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Filla Krzysztof

POLISH WHY WE WILL NOT SAVE
THE RAINFORESTS?





Published: 11.03.2024.     download e-book:   PDF EPUB MOBI





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PREFACE

A few years ago, I talked to some naturalists who were familiar with the topic of rainforests and who knew the subject from both the theoretical and empirical sides. They told me that these ancient forests are doomed to extinction, no matter what we do. Their pessimism and defeatism aroused both my surprise and indignation at such an approach to the topic. Today, with the perspective of time, I agree with them, and I will try to present examples and reasons on the basis of which I came to the same conclusions. I emphasise that this is only my private opinion based on the knowledge and observations I have acquired. I want to share my experiences and thoughts from various fields of life and apply them in response to the question of why, in my opinion, rainforests are doomed to extinction. In the text, I give examples of human behaviour, and I do not mean any specific people, but only refer to the phenomena that occur. I would also like to keep the childish hope that I am wrong in my analysis, but my conclusions do not give much illusion for the salvation of these wonders of nature. In addition, I realise that some readers may not be familiar with the topic of tropical forests or natural processes. Therefore, I will try to briefly and simply present the topics that may be obvious to some. And finally, please note that some situations I describe here are from the point of view of a Polish person.



THE UNIQUENESS OF RAINFORESTS

I remember how, in 2010, for the first time, I immersed myself in the dense foliage and trees of the Malaysian jungle along the Kinabatang River. This river flows, meandering through the northeastern part of the island called enigmatically Borneo, which is the third largest in the world. In the past, the uniqueness of this island was described by famous travellers and scientists, such as naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who, with his discoveries and insight, matched Charles Darwin. All these researchers and explorers agreed that Borneo is one of the most diverse natural places on earth, with many endemic organisms that is, those that do not occur anywhere else in the world and are limited only to one island and even to one isolated valley. You can meet, among others, human-like monkeys orangutans and their cousins, proboscis monkeys with long noses and even longer tails, carnivorous plants, glowing mushrooms, insects, and countless microorganisms. The isolation of islands at an appropriate distance and time from other land masses favours the adaptation of newly arrived organisms to the new conditions. As a result, this isolation and adaptation can gradually lead to transformation into different subspecies or even completely separate species. All this happens to a greater or lesser extent depending on the local geographical or climatic factors as well as the appropriate time scale. For example, species diversity is one of the criteria used by scientists to estimate the age of the island. One can argue which of the islands is the most diverse in these organisms that are not found anywhere else, but one thing is certain: a trip to such a primary ecosystem is for the imagination of a traveller like a journey to another world, to another planet, or even a journey in time.

Rainforests have been developing continuously since the emergence of the first forms of life on solid land, and their current form has been teeming with life for about 130 million years. For comparison, the geographical latitude where I live, central Europe, began its current process of assembling the ecosystem after the retreat of the ice age, that is, about 11-12 thousand years ago. These are time scales that are unimaginable and incomprehensible to most of us. To present them on some graphical scale, allowing us to imagine such a time interval, let's agree that one year is represented by a section of 10 cm. We get on a bike, and the period of 11 thousand years will give us a distance of 1.1 kilometres to travel. Then, to go on our time scale to the peak of the dinosaur era and the flourishing of the tropics, we would have to ride our bike a distance of 13 thousand kilometres it's like setting off from Lisbon in Portugal to Vladivostok on the eastern coast of Russia. These two sections on the time scale seem incomparable and illustrate the extraordinary history of these unique forests.
Due to the fact that they were not destroyed by the Ice Age, this continuity of existence, in combination with geological changes and a constant year-round supply of solar energy (12 hours for 365 days a year), allowed to evolve countless genes, organic compounds, organisms, and coexisting ecosystems. As a result, it led to the emergence of the prehistoric cradle of humanity (biblical paradise) with a whole bunch of other species, which to this day treat the equatorial forest as their home, including seasonally migrating species from south to north, such as "our Polish" cuckoos or skylarks.

Currently, most of us no longer live there, but our existence as humans is almost completely dependent on them. The functions they perform are only being discovered by scientists, such as regulating the earth's climate or the chemical composition of the atmosphere. This countless diversity of molecular substances contained in various plants or fungi contains equivalents of medical substances for all known and unknown diseases that will appear in the unforeseen future. It is worth noting that less than one percent of the discovered plants have been tested for pharmacological properties. Many of the newly discovered species are still waiting to be named, and even more are waiting to be discovered.
For example, there are approximately 150,000 discovered species of fungi known to us, most of which occur in the tropics, but according to biologists-mycologists, the true number ranges from 2.2 to 3.8 million. Another example may be trees, of which we have catalogued 53,000 species from all latitudes, of which 50,000 grow in the torrid zone. A similar situation applies to other groups of organisms that are less visible to the naked eye, which live mainly in the inaccessible canopies of trees in the equatorial forest or in the layers of the earth, and I do not even mention the depths of the ocean or the dying reefs. We literally live on the so-called Terra Incognita an unknown and unexplored planet. How else to call it when the number of all discovered species up to date is 2 million and the actual number according to scientific consensus is about 20 million, and some bolder estimates suggest even 100 million. I think that would be quite possible before cutting down all the primary forests.

Rainforests are part of a complex planetary network of interdependencies; they are a very important element of the machine that creates this delicate balance, thanks to which life on our planet is possible. Our own species, especially over the last centuries, along with population growth, develops proportionally both geophysical and technological ability to disrupt this balance, which in turn leads to deterioration of the quality of life and ultimately, in the perspective of time, to its partial annihilation. No one who has common sense and lives with his family on a high branch of a tree will take a saw in his hand and start cutting it? And yet, as a species, against reason, we do exactly the same, cutting the branch on which we live.


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Text: Krzysztof Filla

Date: 11.03.2024



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