The Real Impact Of Deforestation: The Lungs Of The Earth Are Suffocating
In the last ten years, there has been a surge in deforestation in West Africa as poor cocoa farmers are clearing rainforests; there’s a new law that legalizes trees being removed from thousands of square miles of classified forest for industrial chocolate manufacturers to use. Because of this rainforests on the Ivory Coast are shrinking. About 6% of a chocolate bar’s retail value goes to the farmer and 80% goes to companies like Mars, so while conditions for farmers remain terrible, fat cats continue to get richer and richer and more and more important areas of rainforest are wiped out. So next time we buy a Twix or a Snickers bar we should all think what is the real impact of deforestation?
It is not just legally sanctioned deforestation that we should worry about but also the illegal kind, too. Illegal logging and expansion of cattle ranches and soy plantations in the world is one major reason why deforestation is so prominent. Logging is financially crucial to certain countries and the global demand for wood, especially rare and high-end wood that is not commercially available and can only be found in natural forests. Illegal exportation, however, is the primary cause of deforestation; it is widespread in Brazil. Up to 60 to 80 per cent of all logging in Brazil is estimated to be illegal. In Brazil rates of forest, loss declined in the mid-2000s after the passing of new laws and robust policies that discourage any form of illegal logging/expansion of cattle ranches and expansion of soya plantations. However, now in 2019 with a change of leadership in Brazil, deforestation has increased dramatically due to corruption, which in turn means that the laws are not properly enforced. Morally, how can the government allow this to happen to the lungs of the world? Is it political? Is it corruption? Or is it stupidity?
The real problem of deforestation arises because the world’s forests are being cleared for livestock ranching and palm oil plantations. As we know, Brazil is known for its deforestation of the Amazon rainforest for logging but is also known for being the top exporter of beef since 1990. Because of the strong global demand for beef, livestock ranch expansions are supported by governments, which increases this kind of deforestation. Due to the forest being cleared for livestock ranching, Brazil has lost forest areas that are estimated to be around three-fourths the size of Texas. Indonesia is known as one of the largest producers of palm oil and they clear trees to make way for palm oil plantations. However, even when efforts are made to replenish barren plantations, the depleted soil is not able to produce the same biodiversity it once had. Palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil. It is very popular in the world as the market price is low and it has multiple properties that lend themselves to processed foods. Shockingly, it is used in half of all supermarket products, from frozen pizzas to deodorants. Palm oil plantations currently cover more than 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface. An acre is about 0.405 of a hectare and one hectare contains about 2.47 acres. You do the maths. That equals 66,690,000 acres of the world’s land that is solely used for palm oil plantations. We know that the impact deforestation has on our environment, ergo, we must reduce our use of palm oil. We must bite the hand that feeds us.
We have talked a lot about how deforestation occurs and what the cleared areas of land are used for but we haven’t said how the destruction of the earth’s lungs has severely impacted and irreversibly damaged the ecosystem and biodiversity of animals’ homes. With every forest clearing, we lose about 135 species of animals, plants, and insects a day. Every year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) publishes a list of endangered animals and states that more than 28,000 species are threatened with extinction and 27% of all animals are near the point of extinction due to the surging amount of deforestation. Some of these animals that are on the list are the giant otters, rapidly dying off as a result of deforestation and water contamination. The South American tapirs are under threat due to their habitats being destroyed by human activity or how about the Uakari Monkey? Extensive deforestation has destroyed much of their natural habitat. Would you want your home destroyed??…would you want your way of life taken from you??
Deforestation will also not only impact nature but also people that rely on it. Almost 250 million people living in the forest and savannah areas depend on them for subsistence and income—many of them among the world’s rural poor. Millions of indigenous people live in tropical forests which cover some 3.6 million square miles in 70 countries. More than 80 per cent of these forests are found in South America and the Far East. We should support their role in protecting their forests. They are the best forest rangers as their cultures and livelihoods depend on protecting and making sure their forests are healthy. However, the Indonesian government is failing to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples who have lost their traditional forests and livelihoods to palm oil plantations in West Kalimantan and Jambi provinces.
Deforestation is caused by people with great power who have forgotten about others in their world and only think about themselves. The fact that they abuse their power for financial gain is not morally correct. They fail to realise that short term gain is destroying the planet in the long term. The root of most problems that people in power face is corruption (for example, recently the president of Brazil was jailed for corruption). Corruption is endemic within developing countries in the world with the consequence being a complete lack of justice and protection of wildlife and human rights. The Extinction Rebellion is a great way for the public to take action. The organization focuses on the climate and ecological emergencies. Through their creativity and resilience against people that stop them in the mission to raise alarm and remember what it truly means to be human, to coexist with nature – to be part of the Earth.