World’s last tropical rainforest

The price of food and reasonable medical care have fallen so much that the world population swells to levels scarcely imaginable 200 years ago.  Whenever you get a bunch of people together in a tropical climate they inevitably seem to say to each other “Let’s go out and cut down all of the trees in the jungle so that we can grow crops or graze cattle.”

The last tropical rainforest left will very likely be the one right here in central Panama for it supplies one thing that is undeniably critical for the operation of the Canal:  rain.  The heart of the 80 km-long Canal is a big lake, 26 meters above sea level.  Every transit of a ship through the Canal requires that 52 million gallons of fresh water drain out of this lake into the Caribbean and Pacific.  The water is replenished from surrounding rainforest.  One thing that people in this part of the world have learned is that when you cut down all the trees it changes the local climate, generally cutting the amount of rain that falls.

Panama is one of the few places in the world where you don’t need a hippie environmentalist to talk up the value of the rainforest.  Here everyone knows what the rainforest is worth… $600 million per year in tolls.

8 thoughts on “World’s last tropical rainforest

  1. Just FYI, there is at least one rain forest under the protection of the US Park Service. It is El Yunque, the Caribbean National Forest ( )

    It is a trully gorgeous and overwhelming experience. The most interesting thing to us was how it would rain every 10-15 minutes. The rest of the island is humid, but nowhere close to that forest.

  2. Why can’t they just pump water into the canal from the oceans? at each end. Sure, its might be salinated, whereas rainforest run-off is fresh, but ships float just the same in saline water. Plus you’d have control over floods and drought, and a revenue stream from the woodchips.

  3. How much do you think it would cost to pump 52 million gallons 26 meters up? Let’s see, that’s about 35 billion foot-pounds of energy, or 13,000 kilowatt-hours I reckon. At say 5 cents per kilowatt hour, that’s about $600 per ship in energy alone. Not too bad. From what I gather through google, the fee for a 60 kiloton vessel crossing the canal is over $100K, so the energy cost is a pretty small component.

    So, cut down the rainforest, use some of the the wood to fuel a steam boiler to pump the water, use the rest to produce Ikea furniture, sounds like a winner to me.

  4. I lived for several years in the rain forest and found it to be one of the most exciting places on earth.

  5. actually, ships float completely differently (but better) in salt water than they do in fresh water…thats why they have freshwater and saltwater markings on the hull…

    i suppose your point would be that they would still float in the canal if it was seawater…guh, because they go through the ocean to get there anyway…

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