How many lives could be saved by cutting down the Amazon rainforest?


The New York Times reported yesterday that the Amazonian rainforest was being cut down, but unfortunately not at a fast enough rate. That's because cutting down the rainforest actually saves lives.

First ask yourself who is cutting down the rainforest and why? According to the Times, it is because of evil agribusinesses plotting to make food for human beings:

According to Mighty Earth’s analysis, the Brazilian savanna areas in which Cargill operates, a region called the Cerrado, saw more than 321,000 acres of deforestation between 2011 and 2015. Mighty Earth also linked Bunge, the other agricultural giant, to more than 1.4 million acres from 2011 to 2015... farmers described what they called Cargill’s push to increase its purchases of locally produced soy and its attempts to enhance bonds with local producers.

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A major culprit is the cultivation of soy, which has jumped more than 500 percent in Bolivia since 1991, to 3.8 million hectares in 2013, according to the most recent agricultural censuses. Little of that soy is consumed domestically. The vast majority is processed and exported as animal feed in a commodities trade that serves a global appetite for hamburgers, chicken and pork.

“There’s a lot of pressure for economic development,” Ms. Ascarrunz said. “When resources are flowing, production is happening and people have work. It’s very hard to argue with that.”

Additionally, some of the area is being used for ranches to raise cattle.

What happens when the supply of cheap feed for cattle, and the supply of cattle itself, increases radically?

The price of beef comes down. Millions of poor people around the world don't have access to beef because it is too expensive. In America steak in supermarkets is between $10 and $15 a pound, and even chopped beef is between $5 and $7 a pound. It's even more expensive in Europe.

What happens when the price of steak comes down to $2 a pound? What happens when the price of chicken and the price of beef comes down to $1 a pound? It becomes tremendously more affordable. In developed countries, middle class and poor people can eat more of it. In poor countries, people who have no access to it can get beef perhaps for the first time in their lives.

The same goes for fruits and vegetables.Why should an orange cost more than a dollar? It's all a matter of supply and demand.

If large portions of the Amazon were cut down and turned into farmland, the price of fruits, vegetables and beef would plummet. People all around the world would have a better standard of living and their health would improve, especially in the third world.

Furthermore, diseases endemic to the jungle, like malaraia, and parasites, like the footlong worm that grows inside your body, would be reduced by cutting down the rainforest.

People typically object to cutting down the rainforest for two reasons:

1) What about the medicines! They act like thousands of Sean Conneries from "Medicine Man" are bringing new medicines out of the rainforest every day made of termite dung and mosquito paste. The reality is that most drugs are synthesized artificially, and even if the Amazonian rainforest was cut down there would still be many jungles around the world for researchers to explore the healing properties of termite dung.

2) What about the animals! If you cut down the rainforest, where will the animals live? The answer: somewhere else. People seem to conveniently forget that Manhattan and Los Angeles were teeming with animal species before people moved there and paved it over from end to end with concrete. Where did the animals go? Somewhere else. Have a look at a current satellite image of New York State

You'll find it's mostly green. As in forests. Most of the landmass of the world is unoccupied. it's simply that big. There is plenty of space for animals.

I'm not advocating cutting down all the Amazonian rainforest. But I am advocating more development of farms and ranches to lift the living standards of everyone on the globe. But instead of treating the development of more food resources as something to celebrate, the Times sees it as an ecological disaster.

Just ask yourself how many lives could be saved if the cost of food was radically driven down and food became ubiquitous globally?



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