Human Impact on the Amazon Rainforest

human impact amazon rainforest
human impact amazon rainforest

Humans have a significant impact on the Amazon Rainforest

There are some significant problems with the rainforest and we need to get involved and be concerned. The rainforest accounts for a significant portion of our oxygen. The rainforest also removes carbon dioxide from the air we breathe. Since air and breathing are important to the quality (and continuity) of our lives, it’s time to check in and see what is going on. This is a round of some issues facing the Rainforest due to human impact.

Deforestation

Deforestation is the key way that governments in Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia measure the change (reduction) in the Amazon Rainforest. Usually this is the only way. Deforestation happens when there is logging and all the trees are removed, and when the local people take over portions of the forest for alternative purposes, usually farming. Corporate farming is especially on the rise in Brazil as there has been an increase in the worldwide demand for palm oil. Deforestation is drastic with approximately 20% of the Amazon disappearing over the last 40 years.

human impact amazon rainforest

The Amazon is a resource for all

Forest Degradation

Deforestation is easy to measure as pictures are taken over time, showing the change. What is harder to measure is forest degradation. This happens when trees are selectively cut down. The selected trees are usually the old, large trees of high value like mahogany and ipe. These trees contribute to the canopy of the Rainforest. The canopy is important because it keeps in the moisture, allowing other high moisture need plants to grow with wild abundance. Tall trees are important because they raise the height of the rainforest, allowing for more plants to grow upwards, rather than just on the ground. It’s difficult to measure forest degradation, so its generally ignored.

Fire

Forest degradation and deforestation lead to another problem, that of fire. Very often the local people will use slash and burn techniques to clear the rainforest so that they can have cattle or grow cash crops. Rainforest soil is not highly productive. The rainforest itself has evolved to make heavy use of recycling plant material, with many plants living off of other plants.

human impact amazon rainforest

Considering the Human Impact on the Amazon Rainforest

The burn technique is a form of fertilization, the plant material is burned, releasing nitrogen, which becomes fertilizer for the new plants. Of course, the nitrogen is used up after a few years, and either the land must have new fertilizer, which the (generally poor) indigenous farmers cannot afford, or the farmer must burn new parts of the rainforest to survive.

Slash and burn techniques mean fire. Fire gets out of control. Usually these are small fires and quickly burn out. The problem comes with repeat fires in the same area. The Rainforest can handle one fire, but if there even small, fires every year or two, it degrades the Rainforest, and starts to destroy the canopy. It recovers more and more slowly until it’s not recovering at all.

Mining

Mining has been close to my heart because of what is going on here in Ecuador with the Yusani Park. There have been many protests and political debates around the recent government decision to allow China to drill for oil in the pristine Yusani park.

Yusani had been set aside as a protected park, but Ecuador is in debt to China and Yusani has oil. The digging has begun with all the accompanying destruction. Highways are being cut to accommodate the large trucks and heavy equipment. Trees are falling every day.

Of course this is not just happening in Ecuador. Brazil and the surrounding countries have also discovered gold, oil and other natural resources that they are uncovering in the Rainforest. Often the areas of actual mining are small, but the roads needed to get to the mining areas, the absolute stripping of the soil, the exploration and increased number of people living in the area have a deep impact on the quality of the forest, not to mention the impact on local indigenous people.

human impact amazon rainforeset

The gorgeous Amazon Rainforeset – under threat

What can be done about Human Impact on the Amazon

Politically we need to move towards recognition of the Rainforest as a valuable worldwide resource. The Rainforest is usually thought of as a national economic advantage, when the reality is that they are international environmental and economic treasures.

Here in Ecuador, President Correo asked the international community to protect Yusani Park. He said that if the rest of the countries of the world contributed $2 billion, they would not go forward with oil mining in Yusani. There were a few pledges from other counties, but the amount was significantly less than $2 billion.

Ecuador needs money to feed its people and build roads over the towering Andes to grow its economy. It defaulted on its international loans of $7Billion in 2008 and other countries are understandably reluctant to lend them money anymore. Ecuador has little real choice in whether to allow China to mine in Yusani given its debt to China.

This scheme of raising money for Yusani obviously didn’t go down well in the international community in its poorly disguised attempt at coercion/manipulation. But there have got to be other ways to provide economic incentives to poor countries to protect the Rainforests under their care.

human impact amazon rainforest

Preserving the Rainforest is important for all people

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Organic Jewelry – What is it?

Organic Jewelery - Necklace
Tagua bracelet dyed with natural vegetable dyes

Tagua bracelet dyed with natural vegetable dyes

I get questions asking how the jewelry at ArtisansintheAndes.com and MyWholesaleBoutique.com could be organic? So here I am clarifying what organic jewelry is. The official definition is that organic jewelry is jewelry made from, or produced by, once-living organisms. Since most of the jewelry is made from nuts and seeds produced by trees, it falls under this definition.

Organic Jewelry vs. Organic Food

There is some confusion because we are used to thinking about organic food. The word ‘organic’ is used in a different sense when it comes to the food we buy. For food, the word ‘organic’ is referring more to the process of how the food was farmed, rather than the underlying nature of the food.

Hand dyed with Italian Organic Dye

Hand dyed with Italian Organic Dye

Organic Jewelry is also Eco Friendly and Biodegradable

Much of the jewelry at our shops is also organic in the sense that we think of for food, in that its produced in an environmentally friendly fashion and is biodegradable. For food that qualifies as organic, there is also an idea that these organic goods don’t have pesticides or harmful chemicals applied during the farming process. Certainly the jewelry is also produced in an environmentally friendly fashion, is biodegradable and hasn’t had the use of harmful chemicals.

A light dye is often used on the beads, but as tagua and other types of seeds take dye extremely well, the beads don’t go through the same process as say cotton or other types of clothing that go through multiple rounds of dying and color-fasting all the while dumping the waste into the environment.

Earrings with no dye - natural acai

Organic earrings with no dye – natural acai

Seeds and Nuts from the Amazon

Our jewelry comes primarily from seeds and nuts from the Amazon rainforest, where the palm trees grow as an integral and important part of the ecosystem. Tagua nut pods are very large and heavy, they are usually harvested in the jungle after they have fallen from the trees. The trees produce new pods all year long with pods dropping to the forest floor after they have ripened.

Jobs are provided to the local indigenous people who collect the seed pods and dry the nuts in the sun. They remove the nuts from the pods and send the nuts to small cooperatives to be sliced, polished and dyed into beads. The beads are usually then bought by other small cooperatives and made into jewelry. I work with a few family groups and cooperatives in the Andes of Ecuador who are creatively engaged in this process.

Organic jewelery

Vibrant – These beads have no dye

We also source jewelry that has not been dyed, or where the dye used is organic in nature. Throughout this post you can see some of the examples from the stores. Please check them out and let me know what you think in the comments!

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