In setting my newest novel largely in the Amazon Rainforest, I had to do a lot of research. It helped tremendously that I’ve actually been there – walking through the jungles, jumping into cenotes, sitting beneath waterfalls – but still, I needed that authenticity not only for atmosphere, but a few character motivations. Books, newspaper articles, and tons of research pulled online, led to a folder of several hundred pages.
And yes, that’s longer than my novel.
There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings when it comes to the Rainforest, so I thought I’d point out a few of the largest myths about the Amazon Rainforest. Here goes …
Truths Vs. Myths About the Amazon Rainforest:
1) Most of the deforestation in the Amazon is from logging.
FALSE: Almost 70% of the Amazon that is cut down is for cattle ranching and livestock pastures. While logging is economically profitable, it accounts for less than 3% of annual deforestation. 80% of the processed meats from those cattle are for export. Think about that the next time you eat a steak…! And when someone asks ‘Where’s the beef?’ you can confidently tell them ‘In the Amazon.’
2) The Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world.
TRUE: The Amazon Basin encompasses over three million square miles and is located within nine separate countries! 60% of the Rainforest is in Brazil, but parts of it extend into Peru, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. To put it in perspective, it’s large enough to cover the entire 48 contiguous states.
3) Indigenous tribes no longer exist in the Amazon.
FALSE: There are over two hundred indigenous groups living within the Amazon. A large tribe might reach a population of 30,000. They speak almost as many dialects and languages as there are tribes, and many of these groups choose to have no contact with the outside world, moving deeper into the Amazon as outsiders continue to venture further in. Just don’t send them a Coke bottle.
4) The Amazon is a pharmaceutical companies playground.
TRUE: 25% of all Western medicine is derived from ingredients found in the rainforest, and two-thirds of plants with anti-cancer properties come from the Amazon. Over one hundred pharmaceutical companies, as well as the National Cancer Institute and branches of the US govt, are involved in plant research from the area. Still, less than 1% of plants and trees in the Amazon have been tested.
5) The rate of deforestation in the Amazon continues to increase.
FALSE: Since 2003, there has been a steady decline in the rate of deforestation. Despite that decline, however, over five thousand acres of forest are disappearing every hour. Experts estimate that roughly 137 species of plants, animals, or insects, are becoming extinct from deforestation every single day. That’s 50,000 species a year. Suddenly Pixar’s movie WALL-E is looking more like prophecy.
There really is so much to be studied and appreciated about this amazing part of our world. While I am not what you might consider a “tree-hugger,” the more you study, the more you realize we are on an unsustainable path and changes need to occur now, before it’s too late.
The World Wildlife Organization is doing some amazing things to work towards a sustainable future. Check out their website here: http://www.worldwildlife.org and if you feel so inclined, its worth opening your wallet.
In order to put my wallet where my mouth is, I’ve decided to donate 100% of the earnings from my novel, The Creation, to the World Wildlife Organization. We’ve got to start somewhere. Might as well start together.
For a quick intro to more facts and the world of the Amazon, check out this video below. But fair warning, turn your speakers OFF first. Unless you want to experience the true horrors of the Amazon…