Words by Tess Becker
Rainforests are some of the most diverse and densely populated ecosystems on the planet. According to the National Park Service, around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous to rainforests. These diverse and essential ecosystems are home to half of all living animal and plant species as well as two-thirds of all flowering plants.
To demonstrate the sheer density of tropical rainforests, a single hectare may contain 42,000 different insect species, up to 807 trees of 313 species, and 1,500 species of higher plants.
While they contain some of the most important and diverse ecosystems in the world, they’re also among the most endangered.
The main threat is human-driven habitat loss, which risks the extinction of all animal and plant species that make rainforests their home. Tropical rainforests have been subjected to heavy logging and agricultural clearance throughout the 20th century, and the area covered by rainforests around the world is rapidly shrinking.
Rainforests are essential to the planet and its overall health. They are often called the lungs of the planet for their role absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas; and producing oxygen, upon which all animals depend for survival. Rainforests also stabilize the climate, and house an incredible diversity of plants that make up much of the world’s medicine.
For these reasons, individuals and groups across the world are taking various steps to protect rainforests. One such organization is Health in Harmony.
Health in Harmony works as a central hub for conservation work in tropical rainforests, helping equip different conservationists around the world with the tools and resources they need to protect forests in their community.
“We exist to have a meaningful impact on reversing the climate crisis and nature's collapse,” Health in Harmony executive director Jonathan Jennings tells Smiley News. “Our mission is to protect and reverse the loss of tropical rain forests in order to curb global heating and the climate crisis.”
The organization does so by empowering people within local communities, abiding by the idea that local people will know best how to provide and protect their land. This comes in the form of what they call the radical listening approach, which involves learning from people and their needs, to connect human needs with conservation.
“When it comes to knowing best how to protect and expand Earth and tropical rainforest ecosystems, the people who know best how to do that are the people who live in these rainforests, be they Indigenous, non-Indigenous, traditional, or trans migratory; they are the experts,” Jonathan says.
They want to make a significant impact before 2030 when experts believe we may pass a point of no return for some of the world’s ecosystems.
“We need to protect about 30% of nature's ecosystems in order to avoid the worst impacts of biodiversity collapse and nature's collapse,” Jonathan says. “... we are in very much the decisive decade.”
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Beacon Food Forest. This is one of the largest food forests in the country. Find out more and support them here.
Cultural Survival. They are an indigenous-led nonprofit focused on empowering indigenous Americans and helping the planet. Find out more.
American Forests. A conservation organization focused on preserving and protecting American forests. Support them here.