Anna Hunt, Staff Writer
“Enlightenment without action is hallucination.” ~ Unknown
The forests in most countries around the equator, such as the Brazilian Amazon, have suffered greatly. In the 1960’s they were cut down to make way for cattle ranching and crop cultivation. At that time, governments were quick to loosen their restrictions on protected lands to benefit from high beef prices, driven by the growing fast food industry and foreign agricultural interests. Thanks to funding from McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, governments were able to give subsidies to local farmers to burn down sections of the rainforest and make room for cattle pastures, as well as cultivate large quantities of crop such as soybean and African palm.
As commerce expanded in tropical regions during the 1970’s and 80’s, transportation projects, the lumber industry, and the need for new fertile soil for crops were culprits to even more deforestation. Within four decades of 1960, people had cut down about one-fifth of the Amazon, which is the largest continuous forest on the planet and responsible for providing around 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen. All rainforests around the equator suffered greatly. In 2004 deforestation rates started to slow significantly, yet today oil drilling threatens what is left of fragile rainforest lands.
It’s time to lift our blinders and acknowledge something that we all already know: trees are VITAL to the current of life on planet Earth. They sequester carbon dioxide gasses out of the atmosphere; they produce oxygen needed for human survival; they play an important role in the rainfall cycle; they keep our soil fertile and prevent erosion; they protect and nurture millions of animal and insect species – including us humans! Never mind the beauty and magnificence that they bring into our holographic reality, and the joy one can find when sitting under a tree to enjoy a picnic or book.
Don’t Expect Someone Else to Fix the Problem
Sadly, governments around the world are not equally concerned with the environment as they are with economic growth, security and societal power. Lawmakers are easily swayed by corporate interests to ensure growth and prosperity based on short-term economic measurements. With each day, more environmental rules are put into place to protect the planet’s fragile resources, yet not so long ago policies completely ignored the detrimental effects of cutting down large areas of tropical forests. Even new rules are many times ignored, or corporations given a reprieve if they break the rules in the name of “public interest” (aka corporate growth).
While mainstream media gives the impression of a rising environmental awareness on the part of industry and corporations, once one takes the time to research outside of the mainstream, s/he often finds that experts and lawmakers are lobbied to satisfy corporate interests and paint a picture that conceals the dismal health of our planet.
When it comes to reforestation, less-wealthy governments have been receiving some money from first-world conservation organizations with the purpose of planting trees, yet these funds are rarely funneled into real communities and little focus is given to bio-diversity. A large share of funds gets tied up in bureaucratic administration of reforestation efforts. What is left is put into reforesting areas that are already protected, but little is done about the barren lands in local communities that now suffer due to the decisions of their grandfathers to accept subsidies in the 1960’s and burn down primary rainforests.
Why is Deforestation Such a Problem
On a local level, deforestation in countries such as Ecuador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Brazil, etc, has resulted in the following:
After years of crop cultivation, little shade and decreasing animal activity, the soil is dying, and thus it is increasingly difficult for communities to grow their own food.
Because of poor soil, farmers use fertilizers and herbicides, which are toxic to the environment and all living things.
Natural water sources, which used to provide water to animals and crops on local lands, have dried up or offer very little water, especially during the dry season that last about half of the year in most tropical regions.
Local communities of countries you’re hardly familiar with might not motivate you to do anything. I get it. If you’re living in the US or Europe, you’re probably very comfortable. You don’t grow your own food and have a lovely grocery store with lots of healthy organic foods to choose from just around the corner. Or you can order what you need from Amazon – the website. But deforestation around the equator is a global problem. It is everyone’s problem. Here’s why:
It is contributing to higher temperatures and a quicker evaporation process and has thus impaired the hydrological cycle – the rainfall cycle – of the planet.
It is one of the main causes of the spiraling loss of plant, animal and insect species, which threatens the overall balance of our planet.
“Bio-diversity is the specialization of the chain of life. Our strength and our beauty come from our bio-diversity. If one of the links changes, we don’t know what’s going to happen.” ~ Jennifer Smith, Community Carbon Trees in Costa Rica
You CAN Make a Difference
People are ready to make a difference. Many of us acknowledge that our planet is under attack. We want to do something to help.
The ones of us that can, build earthships or tiny homes, buy electric or hybrid cars, or leave their high-powered corporate careers to become conservationists in third-world countries. Some of us support local farmers, participate in neighborhood gardens and tree plantings, use reusable grocery bags and limit consumption of fossil fuels.
But let’s be realistic – many of us awakened human beings, whether you’re willing to admit it or not, are preparing for the holidays by filling up our SUVs with plastic toys, fancy clothes and new electronics, designed to be obsolete within the next two to three years. We end up driving endless hours or flying thousands of miles to see distant family, and consuming a large amount of food that we had no hand in growing.
So this holiday season, do something that helps offset your impact on the planet. Here’s an idea – support reforestation along the equator. Instead of buying stuff, sponsor a tree for someone.
Considering the high cost of air travel, you may not be able to personally travel to Latin America and start planting trees, but helping financially is a great way to support reforestation groups such as Community Carbon Trees – a dynamic organization in Costa Rica with 14 years of ground-roots work in reforesting by hiring and training local Costa Rican landowners (and yes, my inspiration for this article).
Financial donations are an easy, but important, way to make a global difference and offset your carbon footprint. Where will your money make the most impact? Jennifer Smith, the Founder and President of Community Carbon Trees, suggests looking for organizations that focus on planting a variety of trees and stay away from mono-cropping (which is planting only one type of tree in an area); ones that stress the importance of tree maintenance during the first critical three to four years of their life; and, when possible, ones that focus on reforesting large, continuous areas close to the equator, where trees sequester carbon dioxide 365 days a year and can have the most impact on lowering global temperatures. Most importantly, Smith stresses the significance of working with reforestation groups that involve local farmers, women and landowners to participate in the reforestation process, so through your donations, you can empower local communities and ensure past mistakes are not repeated.
Sponsor a tree with Community Carbon Trees here: http://www.communitycarbontrees-costarica.com/sponsor_now.php
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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