Breakfast of Biodiversity

We split the book in half and I did the first half of the book, which was good because I spent a month in Costa Rica on a course about sustainability so it was nice to be able to read about that after being there myself.  I really liked the book despite it not being the easiest of reads.  There was a whole lot of information but it was pretty interesting and informative.  I have selected a few things from the first part of the book to discuss, followed by a few questions for the class to discuss.

-Tropical rain forests cover only about 7% of the earth’s surface but are home to more than half of all the plant and animal species of the world.  They are also home to a large percentage of the plants used to make medicine.  These attributes point to the necessity of the rainforest.  Here is a picture of un-photogenic Charlie in one of the rain forests of Costa Rica

-Something I found interesting over the summer and was mentioned in the first half of the book is that corn fields in Iowa or wherever have much more nutrients than the soil in rain forests.  Most people think of the rain forest as a very lush environment where anything can grow but they forget that so many plants just leach out all of the nutrients from the soil.  This is why farming in areas that used to be rain forests is so hard to do.

-It is pretty amazing how much the banana has hurt the rain forests.  The Standard Fruit Company and the United Fruit Company did anything and everything to secure land in these countries and even used the CIA to make sure that the governments of these countries give them land, tax breaks, and anything else that they desire.  When I was in Costa Rica we drove past some of the banana and palm plantations and they are very crazy looking because of the monoculture that is being used.  I think this picture is of a palm plantation but it could just as easily be a banana plantation.

-The next part of the book that caught my eye was when the author talks about some of the ways that people can practice sustainable farming in areas like this and this caught my eye because our group went to an integrated farm like this.  The book points out that the crops should be rotated based on where the strongest and weakest soils are and then using specific plants, such as clover, which is a nitrogen fixer, in the places with weaker soils.  The farm that we went to was great because it was a fully functioning farm within a tropical rain forest.  The farmers had just received the government ok or whatever as an organic farm.  Apparently this takes about a year to achieve and now they can sell to Americans who have “gone green” and are able to get a lot more for their products now.  Here are a couple of pictures from this farm.

-The next thing that caught my ever-wandering eye was the part about the technology that has led to what we consider to be modern farming in the developed world.  It is pretty hard to believe how much something like DDT was used on crops without really looking at the long term effects of this pesticide and it really shows that while the developed world has access to more ways to farm, it does not always come up with the best result.

Questions to Consider: 1.  What are some ways to stop or at least slow down the loss of rain forests worldwide?  2.  Should people spend the time and effort necessary to make these changes before the rain forests disappear forever?  3.  Is a cheap price for bananas worth the loss of so much of the world’s rain forests and if not then why do people continue to buy bananas from these companies that are promoting the destruction of the world’s rain forests.

I, for one, feel that the loss of rain forests is a very big deal not only because of the loss of all the species of plants and animals, loss of potential pharmaceutical products, loss of carbon dioxide changers, but also because they are extremely beautiful places to visit.  Even in Costa Rican parks, which swarm with American and British tourists year-round, the beauty of the place is really breathtaking and this piece of how it was should be preserved for all future generations.

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