Would we be able to breathe if our lungs were damaged? The answer to this is known to all of us. 

Rainforests are the lungs of planet Earth. We breathe in oxygen while they take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which means that its presence in the atmosphere in amounts greater than its natural concentration would cause the Earth to warm up. Its surplus amount in the atmosphere (due to anthropogenic activities) is absorbed by rainforests.  Thus, rainforests act as sinks for carbon dioxide and regulate the climate. 

The largest rainforests are those in South America, West Africa and Southeast Asia. Rainforests house a huge diversity of animal and plant life. Many of these are edible plants while some provide medicinal benefits. The rainforests regulate the water cycle and produce abundant rainfall. This way, chances of drought remain low. The tall trees and lianas in these forests are a defense against flood and also a protection for the soil that would otherwise be eroded. These forests provide us with much more including sustenance for tribal communities living there.  

This is just one aspect, the one way that it should be but is actually not. Although nature’s generosity has known no bounds, we humans have done all we could to exploit the provisions of nature while feigning to be aware of the consequences. We started clearing forests for farming, cut down trees for fuel wood, then realized the cost is for none other than us to pay and switched to partial logging. The idea of selective logging would appeal to anyone who would want to prevent rainforest degradation; however we hardly consider the other side of the picture. Even if it is a matter of the timber industry cutting down a few trees, how do they get there? Heavy machinery is used to pave way and cut down the mature trees for timber. Because of the heavy machinery working on the forest floor, soil is compacted, a number of other trees and plants are destroyed in the process, chances of regeneration are very low as the oldest trees have taken hundreds of years to reach the mature stage, soil becomes prone to erosion; making floods events frequent. This is only one industry affecting the rainforests. Agricultural communities or shifted cultivators move from one part of the forest to another when the soil in on place is no longer fertile. The mining industry clears trees for projects and displaces people, forcing them to settle in another part. The tourism industry claims to promote eco-tourism whereas the goals of it are barely fulfilled.  

Overconsumption by some and the unequal distribution of land and its resources lead to such events that harm nature. The rainforests are a treasure on Earth; a treasure that does not need to be looked for but only requires us to be considerate.  

About the Author:  Zainab Imran is a research student of GIS and Remote Sensing from COMSATS, Islamabad. She is keen about environment and climate related concerns.