Aerial view of morning mist over tropical rainforest.

People and the Rainforest: the Relationship

Humans have been relying on the rainforest far longer than thought.

cloudy rainforest landscape with thatched roof seen above some bushes

Rainforests are incredible places: diverse, chaotic and full of more plants and animals than any other environment on earth.  But for a long time, scientists have argued that humans have lived in rainforests for only the last 8,000 years.

The reason is with such variety, comes great challenges. The majority of animals that would provide food can hide away in the trees and while fruits and plants may be abundant, they can also be deadly. It was believed that rainforests were simply too complicated to live in, and that a life on open plains would have made travelling and getting food far easier.

But new research has shown that people have been relying on the rainforests for at least 20,000 years – far earlier than previously thought.

Despite this long-term relationship with rainforests, it is only in the last 300 years that deforestation caused by humans has accelerated so rapidly. The impact of this has huge consequences for human health and the health of the planet.

The rainforests are not vast empty Edens or untouched nature – they are home to millions of people who rely upon the forest for everything. They are the most at-risk of deforestation, but the forest’s best custodians. Cool Earth firmly believes that rainforest is best protected when the people who live there are strong and healthy. That’s why we are all about local people – they are at the heart of everything we do.