16. Tropical Rainforests -- More Endangered Than Ever Before?

Sources: Z MAGAZINE, Date: May 1993, Title: "Who is Destroying the Rainforests?," Author: Susan Meeker-Lowry; GREEN MAGAZINE, Date: December 1992, Title: "The Drilling Fields," Author: Damien Lewis

SYNOPSIS: The destruction of the world's rainforests has been one of the hottest topics in the past few years. Today, "Save the Rainforest" T-shirts, posters, calendars, and bags are seen everywhere; you'll find Rainforest Crisp Cereal and Rainforest Cashew Crunch Cookies in kitchen cupboards and Ben & Jerry's Rainforest Crunch Ice Cream in the freezer; it's truly a household word. Yet, in the face of this media blitz, in late September, 1993, an Associated Press wire story reported that satellite photos show the number of fires burning in Brazil's vast Amazon rain forests has increased by nearly 50 percent over the last year.

As author Susan Meeker-Lowry points out: "A major problem with our current understanding of the plight of rainforests and their inhabitants, like anything else that gets massive amounts of mainstream media attention, is the issue is oversimplified and presented in terms that fit our own experiences, rather than the experiences of the people actually affected. 'Solutions' such as debt-for-nature swaps, harvest projects, and eco-tourism often don't amount to more than putting a Band-Aid on a deeply infected wound."

Indeed, as industrialized nations become more concerned with protecting their own environment, oil companies are. moving into deserts and rainforests in the Third World rather than accepting new environmental legislation. And, unfortunately, they're often welcome. In fact, Paul Horsman of Greenpeace points out that some countries have "drawn up new legislation to deregulate and de-legislate the oil sector, making oil exploration and production even more lucrative for foreign companies."

And who are the companies taking advantage of the Third World? In her article in Z Magazine, Meeker-Lowry names some 25 transnational corporations currently involved in various aspects of rainforest destruction.

Following are some of the U.S. based spoilers:

* Georgia-Pacific: imported tropical hardwoods from Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia;

* Alcoa: produced 1,722,000 metric tons of primary aluminum from South America, most of which came from rainforest areas;

* Amoco: exploring for oil in rainforests in the southeastern part of Colombia with Ecopetrol;

* Arco: contracted to develop nearly half a million acres of untouched rainforest for oil production in the Ecuadorian Amazon;

* Chevron: threatens forests with oil refinery at Lake Kutuba in the Southern Highlands of New Guinea;

* Exxon: exploring in Ecuador; exploring/producing in Colombia, Zaire, Indonesia, Malaysia;

* Maxus Energy: exploring/ drilling Huaorani territory (Yasuni Park) in the Oriente;

* Mobil: exploring and drilling in the Oriente; drilling in the central rainforest in Santiago Basin, Peru;

* Occidental Petroleum: exploring for oil on both sides of the Rio Napo in Quichua territory in the Ecuadorian Oriente;

* Texaco: constructed the Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline which spilled at least 16 million gallons of oil, mostly in the Oriente.

Meeker-Lowry also points out that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank play key roles in rainforest destruction.

SSU Censored Researcher: Laurie Turner

COMMENTS: Author Susan Meeker-Lowry said that despite the fact that the world's tropical rainforests have become a hot topic in the past few years, the mass media still do not tell us the extent of destruction that is continuing, and, more importantly, never give us the names of those responsible. Her story in Z Magazine did both.

Meeker-Lowry feels it is important for the public to know more about the ongoing destruction of the rainforests so that we understand the enormous impact we are having on the environment and indigenous peoples in the Third World.

Those who benefit from the limited coverage given the issue include timber, mining, and oil corporations as well as agribusiness and banking firms.

Meeker-Lowry says it's important to recognize specifically who is causing the problems and that we, as consumers, have to question the choices we make at the gas pump and elsewhere.

"Our major task lies in challenging not only the actual rainforest destroyers, but the underlying assumptions that give the destroyers license to destroy. These include belief in the necessity of unlimited economic growth, faith in the capitalist market, and the reduction of human activities and Earth's resources to purely economic terms and high-consumption lifestyles."