Deforestation, the permanent removal of trees to make space for something else (often agricultural activity), is one of the most pressing environmental issues we are facing today. Not only are whole ecosystems being destroyed and endangered species lost, but trees are also some of the best weapons against climate change, as they absorb CO2 from our atmosphere.
If we don’t stop deforestation as quickly as possible, we will not only destroy one-of-a-kind nature which can never be rebuilt but we also lower our chances of beating climate change.
Why we need forest
Forests cover close to one third of the land’s surface. Besides providing a home for animal species and the environment for diverse flora to flourish, many people also rely on forests for survival – whether that be in the literal sense (as a source of food or medicine) or through their occupation (millions of people worldwide are employed in the forest sector).
The cause of deforestation
In the past, deforestation has stripped most of the UK or US of their natural forests, to provide space for agricultural or industrial activity. However, nowadays, most of the deforestation happening in the world has shifted to the tropics. Much of the Amazon rainforest and other tropical jewels of the planet booming with life are destroyed for the sake of cheap land for agriculture.
According to the World Bank, we have already lost 3.9 million square miles of forest since the beginning of the 21st century. Every second, an area of forest equivalent to the size of a football field is cut down. Just four commodities seem to be responsible for the majority of deforestation happening today: beef, soy, palm oil and wood products. However, it is important to note that most of the soy cultivated in deforested areas is not meant for human consumption – it is used as livestock feed for cattle, pigs, sheep and other animals.
The process of deforestation
When a forest is deforested, the most valuable wood is usually harvested to be used in woodworking, carpentry, home construction and for other industrial purposes. Then, the rest of the vegetation, including animals living in the forest, is burned down to make space for agricultural activities.
The detrimental effects
Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial species, including endangered animals, rare trees and a wide array of plant species. As forests are destroyed and burned down, many of those have gone extinct in the past – and more are in danger. Besides this extraordinary biodiversity forests are also crucial to us humans and our survival, as trees and other plant species produce oxygen and absorb CO2 – giving us air to breathe and slowing climate change. As we mentioned before, forestry provides jobs for millions of people who could go jobless any time a forest is cut down.
How can you stop deforestation
The task of stopping deforestation may seem daunting, especially since it is happening so far away from us. However, your power for stopping deforestation lies in the purchases you make and the businesses you support. You do not need to become the member of an activist organisation or lead protests against deforestation to make a difference – all you need to do is spend your money more consciously.
Switch to more plant-based alternatives instead of meat – especially in the case of beef. Read product labels and avoid foods containing palm oil. Whenever you buy wooden products, inquire about the origin of the wood and avoid any that could have come from deforested tropical forests. Think critically about what you buy, make more informed decisions and become more conscious in your consumption.