There is no doubt that humans have made the biggest impact on the environment over the last one hundred years. There are numerous ways in which we are destroying the environment around us.
These include, mining, deforestation, pollution in the oceans, and countless others. Whether or not global warming/climate change is really occurring, there is no doubt that we are destroying the natural environment faster than it can restore itself. “We are the first generation on our planet to truly understand the far-reaching impacts that human actions are having on our environment”, (GreenTumble.com, 2016 ). We depend on our natural resources in our everyday life as they are essential to our survival, Is it not important that we do our best to protect them? Although natural destruction occurs almost everywhere around the globe, an important place to focus on is the Amazon Rainforest in South America.
The Amazon Rainforest is in the countries of Brazil, Peru, and Columbia, and covers 7.8-8.2 million sq km (3-3.
2 million sq mi), of which just over 80 percent is forested, (Butler, 2017). Throughout the last decade, destruction in the world’s largest rainforest and important ecosystem has reached an all time high and will only get worse if humans do not begin to realize the damage they are causing. This rainforest is an essential ecosystem to maintain because it is home to over 10 million species, such as, jaguars, pink river dolphins, toucans, and many more, (Butler, 2017). It is vital that we support the protection of the rainforest because it hosts species that could go extinct if it is destroyed. The damage being caused in the Amazon is completely man-made and has been caused by humans used of natural resources. Agriculture, logging, and mining have had the biggest impacts on the Amazon, and will continue to do so unless more sustainable acquisition practises are introduced.
Cattle farming A huge portion of the Amazon rainforest deforestation is caused by cattle farming. It is stated that over 70% of the deforested land is cleared for cattle farming. In result, the Amazon has suffered a loss of area larger than the state of washington, (Dwyer, 2014). The amount of forest being cleared each year for cattle ranching is no less than disturbing. With Brazil as the world’s largest exporter of beef, most of the land that is being destroyed for cattle farming is happening in Brazil. The demand for beef in Brazil has grown rapidly since 1994.
For instance, in 1994 the total export value for beef was around 1.9 million. Between 1994 and 2014, the total export value skyrocketed to a shocking 1.9 billion dollars. Brazil is also responsible for the largest commercial cattle herd of about 190 million, (Dwyer, 2014). Demand for beef and natural resources is only going to increase as long as the world population keeps increasing.
This means that more land will be needed in the near future in order to fill the demand. It is stated that over 200 million pounds of beef are being exported from central America into the United states every year, (Dwyer, 2014). It used to be North American countries that were consuming the most beef, but it is currently Asian countries such as, Russia and China.
With the demand for beef continuing to grow, new amounts of land are needed in order to keep up. Even though the amount of damage done to the forest is irreversible, there is hope in the up in coming future to prevent beef companies from buying land illegally. Large companies such as Nike, Timberland, Carrefour, and Walmart all rely on cattle products. These industries have all agreed to only buy certified cattle products. The brazilian government has also made plans to decrease the amount of deforestation by 2,100 square miles by 2018. It was stated that in 2013 Brazilian beef companies were facing fines of up to $300 million for buying cattle that was illegally raised on deforested Amazon land, (Dwyer, 2014). To ensure that cattle farming is being kept under control, the IFC (International Finance Corporation) revoked a loan going to a large Brazilian cattle company.
During this time, the Brazilian government by implementing a law that demanded any Amazonian who owned land in the forest to keep 80% of it, (globalforestatlas.yale.edu, 2017). Other actions such as eliminating tax incentives In September 2012, a huge cattle company called JBS has agreed with the Brazilian government that they will only purchase beef from ranches that have registered their holdings with the government and have the proper environmental licenses, ( Mongabay.com, 2011).
There was also a Brazilian law implemented that if the agreement was broken, the buying would face charges of up to $300 per pound of beef. In result of all of the contributions that have been made to reduce the amount of land degradation in the Amazon, deforestation has been brought down by three quarters since 2004. Mining Today’s Amazon rainforest is currently at risk due to large amounts of deforestation. Mining for precious gems and metals plays a big role in the degradation. The amount of destruction caused by extracting gems and metals is often fatal to the natural environment. Entire ecosystems are wiped out due to mining in the Amazon. Most of the mining that occurs in the Amazon today revolves around alluvial gold, (Butler, 2012). This type of gold is most often found underneath riverbeds and in floodplains.
The gold is mostly mined and extracted by large businesses and small scale miner. In order to mine and extract gold, heavy machinery is needed. The process of mining the gold from underneath the river requires workers to blast away at the riverbanks. This process is extremely hard on the environment, especially for anybody who lives downstream. Gold is also mined from gravel deposits which often contain mercury, some of the mercury may end up polluting the rivers and making the water undrinkable and poisonous.
It is stated that small-scale miners are less efficient with their use of mercury than industrial miners, releasing an estimated 2.91 pounds (1.32 kg) of mercury into waterways for every 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of gold produced, (Butler, 2012).
Mercury is an extreme risk to the environment because it can enter ecosystems and transfer into the food chain. This means that any organism that eats a mercury infected plant or animal will then gain the mercury in its system with is poisonous and can lead to death. In result of the pollution of mercury, people who consume an abundant amount of fish are at a higher risk than those who don’t. Mining is extremely hard on the environment and can release toxic compounds into it.
Cyanide is a prime example of a toxic compound used during the mining process of separating the gold from sedimentary rock. Cyanide spills often occur and cause extreme damage to the surrounding environment by poisoning the plants and soil. In 1995, there was a huge cyanide spill in Guyana that had a devastating effect on the environment.
This certain spill made headlines around the world for its magnitude, (Butler,2012). It was claimed that over 1 billion gallons of cyanide was released into the rainforest and rivers. In result of this catastrophe, the rainforest experienced a mass die off of aquatic, plant, and animal life. The surrounding soil was poisoned and the main source of drinking water was cut off for thousands of people, (Butler,2012).
Eco tourism was an up and coming attraction, but was shut down after the accident. An event like this this occurs it leaves irreversible damage on natural ecosystems. At first, the companies in charge of this catastrophic event attempted to hide fish carcasses to try and cover up their mistake.
Locals then began to report dead wildlife and forced the mining companies to report their accident to the government. Shockingly, no major consequences were inflicted on the businesses, and other mining operations were allowed on a new river shortly after. Large-scale mining operations, especially those using open-pit mining techniques, can result in significant deforestation through forest clearing and the construction of roads which open remote forest areas to transient settlers, land speculators, and small-scale miners, (Butler,2012). Even though large-scale mining operations have a harmful toll on the environment, settlers are said to be more of a threat because they use less efficient methods to extract the materials. Wildcat miners enter regions rumored to have gold deposits and clear forest in search of riches. They hunt wildlife, cut trees for building material and fuelwood, and trigger erosion by clearing hillsides and detonating explosives. (Butler,2012).
Terrible events can occur upon the arrival of wildcat miners, such as, bringing diseases into the indigenous areas and starting battles over land rights. It is safe to say that mining can cause terrible pollution to the environment if not done correctly. LoggingWith the fast disappearance of the Amazon Rainforest, illegal and predatory logging is said to have a large role. It is stated that between 60 and 80 percent of the logging that is done, is estimated to be done illegally, ( greenpeace.org). Trees like the Samauma are being cut down and sold for cheap plywood in places like the United States, Japan and parts of Europe.
It is estimated that 80 percent of the world’s green flowering plants are in the Amazon rainforest. About 1,500 species of higher plants (ferns and conifers) and 750 types of trees can be found in 2.5 acres of the Amazon rainforest, (Kitchen, 2017).