Unfortunately, we are all familiar with the fact that deforestation is one of the biggest issues facing our planet today, and one of the main causes of so many severe changes in climate and global warming. But many of us might not be entirely aware of how serious the consequences of deforestation are, and how this process affects the entire world. What we are going to be talking about today is the threat of deforestation, the causes behind it, and its devastating impact on our planet.
What Is Deforestation?
Deforestation is the process of removal of either entire forests or strands of trees, with the purpose of using that land for other types of endeavors. For instance, people can cut down trees to make room for farms or for urban areas. It occurs all around the world, but the tropical rainforest has more to suffer when it comes to deforestation than any other area. We have already cut down almost half of the world’s tropical forests.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, around 18 million acres of forest disappear each year. No surprise then that deforestation has become one of the biggest issues we have to face. The loss of trees contributes immensely to the emission of carbon dioxide on the Earth’s surface. Moreover, NASA predicts that the entirety of the world’s rainforest will disappear in about 100 years if deforestation continues in the same way.
Causes of Deforestation
There are many causes that determine people to cut down entire forests. Some of the most common ones are:
- Using trees as fuel.
- To clear the land in order to build houses, apartment buildings, and so on.
- Making room for cattle ranches.
- Planting crops.
- To obtain ingredients such as palm tree oil and sell it at a huge profit.
- To harvest the timber and use it for furniture building, paper making, and so on.
- Clearing the land to use for oil and coal mining.
Effects of Deforestation
The effects of deforestation are varied, but equally threatening. One of the most important effects is related to climate change and global warming. But before reaching those massive issues, let’s take a closer look at some other effects of deforestation:
- Soil erosion: The soil needs to be protected from the sun in order for it not to dry out and get eroded. And that is precisely the function that trees used to serve. But when trees are cut down, the soil has no protection to help it remain moist, and so it dries.
- Wildlife extinction: There are a lot of animals in the world whose habitat happens to be different types of trees. Deforestation forces some species of animals to find another location, and they often become extinct.
- Floods: The roots of trees usually absorb large quantities of water, which helps in case of too much rain. The lack of trees disrupts the water flow and this is how some areas get flooded, while others struggle with drought.
- Quality of life: Because of soil erosion, silt can enter water sources. This would decrease the quality of the water and increase the risk of health issues in the local population.
Climate Imbalance and Global Warming
The most notable effects of deforestation are climate change and global warming. In terms of climate change, there are many ways in which is a threat. For instance, the amount of water vapors in the air has decreased because a large amount of the trees which normally released it have disappeared. Imbalance in the atmospheric temperature, flora and fauna are some other consequences of deforestation which verge on ecological disaster.
Global warming is dependent on the emission of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Trees used to absorb part of these greenhouse gases, but they are now eliminated into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Moreover, when we cut down trees, they become carbon sources.
Solutions to Deforestation
Forests produce the oxygen we need. They provide natural habitats to millions of species of animals. They provide people with shelter, food, clothing, and so on. And yet, people seem to be incapable of expressing their gratitude. On the contrary, they represent a threat to the world’s forests. But there are people who actively fight to stop massive deforestation. Let’s take a look at some of the possible solutions that could counteract deforestation and prevent a natural disaster.
This may seem like the most obvious solution, yet we have to consider some things before jumping to this conclusion. First of all, yes, reforestation would help, if it were a massive and collective effort. We could restore the natural habitats, creating new homes for the animals that have lost their original ones. We would also reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that the atmosphere collects. Not only that, but all of the services provided by forests would go back to normal.
But unfortunately, we cannot fix the severe effects of deforestation just by planting new trees. Let’s say tress would help absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere like they used to. Even so, the amount of carbon dioxide that humans emit every single day has increased so much in recent years, that tress would not be able to keep up with it. So we should also consider a major reduction of the emission of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels.
Furthermore, the species of animals that have already been affected by deforestation, perhaps even gone extinct, will not benefit so much from a reforestation. We have already done too much damage. Many species have suffered so much from deforestation that they are incapable of going back to normal.
Changing the Laws
It is not enough for people to want things to change, the government has to contribute too. People often break forest conservation rules. A very important step forward would be the enforcement of more severe laws against illegal deforestation. Laws such as the Endangered Species Act or the Wilderness Act existing in the United States are also beneficial to conserving the world’s forests and protecting the species that have been endangered by massive deforestation.
Moreover, it is important to realize that deforestation and its effects affect every single person on this Earth, no matter where they life. That is why local laws – as good as they are – are not enough. We have to make a global effort in order for any massive and visible change to happen. Such initiatives as the Forest for Climate, a proposal to fund an international mechanism to conserve tropical forests, are more than welcomed.
Making Sustainable Choices
If every person would consider their daily habits and how they affect the world’s forests, it would be a huge step in the right direction. One such habit that people advocating for the preservation of forests are suggesting is eating sustainable food. Sustainable food does not hurt the environment in any way when produced. Following the same path, sustainable wood products, or even recycled ones, could also help forests. Activists are also pushing for plant-based diets, which would reduce the consumption of meat, and help save forests.
Most people tend to believe that huge corporations are evil. But since they have the necessary resources to endanger the world’s forests, they can also be convinced to help save them. This works in a simple yet effective way. It all relies on the marketplace. If suppliers of big corporations would produce items while contributing to deforestation, said corporations would stop collaboration. This would determine suppliers to stop any activities that hurt forests and the environment.
But change can also come from the inside of companies. Engaging in all sorts of policies that target the use of recycled products would tremendously benefit the world’s forests. Not many corporations have taken such steps, but hopefully, they will follow the example of those few who did, and help themselves by helping the environment. Some of the companies that have already gone the extra mile to counteract the effects of deforestation are McDonald’s, Nestle, or Kimberly-Clark.
Putting It All Together
Deforestation is an issue our planet is struggling with for some time now, and both its short-term effects and its long-term ones can be chilling. Maybe most people are not so aware of short-term effects such as global warming. After all, who is going to complain that this summer was 1 degree hotter than the last? But this 1 degree is affecting our planet more than we realize.
From effects such as wildlife extinction, soil erosion, or floods, to the more general issue of global warming and climate change, deforestation is a threat to be taken seriously. That is why, apart from introducing the topic of deforestation, we also included some possible solutions to it. We will counteract its effects and prevent it from spreading only if we actively and collectively engage in activities that help it.