An acre of the Amazon rainforest is now in safer hands thanks to the efforts of The Lorax Troop, a small ISU student-run group of eco-activists who advocate for rainforest and wildlife protection all over the world.
Through a three-day fundraising campaign that began last Monday, the group met their goal of raising at least $100, enough to purchase and protect one pristine acre of the Amazon rainforest.
The group raised money by selling home-baked goods outside Parks Library. For one dollar, those who walked by could choose between a variety of muffins, cupcakes, cookies and “puppy chow,” all of which were cooked with ingredients that did not contain palm oil — a precious and highly-exploited commodity of the world’s rainforests.
“It’s pretty exciting to be able to save a piece of rainforest that hasn’t been touched yet,” said Nicole Laurito, sophomore in animal ecology and founder and president of The Lorax Troop.
The plot of land, which is roughly the size of half a football field, is located in northern Brazil and is home to hundreds of different species of plants and animals.
The $100 goes to an international conservation charity known as the World Land Trust, who will then purchase the land under their own name and protect it from people who are bent on exploiting the land for its natural resources. Sometimes, however, loggers slip past their defenses and cut down trees illegally.
“It’s hard to stop illegal loggers. They’ve put patrol people out there, and they do the best they can,” Laurito said. “But, if someone sneaks onto your land and cuts down big hardwood trees, you can’t really do anything about it unless you want to get killed.”
Along with the trail of deforestation that loggers leave behind, rangers and cattlemen are purchasing increasingly large tracts of land to make way for cattle feedlots.
Josh Dickman, sophomore in anthropology and co-founder and treasurer of The Lorax Troop, calls these feedlots “cheap meat farms” and said that they directly affect Americans by saturating the market with low quality and unethically raised beef.
The Lorax Troop’s one acre of rainforest is just one piece of a massive puzzle of land plots protected by the World Land Trust.
According to the World Land Trust website, the organization “protects the world’s most biologically important and threatened habitats acre by acre” and has “funded partner organizations around the world to create reserves and give permanent protection to habitat and their wildlife.”
Last fall, The Lorax Troop hosted a similar event in which they sold t-shirts. Proceeds went toward the purchase of an acre of rainforest in Indonesia — a region of the world where, according to Laurito, an estimated 90 percent of rainforest territory has been degraded.
The Amazon rainforest has not yet reached such a critical point as Indonesia’s rainforests, and The Lorax Troop hopes to keep things that way.
“It’s really important that we protect what’s left," Laurito said. "The Amazon is the largest rainforest left in the world that hasn’t been completely destroyed."