Imagine a forest where the trees touch the sky. Due to enough rainfall, the trees grow huge and spread wide. Their tallest branches are so thick-leafed that they create a thick curtain. Even the wind does not find enough space to blow as it pleases. All there is in that forest is stillness. And it is very warm. The temperature could vary between 20 and 35 degrees centigrade. The climate is such that it is good for life forms of all kinds — from trees to animals, birds and insects.
These forests are called tropical rainforests. Most of them are located near the equator, in Asia, Africa and South America. The rainforests of the Amazon basin in South America is one of the lushest rainforests in the world. You will find more varieties of trees or animal life here than anywhere else in the world.
The rains are frequent and heavy — as much as 100 inches at one time. Thunderstorms occur every three or four days. Because of abundant rain, the trees grow to a height of almost 40 metres. There are trees at lower heights as well. The shade from all these trees almost blocks out the sunlight. Which is why you will never find smaller plants or shrubs in a rainforest. Smaller plants can be seen only where there are open spaces or clearings in the forest.
What you can see in abundance in these rainforests are animals, birds and insects of many kinds — and they all have special characteristics. Some are brightly coloured, some are incredibly noisy, while others are big. Leopards, snakes, crocodiles, anteaters, big lizards are some of the animals found in tropical rainforests.
There are also the army ants that gobble up anything that stands on their way! Mosquitoes, sweat bees and even the common housefly have had their homes in these forests for long.
The tropical rainforests are called the green lungs of the planet, and with good reason. They absorb carbon dioxide from around them to process their food and release oxygen into the air. That oxygen gives us life. They also contain the maximum number of trees with medicinal value.
But now human beings are out to harm the rainforests. Many companies all over the world, especially in the West, have been attacking these rainforests for a variety of reasons — some want to make profit by cutting down trees and selling timber; others are trying to be the only ones to make profit out of medicinal plants.
People who have protested against these actions have also been killed. One such person was a Brazilian called Chico Mendes who fought these companies all his life and tried to protect the rainforests. But he was killed some years ago.
To the outside world, the rainforest has always seemed a very dangerous place. Generations of films and literature have shown the people who live in the rainforests as dangerous and violent people who have a strange way of life.
But actually, these people have a better understanding of their relationship with their environment than modern man has. Greed for profit by destroying the planet’s resources is a unique quality of societies that have become modern and use sophisticated technology. One should then ask, who is more violent?