a 40 percent increase in deforestation doesn’t mean anything at all, and I don’t feel the slightest guilt over what we are doing here. We are talking about an area larger than Europe that has barely been touched, so there is nothing to get all worried about.
Last year an area nearly the size of Belgium was cut down in the state of Mato Grosso, where Maggi is also the state governor. 69,172 square miles of the rainforest have been destroyed since 1997 in Brazil, which is equal to 78% of the area of Britain. Nine football fields are detroyed every minute. At the current rate of destruction, the Brazilian rainforest could disappear by the year 2050. Many people believe that the survival of the rainforest may be the key to the survival of the planet. The jungle is often referred to as the world’s “lung” because its trees produce much of the world’s oxygen. Twenty percent of the Amazon has been detroyed by legal and illegal logging, cattle ranching and now the soya production.
Some believe that the Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio, is the killer of the rainforest. When he was elected, he spoke of environmental protection, now he is using the rainforest as a way for Brazil to climb out of debt. “The Amazon can’t be treated like it was something from another world, untouchable, in which people don’t have the right to benefit.” Forty percent of its annual income, Brazil spends repaying its loans.
What about the tribes that live in the Amazon? Twenty million people call the Amazon basin their home, including 400 indigenous groups. There are 400,000 landless peasants in Brazil. Where did their land go? Who benefited from it? What about the oxygen the rainforest provides so that we can breathe? What about the species that are living in the rainforest? There are 750 species of trees in a 16 square mile area of the Amazon. In this same area, there are also 125 specials of mammals, 400 species of birds and 100 species of reptiles. One Amazonian trees harbors the same number of ant species as the entire British Isles. Why do humans believe it is their right to make all of this disappear for their own profit? And who can really argue that the production of this land is eradicating the Brazilian debt or providing jobs for the people? There are ten million unemployed Brazilians in a labor market of 89 million.
The future doesn’t look any brighter for those who want to stop the destruction of the rainforest either.
Mr. Maggi, whose company grossed $600m last year, does not see the future as one of restricted soya planting. He has called for a tripling of the amount of land planted with soybeans over the next decade in Mato Grosso, and his company announced last year that it intended to double the area it has in production.
So, who killed the Amazon? You can go to GREENPEACE to vote on who you think killed the rainforest. I believe there are six candidates to chose from, including Mr. Maggia and President “Lula” da Silva.