“This land is where we know where to find all that it provides for us–food from hunting and fishing, and farms, building and tool materials, medicines. This land keeps us together within its mountains; we come to understand that we are not just a few people or separate villages, but one people belonging to a homeland” (Colins 32). The “homeland” is the Upper Mazaruni District of Guyana, a region in the Amazon rain forest where the Akawaio Indians make their home (32). The vast rain forest, often regarded as just a mass of trees and exotic species, is to many indigenous eople a home.
This home is being destroyed as miners, loggers, and developers move in on the cultures of these people to strip away their resources and complicate the peaceful, simple lives of these primitive tribes. However, the tribes are not the only ones who lose in this situtation. If rain forest invasion continues, mankind as a whole will lose a valuable treasure: the knowledge of these people in utilizing the resources and plants of the forest for food, building, and medicine.
To prevent this loss, the governments of the countries housing the rain forests should rovide some protection for the forest and its inhabitants through legislation, programs. Also, environmentalists should pursue educating the tribes in managing thier resources for pragmatic, long-term profit through conservation. Although hard to believe, the environmental problems of today started a long time before electricty was invented, before automobilies littered the highways, and before industries dotted the countryside.
From ancient times to the Industrial Revolution, humans began to change the face of the earth. As populations increased and technology improved and xpanded, more significant and widespread problems arose. “Today, unprecedented demands on the environment from a rapidly expanding human population and from advancing technology are causing a continuing and acelerating decline in the quality of the environment and its ability to sustain life” (Ehrlich 98). Increasing numbers of humans are intruding on remaining wild land-even in those areas once considered relatively safe from exploitation.
Tropical forests, especially in southest Asia and the Amazon River Basin, are being destroyed at an alarming rate for timber, onversion to crop and grazing lands, pine plantations, and settlements. According to researcher Howard Facklam, “It was estimated at one point in the 1980s that such forest lands were being cleared at the rate of 20 (nearly 50 acres) a minute; another estimate put the rate at more than 200,000 sq km (more than 78,000 sq mi) a year.
In 1993, satellite data provided the rate of deforestation could result in the extinction of as many as 750,000 speices, which would mean the loss of a muliplicity of products: food, fibers, medical drungs, dyes, gums, and resins” (53). So hat kind of condition will the forests be in in the year 2050? If this rate of deforestation continues, there will be no tropical rain forest in the year 2050. Therefore, preservation need to occur now in order stop the terrible loss of the rain forests and all that it can provide.
Rain forest destruction has two deadly causes: loggers and miners. For example, imagine loggers on bulldozers rolling into the forest, tearing down not only trees, but the invisible barrier between the modern, materialistic world and the serene paradise under the forest canopy. Forest locals told Scholastic Update that “… o much forest has vanished that the weather has changed delaying rains and increasing heat…. ” (Leo 19). Along with the loggers come miners seeking the gold and other minerals found in the forest.
The article “My Trip to the Rain Forest” points out that the rivers of the rain forests become poisoned by the mercury leaked in gold-mining. This exposes the tribes to diseases which they have no immunity to, such as malaria, tuberculsis, and the flu. The miners also bring in violence, which has killed over 1,500 members of one tribe in the Amazon. Many of the tribes leave their ancestoral homes to flee the noise nd disruption of the miners (Smith 66). Certainly, these loggers and miners must not think of the areas they invade and destroy as a home.
Conseuently, invading the rain forest is no different than bullsdozers leveling out a suburb in the United States. The lifestyles in rain forest villages and American towns are vastly different, but the two share one very important similarity: in these settlements live human beings with minds, families, and feelings. In fact, there is a way to limit deforestation of the rain forest: through forest conservation. The conservation of forest trees involves hree fundamental principles. The first is protection of the growing tree crop from fire, insects, and disease.
However, fire, once regarded as a destroyer of forests, is now recognized as a management tool when carefully employed. Some important timber trees actually require fire for successful regeneration. The second principle concerns proper harvesting methods, ranging from removal of all trees (clear-cutting) to removal of selected mature trees (selection cutting), and provision for reproduction, either naturally from seed trees or artificially by planting. The rate and requency of any cutting should aim for sustained production over an indeifinite period.
The third principle of conservation is complete use of all trees harvested. Technological advances, such as particleboard and gluing, have created such uses for branches, defective logs, trees too small to be milled into boards, and so-called inferior trees (Cappon 89). Through forest conservation, the lives and health of the rain forest inhabitants can be preserved along with wildlife and their habitat. However, the lives and health of the tribes are not the only treasure being lost by rain forest destruction.
The people of the forests possess amazing knowledge in using the plants, trees, and other forest resources. The tribes utilize their resources to sustain all aspects of their lives from eating to healing. For example, journalist Anne Hornaday got to experience some of methods used by the tries when she visted the Amazon. By striking a tree with his machete, Anne’s guide was able to predict the weather, “When many birds answer, that means rain is coming” (Hornaday 28). As the natives examined the trees of the forest, her guide expalined that the men check to see if fruit has been eaten off the trees.
They can determine which direction to continue their hunt simply by following the tracks of whichever animal ate the fruit. Native fisherman use the bark from hairari trees to drag the rivers and stun the fish they need to catch (28). Also, the native people have a natural sense of direction. The tribes chart vast distances of the pacific Ocean using only “… their knowledge of currents and the feel of intermittent waves that bounce off distance islands (Hornaday 29). Their methods may seem primitve, but the ways of the rain forest people have come to be respected and valued by scientists and onservationists.
In addition, The farming methods of the people are excellent in preservation of the land and abudnant in production. They farm without irrigation and have developed an in-depth understanding of plant life (29). Furthermore, this knowledge of plants if not only used in cultivating, but also in one of the most fascinatign aspects of the tribes’ wisdom: their natural healing methods. Tribal healers, called shamans, are able to treat illnesses from colds to wounds. The treatments, such as using termites and poisonous plants to heal wounds, may seem exotic or nlikely, but are amazing in their results.
Remarkably, medical proffesionals are turing to the healers in their reseach. The knowledge of the healers is regarded as a valueable research source to both medical researchers and doctors. Leading the way, reports Business Week, is a San Carlos, California-based company called Shaman Pharmaceuticals, Incorporated. This small, successful operation has developed a method researchers describe as “ethnobotany”, in which the company sends their scientists into the forests to meet with tribal healers about medicinal properties of plants.
The scientist show the shamans medical cases and photos to see how they would treat the problem. According to Business Week, this method bring about “… an initial hit about half the time, versus a miniscule fraction of that in random-screening programs [done by large-scale research companies]” (53). The article continues by saying that Shaman Pharmaceuticals’ program is also beneficial to the people of the forest. The company began foundation to help save the homes of the tribes that help them in their research by employing them to harvest the plants that the company uses (52).