Forests are one of the most important ecosystems on Earth. 80 percent of all terrestrial plants, insects, and animals call forests home. Nearly one third of people in the world depend directly on forests for their livelihoods .
Trees help regulate the climate, filter water through their root system, capture dust particles and pollutants from the air and stabilize soils against erosion. They perform these vital services equally for everyone without taking into account country boundaries or the size of your income.
Every day, we use resources that forests provide to us, such as timber, firewood, medicinal and edible plants. Yet if we continue to lose our forests at the current rate, in 80 years from now there will be no forest left on our “green” planet .
Deforestation is happening everywhere on the planet for many different reasons that vary from region to region. Vast areas of rainforests in a number of tropical countries, including Indonesia, Brazil, and Malaysia, have been destroyed to make way for palm oil, soy plantations and cattle ranches. The increasing global demand for wood products threatens many ancient forests around the world, whether it is for paper products, furniture or fuel.
Ending deforestation is the best chance we have to stabilize our climate, save wildlife species and protect our well-being. Protecting the forest is our mutual responsibility, no matter how far away we live from the nearest one. Adopt some of these strategies to help prevent the loss of more trees.
The death of the forest is the end of our life.— Dorothy Stang
What can we do about deforestation?
#1 Plant a tree
The most straightforward personal strategy to fight against deforestation is to plant a tree. Planting a tree could be considered a lifelong investment into the environment and your good mental health.
The cutting down of trees causes billions of tons of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) to be released into the air. By planting trees, you are helping to combat global warming because trees absorb carbon dioxide. You are also helping to reduce run off water from the hills. Tree roots prevent landslides and rock slides that sometimes can harm animals, people or damage buildings. Planting and caring for trees is essential for the overall health and quality of life of the community.
Trees are known for their mind soothing and healing properties. Just walking through a forest and looking at the trees calms our mind, alleviates worries and helps tired eyes recover from strain.
You can start by planting one tree, or two, or you can even plant a whole forest.
Have you heard the story of Jadav Payeng from Majuli Island, India?
The ‘Forest Man of India,’ as Jadav was titled by the country’s former president, has planted a whole forest with his own hands – one tree a day for over 40 years. The resulting 1,400 acres of forest inhabited by rhinos, tigers and elephants are astonishing. Trees also protect the island community from seasonal flooding and land erosion. So, this man has created a whole ecosystem from scratch, sustaining many lives through his consistent effort.
Jadav’s story is inspiring, but it’s good to know that he is not the only one. For example, Antonio Vincente has replanted 50,000 trees on his 77 acres of land in the Amazon rainforest. Similarly, Nkomo Sikenala is striving to encourage families in Malawi to plant trees around their houses by providing them tree seedlings at reduced cost.
Join these inspiring people and start writing your own story of a life-giver. Plant a tree today.
#2 Use less paper
Two million trees are cut every day just to supply the paper demand of the United States.
Globally, 40 percent of all timber is used to make paper products, and the demand for paper increases by two to three percent every year . This means that the paper industry is still consuming more and more trees.
Since the industry has such a high need for wood, it should come as no surprise that some part of the timber originates from illegal logging.
By printing out every email and wasting paper, you are unwittingly spinning the wheel of illegal forest destruction. Reduce your paper use when you can. This way, you will decrease your contribution to the loss of forests.
#3 Recycle paper and cardboard
Did you know that one ton (2,000 pounds) of paper put to recycle prevents the cutting of 17 trees? These 17 trees then sequester around 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air every single year .
If just 10 percent of all the paper used by the average American in one year were recycled, 25 million trees would be saved . That makes 367 million pounds of carbon dioxide absorbed by these trees in one year.
Imagine how many trees you can save and how much good they perform for the quality of our lives by recycling all your paper.
#4 Use recycled products
You may have noticed a little label “made from recycled paper” on your new notebook. The same label can be found on many other daily use items like books, paper bags, egg packaging and even toilet paper.
By choosing items made from recycled paper, you make a conscious effort to lower the demand for more timber.
Besides decreasing the need to cut more trees, your purchase is also supporting paper recycling facilities and reducing the amount of waste entering landfills. Therefore, try to purchase your next notebook made from recycled paper and the environment will be very thankful.
The same rule goes for furniture shopping. When buying a new piece of furniture, try to look first for already used pieces. You can often find real treasures for almost no cost. All they need is just a little bit of refurbishing. But this way you can obtain truly unique and personalized pieces for your interior.
For example, the wooden table on which my computer rests when writing this article is bought from a lady who had used it in her office for over 30 years. Few months ago, it has become a centrepiece of our Greentumble office and will remain so for many more years to come 😊.
#5 Buy only sustainable wood products
As a consumer, you can help reduce the demand for more logging (especially illegal logging) by ensuring that you only purchase products which are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC is currently the best global standard in forest management, and provides a system for interested parties to work towards responsible forest management.
By purchasing FSC certified products, you are doing two important things:
- You are ensuring that you aren’t supporting unsustainable or illegal logging,
- You are also supporting companies who strive to produce wood sustainably and respect the rights of their workers and indigenous peoples.
#6 Don’t buy products containing palm oil
While a small amount of palm oil may be sustainably produced, the majority comes from recently cleared land. Palm oil production has become one of the main causes of tropical rainforest destruction around the world today.
Did you know that palm oil is found in many of the products you buy from the supermarket?
A large percentage of the world’s palm oil production comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, where the virgin rainforest is being cleared at an alarming rate of 2.4 million acres a year to make way for new plantations.
Avoiding products containing palm oil might not be easy, because it can be disguised in many different forms in numerous beauty products and food. If you cannot drop some of your favorite products with palm oil entirely, look at least for an alternative that carries a sustainable palm oil certification.
To date, the most rigorous certification process comes from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), where at least 95% of the palm oil is certified in sustainable practices throughout the supply chain .
#7 Reduce meat consumption
To produce the same amount of protein from animal agriculture requires much larger areas of land compared to plant-based farming. For example, nearly one third of the ice-free surface of the planet is converted into pasture for our domestic animals and 30 percent of available arable land is used to grow livestock feed rather than food for our direct consumption .
The global demand for meat keeps constantly rising, but our space to rear livestock does not. That is why animal farming has become one of the leading causes of deforestation in Amazon. Around 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest clearing is done to make way for cattle ranches .
If you choose to reduce the amount of meat you eat, you will lower the global demand for meat and help prevent further destruction of forests to make way for more livestock. Start slowly by replacing one portion of animal protein a week with a plant-based protein like beans.
After all, periods of not eating meat have been practiced by our ancestors for thousands of years – be it because of the meat shortage or religious fasting. In a traditional perception, periods of no meat eating have always been connected with the complete purification of the organism.
#8 Do not burn firewood excessively
More than two billion people around the world rely only on firewood to cook and heat their homes . Unfortunately, this often happens in poor areas where already vulnerable forests near villages and towns are cut for fuel well before they can regenerate. Such mismanagement slowly leads to their total disappearance.
For example: The Batán Grande forest in Lambayeque on the north coast of Peru has been declared a nature reserve. One of the key species of the reserve is a tree called mesquite. But despite being protected, more than 2,000 ha of mesquite woodlands are lost every year due to poverty of local people, who fell the trees and burn them at home anyway .
Global forests suffer already a great deal of damage from our excessive consumption, when you want to make a fire in your fireplace, make sure you burn wood from sustainably managed forests that have enough time to naturally regenerate.
#9 Practice eco-forestry
Eco-forestry is a restorative method of forest management, which is not based on economic productivity. In this practice, certain trees are selectively harvested while causing minimal damage to the rest of the forest.
The long-term aim of this method is to systematically fell mature trees, while leaving the forest ecosystem relatively unaffected.
If you own a piece of forest, follow these principles for they will pay you back in the long run more than the profit focused short-term forestry.
# 10 Raise awareness
Major environmental problems such as deforestation often continue to occur because of a lack of awareness and knowledge about the problem.
By educating people about the effects of their actions, such as palm oil consumption, the amount of deforestation can be reduced. Tell your friends and family about steps they can take to reduce global deforestation or show them this article 😊.
Better awareness and education is important even in the case of farmers. Education of local farmers about optimizing their land management will ensure that less forested areas need to be cleared for farming. After all, farmers are the stewards of our lands.
#11 Respect the rights of indigenous people
Although this isn’t an issue which is well publicized or widely realized, deforestation destroys the lives of millions of indigenous people. In many remote areas, large international corporations under the cover of corrupt governments intentionally violate the rights of local communities.
The best example of such a mistreatment and disrespect are happening in the Amazon with cattle ranching, or in southeast Asia with the spread of palm oil plantations, resulting often in conflicts and even physical attacks against native people.
But when indigenous people are given equal rights and their traditional lands are respected, the incidence of (illegal) deforestation decreases, as they are able to legally fight for protection of their forests.
For example, Greenpeace published an article about the Cree Nation of Waswanipi land fighting against the large-scale exploitation of the boreal forest in Quebec, Canada. Despite facing enormous pressure from logging companies, the Cree have so far stood their ground and made sure that their pristine forests and cultural heritage remains untouched for future generations.
Respect the rights of indigenous people, help them gain the equal rights and support them when you can.
#12 Support organizations that fight deforestation
Numerous international and locally-focused organizations strive to protect forests from deforestation and apply sustainable forestry practices. Examples of some you may have heard of are:
- World Wildlife Fund
- Rainforest Action Network
- Rainforest Alliance
- Conservation International
- Amazon Watch
- Arbor Day Foundation and many more.
You can support their efforts by visiting their websites, making donations, or perhaps even participating in their volunteering programs.
#13 Join a community forestry project
In 2016, tens of thousands of people in Bhutan have planted 108,000 trees in honor of the birth of the country’s new prince. What a wonderful gift to the future ruler, right?
But the message the country has sent to the world had a deeper meaning. Through this act, Bhutan has demonstrated the indispensable power of community in managing natural resources. And community forestry is based exactly on that!
Community forestry is carried out by local residents, volunteers, and schools with the support of the government. This forestry technique involves tree planting, timber harvesting, cleaning, and forest conservation. Through the active involvement in the management of forests, local people become much more aware of all the benefits intact forests provide for them on a daily basis.
Let’s look back at Bhutan’s example. According to FAO report, 1,664 rural households take care of nearly 3,000 hectares of community forests. Since the program was adopted in 2000, it has improved livelihoods of participating rural communities by:
- strengthening their social bonds,
- regenerating degraded lands,
- purifying and securing water supply,
- providing communities with cheap and local source of fuel.
If you have a chance and time, join a local community forestry project. You may get far more benefits from simply being outdoors with trees and soil than you could ever get from online messaging with your friends.
#14 Help restore degraded forests
Restoration of degraded forests is a challenging task that takes decades, and requires careful planning and monitoring. It is not easy, but it is necessary if we do not want to lose all our forests. What is wonderful about forest restoration is the ecosystem’s capacity to perfectly recover and give us a new chance to start once again.
For example: In just 50 years a part of a long lost tropical rainforest in Costa Rica was successfully revived . Similarly successful was South Korea’s reforestation program that has managed to nearly double the country’s forest cover from 35 to 64 percent since 1950s .
Non-profit organizations such as The Sierra Club are working throughout the world to restore degraded forests and return them to their former glory. While this doesn’t reduce deforestation directly, it can offset many negative impacts of deforestation on a global scale. Look for such organizations in your area or in the area of your interest and support their activities if you can.
Their work of reversing deforestation is precious for future generations.
#15 Fight governmental corruption
Corrupt governments are often payed off by illegal logging companies to ignore their activities. Do not support corrupt politicians and systems. Reduction of corruption will go a long way towards reducing deforestation overall.
In many poorer countries, the lack of police presence and law enforcement means that illegal deforestation often goes unpunished and unnoticed for many years, even though it is destroying the country’s economy and resource wealth.
For example: 70 percent of Indonesia’s timber exports come from illegal logging. Besides leaving behind extensive damage to the rainforest, the country is also losing around US$3.7 billion every year in lost revenue . Thus, the illegal logging does more harm than good to the country.
Report illegal logging
Did you know that in some countries are available mobile applications for people like you and me to verify and report illegal logging?
For example, Romania has launched an app called “Inspectorul Padurii.” The app enables users to enter a registration number of a logging truck to check if the vehicle has official permission to carry wood. If the number is not in the database, the load is illegal and the user should notify the police.
Global Forest Watch has developed an app called the Forest Watcher, which monitors areas with intact and protected forests. The app notifies you about the closest forest clearing and allows you to even directly upload pictures of deforested areas you encounter. In Uganda, the app is used by rangers and private forest owners to detect illegal logging and serves as an evidence during offenders’ prosecution.
If you want to help protect forests in your country, give a try to the Forest Watcher or check on internet if you cannot find a similar app developed directly for your area. The use of the modern technology and gadgets could be a possible solution of illegal logging which is one way to limit deforestation.
Where is deforestation happening?
To certain extent, deforestation happens everywhere in the world and has been happening even throughout our history. Within the limits of sustainability, forests have incredible capacity to recover and can be logged for centuries without getting damaged.
The problem comes when our consumption exceeds the natural ability of forests to regenerate, and when we start to overexploit this resource on a large-scale. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is currently happening in many tropical countries that are homes to unique rainforests.
According to a 2017 study of the world’s deforestation hot spots, Brazil, Indonesia and Democratic Republic of Congo are countries with the highest absolute forest loss in the world.
In Brazil, forests are cleared to make space for agriculture. In Indonesia it is for the palm oil and paper industry. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the main reason is extensive tree felling for fuel and farm land around rapidly growing cities.
But we do not have to go deep into the lush rainforest to witness sad effects of deforestation. Greentumble has written even about the spread of illegal deforestation in Romania due to the corrupt government, or total destruction of forests in Ukraine for the amber mining, and reported on the scale of deforestation in the United States as well.
What is being done about deforestation?
Through the amendment of the Lacey Act in May 2008, the United States became the first country to ban the import and sale of illegally-sourced wood.
According to the Illegal Logging Portal, the implementation of this legislation has delivered some positive results. Firstly, in assuring consumers that products they buy are legally sourced (although this does not necessarily mean, they come from sustainably managed forests). Secondly, by closing down a large market for illegal loggers, and therefore restricting their chances of making profit .
The European Union has implemented a similar law called Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade. Besides banning the import of illegal timber to the EU, this program also strives to help the Government of Indonesia to tackle the illegal logging on their territory .
Australia has jumped on the bandwagon when the country introduced the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill in 2011, shrinking even more the market for illegally sourced wood, and thus lowering the damaging deforestation throughout the world .
But despite these efforts, tackling the deforestation globally will require much more initiative and international cooperation of governments, corporations and even consumers like you and me.
So, this brings up a question: how can we control deforestation then?
According to the Nature Conservancy, a promotion of sustainable forest management takes place on four important levels:
- Governments: Governments must enforce incentives to support legal and sustainable forest management and trade system.
- Land owners and managers: Forest owners must follow the legal principles of the sustainable forest management.
- Corporations and investors: Corporations must verify and buy only legally and sustainably sourced timber. Their investments have the ability to revert forest destruction and encourage sustainable forestry in developing countries through the establishment of long-term cooperation with forest owners.
- Consumers: Consumers must make responsible choices when buying products. By picking only sustainably produced items, you are pushing corporations to put emphasis on the sustainable sourcing of their products.
As you can see, the way to tackle deforestation is complex and intertwined through the daily actions of all of us. No matter what your profession is or how far you live from the forest, every decision you make affects how many trees will be lost next year in the world’s tropical rainforests or vast boreal forests of the north.