As the world gets a deeper understanding of the importance of taking climate change seriously, countries left and right have been working and formulating plans on how to cut there carbon emission levels, and don’t be mistaken doing this is an important deterrent to help control the ongoing climate change, but there are other aspect about it that are taking place in the world today that needs to be taken seriously as well. Deforestation is the replacement of a forest environment for non forest use. It’s often seen when countries are trying to expand their home market, so they destroy forests that may have been there for thousands of years and replace them with houses, schools, parks, etc or in many scenarios it’s to expand agriculture or grazing room for livestock. They replace the forest with agricultural plots that do not provide any benefit to the environment like the land they just finished destroying. On the surface this may seem like a good thing, as countries/populations expand it is only natural that we tear through forests to create more room, and with increasing food consumption we also need more livestock but this deforestation has devastating effects on the world at large, no matter where it is taking place.
Why Deforestation matters?
Deforestation has just as much an impact on our climate today as carbon emission by way of coal mining. What needs to be understood is what the trees, and plants that inhabit these environments do for the world. The trees alone act as a carbon sink, absorbing the carbon dioxide that would instead spread through the atmosphere, thus contributing to climate change. The trees, and various plants that inhabit a forest also are important because they all go through the process of photosynthesis meaning they create oxygen and spread that into the atmosphere which then allows us to have clean air. We have to thank plants and trees for Earth being able to have an atmosphere full of oxygen, if plants and trees never existed Earth’s atmosphere wouldn’t have the necessary levels of oxygen to help create and maintain life.
In places like Europe, their forest now makes up about 34% of their land. A far cry from when it once made up 80% of its land. The same can be said in China who now only has 20% of their country made up of forest. Today the main areas that see major deforestation are the tropical forest of the world, where they are being torn down in favor of roads to reach areas once unable to be reached, so far 17% of Amazon has been deforested within the last 50 years, and there doesn’t seem to be many encouraging signs that this trend will be coming to an end. In 2019 close to 30 soccer fields worth of forest have been torn down every minute, mainly in the tropics, and a survey taken from August 2020 to July 2021 found that Amazon rainforest lost land equivalent to seven times the size of London.
With these receding forests, lack of proper care for the land left over, and with temperature rapidly rising across the globe, deforestation is leading to more frequent and devastating wildfires, none more evident than what is taking place in the western United States. As mentioned earlier, deforestation helps accelerate climate change because it helps destroy the environment that helps as a buffer to harmful chemicals, but because deforestation contributes to wildfire that is another way it speeds the climate change crisis because the fire itself releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Fires in any given year can release more than 8 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere which is half as much released by the coal in the same year. This is possible because the land left over from logging can be dry, and vulnerable to soil erosion which helps raise the possibility of wildfire.
Deforestation is a huge concern for what the trees, and various plants offer us, but it also is concerning for the animals that call this land home. Forests act as the shelter to more than 80% of the species known to the world. Forest and animals are complex intricacies who often rely on one another for their survival, if due to deforestation one species of animal was to go extinct, that could very well lead to the extinction of another animal that feeds on them. Experts have been suggesting that we are in the midst of a major extinction period with many species firmly at risk.
How can we fix the deforestation problem?
The true steps to help prevent the devastation of deforestation would be enlisting the help of your local officials, but with that being the main problem in some areas there are a few small steps you as an individual can take to hopefully ease the burden.
- Use paperless options wherever possible
- If you can plant a tree wherever possible
- Support companies that work to end deforestation
- Reduce how much meat you consume
- Personally use social media to raise awareness of the ongoing problems
- Join Activism.Global and become a contributor today!