By Marlena Norwood
Many of the environmental issues we have presented here recently, such as endangered species and climate change, are related by a common factor – deforestation. A shocking 36 football fields of forests are destroyed every minute. Forests play such an important role in ecosystems. When they are destroyed, the effects are widely observed.
Logging is one of the main culprits of deforestation. Agriculture also takes its toll as industrial agriculture companies as well as domestic farmers expand their land to grow more crops. Overall, the increasing demand for goods (paper products, crops, building materials) is the main driving factor behind deforestation. Natural phenomena, such as wildfires, play a role as well (although it can be argued that wildfires are the result of human activity, since they are so correlated with climate change).
Remember the endangered Amur Leopard we discussed a couple weeks ago? The Amur Leopard’s endangerment is a visible result of deforestation in parts of Russia and China. Countless other species are also endangered because their habitats are being destroyed by deforestation.
Trees play a critical role in two key biogeochemical cycles – the carbon cycle and the water cycle. Trees and other plants regulate the amount of water in the atmosphere versus the amount in the soil. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by the trees and converted to oxygen through photosynthesis. By eliminating forests, not only does carbon dioxide not get recycled back into oxygen, but also tons of extra carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere during logging. One of the most impactful solutions for stopping global warming is to curb deforestation, since it accounts for one-fifth of all carbon emissions.
Luckily, individuals and organizations are increasingly concerned about our forests. The World Wildlife Fund started the Global Forest and Trade Network that works to protect forests by encouraging sustainable forestry. GFTN has enlisted the support of many different companies in 30 countries.
Additionally, market forces can be used to the advantage of forest advocates. Greenpeace founded the Forest Stewardship Council that makes it easy for consumers to identify sustainably produced forest products and put market pressure on other companies to implement more sustainable forest-friendly practices.
Greenpeace is currently working on another project, Forests for Climate, which would secure international funding to protect forests around the world and also put a price on carbon, providing an incentive for companies to curb their unsustainable logging practices.
As you can see, deforestation affects not only ecosystems, but also many other environmental issues that plague our world. Advocating for forests is advocating for widespread protection of the environment. What can you do?
- If you own a business or manufacturing company, look into becoming FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified here – and start contributing to sustainable forests.
- Whenever you buy lumber, look for FSC-certified wood. If you don’t find it at your retailer, encourage them to carry it.
- Sign a petition to stop Herackles Farm from destroying massive amounts of forest in Cameroon for a palm oil plantation.
- Volunteer with Greenpeace; there are various programs all around the country, many advocating for sustainable forests. If you can’t volunteer, encourage young adults you know to look into Greenpeace – college students do lots of the groundwork for Greenpeace and can gain valuable experience in environmental advocacy.