By Hammond Green Team Members
What is deforestation?
Approximately 31% of the land on earth is covered in forests. Forests provide us with medicine, shelter, fuel security, food, and even jobs, but the number of forested areas is decreasing at an alarming rate. This is called deforestation. Deforestation is the intentional clearing of a forest for the purposes of agriculture, urbanization, mining, or animal grazing. It happens the most in tropical areas and rainforests. Agriculture is the driving factor behind the loss of trees, accounting for 73% of deforestation. Forests are being converted into plantations for palm, rubber, oil, soy, coffee, tea, rice, etc. Unfortunately, almost half of global deforestation occurs as a result of the expansion of these types of crops, especially palm oil. Palm oil can be found in 50% of all the packaged products in your local supermarket and its plantations are usually grown on land cleared of forests, making it a major detriment to trees. The construction of roads and other infrastructure, along with unsustainable forest management, wood logging, and wildfires also contribute to deforestation.
Impact on Animals
Deforestation has a significant impact on several animal species. 80% of Earth’s land animals live in forests, yet as trees are cut down continuously, these species are being threatened and pushed to the brink of extinction. In the Amazon Rainforest, for example, many animals are being threatened by deforestation including the Peruvian woolly monkey, giant Brazillian otter, white-bellied spider monkey, and several breeds of jaguars and toucans. The removal of trees can also deprive a forest of its natural canopy, which protects against the suns blistering rays throughout the day and retains heat during the chilly night. Without this canopy, a forest ecosystem can experience extreme temperature swings that are disrupting (and potentially harmful) for animals.
Impact on the Climate
The loss of trees and vegetation can be detrimental to the ever-worsening condition of our climate as well. In fact, deforestation is responsible for around 10% of all global warming emissions. Trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. By removing toxic and excess carbon from our atmosphere and releasing fresh oxygen into the air, trees are able to minimize the effects of climate change. However, when these trees are chopped down and burned or allowed to rot, the carbon they store is released once more into the atmosphere, polluting the air and contributing to changing climate patterns. Consequently, deforestation plays a prevalent role in the climate crisis and trees are vital in mitigating the presence of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
There are actions we can take to prevent the further destruction of our forests. Voting for a green government and supporting state Congress members who have demonstrated a keen passion for protecting our planet can be pivotal in bringing about legislation and environmental reforms that can make a change. Moreover, consider installing Ecosia as your primary search engine, which donates over 80% of its profits to non-profit organizations that focus on reforestation. To this day, Ecosia has helped plant more than 100 million trees. Furthermore, start opting for locally-grown produce and reducing your consumption of meat and dairy to minimize the need for livestock that are raised unsustainably on acres of cleared land. Lastly, consider reducing your use of products that contain palm oil, which is grown on massive plantations that are formed at the expense of thousands of trees. By following these simple tips and rallying others to join in, you can contribute your efforts to restoring our earth.
Creative blurb: Are you an artist, photographer, writer, or someone passionate about creative work along those lines? If so, Green Team would love to feature your work in our articles! As long as it relates to the environment, we’ll accept any form of art, including poetry, photography, and paintings! If you’re interested, add your work to this folder on Google Drive: Green Team: Creative Submissions Folder.