How long would it take for the world’s largest rainforest to burn down? If we don’t do anything to stop it, we’ll soon find out.
The Amazon rainforest creates 20% of the Earth’s oxygen. It’s home to 30% of the planet’s species, and it holds the secrets to treating some of our most deadly diseases.
If we destroy the Amazon rainforest, the consequences would be disastrous, and they’d be felt all around the world. Could we survive without it?
Why would it have a giant impact on our healthcare? And would we ever be able to bring it back?
Recently, massive forest fires have become the biggest threat to the Amazon’s survival. But unfortunately, the fires are just a part of a much bigger problem.
For example, farming, mining, and logging are already responsible for three football fields’ worth of deforestation per minute. If we don’t do anything to stop this, the Amazon rainforest will disappear eventually. And we’d lose any chance we have in the battle against climate change.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most incredible places on Earth. It covers 40 percent of South America, drives the South American economy, and stores 86 billion tons of carbon that would otherwise be polluting our atmosphere.
With an area that’s this important, you’d think we would do everything in our power to protect it. But we don’t.
Since 1978, an estimated 750,000 square kilometers (289,000 square miles) of rainforest have been destroyed, all thanks to humans. If this trend continues, the Amazon rainforest could disappear within 100 years.
How bad would that be for our planet? Well, let’s take a look.
For starters, we’d be losing a huge amount of our planet’s biodiversity. The Amazon rainforest has more plant and animal species than any other terrestrial ecosystem on Earth.
If we destroy the Amazon, we’ll be destroying all that diversity too, and wiping out an entire ecosystem at the same time. That would have huge effects on the Earth. We’d all quickly realize just how much we’d been relying on the Amazon’s resources for food and medicine.
Most people are surprised when they find out that hundreds of prescription drugs have come from things in the Amazon rainforest. We’re not just talking about simple herbal remedies either. We’re talking about full-fledged cancer-fighting drugs that are so important that they’ve been classified as essential medicines by the World Health Organization.
And we haven’t even scratched the surface yet! Scientists estimate that they’ve studied less than five percent of the plants in the rainforest for potential medicinal benefits. So who knows what other essential treatments we could lose without the rainforest?
But the most critical problem we’d face if the Amazon completely disappeared would be a faster pace of climate change. If the Amazon rainforest continues to wither and die, it will stop being a source of oxygen.
Instead, it will begin to give off carbon, which we all know is fueling climate change. Right now the Amazon has a natural stockpile of carbon reserves — anywhere from 90 to 140 billion tons (99 to 154 tons) of the stuff.
If we woke up tomorrow and found the Amazon destroyed, especially by fire, all that carbon would be floating in the atmosphere. Some experts believe that if this happens, we would lose the battle against climate change.
But it’s not all doom and gloom; there is still hope for the Amazon rainforest. Through studies conducted over the past several decades, researchers have found that tropical forests may be able to survive human-caused destruction.
Even without human help, a rainforest can start growing again if it has enough seedlings. However, this can only be successful if the rainforest isn’t always under attack. So what can you do to help?
Don’t eat as much beef. Processed beef products, such as fast-food hamburgers, are full of illegal beef from the rainforest.
Reduce the amount of paper you use, and choose renewable energy products whenever you can. Renewable energy use reduces the carbon caused by fossil fuels, many of which come from the Amazon rainforest.
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