The Amazon rainforest is truly one of the most amazing places on earth and is the most biodiverse region on the entire planet. Roughly 1 out of every 10 species on the planet lives in the Amazon. It is no surprise then that it is home to some of the most potent medicines in the world. Yet it continues to be chopped down for short term gain.
What is the cause?
The stem of this problem, as with many other of the earths problems, are economic in nature. The forest is continually being chopped down for its wood, or burned for cattle, soy, and palm oil farms. These indistries are not sustainable and are pose a massive threat to both the biodiversity of the Amazon, as well as its longevity. See, the rainforest soil has very low nutritional value, which is surprising given the massive amount of life and growth in these forests. The reason is that the majority of the forests nutrients are locked up in its plant and animal life. After a tree falls, or an animal dies in the forest, it is very rapidly broken down and reabsorbed into the forest. If we were then to chop down a massive plot of these trees and ship them off as wood, it leaves an empty, barren, infertile plot of land that may never come back. And for those who then convert the land to palm oil, and soy crops, damage the forest even further with the massive amounts of pesticides, and herbicides associated with its use. All of these chemicals end up in the river, which flows through and feeds the majority of the rainforest before being dumped into the Atlantic ocean at the end.
What is the solution?
The solution is also economic, and is simple. Leave it alone, and allow the sustainable harvest of this forests medicine in its natural form instead. The rainforest contains an incredible amount of valuable resources in its natural state, from chocolate, rubber, nuts, fruits, and medicinal plants. It has been pointed out many times, that land owners in the Amazon can recieve more vslue from the land used in this way, rather than short term cash out by chopping it down or converting to cattle farms. As Leslie Taylor points out on her website Rain-tree.com, converting the land to cattle farms yields about $60 per acre, chopping it down for wood yields roughly $400 per acre, and maintaining its natural form for the harvest of sustainable resources will yield about $2400 per acre. This is a significant increase, and benefits more than just the land owner.
How can you help?
We believe that by allowing yourself to become educated about the region, and seeing the value it has in its medicine, and its role in the earths ecosystem, you will be helping to protect this valuable resource. If more value can be placed on the regions medicinal and sustainable resources, it will be more enticing for landowners in the region to maintain their land in its natural state, and bring more wealth to the area.
Who to follow:
There are various organizations whose main focus is to educate people on the wonders, and the value of the Amazon rainforest. Organizations like ARC Amazon are doing incredible work to aid in further research in the area, and provide valuable and interesting information on the Amazon. They are located in Las Piedras, Peru, and through their Amazon academy they offer incredible videos, photography, and stories on various aspects of this region.
Another great resource is Leslie Taylors website rain-tree.com. Her book, and website have been a huge motivator to the creator of this The Sunlight Experiment, and is ultimatly what got him started in his research. Rain-tree.com offers an incredible amount of information on some of the valuable medicinal plant species located in the region.
The bottom line, is that the spread of information, via The Sunlight Experiment, ARC Amazon, Rain-tree.com, or the copious other websites and organizations aiming to spread knowledge about the Amazon rainforest to try and conserve this important region of the world.
How much medicine can it really have?
The medicinal value, and future potential of the rainforest is not to be underestimated. Out of this incredible amount of diversity, and lush plant life, it is estimated that only 0.5% of flowering species have been investigated and studied for medicinal value. This is surprising since out of the 3000 plants identified by the US National Cancer Institute as being active against cancer, roughly 70% originate from rainforests. Hundreds of pharmaceutical drugs originate from plant sources as well, many of which come exclusively from the Amazon.
Is it Sustainable?
The Amazon can be used as a sustainable source for incredibly potent medicines for our future. As the world continues to shift from a reductionist, pharmaceutical based medical system, and transitions back to using nature as a source of life and medicine as it has always been, we will begin to clearly see how valuable this incredibly biodiverse region can have in its natural, healthy state. As this becomes more known among the general population and in the medical community, less trees will be chopped and burned, to make room for cattle and palm oil plantations. Instead, its medicinal potential can be tapped sustainably and used around the world.