“Deforestation has a devastating effect on the natural environment and local communities to accommodate growing urbanisation and rising populations. This is ultimately unsustainable and we must stop the pulverisation of the environment for the sake of the planet.”
Deforestation is a massive environmental problem (amongst other issues) globally, in particular in the Amazon Region in South America, affecting the world. Firstly let us define deforestation as, ‘….the clearing, destroying or otherwise removal of trees through deliberate, natural or accidental means. It can occur in any area densely populated by trees and other plant life.’ (1) Trees have a major role supplying wood, water, medicines and of course oxygen to allow human life to exist. Further The World Bank estimates that forests contribute to the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people, which is 1 in 6 people and that 60 million are totally dependent on forests, so therefore preserving our forests is of the utmost concern (2).
Sadly the planet has lost 80 percent of its forest cover due to deforestation. The most impacted region is the Amazon in South America, followed by Africa. This is unfortunate for a number of reasons, the former is the biggest rainforest in the world (3) and both places are home to some of the poorest people in the world. The West African region for example which boasted lush green forests for much of the 19th century has lost 90 percent of its forest cover over the last century (4).
Brazil has the biggest loss of deforestation worldwide, followed by Indonesia and the authors of Deforestation: Causes, Effects and Control Strategies write many developing countries are adversely affected more than developed countries due to their location in tropical regions that are a major target for agriculture, infrastructure development, logging and mining. Further many industrialised nations deficient in natural resources exploit developing countries with weaker legislation (that are often so desperate for funds they will allow environmental degradation to take place) indebting them.
So then what other factors are driving deforestation? Agriculture is a major culprit, including farming and cattle ranches, particularly in Brazil. The associated infrastructure to support these farms including roads, power and so forth also contributes to forest loss. This drive is coming from increased population growth worldwide, improved living standards and greater desire for food production including meat consumption in traditionally more vegetarian regions (look at South East Asia) requiring an increase in farmland (1) (4).
The impacts of deforestation are significant, including a loss of many natural flora and fauna, some species which are unique to forest regions. A telling fact from the Pachamama Alliance, a global community with the purpose of creating a sustainable future that works for all states, ‘Seventy percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes.’ (1). Further, indigenous people whom call these beautiful forests home often forcibly evicted, have to find new homes in the modern world, or share increasingly crowded and competitive forest spaces, which are diminishing each year (1).
Removing trees, allows increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contributing to higher rates of greenhouse gases and on setting man made climate change, which the overwhelming rate of scientists globally agree exists and needs to be addressed to prevent severe environmental catastrophe (6).
The world’s forests are at critical point, action needs to be taken by governments now to prevent their destruction. Agroforestry is a potential solution, by still meeting the world’s demand for timber and fuel wood and fruit but through the sustainable management of forests. There is an added benefit it will allow the return of flora and fauna, including endangered species. This is yet one solution, ultimately industrialised countries need to look at their one sided beneficial arrangements with developing countries, and work with these nations and involved companies to creative a holistic wellness plan to return our forests to their former glory and ensure they are healthy. Without healthy, nourished forests Planet Earth cannot survive.
- . http://www.worldwildlife.org/videos/our-world-s-largest-rainforest-the-amazon)
- Deforestation: Causes, Effects and Control Strategies www.intechopen.com/download/pdf/36125
By Simon Chitre