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Amazon Rainforest

Intermediate



T he Amazon Rainforest is fed by the longest river in the world and stretches across eight countries in South America, including, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Venezuela, Suriname, and Colombia. The rainforest, also known as Amazonia, encompasses an area roughly the size of the United States of America and is home to thousands of unique plant and animal species. This amazing diversity makes the Amazon rainforest the largest ecosystem in the world.

According to archaeological findings, the Amazon basin was inhabited by humans as far back as 10,000 years ago. The native tribes of the Amazon first encountered Europeans in the 16th century when the Spanish arrived in the Americas. Francisco de Orellana was on a mission to find El Dorado, the fabled City of Gold when he entered the Amazon rainforest in 1541. Though his journey brought exciting stories of travel and adventure, he never found the City of Gold, and in the end, the Spanish were not interested in developing the vast wilderness with little to no foreseeable resources. 

Over the next 300 years, several more expeditions into Amazonia were led by the French, English, and Portuguese, but they all failed to gain complete control of the region. The settlers did notice an interesting material the natives used to waterproof items, but it proved unsuitable for use outside the basin. It wasn't until 1842 when Charles Goodyear invented vulcanization, a process which made rubber durable that reignited interest in the area. Goodyear’s development had created an insatiable demand for rubber. In the beginning, Brazil had a complete monopoly over the market. However, Brazil’s control came to an abrupt end when an Englishman, Henry Wickham, succeeded in smuggling rubber tree seeds into England. Soon after rubber was being produced overseas.

Brazil’s attitude of keeping Amazonia away from foreigner investors led to the construction of a vast network of roads through the rainforest. The roads were a means of encouraging local people to settle in the region. Unfortunately, the plan involved cutting great areas of rainforest to make room for new settlements and fields. The situation became so severe that during the 70s and 80s the rate of deforestation in Amazonia equaled one football field a minute. Over the course of twenty years, one-fifth of the Amazonian rainforest was cut down.

Thousands of acres of forests that provide precious air, as well as invaluable plant and animal species are in danger. The loss of such life would disrupt the fragile balance of nature on this planet, as well as the lives of the descendants who still inhabit the area. Fortunately, the people of the world is beginning to realize the importance of this primeval forest and nations are uniting their efforts to save and regenerate what's left of it. 

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