Modern Drivers for Deforestation
Most tropical rainforests exist within the boundaries of underdeveloped or developing nations. Within those nations, nearly 30,000,000 acres of forest are lost every year. That’s roughly 1 acre lost every second of the day.
The reasons for deforestation vary greatly from region to region; but these are some of the largest factors:
Expansion of Pasture Land for Cattle: Meat production to support people’s diets requires a vast amount of real estate. It’s important to point out that while land is required for the cattle, even more land needs to be cleared to support growing the crops required to feed those cattle. It’s a vicious cycle.
Wood Extraction / Timber and Paper: Global demand for wood and specifically exotic wood products places significant pressure on sensitive forests containing those resources. As many developing nations find themselves with increased disposable income, there is an increase in demand for these products. Think about that the next time you’re at a home improvement store looking at that exotic Brazilian flooring.
Soybean and Palm Oil Farming: Both of these crops have experienced sizable growth in the past 20-years. Demand for Palm Oil has seen its production double in the last decade. This increase in demand was supported through extensive deforestation in Malaysia.
Global Impact from Deforestation
The most immediate economic impact is to local subsistence communities that rely on the forests for their existence. Those communities are oftentimes devastated and result in the residents relocating to urban areas.
Those subsistence communities that do not relocate run the risk of starvation and hardship as a result of their livelihood being taken away.
The environmental impact as a result of deforestation is in many cases catastrophic and permanent.
Deforestation’s environmental impact starts with a permanent loss of plant and animal species. The ripple effect from this action is a reduction in biodiversity and specialized species. You can ask yourself how relevant those factors are so consider the following from Wikipedia:
Zoopharmacognosy is the study of how animals use plants, insects and other inorganic materials in self-medication. For example, apes have been observed selecting a particular part of a medicinal plant by taking off leaves, then breaking the stem to suck out the juice. Some of the compounds identified by zoopharmacognosy kill parasitic worms, and some of these chemicals may be useful against tumors. There is no question that the templates for most drugs are in the natural world.
The environmental impact continues with the release of greenhouse gasses held in the trees and plants themselves. At the same time, countless tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere from the plants that were holding them. This is especially true where deforestation is conducted through slash and burn techniques. Pushing this carbon into the atmosphere contributes to climate change and global warming.
Actions that Prevent Deforestation
While there are effective strategies that can be employed regionally through regulatory oversight and enforcement, there are also actions you can take as a consumer.
- The single greatest action you can take is to reduce your demand for forest-derived materials. Purchase products such as Palm Oils that advertise themselves as being derived from sustainable sources.
- Forego installing that new exotic woodwork in your home or office.
- Consider a vegetarian diet. Beef production is the single greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions. It also consistently accounts for one of the top three seasons for global deforestation. A decrease in the demand for beef means there will be a decrease in the demand for the land to support it’s growth.
Have other ideas on how to reduce deforestation? Be sure to add them in the comment section below!