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Francesca Williams World History Electronic Portfolio

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Description:Final Essay for class
Date Completed: May 28, 2001
My Thoughts: This was my final essay for my World History class. In my essay, Rainforests of Brazil, I tried to think about a country's geography, history, and culture and how they all affected each other. The more I learned about rainforests, the more I realized how much other countries do to make a difference. The hardest part about doing this was trying to decide what parts to put in the final essay. I found so much stuff I could use. I decided that it was important to start with the importance of rainforests before talking about Brazil's rainforests.
The Rainforests of Brazil

A "rainforest" is not always a forest in a rainy area. A rainforest consists of broad-leaved trees that form a canopy, and it is this dense upper layer of leaves that makes a rainforest what it is. The canopy protects the vegetation and ecology at ground level from the sun, and scientists have found that the canopy itself has an ecosystem almost separate from the one on the ground far below.

Only 7% of the planet Earth is covered by rainforests. But rainforests are really significant because they are home to more than half of the world's land and animal species! Study of the rainforest has caused scientists to invent the concept of biodiversity to show the large number of creatures in this habitat and the impact these species could have on Earth now and in the future.

The Tropical Rain Forest Information Center says, "Many of these plants and animals of the rain forest… require a special habitat to live. This makes them very vulnerable to deforestation. If their habitat is cut down, they may become extinct. Every day species are disappearing from the tropical rain forests as they are cut…. estimates range from one to 137 species disappearing worldwide per day (Stork 1996, Rainforest Action Network 1998)."

Brazil is home to the largest rainforest in the world. Over half

of Brazil consists of forested terrain (but not all of this is rainforest). Because agriculture is so important to Brazil's economy, it has been difficult to protect the rainforests because farmers and others see the undeveloped land as profitable. While the presence of the rainforest benefits the world as a whole, it seems unfair to Brazilians that they are unable to use their land to earn money and improve their living conditions.

In recent years, Brazil's government has tried to pass laws and reward Brazilians who allow the forests to grow in peace. In September of 1999, Brazil passed the Environmental Crimes Law. This law makes fines of up to US$260 per cubic meter of destroyed forest. The economy in Brazil and the wildness of rainforests makes it difficult to protect them. Since 1978, an area of rainforest the size of North Carolina has been cut down annually. Deforestation has affected 230,000 square miles of the Brazilian Amazon (compare that figure to the 261,914 square miles that make up the state of Texas).

More action will be needed to restore the rainforests and protect them from further harm. But that harm continues even at this moment, and, while a forest can regrow in 50 years, some of our planet's biological losses can never be replaced. If the world wants to keep rainforests it has to help make it worth it for poorer countries to leave the rainforests alone.