Despite what teachers, textbooks, authors, environmentalists and media commentators have been saying for decades, the fact is, most of the oxygen produced on Earth by photosynthesis is NOT from rainforests but from phytoplankton in the oceans. How many of you actually know of phytoplankton? Right. Too few. But we forget that planet Earth I’d more ocean than it is land!Read on in The Atlantic . . .
More background information about the causes of the fires can be found in this Science Magazine article: There’s no doubt that Brazil’s fires are linked to deforestation, scientists say
. . . with additional coverage of the issue provided by
- Nature: Alarming surge in Amazon fires prompts global outcry;
- BBC: Amazon fires: Brazil to reject G7 offer of $22m aid; and
- BBC: The Amazon in Brazil is on fire – how bad is it?
No pun intended, but hopefully the crisis in the Amazon will help spark a larger discussion around how “the world” can give a priority to protecting, preserving, really, ecosystems critical to “the world”. This is the gist of this follow-up article in The Guardian: Amazon fires ‘extraordinarily concerning’, warns UN biodiversity chief.
What “we”, the collective nations of the world, seem to require is a mechanism to encourage independent sovereign nations to protect ecosystems for the good of us all – something with more teeth and more direct benefits to a country than simply designating a park as a World Heritage Site.
I’m thinking along the lines of the various significant rainforests around the world, but also places like the Serengeti ecosystem in East Africa, the caribou migration ecosystems of North America’s Arctic, the Pantanal in South America, the Boreal forests of Asia and North America, the Steppes of Central Asia – and dozens of other often cross-boundary ecosystems that are still relatively intact, but are increasingly under threat from human industrial uses: agriculture, logging and pollution from mining are the big three.
The threats are sometimes local, such as subsistence farming, wood gathering and poaching, but the real threat is industrial farming (e.g. oil palm plantations), logging and mining. The problems is that economically and politically weak and/or corrupt governments and greedy individuals are unable to say “no” to the potential revenues (both personal are national) and economic benefits, such as jobs, derived from industrial activities in natural ecosystems.
Since we can no longer rely on the benevolence of governments protecting ecosystems on behalf of the world (America and Brazil being perfect examples of failed governments), whatever incentives/encouragement provided by preserving globally significant ecosystems must take into account the economic realities of nations and local people.
I have always advocated community benefits of preserving ecosystems and earning income from intact ecosystems (e.g. increased revenues from ecotourism, local harvesting), but that is not the reality on the ground when national leaders are advocating wholesale destruction for industrial purposes. This latest failure of national governments has raised the stakes putting all us at risk. The response by the rest of the world must be significant and timely. What the G7 did by offering $22million to Brazil was a paltry attempt, a classic band-aid approach. A much larger, co-ordinated response involving all countries at a much larger scale is needed, and it was needed ‘yesterday’. Hopefully it’s not too late.