It’s probably the same reason we call any beach we go to “the” beach, or any ocean “the” ocean. One thing about “the” rainforest though that makes it easy to lump together is that there is a problem with deforestation worldwide.
We do the same thing with the Boreal Forest (the forest that is spread out over the northern parts of North America, Europe, and Asia). Calling it “the rainforest” denotes that such rainforests cover a certain region of the world, just like the Boreal Forest.
There’s also more than one rainforest (a large swath of rainforest is in the Congo). It’s a comibnation of laziness and misunderstanding.
Referring to “the rainforest” as one thing although the land it inhabits is divided up into different countries is a way of referencing it as one ecosystem.
Generally people talk about “the rainforest” in the same way they talk about “the coast” or “the ice shelf” — there are, of course, numerous examples of these environments existing all over the world in various countries, territories, etc, but referencing them all as a whole is meant to mean not any one specific place, but to talk about that type of ecosystem as a whole.
The rainforest is a category of types of habitats around the globe. We do the same thing with the arctic, the desert, the savannah. While there are many rainforests, they all have something in common with each other, just as all deserts and oceans have something in common.
That name also is easier to rally around. It is much easer to say “Save the rain forest” than “Save the rain forests of northern South America!” It looks better on a T-shirt.
I think many people are referring to all rainforests when they talk about “the rainforest.” Like tristan said, it’s very catchy to say save the rainforest instead of being very specific about it.
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