Magine for a minute that you were forced out of your home, your peace and quiet, and your way of life, so somebody could destroy the things you love just to make a few dollars. You probably wouldn’t be too happy about it, would you? This is exactly what is happening to the people of the world’s last remaining rainforests, as they are being forced to move from their remote villages to increasingly developed regions as the forests are being killed. At one time, hundreds of thousands of Amazon natives lived in the rainforest, but now, less than 200,000 natives remain. The Shaman people are known for their skill of identifying plants and discovering medicines. Written records have not been kept throughout their history since their secrets have been passed by word of mouth from generation to generation. As the population within the rainforest shrinks, fewer and fewer Shaman men are learning these skills. Some experts say that for each medicine man that dies, tens of thousands of years of medical knowledge dies with him. The Shaman people are not the only people who benefit from these medical discoveries, but you, your family and your friends do also. Modern medicine has benefited greatly from plants found in the rainforests. Currently, 25 percent of all western medications are derived from rainforest-born plants, while 121 prescription medications worldwide come from rainforest resources. These numbers are even more impressive when it is considered that only 1 percent of the plants in the rainforest have been scientifically tested. Frighteningly, experts estimate that approximately 50,000 species of plants and animals are killed off every year, which equates to about 137 each day. This statistic forces me to wonder: How many potential cures or remedies are we throwing away every single day? Not too long ago, the rainforests covered 14 percent of the earth’s landmass. Today, rainforests cover only 6 percent of the earth’s surface, but tomorrow, this number could be even smaller. Many experts report that the rainforests could be completely wiped off the map in approximately 40 years. The destruction of the forests would not only be disastrous for the plants, animals, and indigenous people who reside in them, but also for the entire population of the planet. To further examine the medical implications of a depleting rainforest, the United States National Cancer Institute believes that 3,000 plants, 70 percent of which grow in the rainforest, are active in fighting cancer cells. This is why more than 100 pharmaceutical companies, and many branches of the U.S. Government, are currently involved in researching plants in the rainforest. It is only recently that this research has become widespread, as no U.S. Pharmaceutical companies reported to be involved in rainforest research before the mid 1980s. If medical facts and figures aren’t sufficient evidence of the importance of rainforest conservation, perhaps this will trigger some interest. The Amazon Rainforest, located in South America, spans parts of Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru, and is responsible for more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen supply. On top of that, one-fifth of the earth’s fresh water supply is located at the Amazon Basin. Also, 50 percent of the world’s 10 million species of plants, animals and insects can be found in the rainforests, along with 3,000 different fruits. Indigenous people use approximately 2,000 of these fruits, while the western world only uses about 200. With all the hunger problems in the world today, it is not acceptable that we stand by and watch such a prominent food source be destroyed so rapidly, and so needlessly. Think about it, who does this hurt the most? What generation of people is most affected? Whose children? Whose grandchildren? The answer is “ours.” We are the men and women who, 40 years from now, will be in or around our 60s, with children, some of us with grandchildren, wondering how we allowed a natural goldmine of plants and animals, oxygen and fresh water to be nothing more than a memory. At this rate, the rainforests will be the perfect example of the old saying, “sometimes you just don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Sadly, much of the destruction of the rainforests is done by local farmers for raising cattle and expanding farmland, but plenty is destroyed by major corporations looking to make easy money. What many people don’t realize is that when the trees are cut down and the plants are killed, the soil is weak and unable to support any attempts for the forests to redevelop. Another thing people don’t tend to realize is that the land is worth far more than what most companies and individuals earn from its destruction. Statistics show that landowners who use the land for cattle will make $60 per acre annually. Additionally, if the timber is harvested, a landowner will make about $400. What about harvesting the renewable resources such as fruits, nuts, oil-producing plants and medical plants? Well, statistics report that if these resources are harvested and the rainforest is not damaged, landowners stand to see a return of approximately $2,400 per acre yearly. Personally, if I were a land owner and made aware of these economic possibilities, and taught how to take advantage of my land while sustaining the growth of the forest, I would be more than willing to help save the environment.