Breaking Down: Collapse

Episode 50 - Losing the Amazon

August 31, 2021 Kory & Kellan Episode 50
Breaking Down: Collapse
Episode 50 - Losing the Amazon
Show Notes Transcript

We often hear about the importance of the Amazon and that it's in danger. What does that really mean? In this episode we dive into what the future looks like for the world's biggest rainforest.

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Episode 50

Kellan: [00:00:00] So Kory ever since we started this podcast and you've introduced me to these topics and I've been helping with preparing some of the content and doing the research, I've been reading way more than I ever did before. And a lot of what I'm reading is, you know, these really depressing topics. And I've noticed something that you called out to me a long time ago, but it seems like it's just more apparent or more blatant than I ever noticed before, which is any of these articles around like climate change or about resource depletion or really anything else that relates to the direction we're going, the trajectory we're on the fact that we're headed to collapse it almost always ends with a very cheery note. And sometimes the contrast is almost shocking where they're just listing stat after stat and facts about what a dire situation we're in. And then it's almost like there's this obligation there to say, but as long as we can collectively pull together, we can change this all around. We can fix this thing. 

And it's to the point now that when I see it, in some cases where it is that drastic, it kind of makes me laugh. Like, it's just so extreme. And yet as I've thought about it, I don't really know what else I want them to say, and it makes me wonder if our approach on this podcast is the right approach or not. I know that don't claim that things are going to get better. In fact, we're claiming things will get worse and we've just kind of taken the approach of like, Hey, we want people to know about this so that they can be mentally prepared, be physically prepared, can make some choices to make their life better and make the lives of the people around them better. And we advocate for everyone to do their part, right, in mitigating these big negative things.

But are we off base somehow in not saying like, Hey, let's all just make a change and things are gonna be OK?" 

Kory: [00:02:03] yeah. It's funny you bring that up actually, because this has been on my mind a bit lately. I've seen a lot of people on the subreddit, I think there's a lot of new people to the community, and a lot of them are expressing these feelings of hopelessness and like, why should I even try anymore? What's, like, is it even worth working or going to school or living or whatever. Right?

And I've been trying to wrap my head around what the right approach is to take, especially in a situation like you and I are in where we have an audience. And I think it really comes down to something that I saw on Reddit, actually, a post today. There was a comment that I screenshotted part of it said " as Chris hedges once said, no matter how bleak reality is, recognizing it is the first step in achieving anything greater, however, meager." 

And those articles and things that you're talking about the at the end are like, if we can only just all pull together and stop emitting CO2 right now, everything will be fine. We still have time to beat this. That's not reality. Like especially now 1.5 degrees Celsius is a foregone conclusion. We have decades of continued warming already baked in. And we are not slowing down our emissions at all. And I think part of it is because that language of saying, "we still have time" makes people say " great business as usual, somebody will figure this out." And they think my great, huge sacrifice and changing the way that I live is not going to change anything because no one else is going to do anything either. 

So I really don't think that people who talk that way are doing any service. Speaking to the reality of the situation we're in and saying honestly, and bluntly at this point it's about mitigating. Its damage control. Millions of people are going to die, but maybe we can save some of them. Right? Like I think that's a much more effective way to connect with people. And it's the truth, right? 

And you see a lot of people in the collapse community who have made decisions to make changes for the better who have made those sacrifices for those very reasons and not everyone's going to do that. Some people are going to resort to doomerism and feeling woeful and pity themselves because everything's going to get worse.

But the same is true when you take an overly hopium optimistic approach to it and say, everything's going to be fine. I think you'll have a larger percentage of people who will do nothing because of that messaging. 

When it comes down to it I don't know the perfect answer. Right. Maybe we should be advocating more for positive change, but like we said, many times, we're not about prescribing anything. We don't want to make people feel like they have to do certain things or have to take certain actions. You know, I think our purpose here is to, like Chris hedges said, Show how bleak reality is because recognizing that is the first step in achieving anything greater even if that achievement is meager. 

Kellan: [00:04:45] Well said. And I personally feel like there's one thing that I am comfortable prescribing or recommending that people do. And that's just to try to make the lives of other people around them at least a little bit better either now or in the future. Okay. If you're on a sinking ship, that's going down, you can't suddenly do something to repair the ship, but you can at least make sure a few more people get life jackets, or maybe make sure somebody is able to enjoy a nice last meal before the ship totally sinks. You can decide what it is that you're going to do, but that feels so much more purposeful than either A: just saying, " well, I'm going to stockpile a bunker so that I can survive alone" or saying, "Hey, it's all hopeless. What's the point of even trying?"

It's just such a weird dynamic. Uh, an interesting mindset to balance to recognize like we are heading into more difficult times and that's inevitable. And at the same time, taking enough ownership of our own sphere of influence. 

Kory: [00:05:46] Yeah, absolutely. You know, you can't go wrong by trying to make someone else's life. Yeah. And we have talked about many times on the podcast about how the best chances of making it as far as we can through collapse is going to be through community. And so by helping other people, you are still essentially helping yourself in a way as well, because you're helping to strengthen those around you, which in the end helps strengthen you. And I think there is such a sense of purpose in serving others. It's not something that I think we do very often. We all get so caught up in just our everyday lives, our work, our schooling. But when you actually get the chance to help someone else who is in need, and those opportunities are going to increase greatly as we go through collapse. I think that always sort of fulfills some higher sense of purpose. 

Kellan: [00:06:32] Yeah. I love that. And maybe that sounds kind of preachy, but when I think of all the time that you and I spend, Kory, on preparing for these conversations, trying to make sure we do the research, editing posting all the, work that goes into this podcast. I feel so grateful for all the people that reach out to us and say like, thank you for the content that you're putting out there, because it helps my mental health in this way or in that way. And to know that there's some level of positive impact there. That's awesome. 

As we look down the road into the future with what we hope to accomplish here, wouldn't it be so awesome. If all of us that are part of this podcast, all those that are listening. Could feel a sense of community here of other like-minded people who've learned the same things that they have, who are willing to support each other, at least virtually and help each other feel prepared or help each other with one another's mental health, and this kind of global community that we can foster. Hopefully it will help people, you know, build more resilient communities locally, wherever they're at. 

Kory: [00:07:32] Well said, and you know, it's a huge undertaking, but I think every single person that takes it upon themselves To make someone else's life better to make their community better. That's where it's got to start. And like you said, maybe we're being too preachy on it, but this is the one thing that I think we will ever prescribe on the podcast is to be good to other people. And I don't feel guilty for doing that at all. 

 Okay. So this week we decided to talk about the Amazon, you know, it's come up in recent news. It's been a couple of months now that they basically said parts of the Amazon significant parts of the Amazon are now carbon sources instead of carbon sinks. 

And so we thought this would be a good episode to talk about. What does that really mean? What does the Amazon do? Why is it important? What does it mean for it to become a sink and what's going to happen in the future? 

And so to get started, I think I'm just going to read off some sort of fast facts here about the Amazon itself. So the Amazon stretches across nine south American countries, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French. And it covers more than 2 million square miles of land and it's obviously the largest rainforest in the world. There are nearly 500 indigenous communities that call the Amazon rainforest home and according to some estimates, it's also home to about half of the world's species. There are more than two and a half million species of insects, 1300 bird species, 3000 plus species of fish, around 500 species of mammals and more than 40,000 plant species.

And something that I think is really cool is the Amazon actually creates its own weather. So those insane numbers of plant species and trees release moisture in the air as a byproduct of photosynthesis through a process called transpiration. And what that does is it seeds low lying clouds that then rain back down into the rivers, which then feed the Amazon and also feed communities and other parts and regions downstream. 

That same weather also has effects on weather thousands of miles away because it actually pulls moisture from the ocean inland. And this is where things get really crazy when talking about the Amazon. So it has the highest rate of rainfall in the world, more than 3,700 cubic miles of rainwater fall from the sky each year, which is 20 billion tons of rain every day. 

So 3,700 cubic miles, it's really, really hard to picture what that is. And so I Googled it and found a, uh, a Reddit thread from the subreddit explain like I'm five. Someone was like, how big is a cubic mile? What could you fit in there? So for some examples, you could fit 349 trillion, 600 billion ping pong balls in a cubic mile. 2,605 world trade centers . Or 323 million plus cars in one cubic mile. And it dumps 3,700 cubic miles of rain. So just an insane amount of water

and even more impressive is that the clouds above the rainforest carry more water than the Amazon river itself and provide water for regions outside of the Amazon. 

Kellan: [00:10:39] Well, that one is surprising. I didn't know that. 

Kory: [00:10:42] Yeah. I was pretty surprised by that too. And I mean, it makes sense if the whole area is pretty consistently covered in clouds, when you compare the size of the Amazon to the size of the river, if those clouds are all carrying significant amount of water, then I guess it makes sense. 

And while there's this sort of widespread belief that the Amazon produces 20% of the world's oxygen, that's actually been proven false. And they think that it's probably between 6% and 9% of the world's oxygen, but that in the end, the Amazon itself actually ends up consuming that oxygen. It doesn't really convert into oxygen that we breathe, but it's still pretty amazing to think that such a significant portion of the Earth's total oxygen is produced by this rainforest. 

And recent studies have shown that the Amazon absorbed as much as 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year through photosynthesis. So it's pretty easy to see from those numbers why the Amazon is so important to not only just south American climate and ecosystems, but also global climate as a whole. 

Kellan: [00:11:40] The Amazon rainforest is pretty incredible. I'm glad you pointed out that there's different estimates on a lot of those numbers. I mean, there's a lot that we don't even know about the Amazon. It is huge. And when we talk about the millions of species that are in the Amazon, there's all sorts of estimates about how many millions of species we haven't even discovered living in the Amazon. 

So the number of species and the amount of oxygen it produces and all those facts and figures, we don't know exactly. But we do know that there's a ton of biodiversity. We do know that the Amazon plays a major part in the weather patterns and the health of our planet. 

So with that, let's now talk about one of the major problems that we're seeing when it comes to the Amazon and how it relates to collapse. 

And if you haven't heard enough numbers and facts and figures already try and consider this one: in 1975, 0.5% of the Amazon had experienced deforestation. So less than 1% of the forest had been essentially removed. But then you fast forward. And now, depending on which figures you look at, we're up somewhere between 17 and 20%. 

And what's especially scary about that is that there's a general consensus now among a number of scientists that when we reach somewhere between 20 and 25%, we will, be passed the point of no return and the Amazon rainforest itself will collapse. And I know Kory you'll speak to that a little bit later, but just know that that would be absolutely catastrophic. Okay. 

Essentially, there wouldn't be enough trees cycling moisture through the rainforest and it would cause the rainforest to dry out and degrade into a Savanna. So when it comes to deforestation, when I started looking into this, in my initial research, I started seeing headlines like this. Here's an article just from November of 2020 from BBC. It says Brazil's Amazon deforestation surges to a 12 year high. And I thought, oh, that doesn't sound good. And then I saw one really recent, July, 2021, an article entitled deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest rises for fourth straight month. And you might think to yourself, like, how is this measured? How do they even know? And there's something out there called the Landsat archive. And it's a series of satellites that over the last 40 years have acquired literally millions of images. It's a NASA program, and they've been collecting these images since 1972. So it's claimed to be the longest running record of our changing planet. You can't really go anywhere else and just see how a certain area of the earth looks different over the last four decades. 

But these Landsat satellites, they collect these images and they're more than just regular images because they've got several spectral bands. So, pixel by pixel, you have seven different pieces of information that can be combined in different ways and they can clearly see and measure the amount of vegetation. 

And if you go look it up, there are some time lapses that have been put together out there. You can watch these videos and see the Amazon rainforest changing over the last few decades. And it is astounding. In fact, it reminds me of the time-lapses I've seen on polar ice melt. So that same kind of feel of just seeing it shrink down further and further over the last 40 years. 

And deforestation happens, you know, they call it a, a slash and burn approach. So usually there's heavy machinery, they cut down the trees, oftentimes that's for logging and then they burn the area with fire. And then typically they burn it again just to make sure they remove all the tropical trees and timber. And we'll talk a little bit about why they do that. But one thing to be aware of is that those fires, especially during certain times of the year, get out of control. 

So yeah, just let this sink in for a minute. In 2019. There were 40,000 rain forest wildfires. And although 2019 was a particularly bad year. If you just look at how it has trended over time, it's gotten worse and worse in general. And that's because there's all of this intentional deforestation and there's just higher temperatures, and there has been more drought. 

And by the way, I should have mentioned that 40,000 fires number and some of these numbers are specific to Brazil. That's because Brazil has 60% of the Amazon rainforest, but Brazil's Northern neighbor, Colombia, which he spent time in Colombia, kory. 


It's also been recording rising forest destruction. The Colombian environment minister said that that in 2020 deforestation, rose 8% with 1,717 square kilometers destroyed. Yeah. 

All that just paints a picture of how severe all of this deforestation and this destruction of the Amazon rainforest is and has been . And we do keep losing more of the rainforest, but to be fair deforestation, isn't happening as fast as it once was. And there's some history there that I think is really important to understand in the context of this conversation.

But I just want to pause and ask you Kory, as you hear all those numbers, those facts and figures about what's happening to the Amazon rainforest. Where's your head at? 

Kory: [00:17:00] Yeah, it's crazy to me to think about. That first number you gave that in 1975 half of 1% of the entire rainforest have been deforested.

And some people might think like, oh, all the way to 2021, you know, we've only lost 17% or whatever. It might be tempting to think like, well, logically if it's taken us 50 years to lose 17%, we've got 250 years more before we get rid of all a hundred percent. Right. It doesn't work like that. And so it's fascinating and crazy to think about if just in those last 45 years, we've gone from effectively 0% to 17 to 20%. And they're saying between 20 and 25% is where we reached this tipping point that will lead to the collapse of the rainforest and all of those consequences, like we're right on the brink. 

 And like you said, yeah, we're not at record highs right now for how much we're deforesting. But in 2020, there was 11,000 square kilometers that had been deforested, which was a severe increase over the previous few years. And it's just increasing like crazy and 11,000 square kilometers is only half a percent, just over half a percent of the whole rainforest.

But when you think we might only have three to 5% more to go before we reached this tipping point that puts us at somewhere between five and 10 years. Like I mentioned earlier, we'll talk about the parts of the Amazon that have already turned into a carbon source. The first I'd like to know a little bit more Kellan about why is the Amazon being deforested so much, , especially now after it had gotten better for so long, like what forces are behind that? 

Kellan: [00:18:29] Yeah. This is the part where it's interesting because here we're talking about an aspect of collapse that is directly related to the climate and climate change. But this part of it kind of crosses over into the realm of politics and capitalism and corruption. So back in the seventies, there was this recognition by Brazil, and you could more specifically say the Brazilian military, that there were vast amounts of resources, essentially, just waiting to be discovered in the Amazon rainforest. And in the effort of extracting those resources and just economic progress in general and building infrastructure. There's something called the trans Amazonian highway. It's 3,200 kilometers long, but it was put in place to kind of cut through the Amazon so that that region could be more accessible. 

And then Brazil did something really interesting. They wanted to move people away from coastal cities, you know, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo more inland so they could cultivate all of that Amazonian land and grow the economy. So they actually offered free land along that highway to incentivize people to move inland. And most of those people cleared the land for pasture, for beef cattle. And right at the same time, something really interesting happened globally, which is that meat consumption around the world started going up. And if you look at the last four decades, it's gone consistently up and up and up decade over decade. 

So not only was it beneficial economically to have more beef cattle, but that trend also raised the need for more soybeans. And soybeans are a huge source of feed for farm animals. So something like 80% of all the soy crops in Brazil are used for animal feed. So a lot of those pastures that were originally created got converted into soy farms and many of the ranchers then went and cleared more land illegally to create pasture for their cattle. So essentially this booming economy of beef and soy also resulted in booming deforestation. 

And at one point, some of the claims out there where that an area the size of a football field was being cleared every two seconds. And it's not quite that bad now, some say it's only three football fields per minute. 

Kory: [00:20:48] And while that is a significant improvement, three football fields per minute is an insane amount of land. 

Kellan: [00:20:53] Yeah. And frankly, those kind of figures are bogus to some degree because it's continually changing. People just try to put it in terms like that. So we understand the severity of the situation. But it could be anywhere between a football field every two seconds and three football fields every minute. Anyways, it got to the point where it was really extreme and the government rolled out a plan in which they declared more and more of the rainforest is being protected to try to counteract this. And there's different classes of protection under which different things are allowed, but they also enhanced the police force that enforces laws around deforestation. 

 If I say it fast, it will sound like I'm saying Obama, but it's actually IBAMA like I-B-A-M-A.. So they're enforcing the laws more they're protecting more of the rainforest and a lot of big global corporations like McDonald's and others they were under a lot of pressure to stop contributing so much to deforestation. So a lot of them signed a soy moratorium, which stated that they would only buy soy from existing farms and not from ones that were being created by clearing more land. 

So there's a soy moratorium, a beef moratorium. And with all these changes from the Brazilian government and from global corporations, deforestation went way down. And the cool thing about that is that people simply found more efficient techniques to get more yield out of the same amount of land. So Brazil's beef and soy industries kept growing, even though they weren't continuing this crazy trend of deforestation. Yeah.

And by the way, Brazil is the largest beef exporter in the world. We've mentioned that my first job right out of high school was working at a meat processing plant. It was a large global corporation that's Brazilian owned. 

Anyways so at one point it looked like we were going the right direction, but then this political group kind of right wing conservative group called the Ruralistas that is heavily focused on agriculture and, you know, rights for farmers and ranchers. They started growing in power. 

So the government began getting more and more pressure from this political group. They eased up on their restrictions regarding protected land. They slash their budget for that law enforcement group, IBAMA. And then in 2018, a new president was elected. He was a right wing Congressman. He's an ally to this Ruralista group. It's, Jair Bolsonaro and he immediately made some drastic changes that immediately caused deforestation to start spiking again. 

Kory: [00:23:31] You know, I recently saw a picture on Twitter of Bolsonaro with a tube coming out of his nose and there was poop coming out of the tube. And let me just say, I think that's the best position any of us could hope to see Bolsonaro in. 

Kellan: [00:23:47] Will you explain that a little bit more for me? 

Kory: [00:23:49] Yeah. He's uh, he's had all sorts of weird health issues. Um, he was stabbed a while back. I can't remember how long ago it was. Um, he's not a very liked person, so he was stabbed , but then just a couple of weeks ago he had had persistent hiccups for like 10 days. And so he went to the hospital out of precaution and turns out he had a blocked intestine as like some sort of complication from that stab wound. And in order to clear his bowels, they had to do it through his nose. Okay. And I'm not usually one to like laugh at someone else's misfortune, but for this guy, just seeing poop come out of his nose just felt like justice. 

Kellan: [00:24:23] I really didn't think you were talking about that literally being the case. I thought you were trying to make a point that like, Hey, this guy is full of crap. 

Kory: [00:24:33] He literally was too full of crap. They had to pull it through his nose. 

Kellan: [00:24:37] All right. So you might think, how is it that you get a new president in place? And that just immediately like almost from day one causes deforestation to start spiking.

Yeah. We'll link to a few articles in the description of this episode, but one of them says Bolsonaro has called for mining and agriculture in protected areas of the Amazon and has weakened environmental enforcement agencies, which environmentalist and scientists say has directly resulted in their rising destruction. So in addition to him encouraging all that increased development in the rainforest, he's cut that funding to federal agencies that have the power to fine or arrest farmers and loggers for breaking environmental law. 

And he's very keen to keep promoting mining and agriculture. He has described the Amazon as a periodic table of valuable minerals, and he really opposes what he sees as outside interference. and what's crazy about all of this is that even though he has changed some of the laws and, and made some of those restrictions on protected land More lax. Okay. One figure from 2019 is that 99% of the deforestation that happened that year was illegal. The fact of the matter is that nobody's enforcing it. 

 So anyways, that's why, you get headlines like the ones I mentioned earlier around, you know, Brazil's Amazon deforestation surges to 12 year high. It's been going up and up and up and up as a result of these governmental policies. 

Kory: [00:26:07] You know, I just saw a couple of things is all on Bolsonaro and his perspective on the Amazon and this one paragraph just killed me. So it has to do with what you just said about him, not liking outside influence. He says, "you have to understand that the Amazon is Brazil's, not yours. If all this devastation you accuse us of doing was done in the past, the Amazon would have stopped existing. It would be a big desert." So he's basically saying like, if what you guys are saying is true, then it would be a desert by now. He's accusing activists, scientists of being liars and all of that, obviously, so that he can continue to profit from the destruction of the rainforest. And it's so funny that he talks about how it would be a, it would be a desert if any of this was true. And that is the direction that it's headed. It's going to stop at being a Savannah. First on the way there, like you mentioned Kellan, it's reaching this tipping point rapidly, a feedback loop in which it converts itself from rainforest into Savannah, that's called savannafication. So much like desertification turns fertile land into desert, Savannah vacation turns rainforest into savannah, which is much less able to sequester CO2. 

And like you had alluded to the feedback loop begins because as the deforestation continues and intensifies, there are less and less trees and plants, which are then able to create less and less moisture in the atmosphere. So less weather and rainfall, and with less clouds and rainfall being created, that means the existing trees and plants have a harder time growing. They become drier, more flammable. So there's more fires, which then just causes deforestation to intensify. And the feedback loop takes off from there. 

 They say that right now, rainfall in 40% of the Amazon is already at levels considered normal for a Savannah, not a rainforest. So much of it is already at danger of being considered Savannah and is on the way there, even though that process can take some decades.

Kellan: [00:27:55] And maybe you'll speak to this a little bit more, but when we talk about how the Amazon rainforest actually creates its own weather and affects weather, thousands of miles away, it's funny to hear him talk about how, "Hey, this is Brazil's like the Amazon is Brazil's and what we do with it is just fine." When in reality it affects lots of other countries and you could argue, you know, weather patterns across the world. 

Kory: [00:28:17] Yeah. I mean, it directly affects climate across the world because the Amazon right now sequesters so much carbon dioxide. This goes back to what we had mentioned earlier about the Amazon being a sink instead of a source and how that's changing. It's believed that the Amazon now absorbs well below half as much carbon dioxide as it did just 20 years ago. And it's emitting a net positive 300 million tons of CO2 annually. So it's officially from that nine year study they've confirmed that it's now a carbon source. It's creating and putting carbon into the atmosphere from all these burning trees.

It's actually been documented the trees burned 30 years ago are still decomposing and emitting carbon dioxide today. So the increased action of burning and cutting down trees now is going to create more CO2 emissions in the coming decades as well. It's not just a one and done like the moment you cut down a tree, all of the carbon dioxide that was sequestered in that tree is suddenly released.

It's a slow burn over time, which that in and of itself is another feedback loop. Because now that it's not a sink of carbon, it's actually putting more carbon into the air and it's slowing the rate that it's able to pull it out of the air, that's going to add to our total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which of course increases global warming overall. You know, we we've talked about how the tropics are going to be some of the worst hit places with global warming. The intense heat heat waves, because of the high levels of humidity, they're going to be hit worst with wet bulb temperatures. And so as this destruction of the rainforest continues, it's actually going to be the area around the Amazon that's going to be most severely effected. 

So from that study that they did, it was a nine-year study, they found that carbon emissions are the greatest in the Southern part of the country, then the Eastern, and then least most in the west. So the Southern part, obviously being the portion in Brazil that you're talking about that is being rapidly deforested, and it is the part that is found to be the biggest source of carbon dioxide currently. 

 One article I read mentioned that over the past 40 years, Eastern Amazonia has been subjected to more deforestation, warming, and moisture stress in the Western part, especially during the dry season with the Southeast experiencing the strongest trends. The article also stated that the carbon sink capacity of the Amazon's forests is expected to drop to zero by 2035. And by the way, this is not a problem that is solely effecting the Amazon. Uh, it is affecting the Amazon the quickest, the most severely, but, uh, in Africa, for example, they believe that the carbon sink capacity of several African forests is believed to decline by 14% within this decade and will continue from there. 

So it's scary to think about the major impact that all the world's forests have on the climate, by being able to sequester carbon dioxide and how that is being taken away. Not only are we emitting more, not only are we creating more problems, we've got now the oceans, for example, that could potentially flip as they become more acidic, they could cease to taking carbon dioxide. and now we know for a fact the forest, and specifically the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon, is going to cease to take in carbon as well. 

Kellan: [00:31:18] So we say this all the time, but again, it just feels like one more thing. There are already so many issues that are taking place. And here's just one more way that we're adding to this really extreme global catastrophe. 

So with the Amazon kind of disappearing and all the deforestation and the effect that it has on the climate, and the ways it's going to impact us, we haven't really talked yet about biodiversity loss. And you talked a little bit about the millions of species that are there in the Amazon. And I'll just say that I think it is tragic that we are losing any of those species. Like on one hand, there's this side of me, that's like, yeah. Okay. If some species of butterfly goes extinct, why does that really matter? How does that affect me? And yet that is an extremely selfish way of thinking. Like, something is extremely wrong with us wiping out any species, and the death and destruction that's happening with these ecosystems is something that we should be concerned about regardless of how we feel it affects us directly. Okay.

But I will just add that one way it does have an impact on us is that we get a lot of our cures or a lot of our prescription drugs from things in the Amazon rainforest. In fact, hundreds of prescription drugs have come from things in the Amazon rainforest. Even some that have been classified as essential medicines by the world health organization.

 One example of that is that studies of venom from a tropical Viper in the Amazon allowed for the discovery of what they call angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors. 

But the claim is that that helps hundreds of millions of people control their hypertension. Wow. Okay. And that's just one example, like I said, hundreds are prescriptions and even a lot of cancer research that's being done and the progress we're making there, we find that from the plants and animals that are in the Amazon rainforest, and that is with the fact that only less than 5% of plants in the Amazon have been studied for potential medicinal benefits. 

In other words, it's really sad that we're destroying entire species, that these plants and animals are being wiped off the face of the earth because of our actions. But even if we didn't care and we just thought, well, why does that impact us? It does have an impact on us. And we've done a previous episode or two on infectious diseases and all the ways that we anticipate that will increase with rising temperatures and with mass migrations and even with permafrost melt. And it seems like we're giving up something really important by allowing the extinction of almost countless species. 

Kory: [00:33:59] Yeah. We've talked a lot about the fragility of ecosystems and it is hard to imagine how insanely immense the rainforest ecosystems are in the amazon and what effects losing those ecosystems would have on humanity. Like you said, it's just a travesty to lose those species in the first place. the fact that nature and life is being destroyed for soybeans. You know, it's just crazy to think about and so sad, but the loss of those ecosystems does have effects on human life as well. And one of the ways that we haven't discussed is the effect that, that has on the people that live in the Amazon. Right. I had mentioned there's 500 indigenous communities that rely on the Amazon for life, it's their home. It's what they've known.

And I didn't personally do any research on necessarily how they're being affected. I know that they are, and I know that they will continue to be. And so we, once again, just see that it's the poorest of people, the poorest of nations, the ones who least deserve to feel the effects are the ones that end up getting the worst of the effects out of this. 

In the end, I feel like for most people it's hard to care about the Amazon. It's something far, far away they've never seen before. To most people just feels like a bunch of trees. It's a forest somewhere, right? Most people don't realize the impact that it has on our global climate systems, the amount of life that is there and all the ways that it will affect them directly if it disappeared.

And while losing the Amazon may not mean game over all of a sudden everything's terrible everywhere. Like you said, it's just another thing. And a big thing to add onto the pile of all the other things that we've discussed that aggregate to make life in the future pretty difficult. 

Kellan: [00:35:42] Yeah. And I think we can also be kind of narrow-minded. We may think okay. It has some effect on the global temperature and climate change, but maybe I live in a part of the world where the weather patterns that change from the loss of the Amazon don't really directly affect me that much. And yet we forget how globally connected we are, right, here we're talking about how Brazil is the largest exporter of beef but we rely on Brazil for a number of things and not just Brazil, but a lot of other countries in south America that would be most heavily affected by the loss of the rainforest. And that's probably the case no matter where you live, whether you're in the United States like us, or you're actually in south America, or if you're in Europe or Asia, Australia, wherever you are a region of the world being this strongly impacted is going to also strongly influence your country's economy and probably your way of life. 

Kory: [00:36:36] Yeah, good point, and if you live in the U S. You have personally seen already the political turmoil that comes from what many Americans consider protecting the Southern border and have probably seen the drama and violence and ire and nationalism and xenophobia that comes from just a couple thousand or a few thousand or a caravan of thousands of people making their way from central America to the U S and all the backlash that comes from that. Imagine what it would be like as the loss of the Amazon and the way of life for tens or hundreds of millions of people causes uprisings, violence and the need to flee from those south American countries.

They're going to move north. And I think we underestimate the influence that those migrations would have on local politics, local sustainability, local peace. Brazil right now is going through its worst drought in over a hundred years. They're having shortages of electricity, other supply chain issues, most of which is due to the fact that the local climate is changing. And that is slated to get much worse as it reaches this point of no return. 

Kellan: [00:37:45] Well, Kory, everything that we've talked about tonight is depressing, but just remember we can collectively change right now and everything's going to be all better. It's great to know that all it takes is a little hopium at the end of an article to make everything all better. So please, to all the listeners out there, be a little more conscious about some of your choices. Don't use plastic straws, and we're going to take care of this. There's still time.