Our Surprising Reliance on the World’s Rainforests


With the recent shocking headlines about large pockets of the Amazon rainforest on fire and the focus on the plight of orangutangs and other endangered species and communities due to rainforest clearance for palm oil plantations, the world’s rainforests are in the psyche of many of us.

There’s little doubt that they’re in danger, pushing climate change further to the point of disaster.

But do you know who much we rely on the world’s rainforests for food, medicine, bathroom essentials and cleaning products as well as the air we breathe?

The Rainforest and the Carbon Bank

Carbon dioxide, a damaging greenhouse gas, emitted into the atmosphere on such a large scale from animal agriculture, various forms of transport, industry and fossil fuel pollution is bad news. Global carbon emissions were at an all-time high in 2018 and are predicted to continue to rise.

Trees are beautiful, but their beauty doesn’t stop at their physical appearance. Trees, especially large areas of trees, such as woodlands and rainforests, absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Without them, human civilisation wouldn’t exist as they store the carbon dioxide we don’t need, and produce some of the oxygen we breathe.

Rainforests in particular act as huge carbon banks but when they’re ruthlessly cut down or burned to clear space for palm oil plantations or cattle ranches, they release their stored carbon into the atmosphere. It’s thought that around 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from such deforestation.

Our Heavy Reliance on the Rainforest

Often referred to as the lungs of the world, the rainforests are crucial as a carbon bank. But that aside, we’d also struggle to find many of the everyday products we rely on, if the rainforest didn’t exist.

Already, 25% of modern medicines have originated from the plants and trees of the rainforest, and it’s thought that only 1% of the potential for lifesaving drugs has been untapped.

Food-wise, we’d sorely miss bananas, certain nuts, vanilla, coffee, tea and cocoa if the rainforests disappeared.

Certain oils, rubber, resins and gums used in our cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, DIY products and cleaning fluids all come from species of plants and trees that only grow in the rainforest.

Plus, the roots of the trees of the rainforests help to prevent soil erosion by knitting together and forming a framework that helps to prevent flooding and essential soil nutrients simply being washed away.

Not to mention that it’s home to over 30 million species of plants and animals, and thousands of indigenous human populations.

How You Can Help

It might seem that from afar, there isn’t much we can do to help protect the rainforests thousands of miles away, aside from sign a few petitions and feel sad about it.

But you can help by choosing to shop more mindfully and replace a few of your household items such as shampoo and chocolate with brands that either eschew palm oil completely, or use palm oil from a sustainable source.

This month, we’re also championing Source Climate Change Coffee, an ethical and sustainable purveyor of single origin, gourmet coffees that not only taste excellent, but also support the ongoing conservation efforts of farmers living and working in rainforests around the world. It also ensures the coffee farmers are paid and looked after properly so that they can support themselves and their families.

Amazing coffee, that’s kind to the environment and the people who grow it? What’s not to like??

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