The problem and the solution of the destruction of the
rainforest are both economic. Governments need money to service their debts, squatters and settlers need money to feed their
families, and companies need to make profits. The simple fact is that the rainforest is being destroyed for the income and
profits it yields, however fleeting. Money still makes the world go around . . . even in Central America and even in the
rainforest. But this also means that if landowners, governments, and those living in the rainforest today were given a
viable economic reason not to destroy the rainforest, it could and would be saved. And this viable economic alternative
does exist, and it is starting to work today. Even with small government subsidies, the indigenous can not afford propane or gasses to cook with so they rely on the forest for their cooking.
Many organizations have demonstrated that if the medicinal plants, fruits, nuts, oils,
and other resources like rubber, chocolate, and chicle (used to make chewing gums) are harvested
land has much more economic value today and more long-term income and profits for the future than if just timber is
harvested or burned down for cattle or farming operations. In fact, the latest statistics prove that rainforest land
converted to cattle operations yields the landowner $60 per acre; if timber is harvested, the land is worth $400 per acre.
However, if medicinal plants, fruits, nuts, rubber, chocolate, and other renewable and sustainable resources are harvested,
the land will yield the landowner $2,400 per acre. This value provides an income not only today, but year after year - for
generations. These sustainable resources - not the trees - are the true wealth of the rainforest. Unfortunately, major corporations continue to purchase prime lands and sell it to foreign corporations for monoculture and evict indigenous owners off their lands still to this day.
This is no longer a theory. It is a fact, and it is being implemented today. Just as
important, to wild-harvest the wealth of sustainable rainforest resources effectively, local people and indigenous tribes
must be employed or their sustainable products allowed a market. Today entire communities and tribes earn five to ten times
more money in wild-harvesting medicinal plants, fruits, nuts, and oils than they can earn by chopping down the forest for
subsistence crops. This much-needed income source creates the awareness and economic incentive for this population in the
rainforest to protect and preserve the forests for long-term profits for themselves and their children and is an important
solution in saving the rainforest from destruction.
When the timber is harvested for short-term gain and profits, the medicinal plants, nuts,
oils, and other important sustainable resources that thrive in this delicate ecosystem are destroyed. The real solution to
saving the rainforest is to make its inhabitants see the forest and the trees by creating a consumer demand and
consumer markets for these sustainable rainforest products . . . markets that are larger and louder than today's tropical
timber market . . . markets that will put as much money in their pockets and government coffers as the timber companies do .
. . markets that will give them the economic incentive to protect their sustainable resources for long-term profits, rather
than short-term gain.
This is the only solution that makes a real impact, and it can make a real difference.
Each and every person on the Earth can take a part in this solution by helping to create this consumer market and demand
for sustainable rainforest products. By purchasing renewable and sustainable rainforest products and resources and demanding
sustainable harvesting of these resources using local communities and indigenous tribes of the rainforests, we all can be
part of the solution, and the rainforests of the world and their people can be saved.
Support and promote this basic outline for eco-tourism;
Ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)
Principles of Ecotourism
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles:
Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate.
For more information please visit The National Eco-Tourism Societies (TIES) site at http://www.ecotourism.org/
Please consider this! Ignorance is not always bliss. This is a beautiful country but there is little awareness of pollution
and the consequences. Amazing amounts of wood are burned for cooking, throwing trash in the river or on the ground is not
even given a second thought. That is because they know no better. With an education it is possible to slowly change this
lack of knowing. Sewage, burning plastics, littering, chopping anything burnable, eating endangered animals, allowing food
animals to run free in homes is standard living conditions in rural villages. What they do not see like bacteria does not
exist so the concept of sanitation is alien to them. You should try to explain it to them sometime, it is not easy!
There is a decent education system here but it is not required or free. Employment here is scarce so education takes a back seat to
survival unless some intervention is put in place. I can help here. With your donations I can send a kid to school and
email you information on that child. The cost is approximately $125.00 U.S. for a year with books, clothes and various needs. That is all that they need to
attend. I have also had teachers that created class projects in supporting the schools here by fund raising. Emails can be
sent from that class to one here via mediator and the results can be incredible! Email me
firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested and would like more information.
Start public awareness projects
If you are a teacher or any person with the capability to organize groups, find volunteers to help clean a specified area.
Then look for sponsors to provide trash pick up, drinks, food, entertainment etc. Reward people for helping and you will find they may maintain it and take pride in it! If the work will
benefit local business owners as well as the earth, everyone will benefit. Here in Guatemala, it is normal to throw trash on the ground or in the water,
the adults don't know any better, it is normal, and they will not change unless they see a personal benefit. There is no "Don't be a litterbug"
campaign and it is the children who will make a difference. The children who can make their parent think twice. And with a little encouragement it will count in the long run!
Support the Arts
The need for survival in Guatemala is apparent in many facets. Most of what you will see in your rural travels pertains to
fulfilling basic needs for day to day living and the arts do not play a role in that. If you visit more tourist traveled
places, you will see more of the beautiful arts and crafts from the traditional Mayan heritage. But in the rural areas, that
has yet to become an alternative to ecologically destructive farming. The only time traditional crafts emerge in rural area
is religious holidays or days that tourism may have a peak. For this reason many traditional crafts are not being taught to
younger generations with a couple exceptions where intervention is being placed (see Ak' Tenamit).
Manufacturing in the Mayan world differs largely from western cultures in that consumer goods are independently produced
on a small scale in the Mayan world whereas in western cultures the manufacturing is consolidated [in factories].
Family run enterprises and even individual entrepreneurial initiatives are quite popular means for earning a living especially
in geographic areas that have absolutely no industrialization what so ever. Other than farming there are no other means of
making a living other than producing some form of marketable product.
To this end tourism plays a large part in the economy of the Mayan world because many products are created simply for this
market. These goods also find there way into stores all over the world and exporting plays a large roll. So if you see
vendors selling traditional arts and crafts, PLEASE consider a gift for a friend or loved one, but at all costs avoid
ancient relics as they are protected and you WILL be prosecuted. It IS important to support the traditional ways of the
local people, so marvel and enjoy.
There are a
few simple things at home that you can do to help save to
the easiest thing you could do. Avoid using bottles in Guatemala because there is no redemption program
available yet and
recycling is usually done by breaking the bottles and using them as a barbed wire approach to the tops of walls. If you
have cans, try to bring them to your local recycling center. While traveling that can be difficult if not impossible, so try
to locate places that have water purification systems that can refill your bottles or drink fresh juices! The more we
recycle the less demand there is for trees to be cut.
Utilize public transportation or walk!
In Central America, the chicken busses may not be the most luxurious, but
there are alternatives to those too. Keeping the solution in mind though does
make 26 people packed in a van with chickens or a pig next to you on a hot day
a little more justifiable.
wood forces poor nations to cut forests. Things made of tropical
hardwoods (furniture, doors, etc.) may hurt the rainforests. See if
the wood is marked as cut from "sustainable" forests - those are ones
that are planted, harvested and replanted for commercial use.
products made from ivory, coral, reptile skins, tortoise shells, or
cat pelts - help protect the endangered species of the rainforest.
If you see a vendor selling animal products such as iguana or turtle eggs or wild animals for food,
don't buy from them and encourage them by supporting the sale of that animal.
DO buy nuts,
cookies and cereals made from rainforest products. It gives farmers
there a reason to KEEP the trees & plants and not cut them down
for other crops.
A lot of beef
used in fast food hamburgers comes from places where rainforests were
cut (and continue to be cut) to make grazing land for cattle. Ask
next time you buy a burger if they know where their beef was
raised... you might educate them as well as yourself!
paper. If you have room on a sheet of paper to write more on it, use
that sheet instead of getting another one. If you only need to write
a little bit, don't use a big sheet of paper. Use a sheet of smaller
paper, or if you have large scrap paper, rip off a piece.
Support and/or donate to bio-friendly establishments and people who are trying to better
the people of the area and doing their part in protecting the rainforest like
ARCAS (www.arcasguatemala.com) animal rescue and conservtion,
and organizations like
Ak' Tenemet (aktenamit.org) telephone: 59084358 or 59083392 email email@example.com,
Jade Guatemala (www.proyectojade.com.gt) telephone: (502) 24408138 or 24407452 these people provide support for some of the groups who qualify here (the others are still waiting for their support),
, Rainforest Action Network. I DO recommend that you research the place you decide
to contribute to, (first hand when possible) because some places have been established with the proper intentions, and people
change and the destinations for the proceeds do as well. A popular scam is where local children are lured from distant villages with the promise to parents of food, lodging and education and it is more for appearance and sympathy for more donations and the children see very little of what is donated. These are but a few of the ones that I know personally that still
walk the walk and talk the talk.
Volunteer your services in some way. That could be physically, or by educating,
coordinating benefits, the ways are limitless. There are many agencies in Antigua that can guide you in a direction that
fits your strengths that you may not even realize could help. It is my hopes that you all keep in mind that many people wish
the abundance of material things that many of us grew up with. Realize that several generations of people lived under a
regime that only taught the rape and destruction of this land and that is all they know. Many
families have television now
and see that abundance which they would like to have. But for each new change that is made, an old way has to be abandoned.
I feel it is important to re-establish the good parts of the original heritage and to show the indigenous people the
benefits of that in a modern society.
If you have educational materials, computers, pencils, paper, audio visual
equipment, instructional DVD's, health care
items, clothing, children's sunglasses, tools, etc. Please contact me and I can tell you how to get them here. My goal is
working with existing projects as well as establishing a community center/visitors center where all can benefit. The land is
already available and partially developed in a beautiful location not far from Rio Dulce where people can stay or just come
to visit, learn and experience first hand this incredible place.
Try to buy
things that are made out of recycled items. If there is an item with
an unreasonable amount of wrapping, don't buy it.
watch the news... sometimes boycotts are organized to avoid using a
product because it hurts the rainforests... support those boycotts
and make a difference.
to your elected officials - senators, congressman (in the USA) may be
voting on bills that affect the rainforests. Ask them what their
stand is on rainforests.
of Asia and the Americas