Education is a critical part of saving the world’s rainforests. People must see the beauty and understand the importance of these forests so they will want to protect them. Environmental education should occur both in western countries like the United States and in countries like Bolivia and Madagascar that have rainforests.
In the United States, people need to understand their role in the loss of rainforests. For example, buying certain products like mahogany contributes to the cutting down of rainforests in other countries. If we make an effort to learn about the environment, we can understand what we’re losing as rainforest disappears. We can also make decisions to buy products and support companies and organizations that help the rainforest.
In rainforest countries, local people sometimes do not know why forests are important. Through educational programs these people can learn that forests provide key services (like clean water) and are home to plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Few children in Madagascar know that lemurs are not found in America. They are proud and happy when they learn that lemurs only live in Madagascar.
In other cases, however, people already know that forests are important. Where they need help is in fighting companies that are taking their land and destroying rainforests.
In some tropical countries, governments may not fully recognize the rights of forest people. Instead, governments may sell forest lands to companies that chop down trees for timber or industrial agriculture. Local people therefore need help learning about legal processes so they can defend forest lands against destructive companies.
The Internet, mobile phones, and satellite monitoring have created new opportunities for communities to mobilize against forest destruction. Tools like Facebook and Twitter can help people organize campaigns and protests when their rights are being ignored or violated. Google Earth is helping scientists, environmentalists, and even indigenous people see where forests are threatened by logging and mining.
Finally, education is important for improving people’s quality of life. One of the most effective ways to reduce population growth and alleviate poverty is through education, especially education of girls and young women.
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