Subscriptions click here for 20% off! E-Mail:

Git Home!


Bad science and misguided pop stars
team up to bring you the


By Barry Wigmore
For a dozen years, pop superstar Sting has warned that man has brought the Amazon rainforest to the verge of extinction. He and a host of celebrities have insisted that Amazonia–2.7 million square miles of nearly impenetrable Brazilian forest, an area nearly as big as the lower 48 states–is being destroyed at a horrifying rate.

But now, two of the world’s top eco-scientists, Patrick Moore and Philip Stott, say the save-the-rainforest movement is wrong: at best, vastly misleading; at worst, a gigantic con.

“All these save-the-forests arguments are based on bad science,” says Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace who recently returned from a fact-finding mission to the Amazon. “They are quite simply wrong. We found that the Amazon rainforest is more than 90 percent intact. We flew over it and met all the environmental authorities. We studied satellite pictures of the entire area.”

TV reporter Marc Morano, who had spent more than a year investigating the rainforest movement’s claims for an American Investigator TV program that was broadcast nationally last July, says he was amazed when he discovered the truth. He says the statistics he found–backed up by satellite imagery of the forests–speak for themselves.

“We learned that only 12.5 percent of the original Amazon has been deforested, leaving 87.5 percent intact,” he said. “Of the 12.5 percent deforested, one-third to one-half of that land is fallow or in the process of regeneration. That means that at any given moment up to 94 percent of the total Amazon is left to nature. That is not wanton destruction.”

Stott, who has spent nearly 30 years studying tropical forests, agrees. “Many of these stars want to have an impact beyond their normal music and the environment is an area that they feel they can move into quite easily,” he says. “It’s a convenient one for them to go to. So a lot of the young teenagers, the 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds, follow them.”

Everyone has jumped on the rainforest bandwagon–from actor Leonardo DiCaprio to supermodel Naomi Campbell, from Greenpeace to the Rainforest Foundation, the group formed by Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler. William Shatner– “Star Trek’s” Capt. Kirk–beamed down to earth to narrate a National Geographic video, saying “rainforest is being cleared at the rate of 20 football fields per minute.”

These eco-warriors say the rainforests are the lungs of the earth, pumping out oxygen. Without them, they say, we will all choke on polluting hydrocarbons.

The eco-warriors turned out in force last May for the 10th annual Save the Rainforest rock concert at Carnegie Hall. Sting, Elton John, Billy Joel and Tom Jones joined hands with Ricky Martin, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder before a sellout crowd of 1,800. During one set, Sting, Jones and Martin donned Day-Glo wigs to become Gladys Knight’s backup group, the Pips.

After the concert, the celebrities trooped to the Pierre for an auction. Marie Claire magazine editor Glenda Bailey paid $8,000 for lunch with Courtney Cox. An afternoon sail on Billy Joel’s yacht went for $20,000. A walk-on part on “Law and Order” cost $45,000. And co-chairwoman Sarah Van Breathnach paid $140,000 to do a duet with Sting on “Every Breath You Take.”

Altogether, the night raised more than $2.7 million for Sting’s foundation, and the feel-good factor was enormous.

The rainforest movement started when the environmentally friendly Body Shop company decided to buy nuts from Amazon Indians to put in its lotions. Not to be outdone, Sting took three Amazon tribal chiefs on a world tour in 1989. First stops: the pope and French President François Mitterrand. Brazilian environment minister Otavio Moreira Lima was furious. “We see this melancholy spectacle of an Amazon chief in Europe being presented like a prized wild animal in the hands of a rock singer,” he said. “This is revolting and I consider it an affront.” But he was ignored.

Two of the world’s top
eco-scientists say the
save-the-rainforest movement is wrong:
at best, vastly misleading;
at worst, a gigantic con.

Now an increasing number of scientists are siding with the Brazilians, who have for years insisted that while their Amazon policy may have been flawed initially, it has since been corrected. Among them are Moore, a Canadian who helped found Greenpeace, and Stott, professor of biogeography at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies and editor of the Journal of Biogeography. Both started as conventional environmentalists–agreeing with the accepted wisdom that the rainforests are endangered.

Moore, in particular, was in the vanguard of Greenpeace’s early direct-action campaigns, sailing into nuclear test grounds to get the United States, then France, to stop nuclear testing in the atmosphere.

But in the ’80s and early ’90s the two independently started to dig deeper into the rainforest issue. Separately, they came to remarkably similar conclusions–public opinion is wrong.

“If the rainforest in Amazonia was being destroyed at the rate critics say, it would have all vanished ages ago,” Stott says. “One of the simple, but very important, facts is that the rainforests have only been around for between 12,000 and 16,000 years. That sounds like a very long time but, in terms of the history of the earth, it’s hardly a pinprick. Before then, there were hardly any rainforests. They are very young. It is just a big mistake that people are making. The simple point is that there are now still–despite what humans have done–more rainforests today than there were 12,000 years ago.

“This lungs of the earth business is nonsense; the daftest of all theories,” Stott adds. “If you want to put forward something which, in a simple sense, shows you what’s wrong with all the science they espouse, it’s that image of the lungs of the world. In fact, because the trees fall down and decay, rainforests actually take in slightly more oxygen than they give out. The idea of them soaking up carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen is a myth. It’s only fast-growing young trees that actually take up carbon dioxide.”

He continues, “In terms of world systems, the rainforests are basically irrelevant. World weather is governed by the oceans–that great system of ocean atmospherics. “Most things that happen on land are mere blips to the system, basically insignificant.”

Both scientists say the argument that the cure for cancer could be hidden in a rainforest plant or animal–while plausible–is also based on false science because the sea holds more mysteries of life than the rainforests. And both say fears that man is destroying this raw source of medicine are unfounded because the rainforests are remarkably healthy.

“They are just about the healthiest forests in the world. This stuff about them vanishing at an alarming rate is a con based on bad science,” Moore says. “Anyone who has been in the jungle knows that if you want to live there, you’d better take a few machetes. Otherwise, it’ll take it all back.”

Barry Wigmore is a freelance feature writer working mostly for the London Times. He lives in New Fairfield, Conn.This piece appeared in The New York Post on June 8, 2000.

Table of Contents | Git Home!

To Subscribe: Please click here or call 1-800-RANGE-4-U for a special web price

Copyright © 1998-2005 RANGE magazine

For problems or questions regarding this site, please contact Dolphin Enterprises.

last page update: 04.03.05