Published on August 6, 2007
Systems Module Geography Lessons Lesson 3 Threats to rainforest ecosystems. Aim- Why are we chopping down the rainforests and is there an alternative?
Amazonian Indians ‘ They have stolen my land; The birds have flown, my people gone. My rainbow rises over sand, My river falls on stone. ’ Song of a Xingu Indian
The Yanomani are a group of Amazonian Indians who live in the rainforest. The Yanomani have tried to maintain a traditional, nomadic way of life. Their population currently stands at 9,000. The Yanomani Nomadic means ‘moves from place to place’.
The Yanomani live in ‘yanos’ which are large, communal dwellings made of tree trunks and thatches of palm leaves. Between ten and twenty families live in a yano. Each family has its own section and fire. These dwellings are only temporary and over a period of time they become infested by cockroaches and bats. Why do the Yanomani move on after five or so years? The Yanomani are semi nomadic. They build their yanos near suitable land for cultivation. The forest provides firewood, nuts, berries and animals to hunt. The Yanomani hunt, gather, fish and farm the land for five to ten years and then move onto another area. This is called shifting cultivation. What is meant by ‘semi nomadic’? The Yanomani
Why do the Yanomani move on after five or so years?
What is meant by ‘semi nomadic’?
Shifting Cultivation 1 2 Untouched forest The Yanomani clear a small area of forest. They burn the buttress roots which provides ash to increase the fertility of the soil. They leave a few trees standing to intercept the rain.
3 The ‘garden’… The Yanomani plant crops such as manioc and yams and cultivate the area for five to ten years before the soil becomes infertile. ‘ Yanos’ made from wood Shifting Cultivation
4 5 The Yanomani move onto another plot of land. The soil regenerates and the ‘yano’ decays and is eaten by termites. The forest regenerates. The Yanomani have virtually no impact on the rainforest ecosystem. It is a SUSTAINABLE way of life . Shifting Cultivation
Yanomani wear few clothes but use paint and beads to decorate their bodies. Yanomani boys are taught to hunt while Yanomani girls are taught to grow crops and cook. Yanomani facts! Yanomani children work (hunt, learn about crop rotation) for 4 hours per day. In their spare time they enjoy activities such as swimming and dancing. The Yanomani use plants with medicinal properties found in the rainforest. Quinine was discovered in the Amazon. It is an anti- malaria drug from the bark of the cinchona tree (and also an ingredient in tonic water!).
TASK 1 - Compare your lifestyle with the Yanomani. Think of similarities as well as differences. Click here Yanomani Lifestyle Clothes Food School Family Yanomani lifestyle My Lifestyle
The Yanomani land is rich in minerals. Since 1987 their land has been invaded by garimpeiros ( illegal, gold prospectors). Due to this contact with the outside world, 1,500 Yanomani Indians have died from epidemics such as malaria and influenza. They have no immunity to Western disease and no medicines to treat them. However, disease is not the only threat. Newcomers scare the wild animals with noise from vehicles and machinery. They also poison the rivers with mercury, which is used to purify the gold. Yanomani Indians - threats What damage do the garimpeiros cause?
What damage do the garimpeiros cause?
In May 1992, the Brazilian Government recognised the Yanomani rights to the land by creating a Yanomani Park. This protects the tribes from further invasions and the 40,000 garimpeiros living in this area have been forced to move. The government sent in the army to destroy the airstrips that were used to supply the gold mines. Less than 2,000 garimpeiros now remain in the Park. Some people are against the Yanomani Park. It is the size of Scotland and many Brazilians live in crowded conditions on the East coast. There have even been some attacks on the Yanomani. In August 1993, 40 Yanomani Indians from the Haximu village, on the border with Venezuela, were viciously murdered. Who might be against the Yanomani Park? Yanomani Park
Who might be against the Yanomani Park?
Development in the Amazon
Large scale development in the Amazon Large scale development projects started in the Amazon after most of the area became part of Brazil’s territory in 1967. The Brazilian Government’s Polamazonia Plan in the 1970s aimed to open up the Amazon to development. This included encouraging and funding the following large scale development projects: Road and rail development Logging Ranching Hydroelectric Power (HEP) Mining Settlement
Road and rail development
Hydroelectric Power (HEP)
Developments in the Amazon Carajas Project iron ore, copper, manganese, nickel, bauxite, gold, tin, lead, zinc Carajas Sao Luis Belem Tucurui TransAmazonian Highway rail link 0 100km
There are two types of miners in the Amazon – miners that work in the official mines which are regulated by the Brazilian government illegal miners such as the gold prospectors (garimpeiros). Both sets of miners have caused damage to the ecosystem by cutting down large areas of forest and by using chemicals to purify their metals. However, the official mines have made some efforts to repair some of the environmental damage they have caused. For example, at a large bauxite mine on the Trombetas River in the state of Para, the mining company has stopped dumping their tailings (sludge from washing the ore) into the river and they have started a reforestation project. The garimpeiros are more difficult to monitor. They use enormous amounts of mercury to purify the gold and this toxic metal is released into the rivers and is absorbed into the food chain. Why is mercury poisoning becoming a major illness for those who live in the Amazon? Mining
There are two types of miners in the Amazon –
miners that work in the official mines which are regulated by the Brazilian government
illegal miners such as the gold prospectors (garimpeiros).
Why is mercury poisoning becoming a major illness for those who live in the Amazon?
Slash and burn is used to clear the land for settlement and ranching.
Tucurui Dam Tucurui Dam was built between 1976 and 1984, on the Lower Tocantins River in the state of Para, approximately 300km south of Belem. The reservoir created upstream of the dam is over 2000km 2 . The dam will produce more than 4000 MW of electricity.
Tucurui Dam Amazonian Indian villages HEP plant Road flooded an area 5 times the size of the Isle of Wight Before Tucurui Dam After Tucurui Dam Tucurui Dam – cost $5 billion Describe the dam’s impact on the landscape. River Tocantins
The dam has stopped silt travelling downstream. This silt is a natural fertiliser. We will have to buy chemical fertilisers or clear more forest. The flooding displaced thousands of us living by the river. Moreover, chemicals used to defoliate the vegetation before flooding have contaminated the water and caused illness. This electricity will be used to power the mines at Carajas and the smelting industries at Belem. These industries will provide jobs. The dam has stopped the migration of fish up and downstream. TASK 2 - Who gained and who lost out from its construction? Click here to go to word Tucurui Match the statement with the correct person Carajas Farmer Fishermen Amazonian Indian Miner
Then the water in the lake and what the lake releases, Is crawling with infected snails and water born diseases. There’s a hideous locust breeding ground when the water level’s low… by K E Boulding The cost of building dams…
Why was road building such as the TransAmazonian Highway vital to all these large scale development projects?
Why was road building such as the TransAmazonian Highway vital to all these large scale development projects?
Broken Nutrient cycle Deforestation Fewer leaves fall Less decomposition (breaking down) of litter by termites, fungi and bacteria Less nutrients enter the soil Soil becomes infertile Less vegetation
What impact does road building have on the Amazon’s ecosystem? TASK 3 - Organise these statements into the flow chart below. There is more than one correct order. Click here there is no vegetation to intercept the rain the soil is washed away the nutrient cycle is broken and so the soil becomes infertile it is difficult to grow crops the area become more accessible other large scale developments such as mining come to the area more trees are cut down people migrate to the area the area become more accessible trees are cut down road is built
Role play You will be allocated a role from the following – Brazilian government Hydroelet (large HEP company) FUNAI (government organisation for the protection of Amazonian Indians) World Medical (concerned with the protection Organisation of plants for medical research) Greentours (a holiday company concerned with providing holidays that nether harm the environment nor the local people) Should large scale development be allowed in the Amazon?
You will be allocated a role from the following –
Hydroelet (large HEP company)
FUNAI (government organisation for the protection of Amazonian Indians)
World Medical (concerned with the protection
Organisation of plants for medical research)
Greentours (a holiday company concerned with providing holidays that nether harm the environment nor the local people)
Role play Brazilian government Hydroelet FUNAI World Medical Organisation Greentours Read the next 6 slides. Which of the above groups will be against large scale development? Should large scale development be allowed in the Amazon? Research your role carefully and then prepare a presentation to explain why you are for or against large scale development in the Amazon.
World Medical Organisation
Brazilian government Fact File Capital – Brazilia Population – 162 million GNP per capita – $3,370 Debt – $1,153 million Literacy – 80% Tourism – over 1 million visitors per year ‘ The income gap between the richest and the poorest in Brazil is getting wider. The shanty towns in our large cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo are expanding and their residents lack basic facilities such as electricity and clean water. Our interest on the debt is growing each year and we need to invest in our industries if we are to ever pay back this money. Developing the Amazon can generate some of this necessary investment.’
FUNAI (Fundaao Nacional do Indio) ‘ FUNAI is the government agency set up to protect the rights of the Amazonian Indians. We believe that most large scale developments have a negative impact on the Amazon’s ecosystem and in turn, on the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Amazonian Indians. For example, approximately 6,000 Indians were left landless by the Grand Carajas Project, especially by the Tucurui dam. We would like to see more sustainable developments such as in the Xingu Indian Park where Kayapo villages have entered into a partnership with the Body Shop. The Kayapo collect Brazil nuts and extract the oil in their villages by using a press. They then sell this oil directly to the Body Shop for use in toiletries. In order to protect the Amazonian Indians’ rights to the land, we want further areas of the rainforest set up as Indian reserves.’
Hydroelet ‘ HEP is a renewable form of energy. This means that unlike coal, oil and gas this type of energy does not run out. Brazil gets 92.5% of its energy from HEP and the demand for energy is rising. Hydroelet plans to build more dams, like Tucurui, in the Amazon to harness the fast flowing rivers in this area. Hydroelet believes that this electricity will not only benefit industries all over Brazil but will also provide energy to satisfy the country’s growing population.’
World Medical Organisation Quinine was discovered in The Amazon. It is an anti- malaria drug from the bark of the cinchona tree (and also an ingredient in tonic water!). How can the Brazilian Government and the Amazonian Indians benefit from the discoveries? ‘ Only 1,100 species have been investigated out of 365,000 possible species in the Amazon. On average, an important new drug has been found for every 125 species investigated. We believe that areas should be set aside for medical research.’ ‘ Catclaw Acacia’ is a climbing vine, found in the Amazon, and it is being studied for its potential against cancer and AIDs. Internet Link – biodiversity http://library.thinkquest.org/20248/
Greentours – ecotourism in the Amazon Internet Link – ecotourism www.brazilianadventure.com www.brazilnature.com/inges/index.html ‘ At Greentours, visitors stay in an Amazonian village or in the small lodges which are built from local resources. The visitors can undertake conservation work as part of their holiday. Greentours feel that unlike the large scale developments, their tours will generate money for the Amazonian Indians without destroying the Amazon’s ecosystem.’ Ecotourism is sustainable, low density tourism which safeguards the natural environment and meets the needs of the host population.
simple tourist lodge boat trip with local guide Greentours
What are the sustainable alternatives to large scale development? Internet links – www.ran.org/ www.greenforce.org / www.greenpeace.org / SUSTAINABLE development involves activities that preserve and enhance the beauty and resources of an area for future generations. Name one activity in the Amazon that is ‘sustainable’. Investigate – How can the Brazilian government profit from the Amazon without large scale development?
HOMEWORK Write a letter to your local MP explaining the important information that you have learnt and researched during this lesson. To help with the structure of this letter, use letter frame in word .
Write a letter to your local MP explaining the important information that you have learnt and researched during this lesson.
To help with the structure of this letter, use letter frame in word .
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