Is the Destruction of the Amazon Rainforest a price Worth Paying for Brazil’s Economic development?
The tropical rainforest is undoubtly one of the most fascinating biomes located around the world. These ecosystems are located over eighty five countries near the equator and one of the most prominent rainforest is known the Amazonia. The Amazon Rainforest not only situated over many countries including Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana but it is also known to be home of over 50% of the Earth’s species and approximately one third of the world’s tree grows in Amazonia.
The rainforest has been estimated to cover seven million square kilometres and at least forty thousand plant species have been classified, which makes the Amazon rainforest a resourceful bio diverse ecosystem. This biodiversity and large land has attracted potential companies, especially from Brazil to take advantage of the Amazon Rainforest. Although Brazil is one of the world’s fastest developing countries and the richest country in South America, it is still considered as a middle income ‘LEDC’ [Less Economically Developed Country] and its rapid population growth has increased the demand for natural resources.
Brazil has remains to solve these problems by the deforestation of the precious Amazon Rainforest. Deforestation can be defined as the removal of the forest stands for human activities, such as agriculture and unfortunately, already 25% of the Amazon Rainforest has been cleared in 40 years and 40 hectares is being cleared per minute. At this rate, the Amazonia will be gone in 30 years! Is the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest a price worth paying for? The Amazonia is famous for being the largest and more diverse ecosystem on Earth.
Almost everyday, there are new species being discovered and the rainforest is the habitat to some of the most essential plants to the medical world, for example, the rosy periwinkle which is known to provide drugs to help cure leukaemia. The diverse ecosystem is caused indirectly by the location of the rainforest. The centre of the Amazon Rainforest is located near and on the equatorial line. This means that the Amazonia receives concentrated amount of sun rays, making the rainforest very hot.
The equatorial location means that the temperature of the climate is very high and constant with twelve hours of sunshine. Usually, the morning temperature can reach up to 32i??C and in the evening, it rarely goes below 22i??C. The high concentration of the sun rays absorbed by the Earth also encourages conventional rainfall daily. This is when the land gets real hot, that the warm air around it gets enough energy to rise. As the warm air rises, it gets cooled by the atmosphere because it is much colder the higher you travel. The cooled air then condenses into clouds and later heavy rainfalls.
Due to daily conventional rainfalls, the Amazon rainforest is a wet, humid area as well as being hot. The Amazon rainforest has two seasons: the dry season between June to December and wet season from January to May, when May can have a rainfall of around 259 mm. The abiotic factors, the non living features of earth like the sun, cause the Amazon Rainforest to have a very warm and humid climate, also known as a tropical climate. The biotic factors, the living factors of an ecosystem like plants, are just as important as the climate in maintaining the tropical rainforest.
The diagrams on the next page show how vital plant life is to support the other plants in the ecosystem. After a plant dies or leaves fall to the forest floor, decomposers in the soil break down the dead matter into humus. Humus is important to forest land chemically and physically. Humus can increase the amount of moisture a soil holds and can help the soil have a better structure. Humus also acts as a catalyst because it has actives sites that help produce nutrients. The more nutrients a soil has, the better a plant would be able to grow and survive.
This also shows why deforestation endangers the ecosystem. The second cycle illustrates shows that when trees are cleared away, causing less leaves and dead organisms to decay onto the soil, less humus is produced. This cause there to be fewer nutrients because more was taken away from the plant than returned back to the soil as the tree was removed. Fewer nutrients means that the soil is less fertile than originally, so new plants grow with a weaker quality and less chance of surviving. This encourages soil erosion because there no trees to protect the soil from being moved away.
Brazil has the eighth largest economy in world and is the wealthiest in its continent. Unfortunately, the country can only be considered as a NIC [newly developed country] or LEDC and is still located under the Brandt line. The Brandt line is a ‘socio-economic’ line that divides the more economically developed countries, the north, from the less economically developed countries, the south. This is understandable because the social and economics indicators are considerably low, especially compared to the UK. Economic Social Country GNP Per Capita ($) Birth Rate
Death Rate Natural Increase Life Expectancy Population Per Doctor Brazil 3 640 22 7 15 68 1 000 UK 18 700 12 11 1 77 300 Figure 2: This table shows the measure of development in the year 2000. Figure 2 expands on Brazil and UK’s indicators of development. It shows that in the year 2000 that the natural increase of the population of Brazil, which the government has to support the demands of, was fifteen times larger than the UK. The NIC also has quite a low life expectancy and the people in England are likely to live approximately 9 years longer than Brazilians.
This may be due to the fact that Brazil’s education system is quite low for an NIC; its adult literacy rate is 84%, compared to the UK’s 99%. This means that there are fewer professional workers such as doctors and engineers, which causes of there being only one doctor per thousand people. The chart also shows the Gross Nation Product [GNP] per Capita [per person]. The value of GNP per Capita can be described as the total value of services and goods produced by a country in a year divided by the residents of the country.
The GNP includes the residents of the country living abroad and excludes non-residents of a country. Another common measure of economical wealth is the Gross National Product [per capita], which can be defined as the total value of services and goods produced divided the people in the country that year. The GNP and GDP are similar, the only difference they have is who they think the ‘capita’ is, which means that the value of GNP and GDP are very similar. Figure 2 shows that the GNP is significantly low as it is nearly five times smaller than the value of UK’s GNP.
However, Brazil has shown a rapid increase of GNP and GDP. In the year 2006, Brazil’s GDP per capita was $8,800, and then it increased by $900 to $9,700. This is evidence that Brazil’s economy is growing. The United Nation uses the Human Development Index [HDI] to measure development. It was created in 1990, but was initially used three years later, because it combines social and wealth indicators to produce a more insightful measure of development. The HDI looks at the three factors of human progress: ==> A long healthy life [measured by life expectancy] => Education and Knowledge [measured by adult literacy and years spent in school] ==> Standard of living [measured by GDP per capita] Each of the three factors are given a ‘score’ from 0. 000 [worst] to 1. 000 [best], which can be worked out through calculations according to each factor, then the average of the three scores gives the country its HDI.
The countries can be also ranked according to their HDI. Figure 3 shows that there has been, although small, change in Brazil’s HDI. In the data published in 2005, Brazil was ranked 63rd with a HDI of 0. 92 and then in the data published in 2007, it was awarded with a HDI of 0. 800 even though it moved down 7 ranks. A HDI value is just about considered as ‘high’ and it shows that Brazil has reasonable standard of living. The data also shows that Brazil is in competition for other countries for better human development because it is going down in ranks although it is becoming more industrialised. Brazil must continue developing both socially and economically to be considered as an average MEDC. Brazil’s rapid advancement is all due to trade.
In 2006, Brazil had import value was $91. 4 billion while it had exported $137. 8 billion worth of goods. The country had gained approximately 150. 8% of its import and means that Brazil experiences trade surpluses, which is when the money from exports is greater than money from imports. The government can spend the extra money on education, medical health care and building the citizens of Brazil. Brazil has plantations that produce vegetation that are able to grow in tropical climates. These exported crops include soy beans, coffee, cocoa and sugar cane.
The industries of Brazil have grown noticeably well and 74% of Brazil’s goods are [semi] manufactured such as transport equipment, footwear, coffee, autos. There are also quite a few cattle ranches in Brazil which provide beef in MEDC, especially USA. Figure 4 shows that 23% of all occupations are primary jobs, work that deals with collection or producing natural resource from the earth, 24% are secondary activities, work to do with manufacturing and 53% have tertiary jobs that deal with providing services.
Approximately one quarter of Brazilians have primary sector careers because they do not require a lot of skills, so majority of the population can do it, and Brazil has excellent resources for land and wood. However, a majority of jobs are in the tertiary sector because Brazil has a rising population, so there must be enough services to satisfy the demanding population, and Brazil is a popular tourist spot, so some jobs are created by tourism such as tour guides.
One third of Brazil’s GDP comes from the countries assorted range of industries. 4% of workers are employed in the manufacturing sector and these people work in automobile, air craft, steel, petrochemicals other durable good factories. The LEDC has to import goods such as machinery, electrical and transport equipment, chemical products, oil, automotive parts, and electronics for its industries. The Amazon rainforest is under threat from the increasing rate of deforestation. Most of the land deforested is being used by Brazil’s industries. Trees in the rainforest, such as mahogany, have been cut down so they can be exported or used for construction or furniture making.
Not all the plants cleared are used in the industries; some are wasted to make land for cattle ranches. These large cattle ranches usually have contracts with American fast food chains, so the restaurants can buy the beef cheaply. The Amazon rainforest also has the perfect temperature for growing tropical crops, so farmers use the forest land as pasture to grow sugar canes, soy beans, and coffee beans. The beef and crops can be exported to MEDCs as trade goods. The Amazonia is also rich in bauxite, rock containing aluminium, so there have been large mining operations.
The aluminium are then extracted from the bauxite and then used in industries. Mr. Enriquez, Chief of the Trombetas Bauxite Mine explained that ‘the bauxite [they] mine is used in Brazil and sold to rich countries around the globe. It is used to make aluminium, which is used in aircrafts, production, soft drink cans and hundreds of other products. ‘ However, mining involves digging up the land and changing its landscape; it is to be expected that mining would ruin the soil and the plants in the Amazon. Mr Enriquez also said ‘However, it is inevitable that some rainforest will be destroyed in large scale extraction of raw materials.
Mining of this kind is of vital national importance to the Brazilian economy. The sale pf bauxite and iron core brings billions into Brazil and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. ‘ Although Mr. Enriquez is defending his organization, it is true that mining creates jobs, especially for unskilled people, and that it brings money into the country. Brazil is the fifth most populous country. Its growing population and those suffering under poverty are forced to live in favela, which are small, cramped houses with limited sewage and electricity made from scrap building materials.
The government has made a new policy to provide land for homeless Brazilians to prevent shanty town conditions. The land provided comes from the clearings of Amazon rainforest. The people are expected to live in the forest and have deal with their own farm. Pedro, a pioneer settler, participated in the scheme because he was destitute. Although he was hoping for a reasonable life, Pedro was unable to continue living in the forest. He said “It is very remote in the forest and once I had cleared my land the soil fertility declined so growing crops is not easy. ” Pedro was considering moving to the city like most work seekers.
This shows that the government scheme was not success for everyone and that clearing away the land for homes was not a good idea because people had no knowledge on farming and trade. Amerindians are known as the first people who have used the Amazon Rainforest’s raw materials. They live in houses called ‘malocas’ and they are dependent on the rainforest resources. Amerindians use the method of shifting cultivation as a way of farming and living in the Amazon Rainforest, they live in one area of the forest and farm there until the fertility and production of the soil has declined, which can last for five years.
The Amerindians then leave the area for another and continue farming there so the previous area can recover its fertility. Unfortunately, when the Europeans discovered the Amazon Rainforest and its resources, the Amerindians were in danger. A Tukano Indian explained that when the ‘outsides begun to destroy’ the forest, their tribe had to go deeper into the forest for their own safety or give up their lifestyle to live on reservations. It is unethical to sacrifice the life of a whole community for land and profit, especially of a community that helped the forest as well depending on it, unlike companies which just extract resources.
If the rate of deforestation continues, Amerindians would have to give up their way of life by either being killed in the process or by being forced to move. Brazil’s organizations have to understand that deforestation comes with consequences. All ecosystems are delicate and each species of plant and animals depend on each other for food, shelter, reproduction and if one species is harmed than others will be harmed too like a water ripple. Deforestation directly affects trees in the Amazon rainforest.
Cutting down and exporting trees can make some species of hardwood plants to be vulnerable to extinction, for example, mahogany is a popular timber used for furniture however if the deforestation continues, mahogany may become scarce. Logging also takes away the habitats of Amazon’s animals, giving them a less chance of survival and killing them. Majority of Amazon’s plants have not been discovered, so there may be a species of plant out there that can made into drugs to cure feared illnesses, such as Aids and cancer. Deforestation contributes directly and indirectly to extinction of thousands of unknown species.
Deforestation also stops the humus/ nutrient cycle from continuing. Since the tree is taken down before it can die or shed leaves to decay, the decomposers do not have any dead matter to break down the so the nutrients taken from tree cannot be returned. As there will be fewer nutrients in the soil than before, the soil will become less fertile and the tree plants in the soil after will develop weaker than the initial tree. The weaker tree would then be broken down, and the process will repeat until the soil is too infertile to produce any vegetation.
There would be no roots or plants to hold the roots together, which would cause increase in soil erosion. Soil erosion is the movement of soil, and deforestation can cause excessive erosion, because there are no plants or trees to protect the soil, and this process may cause flooding and then difficulty in farming as the landscape has changed and the water will be too saturated for some vegetation. Deforestation can also cause a more dramatic change, like desertification, if trees are being cut in a rapid rate.
Like animals and humans, trees also respire as well as photosynthesize, so the pores of the leaves give out water vapour to the atmosphere, so with the decreasing number of trees, the lack of water vapour in the atmosphere can encourage desertification. Another effect of deforestation is global warming. Trees are the number one source of reducing carbon dioxide because they take it in for photosynthesis and produce less carbon dioxide for the reactions than they took in. Burning trees not stops the reduction of carbon dioxide, but it also contributes because some of the plants cut are burned.
Burning trees release more carbon dioxide and contribute to global warming. Also, Amazonia is considered to be the source of over 20% of the world’s oxygen, as product of photosynthesis, and the forest has been described as ‘lungs of the earth’. Therefore, deforestation indirectly causes an increase in pollution and decrease in oxygen. The problem of deforestation can be solved by using sustainable methods of extracting and educating both the companies and people about how delicate the ecosystem is. A sustainable method is one that satisfies the needs of the present population without compromising the need of the future generation.
A common technique used to preserve ecosystems is by establishing National Parks and Forest Reserves to protect untouched part of the forest. These reserves may depend on both the government and charity and will make sure that the protected areas are kept as natural as possible while educating people about the importance of foliage in the rainforest. Laws on companies extracting raw materials from the Amazon rainforest must be made stricter than before. Logging grants should only be available to those who plant the same number of trees they cut down, which is a sustainable method, so there no loss in the number of trees.
The timber trade companies should also be restricted by reducing trades of endangered plants. Also, any organizations that burn a large amount of trees should be warned that they must reduce the mass burnings so they do not contribute to global warming. Any companies that do not obey the law and does not help preserve the Amazon Rainforest should be heavily fined. If the government wants to continue their scheme to send dispossessed Brazilians to the forest, they should educate them about how to keep their soil fertile by keeping foliage and natural compost, so they will be able to manage a small farm.
In conclusion, Amazon rainforest’s location has caused to have a constantly hot climate with a wet and dry season. The rainforest is densely population with trees and other plants species and is home to around 50% of the world’s animals and plants. The rainforest is a vital resource for plants that are used as drugs for serious illness like leukaemia. However, Brazil has been using the rainforest to extract raw materials for export, land for cattle ranch and to provide land for homeless Brazilians.
These exports have caused Brazil to experience trade surpluses that help develop the country. Unfortunately, deforestation is affecting more than just Brazil. The rate of deforestation is contributing to global warming and taking away a huge source of oxygen and potential medical plants. The destruction of the Amazon Rainforest is not a price worth paying for Brazil’s economic development because it is putting the earth in danger too. The only way to slow down the results deforestation is by sustainable methods such as planting back the trees and teaching people the importance of foliage.