This page includes advice on steps we can take at home to save rainforests and biodiversity. The following tips are quotes from leading conservation scientists and biologists who conducted interviews with mongabay.com.
Tips from experts on what you can do at home to save rainforests
African conservationist Tim Davenport: How can people here in the United States help with conservation efforts in Tanzania?
Directly, they can support any of the various non-profit organizations that work in Tanzania, or even offer to assist as a volunteer. Links between towns or schools are always good ways of helping out. You would be amazed at how much can be done with a little imagination. We have a Kipunji Fund set up specifically to help us protect the Kipunji and its habitat, and many projects have similar campaigns. I would also strongly encourage people to visit Tanzania. It is an extraordinarily beautiful and diverse country with a sincerely welcoming people. It has Africa's highest mountain and deepest lake. It has the Serengeti and the Indian Ocean. An important thing to remember is to try and spend as much money locally and in-country as possible.
African conservationist Tim Davenport: Dr. Davenport talks about conserving wildlife in Tanzania, Africa's most biodiverse country.
Indirectly, I think it is extremely important that everyone helps keep the environment high on the political agenda. Future generations will not thank us for opting for quick profits now for a few, over a more sustainable and healthier future for the majority.
Amazon researcher Dr. Philip Fearnside: What can individuals do here in the United States do to protect rainforests? What about biodiversity conservation, both locally and globally?
What individuals do for rainforests ranges from giving money to worthy causes to devoting their entire life’s work to these problems. A variety of consumer options can help, such as using wood certified through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Most basic for the United States, however, is cleaning up the country’s own environmental act. With the US unwilling to stop cutting the last remnants of its virgin or “old growth” forest in the Pacific Northwest and in Alaska, calls for countries like Brazil to stop deforestation are naturally viewed as hypocritical, even though the basis of the argument for ignoring any suggestions from US sources rests on a logical fallacy: argumentum ad hominem, or attacking the man instead of the argument. Even more important is the disproportionately large US contribution to global greenhouse-gas emissions and the government’s unwillingness to commit to serious reductions of emissions. Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 was a blunder the magnitude of which any in the US seem to be blissfully unaware. Rejoining the Kyoto process and making significant cuts in emissions would help to reduce the damage that the perception of hypocrisy does to US efforts on behalf of tropical rainforests. It would also have direct benefits, since global warming is one of the major threats to rainforest in places like Amazonia.
Amazon researcher Dr. Philip Fearnside: Dr. Fearnside, an Amazon rainforest researcher in Brazil talks about the future of the Amazon.
Mexican biologist Dr. Alejandro Estrada: What can people -- both in Mexico and in the United States -- do at home to help protect Mexico's tropical forests?
One way to protect Mexico´s tropical rainforests is to be aware that they are there. These forests are the northernmost representations of the Amazonian rainforest in the continent, and are the closest rainforests to the United States. They are critically important to preserve not only because of global concerns, but because they store huge natural resources so close to us. These rainforests are also the winter home of the majority of North American song birds, and they are inhabited by indigenous people who represent an important cultural component of North America. Visiting these rainforests and supporting local conservation efforts are two activities that can help raise more public awareness and ensure the long-term conservation of these magnificent ecosystems
Mexican biologist Dr. Alejandro Estrada: Dr. Estrada talks about rainforest conservation in Mexico.
Tropical Biologist William F. Laurance: What can people do here in the United States to help preserve biodiversity both locally and globally?
Some conservation organizations, such as the Rainforest Action Network and Rainforest Alliance, are doing very good work. I'd suggest you get involved. Other groups are also very good, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and Conservation International. All of these groups really need donations to keep their missions going.
Tropical Biologist William F. Laurance: Dr. Laurance, an Amazon rainforest scholar talks about threats to rainforests.
Canopy expert Meg Lowman: What can people do at home to help conserve rainforests?
1. Educate others -- buy rain forests books for local libraries and as birthday gifts; take kids on hikes into nature; volunteer in local middle school science classes; and make science fun!
Canopy expert Meg Lowman: Dr. Lowman says that canopy research is key to understanding rainforests.
2. Shop carefully -- be mindful of products that accelerate rain forest clearing (soy, etc) and advocate for stores to include labels as to where products originated especially foods and woods.
3. Adopt a stewardship attitude in general -- buy a hybrid, ride a bike, plant trees (sounds silly but it works!), recycle, support ecotourism, support scholarships for students from developing countries (I run a foundation, www.treefoundation.org where we bring up several students each year so they can learn about the latest conservation ideas and scientific tools). And most challenging of all -- try to educate others to lower their ecological footprints.
Tropical Biologist David L. Pearson: What can people do here in the United States to help preserve biodiversity both locally and globally?
Become aware of what your economic and political power is. Don't be naive, but be optimistic. Study the facts, read books, attend workshops, listen and think critically. Vote for the people who will make rational and effective decisions, and if they aren't available, consider jumping into the decision-making process yourself. Travel, learn about and appreciate other cultures. Avoid arrogance and ignorance.
Tropical Biologist David L. Pearson: Dr. Pearson discusses global biodiversity, education, and what it takes to become a conservation scientist.
Tropical Biologist Mark J. Plotkin: What can we do at home to help conserve rainforests and indigenous cultures?
We live on an ever shrinking planet – Americans are now well aware that what happens overseas can affect us right here at home. I always encourage people to think globally, act locally – and globally! Everyone should be supporting conservation efforts right here at home – whether it is local stream clinic or the Greater Yellowstone Coaltion. And everyone should be supporting efficient and effective conservation action overseas. Our website is www.amazonteam.org.
Tropical Biologist Mark J. Plotkin: Dr. Plotkin, an ethnobotanist discusses indigenous people and the threats they face.
Dr. Ranil Senanayake: What about can the general public do to help save Sri Lanka's forests?
Support rainforest conservation through choosing products that have been certified to protect rainforest biodiversity. Influence corporations connected to rainforest destruction by not purchasing their products or shares to empower them. Support organizations working for the protection of rainforests. Interact with local organizations working on rainforest conservation on the Internet. Become aware of corporate greenwash. Demand that the organizations requesting donations set up web pages that allow you to visit the projects that you support. If possible, visit rainforests.
Dr. Ranil Senanayake: Dr. Ranil Senanayake discusses rainforest conservation in Sri Lanka
Lemur expert Charlie Welch: Is there anything people can do abroad to help save lemurs and Madagascar's wildlands? What role does eco-tourism have in conservation on the island?
The obvious is to pick out a conservation organization and perhaps a specific project, and fund raise for a donation. You can visit your local zoo, garden, or aquarium to find out if they are an MFG member – if they are, there may be ongoing projects that you could get involved in, and if they are not you could encourage them to join! The MFG web site at savethelemur.org gives current news of the work of the MFG team in Madagascar. Ecotourism is a growing industry in Madagascar, but is still in its infancy. If managed properly it can have a conservation impact by passing on the direct benefits of preserved natural lands to the local people, as well as the population as a whole.
Lemur expert Charlie Welch: Charlie Welch says that lemur conservation in Madagascar requires helping the poor.
The Mongabay Kids site (rainforests.mongabay.com/kids) aims to help children learn about rainforests and the environment. This site is still under development and I am working to add additional content as time permits. If you have comments or are interested in submitting educational content for the site, please feel free to contact me.
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