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RAINFOREST by Tony Juniper


Dispatches From Earth's Most Vital Frontlines

by Tony Juniper

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64283-072-9
Publisher: Island Press

A thoughtful exploration, scientific and political, of the ecological web from raindrop to global climatic system.

The clue is right there in the name: What makes a rainforest tick is rain. However, the tropical rainforests that gird the equator do more than sit silently as the rain drips from leaf to ground. Instead, they play a central role in sequestering carbon dioxide and in regulating the world’s climate, so that deforestation in the Amazon has second-order effects on rainfall in the American grain belt. Longtime Friends of the Earth organizer and rainforest campaigner Juniper (How We're F***ing Up Our Planet, 2018, etc.) examines “the diverse set of systems we call tropical rainforests,” which mediate the flow of staggering amounts of water. Roughly one-fifth of all the water on the planet moves through the Amazon, for example, whose mouth is more than 200 miles wide, “greater than the distance between London and Paris.” Essential to this movement, of course, is rain, and deforestation has markedly affected rainfall. Juniper looks closely at the various threats to the rainforest, whose decline, he notes, begins with logging, which, legal or not, is often done not just for timber harvesting, but also to clear ground for new housing and farmland. Consumers in developed nations drive destruction in developing regions, with incessant demands for beef, soybeans, palm oil, and other forest-unfriendly products. Juniper can become a touch mystical at times. Mostly, however, he writes with a lightly worn but deep understanding of ecology, conservation biology, and population dynamics. He lucidly explains such matters as how to enlist rural populations in sustaining rainforests, identifying a host of big-picture problems such as poverty and political corruption, and making a strong case for “the idea that in combating climate change there [is] no more effective step than halting deforestation.”

A sturdy primer for anyone interested in learning about tropical rainforests and why it’s essential to keep them healthy.