Exploiting the Rainforest (Amazon project part 4)


Humans have been exploiting the forest for thousands of years. Today, we still use a technique used in the early 20th century to make tyres. One man may look after 30 hectares of land, but only find 60 rubber trees. The rubber taper then scrapes some diagonal lines through the bark. A natural resin called latex; which lies just underneath the bark, comes out and is collected. They then turn this into rubber. A rubber tree can be harvested many times, and does little or no damage to the environment.


Now, most ways of exploiting the forest starts with a chainsaw, and cutting down hundreds of trees. Logging companies specialize in this field. They tend to cut down the most valuable trees like Mahogany. Mahogany is in great demand, especially in the UK. Mahogany is worth £500 per cubic meter, or around £10,000 per tree. These trees are rare as the logging companies can only find one to two adult trees per hectare.  To get to these precious trees, the companies must build roads, cutting down lots of trees. Then when they find a tree they want, they cut it down, pulling down and damaging others trees in the process. Next, they drag it out to the road and load it onto a truck. Pulling down one tree damages at least 28 others in the process. They then go back in to get about 20 less valuable trees for timber, doing the same amount of damage each time. In one area there may be to logging companies, where they have to cut down 30 trees a day ach, totalling 300 trees per week or a massive 15,000 per year. Only some legal companies replace less than a third of what they took, but the illegal companies do not care. The Lorries taking the trees are relentless. Whether they are taken away by river or road, the trees all end up in the same place, the sawmill. There is said to be over 4,000 sawmills in Amazonia. In the sawmills they cut extremely thin slices of the less valuable timer, and then stick them together to make ply wood. The Amazonian hard wood is in great demand. Before, we use to exploit the tropical forests of Asia, but that supply is almost completely gone. So more and more companies have come to Amazonia, causing vast areas of damaged land.


Another way of exploiting the forest is mining. First, they clear a huge area of forest, and then dig deep below the surface. The rocks underneath the Amazonian soil are rich in minerals such as gold, copper, iron, lead and many more. One of the big mines is translated as being called Great future, but others tell a different story. This mine now produces 3.000 tones of these precious minerals a year, compared to the 15,000 tones at its peak. They use high-pressure hoses to wash the unwanted soil away, making large ponds. Where there is unweathered rock, they employ hundreds of local people to use a pick and shovel to mine the ore out.  These people are lucky to get £10 a day. To make the tin that we use for cans, the ore is heated and ground several times. They then wash it in water, and the tin sinks to the bottom, where as all the other minerals wash away. The tin costs $6,000 a ton and is sent to factories to be made into objects like cans. There are many mines like this across the Amazon, and now places where the earth contains oil, gas and uranium are being discovered.


Although logging and mining area both big causes of deforestation, the biggest cause so far is cattle ranching. When the government gave away free land, many took advantage, most of whom made cattle ranches. They cleared a huge area of land, so big; they have to use mobile phones to communicate. One particular ranch has 2,000 cattle in 3,000 hectares of land. Though compared to the Brazilian government standards, this is only a medium sized ranch. The neighbouring ranch has 15,000 hectares of land and s classed as a large ranch. The owners keep a specially bred type of cattle called zeboo cattle. To improve their herd, they use modern techniques and chemicals such as Artificial Insemination, where they make the females pregnant. Despite all this, there is o0nly enough beef for their own population.  After about 3 years, the soil becomes so acidic, the only thing that will grow is grass, grass so poor that even the cows don not like to eat it. As fertilizer is not available in large quantities n the area, the fields are just enlarged when the soil becomes infertile. If this continues, ranches will own a great deal of the land in Amazonia, but in Amazonia, clearing land is a way of claiming it as yours.


The last method of exploiting the forest is farming. 10,000 small farmers picked up the offer of free land, so roads were built through the forest. Over 1,000,000 people came to the Amazon, but nothing happened. They were promised a new start in a new place, with money and fertilizer, but the Brazilian government did not live up to its promises. Many people made them selves a 50 hectare plot, but the Amazonian soil did not live up to its promises either. So most people left the plot, and cleared more land somewhere else. For the few that stayed, life is hard. They grow coffee, coco, corn rice and fruit, but only for low prices. The soil is very infertile so the crops they can grow can not live up to their potential. They get by with what they can, and even though they continually beg the companies and the government for more money, the answer is always no.

Through all this, deforestation is the key issue; it affects the climate, the environment and the indigenous people within the forest. It is said hat the Amazon rainforest will be almost completely gone in 40 years time, but the Brazilian government disagree, saying it will not be gone for at least another 300 years time. Whatever the correct figure, can we really afford to lose one of nature’s best creation? The clock is ticking and it only so long before the rainforest is gone, unless we all do something about it.


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