Forests and the present state of deforestation
Forests, home to about 50% of species on land, are useful for –
- Provision of accessible fresh water
- Climate mitigation
- Provision of life saving medicines for various diseases
- Mitigation of natural hazards
- Provision of oxygen
- Maintenance of soil integrity
- Storage of carbon from the atmosphere
- Maintenance of food web and ecosystem balance.
All the above usefulness of a forest shows that forests are extremely essential and that we cannot afford to lose them. Yet the current trend of deforestation is disturbing! We are losing forests at the rate of one football field per second. This is jeopardizing our efforts to tackle climate change and wildlife conservation. Most of such tree destruction is done illegally, along with poaching activities leading to a massive global decline of wildlife. However, about 80% of deforestation takes place on account of agricultural expansion. Such agricultural expansion is not due to an increase in demand but mismanagement, lack of proper utilization of resources, and exploitation!
Deforestation affects people and animals where the trees are cut worldwide. About 250 million people living in forests and Savvanah areas, belonging to the world’s rural poor and depend on forests for subsistence, are hugely affected. Deforestation also threatens the wildlife species such as the orangutan, Sumatran tiger, and various species are birds, who are solely dependent on forests for their survival. Removing trees prevents blocking of the sun’s rays during the day and retains heat during the night which leads to extreme temperatures harming plants and animals. We can definitely relate to this with the widespread heatwaves affecting us, which is only increasing every year! This is indeed due to less tree cover available to mitigate climate. So, are we facing the sixth mass extinction?
Crucial rainforest destruction has doubled since 2008. This trend has gained a further boost in Brazil due to political instability which accounts for the majority of global tree cover. Even though Brazil with its vast Amazon territory is crucial for fighting deforestation, deliberate fires were set to a quarter of the tree covers clear land. But only 2% of the climate action funds go to forests and land protection. Forest protection actually has the potential to cut a third of global emissions by 2030. Although new forests are being grown in countries like China and India, deforestation significantly exceeds aforestation.
When we realize the depth of deforestation happening around us, we start seeking immediate solutions. While one long-term solution is government actions and policies, such as the 60% drop in deforestation in Indonesia due to fewer forest fires and government action, there are also solutions that we individuals can do about it.
Five major solutions individuals can undertake to indirectly stop deforestation
#1: The ubiquitous oil
Please avoid all the products that contain palm oil!
It is difficult to think of a product these days, that does not contain palm oil. Palm oil is truly ubiquitous, second only to plastics. Toothpaste, shampoos, soaps, conditioners, pet food, oatmeal, chocolate bars, body lotions, deodorants, vegetable oil for cooking many foods, candy bars, cookies, ice creams, dish-washing liquid, and detergents — all have palm oil in some form.
Palm oil is not inherently bad for the planet. It is the most effective of all the vegetable oil crops. It can actually help us in sustainable living. But the problem is most of the plantation is due to deforestation rather than sustainable use of existing lands. One such particular palm plantation in Southeast Asia due to deforestation is directly linked to air pollution, global warming and, biodiversity loss. Indonesia and Malaysia lost 16% and 20% of the tree cover respectively since 2000, due to deforestation. About 90% of palm oil comes from industrial plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia.
The sad story with clearing forests by deliberately causing forest fire is that even though such news cause universal condemnation, the actual culprits recuse themselves by making false promises and continue to lure us to their brands.
It is indeed easy to ask people not to use palm oil but it’s practically difficult. We can try to avoid those brands as much as possible and voice our concerns and demand sustainable practices from MNCs. Real change will happen when we start using products only if we need them! Impaakt is one such platform that helps mount pressure over MNCs for sustainable practices.
#2: A bitter problem
We all love chocolates! But did you know that it takes 900 cocoa beans to make just 1 Kg of chocolate?
The bitterness associated with deforestation is, well, deforestation. The majority of the world’s chocolate comes from Western Africa – Ghana and Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast has lost 50% of the forest cover for the last 50 years. Many big chocolate manufacturing companies are dependent on poor cultivators of these regions who struggle to make ends meet. Apart from deforestation, there is also corruption, poverty and, even child labor in these regions. (click here to know about the cruelty of the chocolate industry)
“Zero deforestation cocoa only exists where all the forest has already disappeared,” wrote Francois Ruf, an economist, a French agricultural research and international cooperation organization.https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/climate-environment/mars-chocolate-deforestation-climate-change-west-africa/
Some companies have taken efforts to certify their products. Such certification ensures that the product is not manufactured harming humans or the environment. Demanding these companies for more transparency and inspiring others to do so is a way ahead.
#3: The paper industry
The paper industry is the fifth largest consumer of energy in the world. It uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry. About 35% of all harvested trees are used for the paper industry.https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/pulp-and-paper-industry
The paper industry is making positive strides by using renewable sources of energy and sustainable wood harvesting practices. However, the paper industry will not survive longer due to digitalization and environmental pressures. The solution is digitalization indeed. Digital sources are advanced, available, accessible, and cheap. E-books, taking notes on smartphones and computers, and recycling all water papers are one of the best solutions. It is useful to collect even bills, receipts, and price tags for recycling. The land cleared for paper manufacturing can be ultimately used for cultivation or agriculture and reducing agriculture-induced deforestation. This solution can be used as an infallible method to reduce deforestation footprint!
#4: Long term solutions that need individual support
- Population control would be a major driver of environmental problems.
- We should value biodiversity more so that pressure mounts on government and industries to reciprocate our desire to protect our environment.
- Changing our food habits: we know that 80% of deforestation is dur to agriculture. We prefer some types of food crops such as rice, wheat, maize, and sugarcane. Such crops consume a lot of water and land, increase monoculture, and increase the risk of food security. We should diversify ur diet and prevent use of such crops.
- Resource efficiency. Most of the resources we use must fllow reduce, reuse, and recycle policy. Every system created for human benefit should have administrative, social, technological, and economical efficiency. Efficient and effective management is the ultimate solution for sustainable living.
- Deforestation shoudl not just be stopped for climate action but also for helping poor farmers and cultivators to manage their livelihood and reducing all sorts of inequality they face from MNCs.
- We should also invest in quality education and spread awareness. This article is one such step from our side. (https://iflybio.com/2021/07/global-warming-and-climate-change-everything-one-should-know/)
#5: Ecological impacts
From all the above facts and solutions from individuals, one thing that is clear is deforestation is caused mainly due to human lifestyle and welfare. We can also check how much land one needs for a year – https://www.footprintcalculator.org/. We can check our ecological footprint and start planning a sustainable lifestyle!