Deforestation is on the Rise But You Can Help


Rainforests are said to be the “lungs of Earth”. They are to us like our lungs are to our body. Without them none of us survive. They breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. They are vital to the Earth’s climate balance and fresh water supplies. The list of benefits are almost endless.

Fighting to protect our natural environment, especially rainforests, is fighting for our very own well-being. We are nature. I like to say, we are not “on” Earth, we are part of it. The decisions we make everyday as consumers manifest the world we live in and decide the fate of rainforests. Insights about deforestation or environmental degradation of any kind is not meant to make you sad. It’s meant to make you aware and informed. It’s the only way we can come together to create the scale of change we require. So, get a little mad but moreso, get inspired to help.

Despite the importance of the Amazon rainforest, shockingly, destruction of it has increased about one third in the the past year!

Paulo Adario, leader of Greenpeace’s Amazon campaign, said the spike was scandalous: “The government can’t be surprised by this increase in deforestation, given that their own action is what’s pushing it. The change in the Forest Code and the resulting amnesty for those who illegally felled the forest sent the message that such crimes have no consequences.”

Deforestation, Indonesia

Deforestation, Indonesia

Satellite analysis of global deforestation revealed that since 2000 an area equal to 50 football fields has been destroyed every minute, that’s 1 soccer field every 1.2 seconds. Said another way, that’s about 68,000 soccer fields per day.

New figures released by a Brazilian nonprofit research organization, Imazon, show an area six times the size of the island of Manhattan (402 square kilometers) was cleared just this past September, 2014.

That represents an increase of 290% year over year from September 2013 when deforestation totaled 103 square kilometers. In addition, 624 square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon were degraded. Degradation does not involve a reduction of the forest area, but rather a quality decrease in its condition.

Among the reasons for the setback are a shift in government priorities. Under Rousseff, the government has put a lower priority on the environment and built alliances with powerful agribusiness groups. It has weakened the Forest Code and pushed ahead with dam construction in the Amazon.

So, why are these forests being cut down? What is more important than our well-being?

Well, the cause is a complex subject with many variables, however there is a common denominator that can be argued as the root cause, money. More importantly, the behavior money encourages.

A competitive global economy forces the poorer tropical countries into a need for money to survive. At the national level, the governments of these countries sell logging concessions to raise money for projects, to pay international debt, or to develop industry. Logging companies seek to harvest the forest and make a profit from the sales of valuable hardwoods and pulp. If you make money logging then the more forest you cut down the better for you, how backwards does that sound? I’ll boldly say, it’s just about as backwards as our whole economic system which is based on consuming more resources more frequently to show growth in gross domestic product.

Aside from logging, there is an even bigger driver of deforestation, agriculture and palm oil.

You have to make space to farm and when people have a high demand for things like the luxury of meat they need more space for grazing cattle and you can’t vertically farm the animals. The animals need feed so we need more space to plant and grow crops. The soils of newly cleared tropical forest land are generally of poor quality, leading to low crop yields and sustaining few animals per hectare. However, rainforest lands are inexpensive or even free for the taking, usually increasing considerably in value once they are cleared. Again, money. To slow this down, people just need to eat less meat.

Today, around 50 percent of the consumer goods we use everyday contain palm oil. It’s in processed foods, candles, soaps, cosmetics, grooming products and “biofuels”. As a consumer, this is something to be aware of and is a whole topic in and of itself for discussion. Major organizations are beginning to make commitments to sustainable palm oil production, but not all.

Orangutan loses it's home from deforestation for palm oil. It's been struck with a tranquilizer dart by man to move it to a new location

Orangutan loses it’s home from deforestation for palm oil.

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report ranking America’s biggest brands on their commitment to deforestation-free palm oil. Based on their study, they state, “of the three major consumer goods sectors we scored, the fast food sector was the clear laggard, with eight out of ten restaurant chains receiving a dismal score of zero.”

There are groups like The Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Counsil that are fighting these challenges head on by certifying consumer products as rainforest friendly. This is an effort to make it easier for us to buy smart. Live consciously and keep an eye out for their stamps of approval!

Already, more than half of the forests that covered the Earth are gone. About 50% of the earths biodiversity comes from rain forests. The loss of species will have a great impact on the planet. For humans, we are losing organisms that might have shown us how to, for example, prevent cancer or cure AIDS. Other organisms are losing species that they depend upon, and thus face extinction themselves. Extinction rates are now higher than Earth has ever seen since the dinosaurs were wiped out.

Remember, the small actions you take and products you buy make a huge difference when you step back to look at the impact of our collective effort.

We have taken the time to do the research and help make it easy to start living a more rainforest-healthy lifestyle by consolidating tons of awesome insights and tips in a free guide.

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