The Amazon rainforest
Major media sources are finally beginning to acknowledge what WorldNetDaily has been reporting for years: The world's rainforests aren't the desperately endangered and depleted resources that the environmentalist mantra makes them out to be.
Eight years ago, WND reported on scientists, studies, Brazilian natives and even disillusioned environmental activists who testified that the Amazon rainforest, far from disappearing at human hands, is actually thriving and replenishing itself through the secondary growth that emerges after a section of older trees is eliminated.
This week, the New York Times reported that scientists are now recognizing that secondary growth around the world is happening much faster and much more effectively than environmentalists advertise.
"These new 'secondary' forests," the Times reads, "are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rainforest — an iconic environmental cause — may be less urgent than once thought."
The Times continues, "By one estimate, for every acre of rainforest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster."
In 2000, WND teamed with the producer and correspondent Marc Morano of the television newsmagazine American Investigator to bring a report on the rainforests that included the testimony of Patrick Moore, one of the founders of the environmentalist group Greenpeace.
"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 report also tells the story of miners, who in 1982 cleared a large tract of land in Western Brazil. Once finished, they hired scientists to reforest the territory. Studies done 15 years later showed that the rejuvenated forest is virtually indistinguishable from its original form and 95 percent of the original animal species returned.
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.
The Times report attributes much of the newly recognized, spontaneous secondary growth to farmers who have moved from rural areas on the edges of the forests to settlements and cities. The forests, in turn, have reclaimed the land the farmers had once cleared.
"Biologists were ignoring these huge population trends and acting as if only original forest has conservation value, and that's just wrong," Joe Wright, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, told the Times.
According to the Times, "Dr. Wright – an internationally respected scientist – said he knew he was stirring up controversy when he suggested to a conference of tropical biologists that rainforests might not be so bad off. Having lived in Panama for 25 years, he is convinced that scientific assessments of the rainforests' future were not taking into account the effects of population and migration trends that are obvious on the ground."
Wright even made the bold proclamation that WND reported years ago: Secondary growth is compensating for rainforest destruction.
Bill Laurance is another senior scientist at the Smithsonian who the Times reports has worked extensively in the Amazon and disagrees with Wright's assertion that new trees growing in Panama can make up for the destruction of the Amazon's Brazilian canopy.
"Yes, there are forests growing back, but not all forests are equal," Laurance told the Times. "There's no canopy, there's too much light, there are only a few species. There is a lot of change all around here whittling away at the forest, from highways to development."
Science magazine contributor Robin Chazdon, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut, agrees that not all forests are equal – the new ones are in some ways better.
Chazdon reports 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."
"In fact, because the trees fall down and decay, rainforests actually take in slightly more oxygen than they give out," says Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London. "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."
Chazdon believes that all of these reasons are leading to "a growing recognition of the value of secondary forests."
"Is this a real rainforest?" Wright asked as he walked land in Panama once bared for a cacao plantation but abandoned about 50 years ago and now sprouting trees, insects and even monkeys.
"A botanist can look at the trees here and know this is regrowth," Wright told the Times. "But the temperature and humidity are right. Look at the number of birds! It works. This is a suitable habitat."
Dr. Laurance, however, argues that too many rainforest species can't make the transition from canopy habitat to secondary growth.
"This is not the rich ecosystem of a rainforest," Laurance told the Times.
Mounting scientific evidence nonetheless supports the rainforests' ability to regenerate and debunks the environmentalist myths that the old forest is disappearing, that man is encroaching and even that the old forest is needed to combat "global warming."
Still, warns Moore, the long-standing mythos of the endangered Amazon is not likely to change easily.
"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 rainforest intact than there are most other forests in this world."
Moore left Greenpeace, he attests, 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."