Crisis Overview

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WORLDWIDE DEVASTATION: The tropical rainforests of the world are currently being converted to nonproductive forest and agricultural lands at a rate of 25,000 square miles, an area the size of West Virginia, each year. In many tropical countries, the majority of deforestation results from the actions of poor subsistence cultivators. However, not all recent deforestation can be linked to peasant farming. Most destruction of tropical rainforests can be directly linked  to excessive and widespread commercial exploitation, including clearing of land for pastureland, mining, hydroelectric projects and subsistence farming. The outcome of linear thinking that sees the rain forests only as a resource  to be exploited.

Once rain forest is destroyed for these other uses, agricultural or for cattle, it takes a long time for it to regenerate, 50 to 120 years, and in massive slash and burn operations, it may never return.  What took eons to create can not easily be brought back. And the tragedy is that most of the converted uses are miserable failures. Rain forest cleared to make room for farming soon sees crop failure due to the nutrient poor topsoil, a condition not necessary in a healthy rain forest where much of the biological activity takes place in the tree canopies above the forest floor. For most farmers, one good year is all they get and they then must abandon the land. 

At this junction, it is then sold, for almost nothing  to large cattle operations, most of which export their beef to American and Europe where it ends up as fast-food hamburgers. This is in many ways a final insult, since the fast food culture is one of the major reasons these countries are now experiencing major obesity epidemics.

More Resources
Deforestation in the Amazon
National Geographic: Eye In The Sky -Deforestation And Desertification
NASA: Tropical Deforestation Fact Sheet