Isn't the Amazon endangered?
Yes, seriously so. The Amazon covers a huge expanse of territory, as large as the continental U.S. Many of the countries that encompass the Amazon have rapidly growing populations of urban poor that are expanding into the jungle’s edge seeking economic survival. Some local governments, in a misguided search for economic benefits, are also eager to subsidize ranchers, loggers and farmers to help expand their operations into the jungle. Miners are polluting and disturbing the pure waters. Road builders and developers are burning the edges of the forests. All these factors are slowly taking their toll and will unquestionably continue to alter the Amazon’s pristine state. Luckily, the central Amazon is an extremely mutable environment that floods for several months and then dries up with little or no rain. This environment makes expansion and settlement difficult and almost always economically unproductive. It has taken decades for any understanding of this counterproductive reality to be accepted. Ultimately, these harsh economic realities may offer ways to help save the Amazon.
Slowly, we are seeing an increasing awareness of the Amazon’s value in its natural state. Governments and businesses are recognizing that there are productive sustainable uses of the Amazon that do not contribute to its destruction. Eco-tourism, birding and catch and release fishing are just a few among the many low-impact uses that engender profits for the countries and peoples of Amazonia without damaging the ecosystem. Selective harvesting of valuable plants and collection of pharmaceuticals are corporate uses with great potential value. It is an international, national and individual responsibility to help further protect and preserve the Amazon. Many organizations are focused on helping in this effort. National parks are springing up throughout the basin. Encouraging more of these protected areas will help ensure the survival of this incredible, international natural treasure.
Wider acceptance of non-destructive uses and careful management of extractive reserves is a positive direction for the future. Each individual who takes even the smallest step or makes even the smallest contribution to assist these efforts ultimately lends more momentum to a world-wide movement to keep this essential planetary resource intact for future generations. Help if you can. Get your government to help, if you can. Spread the word, if you can.