“The greatest danger to our future is apathy,” says Dr. Jane Goodall, a conservationist who has studied and lived alongside chimpanzees for decades. She has witnessed firsthand the destruction of tropical rainforests, and the negative effects of deforestation.
What causes deforestation?
There are two main causes of deforestation, the first being agriculture. The increasing human population has led to an increased need for food. For example, according to Christopher Ingraham’s article for The Washington Post, beef exports from Brazil increased 25% from 2010 to 2017 (Ingraham). Due to this increased demand for food, more forestland is clear-cut to make room for ranchland and farmland. However, once used for either of these types of agriculture, the land typically loses all its nutrients due soil erosion.
The second main cause of deforestation is illegal logging. As Stephen Leahy reports in a National Geographic article, 12% of Papua New Guinea’s forest land has been given over to logging companies illegally while the government makes a profit on exports. While the US has laws that prohibit the importation of this illegal wood, China does not. It was eventually discovered that China was purchasing the illegal wood and reselling it to unwitting US companies such as Home Depot.
Why is deforestation a probelm?
The most widespread issue that results from deforestation is climate change. As stated by Christina Nunez in National Geographic, deforestation increases carbon dioxide emissions and decreases the atmosphere’s ability to absorb existing carbon dioxide. Currently, the World Wildlife Fund reports that 15% of all greenhouse gases can be accounted for by deforestation. In addition, rising temperatures, changing weather patterns and extreme weather events have been occurring more frequently.
The World Wildlife Fund also reports that, “1.25 billion people around the world rely on forests for shelter, livelihoods, water, fuel, and food security. And 750 million people… live in forests.” When forests are destroyed, indigenous people’s homes and livelihoods are ruined as well. They are displaced with no reason and no warning.
The last major issue that results from deforestation is the harm done to already-endangered species. The World Wildlife Fund states that according to the United Nations, 8% of known animal breeds are already extinct and 22% are in danger of extinction. With 80% of the world’s land animals living in forests, it is vital to protect these areas before even more species of animals are lost.
How can you help?
One of the easiest ways to help alleviate the environmental effects of deforestation is buying sustainable products. Nonprofits such as the Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council create lists of products they certify as sustainable.
Another way to help is becoming vegetarian or vegan. If this seems too unreasonable now, start off simple by cutting out animal products systematically over time. If everyone were to reduce the amount of beef they consume, the amount of forestland that is cut down for ranchland would shrink.
Lastly, you can donate your time and money to conservation organizations. The Jane Goodall Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, and Amazon Watch all offer several ways to get involved with conservation, from donating time to becoming a community representative.
As Dr. Jane Goodall says, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” So what will you do?