A recent article in the New York Times says that environmental groups have started paying Brazilian farmers to not cut down trees in the rainforest. The article says that deforestation accounts for 20% of CO2 emissions, so stopping deforestation will help fight global warming. But there’s more to it than that.
Why? Because the flip side of carbon emissions, which are now pretty much accepted as causing global warming, is the availability of breathable oxygen. I barely remember my junior high school science, but Wikipedia tells me that oxygen is a waste product from photosynthesis. A waste product. Think about that the next time you take a nice, deep breath. Even so, without that waste product, there wouldn’t be any. . .well. . .us. Which means that preserving the rainforest isn’t just about rock stars, primitive cultures and exotic plants.
It turns out that as much as 20 percent of the world’s oxygen comes from the Amazon rainforest, which makes Brazil nearly twice as important to breathing as Saudi Arabia is to driving. Brazil’s farmers are pursuing their own self-interest in razing forest in order to grow crops. But what’s good for them isn’t so good for the rest of us.
It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out that oxygen is actually more important than oil. So here’s my prediction: By 2025, the rest of the world will be paying Brazil and a handful of other, similarly endowed countries to continue providing us with the air we breathe. Brazil will be the leader of OOEC – the Organization of Oxygen Exporting Countries (OOEC).
This is one of those times when I wouldn’t mind at all being proven wrong. But if I’m right, I sure hope we figure it out in time for there to be something left to save.