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Editor’s note: Through a special arrangement with the producers of
the television newsmagazine American Investigator, WorldNetDaily brings
you this exclusive news report. Part one of this two-part series focuses
on questions about the scientific integrity of environmentalists. The
series concludes tomorrow in WorldNetDaily.

By Marc Morano and Kent Washburn

© 2000, WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.

Patrick Moore became an instant celebrity in 1977 when a photograph
showing him cradling a baby seal in defiance of arrest by Canadian
authorities was broadcast around the world.

As the front man for the environmental activist group Greenpeace, he
helped turn public opinion around on the high-profile issues of whaling,
seal hunting, nuclear power and chemical pollution.

Today the environmental scientist and leader of a group called
Greenspirit has a new cause — alerting the public to what he calls the
“myth” that the Amazon rainforest is endangered by development and
deforestation.

“The Amazon is actually the least endangered forest in the world,”
states Moore in American Investigator’s television newsmagazine
documentary, “Clear-cutting the myths,” hosted by former CBS and CNN
newsman Reid Collins. Moore explains that, in the 20 years of warnings
about deforestation, “only 10 percent of the Amazon has been converted
to date from what was original forest to agriculture and settlement.”

The finding that the Amazon rainforest threat is a myth based on bad
science and political agendas — especially by unlikely critics such as
Moore, other scientists and inhabitants of the region — is not expected
to sit well with a movement that has enlisted schoolchildren throughout
the United States and celebrities ranging from Sting to Alec Baldwin to
Chevy Chase to Tom Jones and Tony Bennett. And which has also raised
tens of millions of dollars for environmental activist groups.

“This is where I really have a problem with modern-day
environmentalism,” says Moore. “It confuses opinion with what we know to
be true, and disguises what are really political agendas with
environmental rhetoric. The fact of the matter is: There is a larger
percentage of the Amazon rain forest intact than there are most other
forests in this world.”

Moore left Greenpeace, the organization he helped found, in 1986,
after finding himself at odds with other leaders of the group.

“We had already helped the world turn the corner on the environmental
issues,” he said. “Once a majority agrees with you, its time to stop
beating them over the head and sit down with them and try to figure out
some solutions.”

Yet, the notion that the Amazon jungles are threatened remains
embedded in the popular culture:

  • The 1993 animated feature, “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest,”
    takes the Amazon’s mystical charm literally, showing magical rainforest
    fairies fighting for their lives against industrialist’s chainsaws and
    bulldozers.

  • National Geographic’s “Rainforest: Heroes of the High Frontier”
    warns that “despite efforts to save it, the rainforest is being consumed
    at an unprecedented rate.”

  • “Amazonia: A Celebration of Life” shows playful jungle animals
    being rudely awakened to the sound of chainsaws.

  • The 1992 Sean Connery feature “Medicine Man” shows Connery
    discovering the cure for cancer at his makeshift lab in the heart of a
    burning Amazon rainforest. He loses the cure when developers raze his
    facility in order to build a road.

Environmental groups from Greenpeace to the Sierra Club to the
World Wilderness Foundation to the Environmental Defense Fund to the
Smithsonian Institution conduct outreach efforts in the name of the
rainforest. Dozens of other groups with names like Rainforest Relief,
Rainforest Action Network and Rainforest Foundation were created for the
sole purpose of exploiting the issue.

A tourist to Brazil who picks up a “Lonely Planet” travel book will
read numerous pleas for help: “Unless things change … Indians will die
with their forests,” it pleads. “Invaluable, irreplaceable Amazon may be
lost forever.”

“Lonely Planet” has company on the bookshelf: “At the current rate
of deforestation,” Vice President Gore writes in “Earth in the Balance,”
“Virtually all of the world’s tropical rainforests will be gone partway
though the next century.”

The scientific evidence paints a much brighter picture of
deforestation in the Amazon. Looking at the NASA Landsat satellite
images of the deforestation rates in the Amazon rainforest, about 12.5
percent has been cleared. Of the 12.5 percent, one half to one third of
that is fallow, or in the process of regeneration, meaning that at any
given moment up to 94 percent of the Amazon is left to nature. Even the
Environmental Defense Fund and Sting’s Rainforest Foundation concede,
among the fine print, that the forest is nearly 90 percent intact.

Philip Stott of the University of London and author of the new book,
“Tropical Rainforests: Political and Hegemonic Myth-making,” maintains
that the environmental campaigns have lost perspective.

“One of the simple, but very important, facts is that the rainforests
have only been around for between 12,000 and 16,000 years,” he says.
“That sounds like a very long time, but in terms of the history of the
earth, it’s hardly a pinprick. The simple point is that there are now
still — despite what humans have done — more rainforests today than
there were 12,000 years ago.”

Moore maintains that “the rainforests of the Amazon, the Congo,
Malaysia, Indonesia and a few other parts of the world are the least
endangered forests” because “they are the least suitable for human
habitation.”

Despite the Amazon being at least 87.5 percent intact, many claims
abound as to how fast the forest is being cleared.

In “Amazonia,” the narrator intones that “in the brief amount of time
it takes to watch this film, roughly 400,000 acres of forest will have
been cleared.” Ruy de Goes of Greenpeace Brazil says in the last four
years “an area the size of France was destroyed.”

Actor William Shatner in a National Geographic documentary claims
that worldwide, “Rainforest is being cleared at a rate of 20 football
fields a minute.” Rainforest Action Network says the Amazon is being
deforested at a rate of eight football fields a minute. Tim Keating of
Rainforest Relief says that the deforestation can be measured in
seconds. “It may be closer to two to three football fields a second,”
says Keating.

When de Goes of Greenpeace Brazil is confronted with the disparity in
numbers regarding these football fields, he replies, “The numbers are
not important, what is important is that there is huge destruction going
on.”

However, Moore says that the only way such huge numbers are generated
is by using double accounting. “You would have cleared 50 times the size
of the Amazon already if accurate.”

Luis Almir, of the state of Amazonas in Brazil calculated using five
football fields a minute and concludes sarcastically that if the numbers
were correct, “we would have a desert bigger than the Sahara.”

Another familiar claim of the environmentalist community is that the
Amazon constitutes the “lungs of the earth,” supplying one-fifth of the
world’s oxygen. But, according to Antonio Donato Nobre of INPE, and
other eco-scientists, the Amazon consumes as much oxygen as it produces,
and Stott says it may actually be a net user of oxygen.

“In fact, because the trees fall down and decay, rainforests actually
take in slightly more oxygen than they give out,” says Stott. “The idea
of them soaking up carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen is a myth. It’s
only fast-growing young trees that actually take up carbon dioxide.”

Stott maintains that the tropical forests of the world are “basically
irrelevant” when it comes to regulating or influencing global weather.
He explains that the oceans have a much greater impact.

“Most things that happen on land are mere blips to the system,
basically insignificant,” he says.

Many environmentalists claim that tens of thousands of species are
being driven to extinction every year because of the destruction of
tropical forests like the Amazon:

  • A video called “Amazonia Celebration” states in dire tones:
    “We alone will have to bear the blame for the greatest mass extinction
    since the disappearing of the dinosaur some 60 million years ago.”

  • “An average of 35 species becomes extinct every day” as a result
    of deforestation, says Rainforest Action Network.

  • “30,000 species per year,” or 83 per day, says the “Hall of
    Biodiversity” website.

  • Al Gore in “Earth in the Balance” writes of “100 extinctions each
    day.”

  • Rainforest Relief’s Keating weighs in with a hefty “450 species
    lost per day.”

Most of these estimates are rooted in the research of Harvard’s
Edward O. Wilson, featured by Time magazine as an environmental “hero”
in its special Earth Day 2000 edition. In the accompanying article,
Wilson argues passionately to stem the tide of extinctions “now 100 to
1,000 times as great as it was before the coming of humanity” –
neglecting to mention that his estimates of 50,000 extinctions per year
are based on his own computer models.

“There is no scientific basis for saying that 50,000 species are
going extinct,” says Greenspirit’s Moore. “I want a list of Latin
species.”

Moore maintains no one can name these species that are said to be
going extinct.

“The only place you can find them is in Edward O. Wilson’s computer
at Harvard University. They’re actually electrons on a hard drive,”
Moore states.

When asked if he can name a single species of the 50,000 that are
said to go extinct, Keating admits: “No we cannot, because we don’t know
what those species are.”

Moore is flabbergasted by such statements.

“You’re telling me that I’m supposed to prove that those species
didn’t go extinct when they’re not there anymore and we never knew they
were there in the first place?” Moore asks rhetorically. “That’s
impossible. I don’t know how Wilson can truck out the number 50,000 and
keep a straight face.”

Stott agrees that the focus on species loss is misguided from a
scientific point of view.

“The earth has gone through many periods of major extinctions, some
much bigger, let me emphasize, than even being contemplated today and
99.9999 percent (of all species) and I wouldn’t know the repeating
decimal have gone extinct. Extinction is a natural process,” he
asserts.

Another claim the environmental movement makes is that fires are
destroying the Amazon. The late 1980s are generally regarded as record
seasons for burning in the Amazon, inspiring books with titles such as
“Decade of Destruction,” “Green Fires: Assault on Eden” and even the
1994 Hollywood film, “The Burning Season.”

In recent years, it was reported that fires in the late 1990s equaled
or even surpassed those of the peak “burning season” of the ’80s. The
Woods Hole Research Institute maintains that up to half of the Amazon
rainforest is “a tinderbox about to go up in flames.”

Moore counters: “To say that half of the Amazon rainforest is going
to go up in smoke is just crazy. Of course it’s not. That’s completely
ridiculous and extremist. But, let’s say a large portion of the
rainforest burned. The next thing that will happen is it will grow back
again.”

A 1995 study backs up Moore. The scientists concluded: “The
incidence of burning cannot be taken as a direct indicator of
deforestation rates.” By combining satellite data, on-site visit
information, and years of topographic data, the researchers concluded
that most of the new fires were not being set to deforest new tracts of
forest. Rather, they were lit to keep already cleared areas from
growing back.

The 1994 feature film “The Burning Season” features Raul Julia as
Chico Mendes, shouting, “This soil is useless!” at chainsaw-wielding
loggers. “You can’t even grow weeds in this soil! This land is no good
once the trees are gone!” A World Wildlife Fund documentary called
“Amazonia: A Celebration of Life” states: “Poor tropical soil is
virtually incapable of supporting life.”

Moore disputes the soil claims, saying that much of the Amazon is
extremely fertile.

“There’s a myth, of course, that once you cut the trees down in the
Amazon, the soil turns to cement,” he states. Moore believes you can
“find examples of very poor soils in the Amazon,” noting it’s almost as
big as the continental U.S.

Merle Faminow, a professor from the Federal University of Parana,
Brazil, agrees. According to Faminow’s research, the Amazon has a “wide
and varied range of soil properties” and only “8 percent of the soil is
classified as having a high erosion risk.” He concludes that “there is
ample scientific and practical evidence to confirm that agriculture can
be carried out in a profitable and sustainable manner.”

Antonio Donato Nobre and Bruce Nelson are two scientists working with
the Institute for Research in Amazonia or INPA in Brazil who make no
mistake about their quest to preserve the Amazon.

“I say to you, deforestation is completely, absolutely not
justifiable in any circumstance,” shouts Nobre. “And I have a conviction
about this. I strongly believe that when you develop, you harm the
environment.”

Asked about the 50,000 species that go extinct, Nelson responds:
“Those are assumptions. It was an estimate of the number of species that
might exist in the tropical forests of the world.” When confronted with
the travel book, “Lonely Planet’s ‘Brazil,’” which repeats many of the
claims of massive species extinction, fires raging out of control and
the belief that the “Amazon may be lost forever,” Nobre and Nelson get
uncomfortable.

Nobre roars, “There is a lot of overblowing — a lot of people
projecting their egos in NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and
environmentalist movements, etc. This is wrong!” he shouts as he holds
up the book. “This is a bad way … This does a disservice to the
truth.” Nobre believes, “When you overblow the facts, you are actually
comprising the actual importance of it.”

Stott believes the more scrutiny the “Save the Amazon” cause gets,
the more the bad science will be exposed.

“When we actually look at these myths — this is what is terrifying
about them — when we look at the science, we suddenly find that these
myths are just unsupportable, ‘unsustainable,’ to use a nice green
term. They just don’t make sense.”

Tim Keating of Rainforest Relief, who calls the destruction of
rainforests “the greatest ecological catastrophe,” nonetheless concedes
that the Amazon “is still the largest area of tropical rainforest left
on earth, and has probably the lowest volume of clearing that has
occurred of any large rainforest areas in the world.”

Moore, however, believes that, despite all evidence to the contrary,
the conventional wisdom that the Amazon is about to disappear will
remain the conventional wisdom for some time. He says, “If people …
actually go to the Amazon, go to Manaus, get on a river boat, and go up
or down the Amazon for hundreds of miles, go inland and look for
yourself and fly over it, (they) will see that you can fly for three
hours over solid forest and really not see any sign of human habitation.
It is not all burning up. It has not all been destroyed. And there
really is no chance that it will be in the foreseeable future.”

The idea that a cleared rainforest can grow back is an idea that is
not accepted by most environmental campaigns and the popular culture.

Yet recent studies indicate that trees do in fact regrow very well in
rainforests. A 1998 study by Charles Cannon of Duke University found
that eight years after industrial logging in Indonesian rainforests,
recovery of both native flora and fauna far exceeded expectations. In
Borneo, logged forest contained just as many tree species as unlogged
forest.

“These findings warrant reassessment of the conservation potential of
large tracts of commercially logged tropical rainforest,” wrote Cannon.

Science magazine contributor Robin Chazdon, an ecologist at the
University of Connecticut, says: “You can find species that will show
increased growth and increased population as a result of logging.”

“There are many, many tree species that we see commonly in the
tropical flora whose regeneration is not occurring in natural forests.
They require large scale disturbances,” she says.

Moore sees a contradiction or double standard in the way
environmentalists look at the Amazon vis-à-vis forests in the United
States.

“On the one hand, you will hear environmentalists in the United
States say we should be letting more fires burn in our forests, because
it’s a natural part of the ecology,” he points out. “On the other hand,
when fires burn in the Brazilian rain forest, they act as though the
ecosystem is coming to an end.”

Throughout the Amazon, scientists are discovering that plant life
that may help cure human disease is thriving in recovering forests, and
scientific reforestation efforts are paying off in parts of the Amazon.

In 1982, miners cleared a large tract of land in Western Brazil. Once
finished, they hired scientists to reforest the territory. New studies
show that the rejuvenated forest is virtually indistinguishable from its
original form. Ninety-five percent of the original animal species have
returned, prompting many to believe that “sustainable logging” can lower
costs and increase productivity and help prove that man and nature can,
indeed, co-exist in the Amazon.

Brazilian Brigadier Gen. Thaumaturgo Sotero Vaz, who spent 39 years
in the military, 18 of them in the heart of the Amazon, finds it
humorous that anyone would doubt the jungle’s ability to recover.

“That’s very funny,” he says. “They don’t know the Amazon, believe
me. Because all these lands in the north, west, it’s almost untouchable
because of this great capacity of regeneration,” he explains.

Logging and burning of the forests can actually benefit some small
species of flora, say scientists. Chazdon’s research center in the
rainforests of Costa Rica has found that the large “treetop canopy”
created by dense foliage hundreds of feet above ground blocks sunlight
which small competing species need to thrive.

“When dominant [species] were removed through logging,” she says,
“there was an enhancement of what we would call the ‘suppressed
species.’”

Many of these suppressed species are what environmentalists typically
point to as the species most worthy of preservation — those with
medicinal properties. The Natural Resources Defense Council’s
“Rainforest Book: How You Can Save the World’s Rainforests,” calls the
rainforest “a fantastic medicine cabinet” with plants that contain
ingredients essential to “antibiotics, painkillers, heart drugs and
hormones.” Of the “3,000 plants” identified as having cancer-fighting
properties,” it continues, “70 percent of them are native to the
rainforest.”

Chazdon discovered that “in secondary forests that are 15 to 20 years
old, the overall abundance of species that have medicinal uses is higher
compared to the older forests.”

Of further benefit is the tendency of younger forests to consume more
carbon dioxide than older forests. For those worried about global
warming, deforestation can actually be an ally, say scientists.

“Trees in (young) forests grow at a phenomenal rate,” says Chazdon,
“and they are taking a lot of carbon dioxide out of the air and putting
it in their own tissues and in the soil. That is reducing the amount of
carbon dioxide that would otherwise be present in the atmosphere.”

Chazdon believes that all of these reasons are leading to “a growing
recognition of the value of secondary forests.”

Despite all of this mounting scientific evidence supporting
regeneration, many still want to keep mankind out of the Amazon and
other tropical forests. Chazdon believes that it is not very realistic
to keep man out.

“No matter how hard we try,” she says, “it’s hard to put a lock and
key on the forests.” She points out that great civilizations once
inhabited Central and South America and newly discovered charcoal
deposits and agricultural artifacts suggest that humans have repeatedly
burned the rainforest. “We are part of the long history of humans that
have relied on these forests and used them,” pointing out that “the
Mayan Empire deforested huge areas of Central America.”

Tomorrow:
The human cost of the “save the Amazon”
cause.

The video documentary,

“Amazon Rainforest: Clear-Cutting the
Myths,” discussed in this report is available from WorldNetDaily’s
online store.




Marc Morano
is the correspondent and co-producer for American Investigator’s “Amazon Rainforest: Clear-Cutting the Myths.” Kent Washburn is his co-producer.

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