“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
– Robert Swan, Author
Many people assume that someone else will take care of the forests. It’s with this mindset that nothing gets done.
Forests cover about 30.8% of the world’s land, totaling 10.03 billion acres—our forests are in trouble. We are losing them and continue to do so, given the human ways of life.
It is critical to call out that forests are not just many trees patched together on a piece of land. Forests represent an ecosystem where plants, animals, and micro-organisms coexist. About 80% of the world’s land animals and plants live in forests.
Forests also make a massive contribution to the environment. The trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide, which can contribute to climate change when released.
Plants, checked. Animals, checked. Environment, checked.
But hey, what about humans?
Billions of people depend on forests for their livelihood. They sell food, timber, wood, medicinal plants, construction material, and several other things. More than 2 billion people use wood-based energy for cooking.
Unfortunately, despite all this, we don’t do enough for forests. A part of the problem is that we assume it to be someone else’s problem to solve.
As you read this, you might be thinking that you don’t even live near a forest; what can you do?
Well, there is plenty you can do. It is about your life’s choices and taking a stand. In this article, we will explore what you can do to help our forests.
It is critical to first learn about the biggest threat to our forests, deforestation.
Photo by Lauren McConachie
Deforestation refers to the cutting, clearing, and permanent removal of a large number of trees from a forest. Deforestation is a constant process and happening even now. While you read this, some trees will be eliminated. And with each forest we lose, several species of plants, animals, and insects vanish.
But why is deforestation happening?
You cannot always put the finger on the one thing that causes deforestation. There can be a major cause of deforestation but often a few causes working in tandem.
The causes of deforestation can be natural or human-driven.
The natural causes include hurricanes, climate change, floods, and fires. They are beyond our control.
The human-driven causes fall into many categories. A recent study revealed the following causes of deforestation:
If you look carefully, there is an underlying theme in the causes of deforestation. The world’s population is growing, and we need resources to meet their needs.
Unfortunately, our forests bear the brunt of this growing need. As it stands, it seems to be about choosing between destroying forests and keeping people hungry.
Before we look at how to tackle this situation, let's first understand what happens when we destroy forests.
One of the most telling effects of deforestation is on biodiversity. About 70% of land, animals, and plant species live in forests. Their survival depends entirely on the well-being of the forest.
Plants and animals aren’t the only ones who lose their homes. Forests are homes to the Indigenous Communities and other human inhabitants as well. These communities depend on the forest to sustain their way of life, including hunting animals and gathering food. When exposed, these communities face additional risks because they lack immunity to the outside world's diseases.
As mentioned earlier, plants and trees take in Carbon Dioxide and release oxygen. As a result, they store large quantities of carbon dioxide. When trees are cut, the carbon dioxide is released into the environment (known as greenhouse emission), which then adds to global warming. So, the forests are helping keep climate change in check.
Trees play a critical role in regulating the water cycle; they absorb water from the soil, use what they need, and release the excess water back into the air. The absence of trees results in less water in the air, resulting in less water reaching back to the soil. If the soil does not get water, it becomes dry and loses fertility to grow crops.
Trees help the land to retain water and topsoil, which provides rich nutrients to sustain forest life. When trees are removed, the soil erodes and washes away. The barren land that is left behind is then susceptible to flooding, specifically in coastal regions.
Forest wood gets exported the world over. Several other products such as oils, nuts, and resins get shipped too. Many medicines find their origins in forests. Because of deforestation, we stand to lose everything.
We learned that it eventually comes down to choosing between protecting forests and feeding the hungry. Indeed, we cannot choose one over the other.
But still, there are ways to be smart about the situation. And they start with YOU.
At a high level, you should spread awareness about the main driver of deforestation, agriculture. Encourage everyone to move away from habits that result in inappropriate agricultural practices, which then drive large-scale conversion of forests to agricultural production.
One way to begin spreading awareness is by sharing this article on Social Media.
Let’s now talk about a few specific steps that you can take to protect the forests.
Be it on live or social media, support the voices that speak for indigenous peoples' rights.
According to estimates from the World Bank, the population of Indigenous People is about 476 million, spread across 90 countries.
Indigenous communities have a natural right to call the forests their home.
When forests are cleared, the communities are either forced to move to a new location in the forest or outside the forest. In a new place within the forest, they start putting strains on a previously unused forest area. Outside the forest, they are then forced to find ways of earning money to meet the food and shelter they lost.
Imagine that you have to suddenly pack up and move to a new location or, for lack of a better example, move to a forest (which in theory is equal to indigenous people moving to cities). How would you feel?
It is critical to call out that indigenous people are the real protectors of forests. They hold vital knowledge on how to conserve the forests and use the resources wisely.
We need to get behind these protectors whenever there is an opportunity. And be vocal about it!
“When you put the whole picture together, recycling is the right thing to do.”
– Pam Shoemaker, Author
Recycling ensures that instead of becoming waste and a burden on nature, a product is re-manufactured and given a new life. As a result, all products made up of recycled material help save natural resources (including raw material procured from forests) that would have gone into making a new product.
You have the right to choose what you use.
So, use products that are made up of recycled material. The good news is that it’s not hard to find these products anymore. From products made up of recycled paper to products made up of recycled aluminum, everything has found its way into the markets. You can slowly introduce those products into your life and preach to others what you practice.
Our shirts are made up of organic cotton and recycled materials.
The other end of the deal is that you must avoid single-use products as much as possible. Any product that you throw away after using once falls under this category. A few examples that immediately come to mind are plastic bags, water bottles, disposables, straws, needles, toilet paper.
All these products are not sustainable. But the good part is that many of these products are now available in sustainable versions.
Switching to sustainable items can make a big difference for the environment.
Psst. Do you know about the power of consumers?
The manufacturers adjust to what the customers need. If there is a demand for recycled material products, they will be produced in large numbers.
Move away from these brands. Period!
Encourage others to do so as well.
Did you know that many organizations pledged to stop deforestation by 2020? Most of them have failed or are struggling to do so. Many prominent retailers, fashion brands, and manufacturers figure on this list.
By continuing to buy their products, we are directly sponsoring the deforestation that they cause.
It’s time to make such brands accountable. Our message has to be loud and clear. “If you kill OUR forests, we don't buy YOUR products.”
If you are interested in finding out more about these organizations, look up “fast fashion” on the Internet. There is enough information publicly available.
For now, you must also know that large areas of forests are being cleared to make space for producing palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, and paper. Several producers of these commodities are linked with deforestation.
We consume these commodities in everything. Think about the beef in burgers, palm oil in biscuits, and soy in bread.
For now, we, the consumers, can take a stand! We must pressurize brands to source their products from deforestation-free regions.
There is a battle that you need to fight with your fork.
You must choose what kind of food comes to your plate.
Stay away from meat and dairy and eat plants to save forests. Yes, you read it right.
Do you recall the leading causes of deforestation? Clearing of space for agriculture and raising cattle.
Currently, large areas of land are used for livestock grazing. There are known instances of more than 80% of forests being cleared away to make space for cattle ranching.
As the demand for meat increases with the growing population, the 'large' areas will only become 'larger'.
Here’s an astonishing fact. We have already identified that soy production is leading to deforestation. Did you know that most soy is produced for feeding animals? You connect the dots now.
On the other hand, plant-based foods require significantly less space for production.
So, the alternative is clear. Switch over to a plant-based diet and reduce the demand for meat. That is the only way to meet the growing population's needs and yet keep our forests intact.
According to the Food Organization of the United Nations (FAO), livestock production is the cause of almost all of the environment's most pressing problems.
Well, livestock production is only the symptom. The cause is human greed for meat.
Vote for local, state, and national governments that prioritize and put the environment in their manifesto.
The governments often fail to check the large corporates and end up giving them a free pass. This results in large-scale deforestation happening in the supply chains of these corporates.
The need for the hour is for governments to work with large corporations and commit to saving forests.
Governments must also put strict compliance regulations in place, and noncompliant manufacturers must face the harshest of penalties.
While large corporations pressure governments to ease environmental regulations, we must pressure the governments to tighten their laws.
After reading all this, do we need to discuss the importance of planting trees? Just plant them whenever you have the opportunity.
You don’t have to physically plant trees. Instead, you can invest in organizations who’d plant trees on your behalf.
Abare Closet plants ten trees for every purchase you make.
Creating ideas is easy. Creating forests is not.
We need to slow down or completely stop deforestation. As mentioned in this article, there are great benefits of forests and more significant consequences of their absence.
Whether you adopt a plant-based diet or choose to plant trees, you can make a positive impact on our Earth. We challenge you to choose any of these options and make a positive impact today.
In what condition will you leave our forests for future generations?