Ecoagriculture describes the process of cultivating land that both supports the production of agriculture as well as promotes biodiversity. It is highly beneficial to rural communities as it can yield a good amount of agricultural products while still maintaining and even increasing the fruitfulness of the soil and plant life. In order for ecoagriculture to be implemented successfully, a high amount of biodiversity must be used. Biodiversity is the amount of variation of life forms in a given environment. Biodiversity is largely used as a measure of the health of a given ecosystem and one with a high degree of biodiversity is thought to be extremely advantageous.
On the other hand, ecosystems with poor biodiversity are generally considered to be unwell. Historically, humans have shown to be detrimental to biodiversity as we have destroyed a great number of natural ecosystems and have greatly harmed the biodiversity of many existing ecosystems. One need not look further than our destruction of the Amazonian rainforests to see our impact on the world.
Ecoagriculture modifies the ecology of a region by increasing biodiversity, which in turn contributes to cleaner water. This is because different plant life acts as a sort of buffer in order to decrease runoff into the water supply.
Runoff occurs when water travels over the surface of the land and into other water supplies such as rivers, lakes, or oceans. The water travelling over the land collects soil and even harmful pollutants and they are then sent to the water supply. A very positive side effect of biodiversity is that it decreases runoff by creating buffer zones in which the water is collected and stopped. Also, the increased diversity of plant life ensures that there are less harmful properties in the soil and also that there are no weak spots where surface runoff can still occur. This is why biodiversity has proven to be extremely helpful to the prevention of water pollution.
Biofuel technologies can threaten agriculture in a number of ways. First of all, it decreases biodiversity. Because biofuels would have to be produced on such a large scale, trying to incorporate biodiversity on these land plots where the biofuel materials would be grown is unrealistic. This lack of biodiversity would harm the water supply because runoff would increase greatly. Furthermore, there is a great food vs. fuel debate which arises from the great possibility that implementing biofuels would greatly decrease our food production simply because there is not enough fertile soil to grow both types of agriculture. This tradeoff has its obvious benefits and detriments and there are strong supporters for both sides. Some people are now supporting technologies that would produce waste biomass, which could actually use the waste of agricultural production to create biofuel, thereby enhancing agricultural production in and of itself. Furthermore, because there are so many options for biofuel, biodiversity could be implemented by growing several sources of biofuel. This biodiversity would then decrease runoff and make sure the soil does not become depleted of nutrients.
Africa has a long history of drought and famine. Scientists recently studying the history of drought in Africa have found that over the past centuries, this continent has experienced by far the worst droughts among all the regions. The land has proven to be largely barren also, as the nutrients have been depleted for the most part. Global warming and climate change in general is expected to have a great impact on Africa because the region is so prone to drought already, that any change will only exacerbate the problem. Many of Africa's residents are suffering from poverty and starvation resulting from this long history of drought.
Environmentally-related conflict occurs in a number of situations when countries try to vie for scarce resources. This has been seen in many wars over the course of history as one nation will try to gain advantage by obtaining more resources in the form of land, livestock, people, crops, or all of them together. For example, some nations conflict with others because they do not have nutrient rich soil in order to grow crops and sustain their people. Others conflict because they are not able to gain access to a good water supply. As well all know, water is highly important in sustaining life; both human and otherwise. Looming large is the possibility of climate change. Many researchers and scientists have noticed a trend of global warming and have publicly warned the world's population that unless drastic measures are taken, our future is bleak. Climate change could end up causing these scarce resources to become even scarcer. People who once had sufficient resources will start to realize them decreasing and the possibility for conflict with other nations will greatly increase as each population tries to support themselves. Furthermore, the population of the world is increasing, which means that by the time global climate change starts becoming a large problem, the world's population will be so large that conflict will be inevitable.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a large area of trash that has collected in the Pacific ocean in a gyre. It has recently gained much public attention as people all around the world have started realizing the effects of our littering and the impacts it can have on our environment. The size of this patch is extremely large and the garbage is clumped very closely together. Estimates at the size of this patch have varied from twice the size of Texas, to larger than the continental United States. The reports on the size of it vary so much because the specific boundaries are hard to measure and are largely subjective. The patch has a great level of plastics which have broken down to harmful polymers, chemical sludge, and other debris. A great deal of this litter has been albatrosses. The garbage can also absorb organic pollution, such as DDT which, when ingested by wildlife, can be mistaken by the body and cause hormone disruption. Humans are even affected by this garbage patch. Many jellyfish consume the toxins. These jellyfish are eaten by fish which are in turn eaten by humans.
The Amazonian rainforest is one of extremely high biodiversity and is known to be one of the most diverse biomes on the entire planet. That being said, it has had a very dynamic history full of environmental change, spurred by both natural changes in the climate and by negative human impact. The rainforest is reported to have originally formed in the Eocene era, tens of millions of years ago. The region did not contain any savannah-type biomes until the most recent ice age. Following the extinction of dinosaurs, the wetter climate allowed the rainforest to spread across the region to become larger than ever before. Even during the glacial periods, the rainforest was able to stay relatively strong, allowing for the evolution and sustaining of a wide variety of species, both animal and plant. There is a belief among scientists that plant life changed greatly over the last 20,000 years. Studying the possibility of hunting patterns to sustain a human, it is estimated the Amazon rainforest could only sustain one fifth of a person for every square kilometer. Therefore, for any realistic possibility of living in the rainforest, agriculture would be necessary. Access to the rainforest was highly restricted prior to 1960, however human impact after this period has been considerable. Most farmers who came to the Amazon used the slash and burn technique. However, farmers soon found that maintaining these farms was a difficult task simply because weed invasion was prevalent and the soil only maintained its fertility for so long. After a short period, the farmers would have to move on to another plot in order to continue their farming successfully, thereby destroying more rainforest. The deforestation caused a great deal of environmental damage as well. Most of land lost since the deforestation occurring since the 1960s is used for cattle pasture. Because Brazil is the second largest soy bean producer in the entire world, the plight of soy formers has been used to justify much of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Two freeways were even established in the Amazon, which largely increased deforestation and human settlement in the rainforest.
Obviously, environmentalists strongly oppose this deforestation. Although the rate of deforestation has been declining since 2004, it remains a large problem. This deforestation has been shown to cause a drop in the biodiversity of the Amazon, and the cleared areas of land are even visible from space. Another problem environmentalists have identified is the carbon release from the burning of plants, which contributes to global warming. In order to solve the problem of deforestation, it is my opinion that the value of these rainforests should be taken advantage. For example, there are several thousands of plant and animal species that have still yet to be identified in the Amazon rainforest. Many of these plants have medicinal qualities. If we continue to destroy these rainforests, we may never get to test what benefits these plants have before they are extinct. Furthermore, one hectare of rainforest is calculated to yield over $6,000 if sustainably harvested for fruit, timber, and latex, however only $1,000 if unsustainably harvested. One hectare is worth less than $150 if used for cow pasture.
Projectamazonas.com is a very interesting website. On their pages, they discuss the importance of preserving the Amazonian rainforests. I believe that their mission is very respectable and important to the world at large. The explanations they give for why we should save the rainforests and how we should do it line up very well with my personal beliefs. They believe that the Amazon has a great amount of untapped potential that many people don't realize. As stated in activity 3, there are many plants which offer medicinal benefits that have yet to be utilized. Global warming in and of itself could destroy the rainforest, even if humans stop deforestation altogether. That is why it is important to start experimenting with these plants as soon as possible. The work of projectamazonas.com is divided up into five distinct categories: education, conservation, research, community, and medical care. The website's founders believe that education is highly important. First of all, educating oneself about the rainforests allows them to fully understand the problems affecting it. Furthermore, knowing the rainforest also makes clear the advantages of saving it. Without understanding why we should be concerned about the rainforest, one cannot be as fully passionate about the specific cause. This education should not only occur in the United States, but we should also work to education the Peruvian citizens about the rainforest. We should understand how they wish to utilize the rainforest and live alongside it as well. A mutual learning must occur among conservationists and the people of Peru in order to reach an agreed upon goal of saving the rainforest. The second category, conservation discusses the efforts that projectamazonas.com endorses for the benefit of the rainforests. The website describes that not only should our conservation efforts be focused purely on the rainforests, but also on conservation in our daily lives. This includes things such as avoiding unnecessary use, eliminating waste, and using more renewable resources. They stress that it is important that the Amazonian people use the rainforest in such a way that it is available for future generations in the same manner. Research is also an explained area that we must hold in high regard. Without research, we would not be able to educate people about the Amazon rainforest. Projectamazonas.com has research locations set up in the rainforest and provides grants for Peruvian students to take advantage of in order to further the research efforts in the Amazon. The website also acknowledges that it is unrealistic to think that we can create a rainforest free from human inhabitation. One section stresses the importance of providing the community with knowledge and resources in order to help them. This is not only for the sake of the rainforest, but also for the sake of humanitarianism and helping some of the underprivileged members of the Amazon. The final area, medical care, ties into the education and community efforts. It is important to provide sufficient medical supplies and training to those living in the Peruvian rainforest, specifically the more remote areas. This is because they have poor health care in these areas and it is important to educate them in the proper ways to treat themselves for the sake of sustainability. I really like this website, and respect their efforts of combining humanitarian and environmental solutions to the problems faced by the Amazon rainforest.