Last Labor Day weekend, I spent time with my family, riding a golf cart through the nature trails, channel surfing and having good conversation.
Little kids weaved in and out of our paths in the interactive area of the museum while we climbed ropes on pulley systems and tested our skills with kinetic energy and things of that nature.
After exploring, we headed to the Imax theater, where we watched a 3-D film on the bugs of the rainforest. This film and the museum's simulated rainforest area inspired this column on the beautiful, endangered rainforests.
What Are Rainforests?
Rainforests are intricate and large bodies of ecologically diverse layers of forest that are either temperate or tropical. They receive 8 feet of rain per year and in 4 square miles can contain up to 2,800 different plant and animal species. The emergent, canopy, understory and forest floor layers are rich in biodiversity because of how unique each ecological layer is. These ecosystems contribute up to a third of the world’s oxygen and help balance the Earth’s temperature.
The importance of the rainforests of Belize, Peru and Indonesia is insurmountable. They are priceless and in desperate need of further protection. Our life force is dependent upon them, along with the many living species within them. According to the National Cancer Institute, of the 2,000 plants that are active in fighting cancer cells, 70 percent are found in the rainforest. Here's a map of where the rainforests are located.
What Are the Issues Surrounding Rainforests?
According to the Rainforest Action Network and Cool Earth, cattle ranching is a major threat to the ecosystem, responsible for 50 percent of rainforest deforestation occurring as a result of the demand in beef exports. Other threats include unsustainable agricultural practices for palm oil, soy beans, bananas, tea and coffee, as well as logging or clearing trees to reach the more “valuable” trees. Mahogany and teak trees are of specific value.
Oil production is also a major concern, not only because of the dependency we have on oil, but also because once the forests are cleared the soil becomes unviable for five years.
In most cases, these practices are occurring illegally.
What Can You Do to Help?
Get informed, spread the word and take action. I found out about the awesome nonprofit Cool Earth a few months ago. It raises money to protect the rainforests while helping to return the lands to indigenous people. The group funds sustainable employment opportunities (to replace unsustainable and eco-unfriendly jobs), provides education and protects the rainforest one tree or acre at a time.
I entered the group's tree hugger competition by uploading a photo of myself climbing the Kapok tree in St. Petersburg, and I won! Not only did I win, but I also helped protect an endangered murumuru tree in the Amazonian rain forest (how cool). Check out my winning photo, and while you are there, try uploading your own tree love picture.
By being aware, you can help to make a difference right here from the great state of Florida. You can purchase rainforest-free children’s books using a handy pocket guide [PDF] to determine which are safe.
We can also help by teaching children how to make a difference in protecting rainforests.
In the famous words of John McConnell, founder of International Earth Day: "Let every individual and institution now think and act as a responsible trustee of Earth, seeking choices in ecology, economics and ethics that will provide a sustainable future, eliminate pollution, poverty and violence, awaken the wonder of life and foster peaceful progress in the human adventure."