October 14, 2009

The Nation’s Third Oldest College Newspaper

Volume 80, Issue 4

Rapid rainforest devastation

Rapid rainforest devastation

Rapid rainforest devastation

Barbara J. Fraser, a former associate editor of Latinamerica Press, claims the rainforests of the country of Peru alone are home to "361 of the world's mammal species, 1,701 bird species, 297 species of reptiles and some 20,000 species of flowering plants." These enormous numbers, which are found in just one country, show the extreme ecological diversity that may be found in a rainforest. However, the habitats of all of these organisms around the world are being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Slashing and burning of rainforest habitats for farmland, irresponsible logging, removal of trees, and the ongoing search for oil continue to eliminate rainforests around the globe. Mother Nature is under attack. Every day, 137 plant, animal and insect species are lost due to rainforest destruction; this adds up to 50,000 species a year.

The natural world is suffering at the hands of thoughtless humans who are taking advantage of organisms that find themselves helpless to the unchecked development of our own civilization. "Save the Rainforest" has often been a slogan used to try and raise awareness of the destruction that is happening throughout the world.

Why should people be concerned with the depletion of the rainforests? Grade school biology taught us that much of the oxygen we breathe comes from plants. More than 20 percent of the world's oxygen comes from the Amazon rainforest alone. We require fresh water to drink and one-fifth of the worlds fresh water is found in the Amazon basin.

These are simple reasons for humans to be concerned. If that isn't enough then perhaps a more serious look can be taken into the world of pharmaceuticals. The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified 3,000 plants that are active against cancer cells, 70 percent of which are found in various rainforests around the world.

One of the world's most powerful anti-cancer drugs, vincristine, is extracted from the rainforest plant periwinkle. Since its discovery, it has dramatically increased the survival rate for acute childhood leukemia.
Niagara students were asked their thoughts on the topic, what they knew about the plight of the natural world and how they felt. It was found that many students feel very strongly about issues concerning the environment and saving the rainforest.

Jimmy Singh, a sophomore at Niagara majoring in math education shared his thoughts on the effects of logging.

"Cutting down trees is destroying habitats, and the destruction of those habitats affects all of the animals throughout the rainforest. This will cause a lot of species to die out."

John Sparks, a freshman at Niagara, also voiced his concern, saying, "I think rainforests should be protected as a natural environment, because they are home to such a huge number and variety of animals."

Our generation has a mission to change the way humans look at the natural world. Saving the rainforest is not a hippie, tree-hugging idea. We have the opportunity to change the way rainforests are abused and organisms in these habitats are subjected to destruction. As a community here at Niagara, simple steps should be taken.

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