Trees are perhaps the sharpest arrows in our quiver in the fight against climate change and environmental destruction. The role that trees and forests play in maintaining the delicate balance in our ecosystem is invaluable. Forests provide for roughly a third of the oxygen we breathe. Forests also provide food for all the species that dwell in them, either directly or indirectly. Forests play a huge role in bringing precipitation, preventing soil erosion, mitigating climate change and offering watershed protection. The trees in forests also furnish the wood on which many communities depend. Unfortunately, even after receiving so many gifts from our forests, we are still letting them disappear. So much so that most of us unwittingly play an active role in funding large-scale deforestation.
Now that we know how important forests are to the preservation of all life on earth, I think that we can all agree on the fact that deforestation is wrong and that it needs to come to a stop as soon as possible. Unfortunately, most people have no idea about what causes deforestation and what they can do to counter it. Let's take a look at some significant causes of deforestation and what we can do to stop it:
Unsustainable Agriculture: Unsustainable agricultural expansion is the direct driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide. Livestock ranching, palm oil plantations and GMO soy production for livestock feed are the top destroyers of forests in this regard. Farmers encroach into woodlands as it is a cheap and easy method to obtain land for agricultural purposes. A simple solution to this is to leave animal-derived products and palm oil off your plate. Since less demand leads to less supply, we as consumers can both, drive as well as end the global deforestation crisis. The choice is ours.
Logging: Logging is one of the top drivers of deforestation. Illegal logging for timber happens globally, especially by low-income communities living near forest areas. They work for very little money for powerful organized criminals that receive large sums of money in turn for smuggling the timber. A lot of wooden furniture and paper that is used by the common man comes from such unethical sources. A simple solution is to go paperless as much as possible and make sure that the wood we purchase comes from sustainable sources.
Infrastructure Expansion: Road construction provides an entrance to previously remote and untouched land. In remote forests where there was earlier little to no human interference, governments are building roads and highways that cut through them and open up new opportunities for settlers, loggers and miners. Unfortunately, this is disastrous for the surrounding natural environment as there are such few remaining places left on our planet where the ecosystem is thriving and building such roads will lead to the destruction of the delicate balance that exists in the ecosystem. To help combat this, you can write emails and sign petitions to the concerned authorities about bringing such projects to a halt and how vital the natural environment is to all life on earth.
Mining: The impact of mining on tropical forests is growing due to rising demand and high mineral prices. Mining projects are often accompanied by large infrastructure construction, such as roads, railway lines and power stations, putting further pressure on forests and freshwater ecosystems. Mining requires heavy machinery, labour, roads and railways. Mining companies clear forests to make way for this infrastructure. We should make sure that the minerals in the products that we buy are ethically and sustainably sourced. We can also write emails and sign petitions to the concerned authorities about bringing mining operation in sensitive ecosystems to a halt.
Human Overpopulation: 10,000 years ago, humans made up for 1% of the total mass of wild animals on earth. Today, humans and their livestock make up for 99% of the mammalian biomass. The human population and the demand for livestock-derived products have been increasing in recent years. This issue spells disaster for forests across the globe and their inhabitants. To keep up with the growing population and the demand for animal-derived products, people choose to encroach into wild spaces and forests as it is a cheap method of obtaining land. To combat this issue, we must educate people about implementing birth-control measures to fight the problems associated with overpopulation.
Now that you are aware of the causes of deforestation and what you can do to counter it, all that is left is for you to implement these solutions in your daily lives. As consumers and citizens of this planet that we share with all living beings, we must be mindful about the choices we make and the impact that they can have on the fellow residents of this earth. It is up to us whether or not we choose to save the beings that are in peril as a consequence of human interference. There is still hope left for our natural environment and its inhabitants. We can save our world. We must save our world.
Author: Arjun Krishnan