William M. Akin IV
Deforestation, also known as clearance, clearcutting or clearing, is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land which is then converted to a non-forest use. The action of deforestation has been going on for thousands of years, dating back to the first uses of fire.
Today, the World Bank has estimated that about 3.9 million square miles (10 million square km) of forest have been lost since the beginning of the 20th century. Due to large clear cuttings of trees and forests, climate change, fewer crops, soil erosion, and increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are just some of the many problems that arise.
In North America, about half the forests in the eastern part of the continent were cut down for timber and farming between the 1600s and late 1800s, according to National Geographic. Today, big commercial farming requires the leveling of native forest and the destruction of local peatlands — which in turn doubles the harmful effect on the ecosystem.
One of the most well-known rainforests in the world is the Amazon rainforest. It is known for its wide variety of species, insects, and birds and also for providing the earth with 20% of its total oxygen produced. However, this beautiful creation of land is slowly vanishing and is being destroyed.
Due to these raging fires in the Amazon, wild animals are at high risk of dying, losing their habitat, and in danger of finding a sufficient food source. According to Sergio Vasquez, a disaster response manager at World Animal Protection, “1.8 million animals have likely perished including frogs, anteaters, and ocelots, as well as slower and smaller creatures like sloths, armadillos, insects, and reptiles. Some may be able to burrow underground, but they may not be very safe there either… Even then, their food source will have been burned out for miles.”
One of the biggest reasons for the clear cutting of these large forests is to make room for commercial farming and cattle raising. These actions, although can be viewed as productive, is actually doing more harm to our environment than good. “The fallout from the pandemic has exacerbated the ecological degradation set in motion by government policies under Mr. Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, who favors expanding commercial development in the Amazon and views environmental regulations as a hindrance to economic growth” according to the New York Times.
And the Amazon rainforest is not the only one being affected by deforestation. The Atlantic forest, Congo Basin, the Cerrado forest, and many more are just as threatened by clear cutting.
The Sumatran rainforest, located in Indonesia, are being destroyed and replaced by massive palm plantations to help feed human obsession with palm oil. According to The Guardian, “Their plantations supply Britain and the world with toilet paper, biofuels and vegetable oil to make everyday foods such as margarine, cream cheese and chocolate, but distraught scientists and environmental groups warn that one of the 21st century’s greatest ecological disasters is rapidly unfolding.”
Not only is deforestation hurting our rainforests and wildlife, but it affects our global climate as well. Reported by the Climate Institute of Deforestation and Climate Change “Since fires produce carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, biomass burning emissions significantly influence the Earth’s atmosphere and climate… As burning occurs, it can release hundreds of years’ worth of stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in a matter of hours. Burning also will permanently destroy an important sink for carbon dioxide if the vegetation is not replaced.”
Deforestation has clearly made many negative impacts around our communities and in our environment. A couple simple acts people can do is to plant a tree where you can, go paperless at home and in the office, and raise awareness in your community.