On the surface many people know that deforestation is not a good thing but over the years have potentially come to accept it as a necessary evil. People have been deforesting the Earth for thousands of years, mostly clearing land for crops or livestock that we all eat. Even though tropical rainforests are mostly confined to developing countries, they aren’t just meeting local or national needs, they meet the needs of the global population, including me and you.
Rainforest destruction is driven by large cattle ranches, agriculture such as palm plantations but also small-scale farmers who need to support their families. New roads promote timber extraction. “ By 1997, the Brazilian government estimated that 80% of all logging in the Brazilian Amazon was illegal,” according to Greenpeace.
The impact of rainforest loss comes in many forms such as, biodiversity loss which is directly linked to human health, social conflict and heavy carbon dioxide release which reduces Earth’s ability to regulate climate.
The biggest challenge tends to revolve around how we manage the forests for resources.
The good news is that more individuals are fighting to create solutions that provide protection and we can all play a part to help!
3 Ways the World is Combating Deforestation:
One: Toy Foam Planes in Peru
Yes you read that right, Carlos Castaneda, coordinator of the Amazon Basin Conservation Association’s Los Amigos Conservation Concession, plans to use small remote control styrofoam plans to keep an eye in the sky monitor the private Los Amigos Conservation area in the Madre de Dios region of Peru like never before.
“We are now 145,000 hectares,” Castaneda states. “It’s like a small country in Europe.”
By using these flying cameras, Castaneda’s team will be able to be more efficient investigating reports of deforestation. Rather than walk everywhere trying to find it in the forest, his team will now be able to go straight to the location.
Over the past 10 years tens of thousands of rainforest acres have been lost to illegal gold miners making them into stips of gravel. Mahogany, Spanish Cedar and other old-growth trees are lost to illegal logging and most of all farmers clear cut the land for agriculture.
Even with the eyes in the sky, it will not be easy. “They just want money”, says Castaneda. “It doesn’t matter if they are making the forest look like a beach with just sand. They need money and for that they will do everything, even destroy all the forest.”
The question in my mind is, what if money was no longer in the equation?
Two: 3D Scans in Borneo
The Carnegie Institution officially unveiled the latest upgrade of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), an airplane equipped with technologies that enable scientists to conduct extremely high resolution scans of forest structure, biomass, and biological diversity. The platform has generated a wealth of information in places where it has been flown before.
“The system produces maps that tell us more about an ecosystem in a single airborne overpass than what might be achieved in a lifetime of work on the ground. Our improved onboard computing, software integration, data capture, navigation, and ergonomics would make any Silicon Valley tech nerd drool,” wrote Greg Asner, who conceived of and led development of the plane’s systems, in a blog post announcing the new plane.
Before this upgrade, the previous plane system, from 2011, featured technologies that allowed Asner and his team to capture detailed images of individual trees at a rate of 500,000 or more per minute. The CAO was able to create very detailed biodiversity maps of forests using chemical and optical signatures that allowed for differentiation between various types of trees. This provided maps from forest areas that humans likely never have been before. In addition, the planes dual-ranging LiDAR system allowed researchers to map the actual forest floor which exposed damage under the canopy from gold mining and selective logging.
According to Asner, “”Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, offers an incredible chance to study Borneo’s fast-disappearing rainforests, identifying places where conservation efforts can have the biggest impacts as well as opportunities to improve land use practices to boost production on existing agricultural lands,” he continued. “Mapping Sabah could help support the state’s emerging push to transition toward a more sustainable economy.”
Three: NGO and Shareholder Pressure
“As a result of shareholder pressure this year, Dunkin Brands, Kroger (among the Top 5 largest grocery chains in the U.S.) and Starbucks agreed to source 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil to reduce GHG emissions and protect workers, rainforests and species.” ~Green Biz
Change is taking place as we speak. Businesses and consumers are growing more aware of the link between products they buy and deforestation. Motivated by mounting scientific evidence that human activity is a leading cause of climate change, investors are pushing for stronger actions from companies in climate-related shareholder resolutions.
Being part of a global society, it’s important we support organizations that operate on values that prioritize the well-being of environment and humanity first.
“Consumers are increasingly concerned about how the food they purchase to feed their families was produced, and don’t want to buy food that was made by destroying rainforests and exploiting workers and local communities,” noted Lucia von Reusner, Shareholder Advocate for Green Century Capital Management, which co-filed the shareholder proposal urging Kraft to adopt responsible sourcing policies.
In a monetary system, organizations put profit first. This has lead to poor values that are driving the degradation of our planet and global well-being. If we give them money, we encourage that behavior. If we don’t, they can’t survive or will be forced to change their ways.
Every time we buy a product or invest in a company, we vote for the world in which we want to live.
Many large companies today such as, Disney, Hershey’s, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Asia Pulp and Paper, have made commitments to zero deforestation initiatives. Those commitments are in direct response to appeals from organizations like Greenpeace and educated consumers.