1. What Is Deforestation?
Deforestation simply refers to forests and trees being cut down and removed from their natural habitat. Tree cover is removed for a number of reasons: to provide arable land for farming and agriculture, to clear space for business or houses, or to create new land for other types of industrial development.
Over the course of the past century, deforestation has been so rampant that now, less than 30% of the earth is covered in forest green. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that each year, over 18 million acres of forest land are destroyed. Between 1990 and 2015, approximately 10% of wilderness areas were lost due to deforestation.
2. What Is the History of Deforestation?
People have been actively deforesting land almost as long as there have been people. The vast majority of the farmland seen today was caused by deforestation, and much of the land traditionally used to graze animals has been deforested, too. As early as 9000 BCE, people were clearing land to plant crops and keep their animals.
Even people without much technology were able to effectively and devastatingly deforest the land. It didn’t take more than stone axes to chop down trees to create space for planting; some ancient tribes even use forest fires as a hunting method.
Ancient and pre-industrial civilizations also used wood for building and warmth, much like people still do today. They would build their communities near a section of forest and just keep branching out to the next sections of forest when they had destroyed the closer segments. By the 1500s, much of Europe was so deforested that there was a major deforestation crisis on the horizon.
As technology rapidly developed, the invention of the saw, electricity, and metal all helped create the deforestation problem we have today. Especially since the 1800s, deforestation solutions are more needed than ever.
3. Where Does Most Deforestation Take Place?
The majority of deforestation takes place in the tropics and rainforests. It is estimated that if no deforestation solutions are implemented, there will be no remaining rainforests in the next 100 years. As of 2017, the Rain Forest Preservation Society estimates that only 2.7 billion of the 4 billion acre rainforest survives, and deforestation is still occurring.
4. Why Is Deforestation a Problem?
Deforestation hurts people, animals, and our world in a number of ways. Some deforestation consequences are immediate while some may not be fully realized until hundreds of years after the initial chopping down of the trees.
One of the most important and destructive ways in which deforestation affects our planet is ongoing climate change. Trees keep the soil and the air moist and cool, so when trees are destroyed and not replaced at such a rapid rate, the planet is unable to keep the atmosphere balanced. Trees also balance greenhouse gases; without deforestation solutions, they will keep building and getting worse.
Frequent flooding is another reason to invest time and money into deforestation solutions. Without the security of tree roots, it is much easier for floodwaters to strip soil from hills, mountains, and plains, and create massive, fast-moving floods. Even without flooding, deforestation causes soil erosion due to the lack of stability provided by tree roots. When the tree cover is gone, soil dries up much more quickly, leading to less productive soil as well as soil that is more likely to wash away with the floods or blow away with the wind (which is also increased by the lack of trees as wind breakers).
Deforestation is also likely to damage the world’s economy in the long run. Illegal logging operations cost national economies millions of dollars, and while cutting down trees to plant food is often momentarily beneficial, when that land becomes unusable after a couple of years because of the deforestation consequences, it will cause money to be lost.
People aren’t the only ones in need of deforestation solutions. Many wildlife species make their homes in trees and in forested lands; without their natural habitat, these animals have no safe space to live.
5. Why Does Deforestation Happen?
The easiest and most common answer is money. People and companies choose sections of land to deforest because they believe the land will be more productive or financially worthwhile if there is a set of condos or an industrial complex on the land instead.
Population growth is another cause of deforestation. As the world’s population continues to grow, people need space to live, making deforestation the most viable option in many areas.
Agriculture is another common reason for deforestation. As the population increases, so does the demand for food, leading farmers to increase their arable acreage and deforest even larger swaths of land in order to grow, sell, and provide more food.
Logging also holds a large place in the deforestation industry. In order to make paper products (books, paper, matches, cardboard, furniture, etc.), trees must be cut down. Wood still also provides a significant portion of the world’s heat—firewood and charcoal are both produced through deforestation.
A more insidious cause of deforestation happens not when people cut down the trees, but when man-made chemicals seep into the ground making the land unable to sustain tree life. This happens when chemicals are released into rivers, lakes, and streams, and end up in the surrounding soil.
Mining also causes significant amounts of deforestation. Although mining happens underground, the locations of the mines are commonly in wooded and underpopulated areas, leading companies to deforest land to create roadways for their equipment and people. Additionally, the pollution caused by large mining operations often makes the surrounding land inhospitable to trees and other forms of wildlife.
Forest fires, whether natural or created by people, are another cause of deforestation. While forest fires are a natural part of the growth cycle, they can destroy large swaths of the forest very quickly.
Limited or absent laws about deforestation and/or land rights also play a factor in the frequency of deforestation. Farmers and companies are able to cut down trees on their property, often with no legal ramifications. However, there will probably be consequences for the entire population down the road.
How We Reviewed Deforestation Solutions
The following deforestation solutions were reviewed by comparing multiple legitimate sources and compiling a thorough list of pros and cons for each option.
Overall Price Range
While there is no specific price point for deforestation solutions, some compared solutions will necessarily take more time, money, and energy than others. Grassroots efforts to curb deforestation, like community forestry and green business, are relatively affordable (often only adding up to the cost of a new tree or a recycling contract), but other large-scale changes, such as changing laws and regulations and creating sensitization and educative campaigns, would require much more money and time, but would potentially reach more people and create the opportunity for larger change.
What We Reviewed
Green business is much easier than it sounds—it simply refers to a company that has chosen to prioritize green and energy-saving initiatives. Green businesses focus on recycling—both the standard recycling of aluminum, glass, and paper, but also re-using old or outdated items instead of tossing them in the trash.
This is one of many deforestation solutions that is easy and affordable to implement in your home or office, and even though it seems small, it has the potential to reduce deforestation greatly. Recycling as many products as possible, focusing on creating less waste and using fewer paper products, and becoming responsible consumers (purchasing sustainably sourced paper, for example) are all ways that any business can become greener.
Replanting (which is the same as reforestation) is an incredibly effective deforestation solution. It involves replanting a section of a forest or an entire forest that was lost to a forest fire or other act of deforestation. Reforestation replaces trees in an area that once had them, so by replanting a segment of the forest you are restoring wildlife homes, decreasing flood and drought potential, and decreasing the carbon footprint of your area.
Reforestation is a clear way to see the difference you are making in the world—you literally plant the trees and watch them grow and create a new environment—but it is often not a simple process. First, the section of land to be reforested has to be dedicated to the process of reforestation and prepared for planting. Appropriate trees need to be selected, planted, and cared for. Often, reforestation takes the time and commitment of an entire community.
Eco-forestry is the combination of an environmentally friendly mindset with the understanding of the realities of deforestation and the occasional need for land and tree-based products. Eco-forestry focuses on creating and providing sustainable options for deforestation instead of chopping down whatever section of forest land seems most convenient.
Eco-forestry encourages the cutting down of trees in areas that will be least impacted or cutting down the fewest amount of trees possible, depending on the situation. It also proposes controlled deforestation where the environmental impacts of deforestation in that region are balanced with the need to cut down trees.
Community forestry and reforesting are similar deforestation solutions, but community forestry is often more manageable. Community forestry brings together an entire community to plant and replant trees around the community and commit to protecting and managing local green spaces.
Often, community forestry takes place over holidays, during ceremonies, or throughout town celebrations to bring as many people as possible into the environmentally friendly acts. Local universities and schools can also contribute and make sure that trees are planted and cared for in appropriate and sustainable ways.
Law and Regulations
By creating laws and regulations that monitor and assess deforestation consequences, deforestation could be greatly reduced. Frequently, people and companies think more about the potential profits from the tract of deforested land and fail to consider the long-reaching after-effects of deforestation. Creating new laws and regulations that punish illegal or excessive logging can be an effective, though difficult, deforestation solution.
Sensitization and Educative Campaigns
Creating sensitization and educative campaigns can be effective deforestation solutions. These programs, which can take on a variety of organizations and topics, focus on educating the public about the dangers of deforestation and the importance of deforestation solutions. Using personal and community-based experiences of the negative consequences of deforestation can be an incredibly effective way to gain community support for deforestation solutions.
Sensitization and Educative Campaigns can often take place alongside community forestry. Committed towns, counties, and communities can plan festivals focusing on deforestation solutions complete with educational sessions, tree planting activities, and the sharing of fun ways to include recycling in your everyday life.
Land Use Planning
Land use planning is just what it sounds like: planning how communities will use their land. Sometimes the best deforestation solutions simply require some planning and thoughtfulness. Before your community allows deforestation for a new suburb or community complex, sit down with city planners and engineers to determine the most environmentally friendly way to proceed with construction and future city planning.
The benefits of land use planning are multiple. The way the land use is planned may stick around for a long time, so if your city plans its resource usage thoughtfully, you may have the perfect setup for a long-term deforestation solution. Land use planning also provides an opportunity for community involvement—consider holding public forums or community meetings (complete with sessions about deforestation consequences as needed) as you plan and allocate land.
Joint organizations can be effective deforestation solutions when multiple organizations come together to plan, brainstorm, and share their ideas, needs, and opinions. Any group that is committed to finding successful deforestation solutions can be an integral and important part of a joint organization. Often they include conservation groups and environmental agencies, but companies, corporations, universities, and more can all join together to make communities more sustainable.
All the previous options are legitimate and important deforestation solutions. Consider your community, your workplace, and your home: what option will get the most support and benefit your home and our world the most? We may not be able to stop deforestation entirely, but we can all do our part to make the world a better, healthier place!
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