Ebola is on the rampage, with nearly 700 dead and two American missionaries infected in the worst outbreak in history. Ebola — that’s the incurable disease that causes your entire body to hemorrhage until you bleed death from every orifice. That hurts. Raising the question: How the hell do you get Ebola?
In short, the rain forest. This time, probably fruit bats living in the rain forest. Because while the 20 or so outbreaks since the insanely infectious disease was first discovered in 1976 have all been contained, the virus lives on in the deep, dark wood, just waiting for some poor schmuck to wander in and see what’s up.
Why beat around the jungle, here? We’ve all been told the rain forest is really important. That was like half of my elementary school education. I retained a lot, too. Like how “Fern Gully“ was a great movie. And how that flower that smells like corpses and blooms for a few days once a decade is pretty awesome.
But I’m only human, so the real question is, “Rain forest: What have you done for me lately?”
Ebola comes to mind. Fire ants and anacondas, too. Don’t forget the river dinosaurs (we call them crocodiles to make ourselves feel better). And even if you avoid being eaten alive on a nice swim, you just might get a parasitic “vampire fish” swimming up your penis or come into contact with that cute little millipede that sweats cyanide. Did you know that even those adorable rainbow colored frogs will kill you? Like, quickly?
Oh yeah, and just a few hundred thousands deaths from malaria every single year.
People say that lots of things are dangerous, and we don’t burn them down for it. But I don’t want to burn down the rain forest. I want to turn it into timber. (And a giant zoo).
Now, some naysayers claim that turning the rain forest into timber would be short sighted. “Do you know how many yet-unknown cures the rain forest hides?” they ask me. Well, no, I don’t, but I do know a couple of the diseases it hides. Like tuberculosis, leprosy, Dengue fever and AIDS. Escape all those? Don’t fret: Something called a “kissing bug” might still give you Chagas disease, which only kills more than 10,000 people a year after enlarging their colons and shorting out their hearts. No biggie.
It’s kind of like saying we can’t get rid of the Mafia, because who would protect us from spontaneous fires and robberies if not them?
There’s a reason that the folks who pretty much colonized the planet were calling West Africa the “white man’s graveyard“ in the 19th century (which is way before “Fern Gully”). And that reason is the rain forest.
And it’s not like we couldn’t still experience all the cool animals without the rain forest. I spent a few days in a cloud forest, saw a couple of awesome things, and almost got cyanide on me from that little millipede guy who looks so adorable you just want to pet it, but really shouldn’t. You know how many cool things I saw on my last trip to the National Zoo? Like 50-times that. And do you know how many times I discovered a tarantula on the wall next to my head in the urinal at the zoo? Zero times; or one fewer time than I did in the cloud forest — a really tame rain forest by any standard.
So I’m not saying we need to get rid of all those species. I love species. That “Noah” movie where Russell Crowe saves all those species was easily my favorite documentary of 2014. But with all that space taken up by rain forest, there’s plenty of room for a zoo, and with all that timber from tearing that evil sucker down, there’s plenty of wood to build it.
Finally, I bet some people are going to point out the wonders of the upper canopy that would be lost if it was turned into housing. But did you even know that you can’t zipline there anymore because it might damage its terrifying, man-eating, AIDS-spreading environment? And why does the rain forest need to hide what it’s up to with an upper canopy, anyway? If I can’t see what you’re doing from my drone, I’m suspicious. (We’re looking at you, Boko Haram.)
Speaking of which, Boko Haram also hides out in the woods — under a “canopy.” Not only that, but they too emerge from the woods to kill Christians every now and then.
Coincidence? The rain forest is millions of years old. That’s too old to believe in coincidences.