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DEFORESTATION

DEFORESTATION AFFECTS WILDLIFE, ECOSYSTEMS, WEATHER PATTERNS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

What is Deforestation

Deforestation is the permanent and intentional clearing of forested land by humans, often for agricultural expansion, timber harvesting for fuel or building materials, mining, and human settlement. Huge areas of forest can also become rapidly deforested during natural disasters like wildfires, tornadoes, and cyclones.

Deforestation, or the human-driven and natural loss of trees, affects everything from wildlife and ecosystems to weather patterns and the water cycle. And forests, which cover 30% of Earth’s surface, are critically important to just about every aspect of life, especially in the face of climate change

How Deforestation Works

Often a forest is degraded for a long time before being completely cleared. And once the process has begun, it can be difficult to turn back the ecological clock: after roads and other infrastructure are established, wild areas are very vulnerable to clear cuts. And once an area is deforested, it will take decades (or longer) to return to something resembling its original state. This is why conservation is so important in the fight to protect our global forest resources.

At current rates of deforestation, earth's rainforests could be completely gone in 100 years
About 36 football fields worth of trees are lost every minute due to deforestation
Farming, grazing of livestock, mining and drilling combined account for more than half of all deforestation

In 2015, global forest cover fell below four billion hectares for the first time in human history. And despite many governmental promises and declarations, the state of the world's forests are not seeing much improvement when it comes to reducing the rate of deforestation. Every year, more than 20 million football fields’ worth of forests (15 billion trees!) continue to get cut down.

That’s bad news for everyone, but especially for the half of the world's terrestrial flora and fauna and 75% of all birds that live in and around forests.

Besides sheltering biodiversity, one of the most important benefits forests provide is carbon sequestration. In fact, one mature tree can consume 22lbs of carbon a year! But once they’re chopped down, all that carbon gets released right back into the atmosphere. Here, it traps solar heat in our atmosphere which, in turn, warms our planet. Because of this, deforestation accounts for 11% of human-caused GHG's. To put that into perspective, transportation accounts for about 14% of global GHGs. Stopping deforestation, then, is absolutely critical if we want to stop climate change.

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LEADING CAUSES OF
DEFORESTATION

Causes of Deforestation

  • Industrial agriculture:accounts for around 73% of deforestation worldwide. The majority of this can be attributed to meat (particularly beef cattle), soy, and palm oil. Meat producers clear vast swaths of forest to graze their livestock and in turn, the production of livestock feed accounts for 80% of the soybeans grown—and you may be surprised to learn that poultry and pigs eat up almost as much of that soy as cattle does.
  • Wood products: thanks to an incredible demand for wood and wood products, illegal logging happens everywhere, leaving behind a legacy of decimated forests, homeless wildlife, distorted trade, and destroyed livelihoods. In Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, demand for packing products drives the clearing and conversion of vast areas of peatlands and lowland forests into industrial timber and wood pulp plantations.
  • Cocoa industry
  • Mining
  • Wildfires
  • Climate Change
  • Urban development
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AFFECTED REGIONS

Russia, which is home to 1/5th of the world’s forests (including the Tiaga boreal forest, which is the largest tract of forest on Earth) has seen their forests increasingly threatened by wildfires. In 2019, fires spread across over 2.5 million ha of Siberia and investigations have been launched amidst concerns that these fires were deliberately started by illegal logging operations to cover their tracks.

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WHAT CAN WE DO?

ADVOCATE FOR SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS 

Because it is clear that many governments aren’t consistently enforcing their own laws, we have to call on the private sector to step up. To this end, we can exercise our power as consumers and urge corporations to shift their supply chains and adopt strict “zero deforestation” policies. If they hold their suppliers accountable, they can dramatically reduce deforestation.

We can call on our governments to pass laws that forbid the sale of any products linked to deforestation. We can invest in civil advocacy campaigns in Brazil and other South American countries that are working to expand the Cattle Moratorium, which would lessen the political pressure on vital rainforest ecosystems.

And we can join campaigns that support indigenous rights everywhere, because indigenous people and local forest communities are on the frontline of the battle for the forests they call home.

WANT TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST DEFORESTATION?

MAKE SUSTAINABILITY PART OF YOUR
EVERY DAY ROUTINE

In our day-to-day lives, we can spread awareness, go paperless, recycle, read ingredient labels, and do our own research.

We can also vote with our wallets by only purchasing FSC certified wood, sustainable palm oil, ethical chocolate, and rainforest safe meats (and by cutting down on our meat consumption).

And of course, reforestation plays a vital role in addressing deforestation and its impacts. If done correctly, reforestation can restore damaged ecosystems, stabilize soil, support the water cycle, and slowly recover the vital ecosystem services that we depend on. And while we certainly don’t ever advocate for cutting down any forests—primary or not—there is evidence that proximity to secondary forests reduces the deforestation pressure on primary ones. Planting new trees is, ultimately, an investment in future forests!

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