WHY ARE THE RAINFORESTS
Over half the worlds
rainforests have been destroyed already and what remains is being cut down very quickly.
Much of the damage is being done by poor farmers, but they are not to blame. They have to
clear rainforest land to grow food for their families. Governments and companies have
forced them into this situation.
If one had to choose which was the biggest cause of rainforest destruction, one
would have to say it was development. This means the way our civilisation exploits the
Earth in order to produce things such as cars, timber, paper, electricity and many other
things we have become used to in our daily lives. It may be possible to have development
without rainforest destruction, but if it continues in the way it has happened so far,
development will mean more oil drilling, logging, large dams and clearing of rainforest
for agriculture and plantations. Development, as it has happened so far, takes the control
of rainforest areas out of the hands of the people who depend on them. Instead, the
forests are controlled by governments and developers who are mainly interested in using
the forests to make a profit.
Third World Debt - Much of the worlds remaining tropical forest is
found in poor countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and Zaire. Many of them owe large
amounts of money to the worlds rich countries. In order to make money to repay their
debts, they have to damage or destroy their forests. Many people believe these debts are
not fair, and are campaigning to have them cancelled.
Rich Countries like Australia and the United States are a big part of the
problem because we buy rainforest timbers and other goods which contibute to rainforest
destruction. Some of the products grown on cleared rainforest land are: beef, coffee, palm oil, and
soybeans. Oil companies like Shell, Mobil and Exxon also damage or destroy rainforest in
order to supply oil to rich countries. Also, aid from rich countries has often been given
in such a way that it encourages rainforest destuction.
Logging is also an important cause of rainforest
destruction, not only because of the trees that logging companies cut down but also
because the roads that the loggers build are used by poor famers to get into the forest
and cut it down.
Firewood - Most of the people in countries with rainforests use firewood to cook their
food. Often, they cut rainforest trees. This is another important cause of rainforest
is an important problem. Because there are more and more people in the world (more than 6
billion now!), more and more forests are being cleared to grow food for them. Unless this
problem is solved, it will be very difficult for tropical rainforests to survive. But
unfortunately, many governments say overpopulation is just about the only reason that
rainforests are disappearing. They use this as an excuse for not dealing with the other
things that are causing rainforest destruction.