The Rainforest Myth

Kevin Davie anik_consulting at
Sun Jul 2 18:26:34 EST 2000

Excellent article and has many parallels here in BC. Unfortunately, as
Patrick alludes to, no one is interested in facts. Through lies, distortion
and mis-information, the key environmental groups have to keep these issues
alive or their funding will disappear. Today in BC, environmental activism
is a growth industry. Unfortunately, these kinds of groups are supressing
real environmental and conservation activities. Slowly, the public is
getting more aware of the issues and it's getting harder for Greenpeace and
others to find an issue that has not been debuncked.

No one wants to admit there has been change if that admission results in no

Where can one get a copy of this tape?
Karl Davies <karl at> wrote in message
news:395F278B.6B138F00 at
> Forwarding this from sci.environment.
> AMAZON.CON -- Part 1
> Shaky science behind
> save-rainforest effort
> New TV documentary finds
> skeptics among researchers
> Editor's note: Through a special arrangement with the producers of the
> television newsmagazine American Investigator, WorldNetDaily brings you
> this
> exclusive news report. Part one of this two-part series focuses on
> questions
> about the scientific integrity of environmentalists. The series
> concludes
> tomorrow in WorldNetDaily.
> By Marc Morano and Kent Washburn
> © 2000,, Inc.
> Patrick Moore became an instant celebrity in 1977 when a photograph
> showing
> him cradling a baby seal in defiance of arrest by Canadian authorities
> was
> broadcast around the world.
> As the front man for the environmental activist group Greenpeace, he
> helped
> turn public opinion around on the high-profile issues of whaling, seal
> hunting, nuclear power and chemical pollution.
> Today the environmental scientist and leader of a group called
> Greenspirit
> has a new cause -- alerting the public to what he calls the "myth" that
> the
> Amazon rainforest is endangered by development and deforestation.
> "The Amazon is actually the least endangered forest in the world,"
> states
> Moore in American Investigator's television newsmagazine documentary,
> "Clear-cutting the myths," hosted by former CBS and CNN newsman Reid
> Collins. Moore explains that, in the 20 years of warnings about
> deforestation, "only 10 percent of the Amazon has been converted to date
> from what was original forest to agriculture and settlement."
> The finding that the Amazon rainforest threat is a myth based on bad
> science
> and political agendas -- especially by unlikely critics such as Moore,
> other
> scientists and inhabitants of the region -- is not expected to sit well
> with
> a movement that has enlisted schoolchildren throughout the United States
> and
> celebrities ranging from Sting to Alex Baldwin to Chevy Chase to Tom
> Jones
> and Tony Bennett. And which has also raised tens of millions of dollars
> for
> environmental activist groups.
> "This is where I really have a problem with modern-day
> environmentalism,"
> says Moore. "It confuses opinion with what we know to be true, and
> disguises
> what are really political agendas with environmental rhetoric. The fact
> of
> the matter is: There is a larger percentage of the Amazon rain forest
> intact
> than there are most other forests in this world."
> Moore left Greenpeace, the organization he helped found, in 1986, after
> finding himself at odds with other leaders of the group.
> "We had already helped the world turn the corner on the environmental
> issues," he said. "Once a majority agrees with you, its time to stop
> beating
> them over the head and sit down with them and try to figure out some
> solutions."
> Yet, the notion that the Amazon jungles are threatened remains embedded
> in
> the popular culture:
> The 1993 animated feature, "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest," takes the
> Amazon's mystical charm literally, showing magical rainforest fairies
> fighting for their lives against industrialist's chainsaws and
> bulldozers.
> National Geographic's "Rainforest: Heroes of the High Frontier" warns
> that
> "despite efforts to save it, the rainforest is being consumed at an
> unprecedented rate."
> "Amazonia: A Celebration of Life" shows playful jungle animals being
> rudely
> awakened to the sound of chainsaws.
> The 1992 Sean Connery feature "Medicine Man" shows Connery discovering
> the
> cure for cancer at his makeshift lab in the heart of a burning Amazon
> rainforest. He loses the cure when developers raze his facility in order
> to
> build a road.
> Environmental groups from Greenpeace to the Sierra Club to the World
> Wilderness Foundation to the Environmental Defense Fund to the
> Smithsonian
> Institution conduct outreach efforts in the name of the rainforest.
> Dozens
> of other groups with names like Rainforest Relief, Rainforest Action
> Network
> and Rainforest Foundation were created for the sole purpose of
> exploiting
> the issue.
> A tourist to Brazil who picks up a "Lonely Planet" travel book will read
> numerous pleas for help: "Unless things change ... Indians will die with
> their forests," it pleads. "Invaluable, irreplaceable Amazon may be lost
> forever."
> "Lonely Planet" has company on the bookshelf: "At the current rate of
> deforestation," Vice President Gore writes in "Earth in the Balance,"
> "Virtually all of the world's tropical rainforests will be gone partway
> though the next century."
> The scientific evidence paints a much brighter picture of deforestation
> in
> the Amazon. Looking at the NASA Landsat satellite images of the
> deforestation rates in the Amazon rainforest, about 12.5 percent has
> been
> cleared. Of the 12.5 percent, one half to one third of that is fallow,
> or in
> the process of regeneration, meaning that at any given moment up to 94
> percent of the Amazon is left to nature. Even the Environmental Defense
> Fund
> and Sting's Rainforest Foundation concede, among the fine print, that
> the
> forest is nearly 90 percent intact.
> Philip Stott of the University of London and author of the new book,
> "Tropical Rainforests: Political and Hegemonic Myth-making," maintains
> that
> the environmental campaigns have lost perspective.
> "One of the simple, but very important, facts is that the rainforests
> have
> only been around for between 12,000 and 16,000 years," he says. "That
> sounds
> like a very long time, but in terms of the history of the earth, it's
> hardly
> a pinprick. The simple point is that there are now still -- despite what
> humans have done -- more rainforests today than there were 12,000 years
> ago."
> Moore maintains that "the rainforests of the Amazon, the Congo,
> Malaysia,
> Indonesia and a few other parts of the world are the least endangered
> forests" because "they are the least suitable for human habitation."
> Despite the Amazon being at least 87.5 percent intact, many claims
> abound as
> to how fast the forest is being cleared.
> In "Amazonia," the narrator intones that "in the brief amount of time it
> takes to watch this film, roughly 400,000 acres of forest will have been
> cleared." Ruy de Goes of Greenpeace Brazil says in the last four years
> "an
> area the size of France was destroyed."
> Actor William Shatner in a National Geographic documentary claims that
> worldwide, "Rainforest is being cleared at a rate of 20 football fields
> a
> minute." Rainforest Action Network says the Amazon is being deforested
> at a
> rate of eight football fields a minute. Tim Keating of Rainforest Relief
> says that the deforestation can be measured in seconds. "It may be
> closer to
> two to three football fields a second," says Keating.
> When de Goes of Greenpeace Brazil is confronted with the disparity in
> numbers regarding these football fields, he replies, "The numbers are
> not
> important, what is important is that there is huge destruction going
> on."
> However, Moore says that the only way such huge numbers are generated is
> by
> using double accounting. "You would have cleared 50 times the size of
> the
> Amazon already if accurate."
> Luis Almir, of the state of Amazonas in Brazil calculated using five
> football fields a minute and concludes sarcastically that if the numbers
> were correct, "we would have a desert bigger than the Sahara."
> Another familiar claim of the environmentalist community is that the
> Amazon
> constitutes the "lungs of the earth," supplying one-fifth of the world's
> oxygen. But, according to Antonio Donato Nobre of INPE, and other
> eco-scientists, the Amazon consumes as much oxygen as it produces, and
> Stott
> says it may actually be a net user of oxygen.
> "In fact, because the trees fall down and decay, rainforests actually
> take
> in slightly more oxygen than they give out," says Stott. "The idea of
> them
> soaking up carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen is a myth. It's only
> fast-growing young trees that actually take up carbon dioxide."
> Stott maintains that the tropical forests of the world are "basically
> irrelevant" when it comes to regulating or influencing global weather.
> He
> explains that the oceans have a much greater impact.
> "Most things that happen on land are mere blips to the system, basically
> insignificant," he says.
> Many environmentalists claim that tens of thousands of species are being
> driven to extinction every year because of the destruction of tropical
> forests like the Amazon:
> A video called "Amazonia Celebration" states in dire tones: "We alone
> will
> have to bear the blame for the greatest mass extinction since the
> disappearing of the dinosaur some 60 million years ago."
> "An average of 35 species becomes extinct every day" as a result of
> deforestation, says Rainforest Action Network.
> "30,000 species per year," or 83 per day, says the "Hall of
> Biodiversity"
> website.
> Al Gore in "Earth in the Balance" writes of "100 extinctions each day."
> Rainforest Relief's Keating weighs in with a hefty "450 species lost per
> day."
> Most of these estimates are rooted in the research of Harvard's Edward
> O.
> Wilson, featured by Time magazine as an environmental "hero" in its
> special
> Earth Day 2000 edition. In the accompanying article, Wilson argues
> passionately to stem the tide of extinctions "now 100 to 1,000 times as
> great as it was before the coming of humanity" -- neglecting to mention
> that
> his estimates of 50,000 extinctions per year are based on his own
> computer
> models.
> "There is no scientific basis for saying that 50,000 species are going
> extinct," says Greenspirit's Moore. "I want a list of Latin species."
> Moore maintains no one can name these species that are said to be going
> extinct.
> "The only place you can find them is in Edward O. Wilson's computer at
> Harvard University. They're actually electrons on a hard drive," Moore
> states.
> When asked if he can name a single species of the 50,000 that are said
> to go
> extinct, Keating admits: "No we cannot, because we don't know what those
> species are."
> Moore is flabbergasted by such statements.
> "You're telling me that I'm supposed to prove that those species didn't
> go
> extinct when they're not there anymore and we never knew they were there
> in
> the first place?" Moore asks rhetorically. "That's impossible. I don't
> know
> how Wilson can truck out the number 50,000 and keep a straight face."
> Stott agrees that the focus on species loss is misguided from a
> scientific
> point of view.
> "The earth has gone through many periods of major extinctions, some much
> bigger, let me emphasize, than even being contemplated today and 99.9999
> percent (of all species) and I wouldn't know the repeating decimal have
> gone
> extinct. Extinction is a natural process," he asserts.
> Another claim the environmental movement makes is that fires are
> destroying
> the Amazon. The late 1980s are generally regarded as record seasons for
> burning in the Amazon, inspiring books with titles such as "Decade of
> Destruction," "Green Fires: Assault on Eden" and even the 1994 Hollywood
> film, "The Burning Season."
> In recent years, it was reported that fires in the late 1990s equaled or
> even surpassed those of the peak "burning season" of the '80s. The Woods
> Hole Research Institute maintains that up to half of the Amazon
> rainforest
> is "a tinderbox about to go up in flames."
> Moore counters: "To say that half of the Amazon rainforest is going to
> go up
> in smoke is just crazy. Of course it's not. That's completely ridiculous
> and
> extremist. But, let's say a large portion of the rainforest burned. The
> next
> thing that will happen is it will grow back again."
> A 1995 study backs up Moore. The scientists concluded: "The incidence of
> burning cannot be taken as a direct indicator of deforestation rates."
> By
> combining satellite data, on-site visit information, and years of
> topographic data, the researchers concluded that most of the new fires
> were
> not being set to deforest new tracts of forest. Rather, they were lit to
> keep already cleared areas from growing back.
> The 1994 feature film "The Burning Season" features Raul Julia as Chico
> Mendes, shouting, "This soil is useless!" at chainsaw-wielding loggers.
> "You
> can't even grow weeds in this soil! This land is no good once the trees
> are
> gone!" A World Wildlife Fund documentary called "Amazonia: A Celebration
> of
> Life" states: "Poor tropical soil is virtually incapable of supporting
> life."
> Moore disputes the soil claims, saying that much of the Amazon is
> extremely
> fertile.
> "There's a myth, of course, that once you cut the trees down in the
> Amazon,
> the soil turns to cement," he states. Moore believes you can "find
> examples
> of very poor soils in the Amazon," noting it's almost as big as the
> continental U.S.
> Merle Faminow, a professor from the Federal University of Parana,
> Brazil,
> agrees. According to Faminow's research, the Amazon has a "wide and
> varied
> range of soil properties" and only "8 percent of the soil is classified
> as
> having a high erosion risk." He concludes that "there is ample
> scientific
> and practical evidence to confirm that agriculture can be carried out in
> a
> profitable and sustainable manner."
> Antonio Donato Nobre and Bruce Nelson are two scientists working with
> the
> Institute for Research in Amazonia or INPA in Brazil who make no mistake
> about their quest to preserve the Amazon.
> "I say to you, deforestation is completely, absolutely not justifiable
> in
> any circumstance," shouts Nobre. "And I have a conviction about this. I
> strongly believe that when you develop, you harm the environment."
> Asked about the 50,000 species that go extinct, Nelson responds: "Those
> are
> assumptions. It was an estimate of the number of species that might
> exist in
> the tropical forests of the world." When confronted with the travel
> book,
> "Lonely Planet's 'Brazil,'" which repeats many of the claims of massive
> species extinction, fires raging out of control and the belief that the
> "Amazon may be lost forever," Nobre and Nelson get uncomfortable.
> Nobre roars, "There is a lot of overblowing -- a lot of people
> projecting
> their egos in NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and environmentalist
> movements, etc. This is wrong!" he shouts as he holds up the book. "This
> is
> a bad way ... This does a disservice to the truth." Nobre believes,
> "When
> you overblow the facts, you are actually comprising the actual
> importance of
> it."
> Stott believes the more scrutiny the "Save the Amazon" cause gets, the
> more
> the bad science will be exposed.
> "When we actually look at these myths -- this is what is terrifying
> about
> them -- when we look at the science, we suddenly find that these myths
> are
> just unsupportable, 'unsustainable,' to use a nice green term. They just
> don't make sense."
> Tim Keating of Rainforest Relief, who calls the destruction of
> rainforests
> "the greatest ecological catastrophe," nonetheless concedes that the
> Amazon
> "is still the largest area of tropical rainforest left on earth, and has
> probably the lowest volume of clearing that has occurred of any large
> rainforest areas in the world."
> Moore, however, believes that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the
> conventional wisdom that the Amazon is about to disappear will remain
> the
> conventional wisdom for some time. He says, "If people ... actually go
> to
> the Amazon, go to Manaus, get on a river boat, and go up or down the
> Amazon
> for hundreds of miles, go inland and look for yourself and fly over it,
> (they) will see that you can fly for three hours over solid forest and
> really not see any sign of human habitation. It is not all burning up.
> It
> has not all been destroyed. And there really is no chance that it will
> be in
> the foreseeable future."
> The idea that a cleared rainforest can grow back is an idea that is not
> accepted by most environmental campaigns and the popular culture.
> Yet recent studies indicate that trees do in fact regrow very well in
> rainforests. A 1998 study by Charles Cannon of Duke University found
> that
> eight years after industrial logging in Indonesian rainforests, recovery
> of
> both native flora and fauna far exceeded expectations. In Borneo, logged
> forest contained just as many tree species as unlogged forest.
> "These findings warrant reassessment of the conservation potential of
> large
> tracts of commercially logged tropical rainforest," wrote Cannon.
> Science magazine contributor Robin Chazdon, an ecologist at the
> University
> of Connecticut, says: "You can find species that will show increased
> growth
> and increased population as a result of logging."
> "There are many, many tree species that we see commonly in the tropical
> flora whose regeneration is not occurring in natural forests. They
> require
> large scale disturbances," she says.
> Moore sees a contradiction or double standard in the way
> environmentalists
> look at the Amazon vis-à-vis forests in the United States.
> "On the one hand, you will hear environmentalists in the United States
> say
> we should be letting more fires burn in our forests, because it's a
> natural
> part of the ecology," he points out. "On the other hand, when fires burn
> in
> the Brazilian rain forest, they act as though the ecosystem is coming to
> an
> end."
> Throughout the Amazon, scientists are discovering that plant life that
> may
> help cure human disease is thriving in recovering forests, and
> scientific
> reforestation efforts are paying off in parts of the Amazon.
> In 1982, miners cleared a large tract of land in Western Brazil. Once
> finished, they hired scientists to reforest the territory. New studies
> show
> that the rejuvenated forest is virtually indistinguishable from its
> original
> form. Ninety-five percent of the original animal species have returned,
> prompting many to believe that "sustainable logging" can lower costs and
> increase productivity and help prove that man and nature can, indeed,
> co-exist in the Amazon.
> Brazilian Brigadier Gen. Thaumaturgo Sotero Vaz, who spent 39 years in
> the
> military, 18 of them in the heart of the Amazon, finds it humorous that
> anyone would doubt the jungle's ability to recover.
> "That's very funny," he says. "They don't know the Amazon, believe me.
> Because all these lands in the north, west, it's almost untouchable
> because
> of this great capacity of regeneration," he explains.
> Logging and burning of the forests can actually benefit some small
> species
> of flora, say scientists. Chazdon's research center in the rainforests
> of
> Costa Rica has found that the large "treetop canopy" created by dense
> foliage hundreds of feet above ground blocks sunlight which small
> competing
> species need to thrive.
> "When dominant [species] were removed through logging," she says, "there
> was
> an enhancement of what we would call the 'suppressed species.'"
> Many of these suppressed species are what environmentalists typically
> point
> to as the species most worthy of preservation -- those with medicinal
> properties. The Natural Resources Defense Council's "Rainforest Book:
> How
> You Can Save the World's Rainforests," calls the rainforest "a fantastic
> medicine cabinet" with plants that contain ingredients essential to
> "antibiotics, painkillers, heart drugs and hormones." Of the "3,000
> plants"
> identified as having cancer-fighting properties," it continues, "70
> percent
> of them are native to the rainforest."
> Chazdon discovered that "in secondary forests that are 15 to 20 years
> old,
> the overall abundance of species that have medicinal uses is higher
> compared
> to the older forests."
> Of further benefit is the tendency of younger forests to consume more
> carbon
> dioxide than older forests. For those worried about global warming,
> deforestation can actually be an ally, say scientists.
> "Trees in (young) forests grow at a phenomenal rate," says Chazdon, "and
> they are taking a lot of carbon dioxide out of the air and putting it in
> their own tissues and in the soil. That is reducing the amount of carbon
> dioxide that would otherwise be present in the atmosphere."
> Chazdon believes that all of these reasons are leading to "a growing
> recognition of the value of secondary forests."
> Despite all of this mounting scientific evidence supporting
> regeneration,
> many still want to keep mankind out of the Amazon and other tropical
> forests. Chazdon believes that it is not very realistic to keep man out.
> "No matter how hard we try," she says, "it's hard to put a lock and key
> on
> the forests." She points out that great civilizations once inhabited
> Central
> and South America and newly discovered charcoal deposits and
> agricultural
> artifacts suggest that humans have repeatedly burned the rainforest. "We
> are
> part of the long history of humans that have relied on these forests and
> used them," pointing out that "the Mayan Empire deforested huge areas of
> Central America."
> Tomorrow:
> The human cost of the "save the Amazon" cause.
> The video documentary, "Amazon Rainforest: Clear-Cutting the Myths,"
> discussed in this report is available from WorldNetDaily's online store.
> Marc Morano is the correspondent and co-producer for American
> Investigator's
> "Amazon Rainforest: Clear-Cutting the Myths." Kent Washburn is his
> co-producer.
> --
> Karl Davies, Practicing Forester
> Politics of Forestry
> "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you.
> Then they fight you. Then you win."
>                                      -- Gandhi

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