The Deadly Paradox of Deforestation


Shaoshao Tang, Author

Deforestation is known to be one of the largest contributing factors to Climate Change. According to Earth Observatory Nasa, forests cover 30% of land on earth. Trees, like all other plants, absorb sunlight and turn it into food for themselves. In this process, called Photosynthesis, they also take in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and turn it into Oxygen (Carbon Sequestering). Before the era where humans started polluting the environment with toxic chemicals, plants and other Carbon Dioxide emitting creatures balanced each other out. But due to various reasons, humans are now speeding up Climate Change with deforestation and forest degradation.


Deforestation is the permanent removal of forests. Deforestation can happen for many reasons, one of which is clearing land for commercial or agricultural reasons. In short, to support human’s growing need for agricultural products and commercial expansion, 15-18 million hectares of forests are cut down each year (about the size of Belgium), which is about 2400 trees cut down per minute (“On Water,” European Investment Bank). Another cause of deforestation is the rising demand for tree-related products such as paper. Many products that you use are related to the deforestation of forests in ways you wouldn’t expect. Take palm oil, for example—Palm oil-found in a variety of products ranging from dish soap to chocolate. The deforestation caused by the need for palm oil is unimaginable. Because of its cheap production, many industries have grown reliant on palm oil. Such a vicious cycle results in horrible environmental consequences. The worst thing is breaking this trend would result in the loss of jobs for 13.2 million people in the foresting industry and 41 million people related to the foresting industry.


Although mentioned before, one might ask what those Environmental damages entail. The deforestation results include the extinction of 137 species of animals per day (Rainforest Action Network) and many more species driven out of their habitats. Loss of habitat also results in more pathogens introduced to modernized civilization. According to National Geographic, deforestation causes deadly pathogens like the Nipah and Lassa viruses, parasites that cause malaria and Lyme disease to spread to people. Diseases, extinction, and the increase of CO2 levels in our atmosphere (which leads to the chain events of Climate change) are all caused by deforestation.


Stopping deforestation will lead to a better-balanced environment for all organisms and a stop to increasing diseases due to deforestation. However, shutting down the foresting industry would result in millions of people losing their jobs, which would create a world filled with poverty. At the current rate, deforestation is continuing; Climate Change will only keep drawing nearer. Climate Change-which could result in an extinction of all organisms on earth. It is hard to balance these issues and to know if there are still more unexplored hidden consequences. One popular idea, which takes into consideration the environmental and economical changes, is the idea of sustainable forestry management. Sustainable forestry management balances the long-term health or the forest with the needs of natural resources by cutting down a certain number of trees in an area instead of clear-cutting (cutting down a huge patch of forest at one time). This idea is currently being explored by many sustainable logging companies. One problem with the idea of sustainable forestry management is the difficulty doing it on a large scale (worldwide) because of the consumer’s growing need of natural resources including logs. Then and again if consumers reduce their need of these natural resources then it would be easier to implement sustainable forestry management on a large scale. There is of course the issue of unwilling companies who don’t want to let go of their efficient-money making logging methods, and larger economic reasons that would deter a large-scale implementation of sustainable forestry management. The deadly paradox of deforestation comes from the difficulty of balancing and weighing the environmental consequences and economic challenges.

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