Deforestation is one of the leading causes of climate change. We must act urgently and responsibly to combat global warming.
Deforestation is, “the decrease in forest areas across the world that are lost for other uses such as agricultural croplands, urbanization, or mining activities.” More than 150 acres of rainforest are burned every minute, 200,000 acres every day, and 78 million every year. Deforestation can happen in any densely populated area of trees, however, a majority of it is happening in the Amazon rainforest. Forests are essential to the health of our plant. They provide food and shelter to all living organisms and directly affect us all.
Stretching over a billion acres, the Amazon rainforest is considered the “lungs of our planet.” It produces more than 20% of the world's oxygen and contains one-fifth of the world’s freshwater. The Amazon provides quintessential services to the world by continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. Over 20% of the Amazon rainforest is already gone, and the threat of destruction continues every day.
[bf_image id="q7k4j1-c2eugg-fnwcm0"] Why is deforestation happening? One of the most prominent reasons for deforestation is agriculture, with over 80% resulting from cattle ranching. A UCS analysis shows that “a majority of tropical deforestation occurring today can be traced to just four globally traded commodities: beef, soybeans, palm oil, and wood products.” Beyond this, urbanization and illegal logging also contribute to deforestation.
Deforestation increases greenhouse gases and limits the amount of water in the atmosphere. Alone, the deforestation caused by cattle ranching, “is responsible for the release of 340 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year, equivalent to 3.4% of current global emissions.” Healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide, acting as carbon sinks. Deforested areas lose the ability to absorb carbon causing more release into the atmosphere. This leads to a steady increase in temperature on Earth. With this, if there are fewer trees in an area, then there is less water in the air. This results in water not being able to return to the soil causing soil erosion and the inability to grow crops.
Deforestation also causes soil erosion and flooding. This is concerning because 52% of all land used for food production will be impacted by soil erosion. Soil erosion weakens and degrades the soil which leads to unhealthy soil. This directly results in low yields and food insecurity. Forested soils are rich, allowing for healthy crops. Forested soils also are more resistant to extreme weather. With this, weak soil will leave the affected areas more prone to natural disasters such as landslides and floods.
Reducing deforestation is not only helpful in cutting down our carbon emissions, but it also will make extremely important steps in protecting biodiversity. It is also the quickest and most cost-efficient way to slow down global warming. It’s clear that governments and big corporations can make the biggest impact by implementing “zero deforestation” policies that clean up their supply chains, yet they haven’t.
What can you do to help? You can start by promoting sustainable choices. This means avoiding single-use products, cutting down on your animal product intake (even if it’s just a day or two a week), avoiding palm oil and products containing palm oil, practicing recycling, educating your family and friends, and even planting a tree. A little bit can go a long way. Deforestation affects us all, whether we realize it or not.