BIG in the Wild: Inside the Amazon

Combating deforestation is what organizations like the Rainforest Alliance do. It's working to change the policies and standards leading to the destruction. The struggle has brought forth individuals, like Karina Miotto, who have made saving the region a life purpose.

Miotto quit her job as a journalist two years ago and moved to the remote area — drawn by the magical lure of the rain forest and its people. The Sao Paolo native said she "needed to share" her experiences and has emerged as a young, passionate voice in defense of the Amazon. Miotto has written stories, given lectures and is working on a film with Greenpeace to further the cause.

The visual shock of the area's destruction stokes the passion of the rain forest's defenders — the sights and sounds of buzzing saws and scorching flames claiming ancient trees by the score during the last 30 years.

The Amazon has been stripped. From the original 2 million square miles of forest, 18 percent has been lost.

The stretches of green that disappear are about the size of Texas and more is lost daily.

"The real problem that is driving the Amazon rain forest is that anything you do with the forest -- and you cut it down and kill it -- is worth more in the marketplace than the standing living forest," said Steve Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Cattle ranching is the biggest culprit, followed by soy bean farming and then logging. Acre upon acre of forestland is cleared for commerce and some believe, for that, the planet is paying the price.

Not only are we losing the trees that pump oxygen for us to breathe, we're also losing the world's single most abundant home of plant and animal life. And the deforestation is adding to global warming.

Twenty percent of the world's carbon emissions are due to this deforestation.

"Three months ago, Brazil got up and committed to reduce its national deforestation 70 percent by 2017. That is huge. This sets a standard for controlling the emissions of global warming pollution," Schwartzman said.

"The Brazilian government has done something very innovative and really tough that we have not done in our own country, which is any private land owner who buys land, and is going to use it for something has to set aside 20 percent of that land for full protection," said Tensie Whelan of the Rainforest Alliance.

And while new efforts are being made to protect the rain forest, Miotto said her life's work won't be done until the area is restored to its full, green glory.

"I am going to live here as long, all of my life," she said.

Click here to learn more about Uptown Birds pet store, which provided the Amazonian birds featured on "GMA" today.

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