The Living Soil Essay Contest For Kids

KS4 Prize Winners

First Place: Isobel Fernandes

St Mary’s Ascot

How on Earth can we Save the Rainforests?

Rainforest: an ordinary word which describes something truly magnificent. Tropical rainforests are the most diverse ecosystems on earth. A four-square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 3085 different species of animals, plants and insects. However, the rainforests are being cut down and destroyed at a rapid and horrifying rate, every year an area the size of England is being destroyed. This shocking fact is something that we cannot simply dismiss, we think of England, our home and how important it is to us.  The Cotswolds, picturesque with rich history, the hustle and bustle of our capital London, always lit up. We would never give this up, so why are we giving up the rainforest? London, the city that never sleeps is filled with life and houses 7,556,900 people. The rainforest which used to be home to around 1 million Indians now houses little more than 200 000 due to deforestation.   The rainforest covers just 7 per cent of the world’s surface and is inhabited by over 50 per cent of the world’s species.  We would never destroy London and let the lights go out; we definitely should not be forcing the rainforests and all of its life into eternal ruin. 

When we are losing almost 137 animal, insect and plant species per day, totalling the extinction of around 50 000 species per year, it is easy to feel powerless. As we learn more about the devastating reality of the state of our rainforests, the pressure is increased in our desires to help. There are many ways which can help to rescue, restore and revive the rainforest in its time of desperate need.   Every year more and more trees are being cut down for paper, therefore it is everyone’s responsibility to try and reduce the amount of paper that they use and waste. Petrol and plastic are two materials that are made from oil which is extracted from the rainforest. We must try to reduce the amount of petrol that we use; this can be achieved by walking, cycling or taking public transport whenever we possibly can. We must also make an effort to reduce the amount of plastic that we use; choose glass over plastic, and if you do have a plastic bottle ensure that you rinse and reuse it.  It is clear that in everything we do we must think ‘REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE!’ This simple phrase is the key saving our rainforest. Never feel powerless. If you do feel that a company is taking advantage of the rainforest you should be active and write to them, explaining the importance of preserving the rainforest. We can also donate to projects that work actively, with the help of our money; they can continue to fight the battle to save our much loved rainforests.

One of the very shocking reasons for deforestation is to clear room for cattle. This is becoming increasingly common as the demand for beef grows, particularly within the fast food companies. In the west a lot of meat is consumed within the diet due to the fairly strong economy and therefore deforestation is increasing to provide means to feed these cattle. The western people especially, have a responsibility to adapt their diets accordingly to prevent this deforestation. This does not mean cutting all meat completely out of our diets however it means that we should think and try to use more meats that have been bred locally and also eating less red meats, beef in particular. When ordering at restaurants it is a good idea to look for something that does not contain beef. Try to ensure that if you have a pet you feed it food which has alternative flavourings opposed to beef. This may seem a big ask to someone who has little interest in the rainforest, however, it is a simple and easy step that everyone can take to do their bit and save the rainforest.

In conclusion, there is no instant method by which the rainforests can be saved. But, how on earth can we begin to make a difference? We must remember not to give up on the beauty of the rainforests, we must believe that we can make a difference, through this enthusiasm to help we can bring to light the importance of the cause to others around us. By doing this we will encourage a population of people who care about the world in which they live. This seems to be the best way on earth that we can save the rainforest.

Second Place: Sophie Davidson

St Mary’s Ascot

How on earth can we save the rainforest?

The rainforests are becoming exceedingly important to our world. They are home to a vast variety of fascinating species as well as the rich culture of the indigenous people. They also provide us with goods and services which we rely on for our basic everyday life. Many of our most popular foods come from the rainforest: bananas, peppers, cashews, peanuts, coffee, tea, cola, coconut, cocoa, vanilla, and sugar. Not a day goes by in which we do not eat at least one if not more of these products. The fact that we need and love these products so much is causing us to destroy the place where they are grown. The rainforest gives us health, both by acting as the world’s “lungs” (photosynthesis) and by giving us medicines, for example, quinine, which helps prevent malaria. Nearly half of the world’s medicines come from plants in the rainforest, without which the human population would decrease rapidly from illness. The rainforest also provides us with timber as a fuel and building material.

The rainforest is being greatly damaged almost beyond repair- the primary reason being deforestation. Deforestation in the Amazon is being caused by large international companies cutting down wood used for timber and fuel and also clearing the forest to make room for cattle and soya bean farming as well as the ever growing population of Brazil. Every second an area of forest the size of two football fields is cleared. This extreme clearing of the rainforests must stop. New trees must be planted in the place of the ones that have been cut down. Although these trees will take a long time to grow to a full height, this will insure that there will be some form of rainforest for the future generations. The best way to reduce deforestation is to simply move deforestation out of the rainforest entirely. But of course this will take a lot of time. A substitution for tropical timber must quickly be found.

In an everyday manner, we are also able to help save this rainforest if we care enough. It is so much better to buy products not made in the rainforest. Palm oil that is at the moment mostly grown in rainforest can also be grown in countries like USA. Although they are more costly, this expense is not as great as what we will have to pay if we lose our rainforest. The extremely destructive soya bean farming (as mentioned in the previous paragraph) also happens in the USA and China, these countries are better equipped to deal with deforestation and have better ways of developing chemicals to help replanted trees grow faster.

I think one of the most promising ways to try and save the rainforest for the future is through education both of the people living in the rainforest and of people in the developed world. We must educate the people who have moved into the rainforest to teach them how important their rainforest is to the natural cycle of the earth. They must be taught the skills in how to manage the rainforest sustainably but first they must realize how much the rest of the people in the world really need it. The people in MEDCs also need to be taught how important the rainforest is to their lives. They can also be taught not to waste the resources and ruin the rainforest in the process. This is providing a way of saving the rainforest not just for right now but for the future. The people being educated at school will be the people taking care of and managing the world soon.

We must save this great biome for its natural beauty and the great variety of species living there, for its natural resources and for the people of the future. This type of biome is so important to the world’s natural processes as well as being needed in every person’s life. There are so many problems in the rainforest and one of the greatest is deforestation. We need to stop the world’s “lungs” being damaged, by introducing sustainable agriculture as a start, but this is not enough. The trees will not be able to grow back fast enough to keep providing the huge demand the rainforest faces. Buying products not from the rainforest will mean that the deforestation due to timber and farming will be decreased massively. For change in the future, young people must be educated to preserve the rainforest.

Third Place: Madeleine Parsons

St Mary’s Ascot

How on earth can we save the rainforests?

Often called the ‘Earth’s Lungs’ the rainforests are essential for the respiration of all living animals. Through the process of photosynthesis the tropical rainforest plants convert the toxic carbon dioxide mammals breathe out through respiration into clean oxygen we can then breathe.  2 per cent of the Earth’s surface is covered by rainforest but yet two thirds of the world’s living species inhabit them. The health of people everywhere, although probably not realised, is in the hands of the rainforests. This is because nearly half the medicines taken are derived from the prevalent plants grown only there. The most prominent and perturbing consideration is that in a four mile radius it is thought 1,500 species of flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 125 mammal species, 400 species of bird, 100 species of reptiles, 60 species of amphibians and 150 species of butterflies live.  The biodiversity in these areas is like none you can find elsewhere in the world. So why, when we take these factors into consideration, do we continue to tear the rainforests down?

The destruction of the rainforests is essential to many industries. Logging companies endeavour to obtain timber or use the poorer quality wood for wood chipping. The locations of the rainforests are also areas where the climate is perfect for harvesting crops such as sugarcane or coffee. Therefore many acres of rainforest are cut down every day to provide new plantations. Once the land has been used to grow produce it takes several months for the land to retain the same quality of soils, meaning that farmers cut down more trees to make more land available. Like the farmers, cattle herders have the same routine of using land for cattle ranching before moving and making new land once the old is ruined.  For each pound of beef, 200 square feet of rainforest has been cut down. The concluding reason to cut away the rainforests is that metal, such as aluminium and copper, and oil deposits lie beneath the ground of the rainforests.

Somehow the majority of the world’s population chooses to ignore the demolition of the rainforests as it primarily does not link to them.  A vast population is not even aware of the rapid rate at which rainforests are disappearing. One and one-half acres of rainforest are lost every second. Rainforests once covered 14 per cent of the earth’s land surface; now they cover a mere 6 per cent. It is predicted that in the next 40 years we could lose all the rainforests entirely. Therefore anything we do that could potentially save the rainforests is moving in the right way forward.

Land owners are the people who choose whether or not to abuse the rainforests. However something that very few people know is that anyone can own parts of the rainforest and therefore preserve it.  We can raise money to buy large quantities of land and declare it off limits to loggers, farmers and ranchers. Buying an acre of the Amazon surprisingly only costs $37.50. When we reflect on the World’s action towards problems such as poverty we can see all around us, on adverts and in the newspapers, that by raising people’s awareness you get the desired affect. If people are educated about the value of the rainforest there would be more of an inclination to make a difference.

After much research it seems that all sources seem to agree that in order to save the rainforests we must do five things; teach others of the importance of the environment, restore damaged ecosystems, encourage people to help, and establish protection and support organisations. Whilst I agree that all these factors are important I also believe that they are slightly idealistic as people have been aware of the destruction of rainforests for over a decade but yet not everyone has acted upon it. Therefore I think that although all these things should be put into practice there has to be a scare, such as the price of wood suddenly soaring, to make everyone realise that the rainforests need aid.

 A lot of companies now are reducing the number of trees they cut down and are even planting new ones for each one they cut down. Although these companies are doing their own part, without hundreds of more companies doing the same, the impact will not be influential. These trees that are planted in areas which have been damaged will build new ecosystems but, like many realities, these processes take time. The sooner we start to try and save the rainforests the better.

Back to the 2010-11 National Schools Essay Competition prize winners

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“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

There have been three major violent attacks in the United States in the past six weeks. A shooter in Las Vegas killed 58 people and injured 546 others attending a music festival. In another attack, in New York City, a man murdered eight people and injured 12 using a rented truck from Home Depot to plow into them. Last Sunday, a man killed 26 and injured 20 people attending Sunday services at a church in a small town in Texas. As humans sharing the world, it is hard to believe how commonplace violence is, whether in the form of a “lone shooter” or as an “act of terrorism.” Instead of feeling the shock and horror we should, we have almost become numb in reaction to these outrageous and revolting events.

As a 17-year-old, I have never known a time in America where there wasn’t violence. I was just 1 year old when the 9/11 attacks happened. I have lived through many acts of violence, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012. That same year, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African- American from Florida, was fatally shot, ironically, by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Whether it’s a mass attack, mass shooting or the killing of one person, the action is violence and the result is the same—death. And we are left asking ourselves, “Why?” What can we do about it?

As teens, we don’t have to feel powerless. There are things we can do. One thing we can do is to raise awareness about religion and racism. Interfaith programs at our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples can help promote goodwill and understanding through diversity. By seeing that we share faith in a higher power and working together for the greater good, we promote understanding. Programs like Harvard University’s The Pluralism Project runs the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition in the St. Paul, Minn., area, where “teens work together to nurture interfaith understanding, reduce prejudice and misunderstanding, and act together on common values through service and justice to transform their worlds. In the process, these young people are empowered to be capable interfaith leaders, both within their own communities and beyond.” This program includes many community-based events like a gardening service as well as leadership workshops for the teens. Having more programs like this one, throughout the United States and the world, will help cultivate more understanding leadership and promote greater understanding among different religions.

Teens can also raise awareness of gun violence. Events such as Seattle, Washington’s “Teens Against Guns Youth Summit,” hosted by the Atlantic Street Center, are a way to bring teens together to actively support the anti-gun movement at a grassroots level. Programs like these can help empower teens to help them realize they can be proactive in ending the cycle of violence.

Another way teens can use their voice to denounce violence and terror is through social media. When she was challenged by another student to prove there were Muslims who condemned violence in the name of Islam, Heraa Hashmi, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Colorado Boulder, decided to make a list of all the Muslim groups that did. According to a November 2016 Teen Vogue article, “ The result was Worldwide Muslims Condemn List — a spreadsheet with 5,720 instances of Muslim groups and leaders denouncing various acts of terrorism.” Her Twitter account generated 12,000 re-tweets and the list has been made into an interactive website called Her idea led to a resource for anyone to access the information.

Whether coming together in an interfaith group, rallying at an anti-gun youth summit or using social media to create awareness against violence, teens have a voice. Gun violence and terror attacks need to end in my generation. Maybe Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers), said it best: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” We, as teens, need to be those helpers.

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