Rainforest destruction

Tropical rainforests are the richest of all living communities. They have provided us with rubber, tannins, hard woods, bananas, nuts, chewing gum and chocolate. Nearly a quarter of our drugs come from the rainforest and yet we have still only investigated the biochemistry of less than one per cent of the rainforest's plants and animals. Here too are to be found some of the most bizarre and beautiful creatures on the planet. The animals here are products of millions of years of evolution and can not live anywhere else. And yet all over the world thousands of extra people every year are seeking to grow food with which to feed themselves and their children - and they take the land from the forest. Once they have felled and burned the trees, the people sow crops like hill rice. Within a year, having been sustained by the ash from the burned forest, the crop will be ready for harvest. But there is only enough nutrients in the ash to sustain one rice crop so the following year the people will plant cassava or tapioca as it is also called. Being a root crop, it gets its roots from deeper down in the soil, but even this can only produce for one year. After that, seeds from the wild forest will come in and new plants will grow. But these will take ten years to grow before they are big enough to be felled and burned and produce enough ash to provide the people with a second crop. Meanwhile the true forest - with all its plants and animals - will never be restored.

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