DOWN TO EARTH
We are Down to Earth in Peru on a police patrol to La Pampa, a wasteland on the outskirts of the Amazon. In the last six years 50,000 hectares of rainforest have been obliterated in this region, most of it due to illegal gold mining. Today the authorities are clamping down.
Despite efforts to halt deforestation, the number of trees being cut in Peru has jumped 80% since the start of the century. NGOs such as Rainforest Alliance are working with local communities to prove that protecting the forest - and adding value to existing renewable resources - offers a more lucrative and sustainable income over the long term. Tourism could be the most promising. If visitors are willing to pay large amounts to see unspoiled virgin rainforests, it may be the most powerful evidence that trees in the Amazon are worth more alive than dead.
‘‘Trees are as alive as us but the problem is we don't feel attached to them’’
French director Luc Jacquet’s film ‘Once Upon a Forest’ tries to elicit an emotional response in the audience, using animation to convey that trees and humans are surprisingly similar. Scientists, too, are studying how to make people care. At the University of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Laboratory researchers say they’ve found a way to reduce paper consumption by turning participants into virtual tree-cutters.
Biotechnology: making it impossible to cheat the system
Back in Peru, Dennis del Castillo is an agronomist looking for a global solution to the illegal trafficking of timber. Over the next three years he’ll create a DNA bank of trees eligible for exportation, making it possible to trace the precise origin of wood bound for customers in Europe, the United States or Asia.