Deforestation… the what, why, who and how.
Have you ever thought about why the earth's climate is changing so drastically? Without any doubt, we human beings are part to blamed. Our lifestyle and demands have become a burden on the earth's shoulders.
As well as being stunningly beautiful, forests are vital for the health of our planet. They provide food and shelter for so much of life on Earth – from fungi and insects to koalas and tigers.
Deforestation means cutting down the trees of the forests to make room for something else, such as buildings and roads, livestock, industries or to be used for production. Globally, up to 15 billion trees are being cut down every year. That’s just not sustainable or smart – for wildlife, for people, or for the climate.
Australia is home to some of the most unique and magnificent nature in the world. The kind of natural beauty and uniqueness seen in Australia cannot be seen in any other part of the world. But unfortunately, we have put the wildlife as well as the natural beauty of Australia under threat.
Australia is one of the worst countries in the world for deforestation, and is the only developed country to make the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) global list of deforestation hotspots. The main cause of this is land clearing for livestock, according to WWF conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor. The species are threatened, and half of the forest covers have been cleared in the last years.
In Queensland alone in 2015-16, about 395,000 hectares of native vegetation were cleared. That might be hard to picture, but its around the size of Melbourne or Sydney. It is equivalent to 1,500 football fields cleared per day.
"In Queensland alone it's estimated 45 million animals were killed in 2015-16 because of bulldozing of forests - everything from geckos to cockatoos," Dr Taylor said.
When animals lose their habitat they die, they do not just move on and live happily ever after somewhere else. Sadly, the WWF estimates if we keep up with the rate of clearing, the koala will be extinct as early as 2050.
Forest loss and damage is the cause of around 10% of global warming. There’s simply no way we can fight the climate crisis if we don’t stop deforestation. We need to protect forests now more than ever.
Main Contributors to Deforestation
Requirement for land
Overpopulation is becoming an issue in the 21st century. There are not enough houses or land for people to live in, so we are clearing forests to make space. We demand a lot from the earth. We set up industries that harm the atmosphere by releasing toxic gases and to set up new industries, we tend to destroy nature in the process.
Forest fires are part of natural evolution, however with longer and more extreme dry seasons which is a result of climate change, forest fires are increasing.
Cattle ranching (the destruction of trees to create pasture for cattle) is reported to be by far the most significant driver of forest lost in Australia. It means that we as human we kill wild animals and wildlife to raise livestock. Worth noting that animals can live in a forest environment, and they do not need to be ranched.
This is one of the most significant contributors to deforestation. It is reported that 15% of all deforestation is just for toilet paper production, when toilet paper is used by only 30% of the world’s population. We are literally flushing our forests down the toilet. The paper industry cuts down about 160,000 trees per day. We use toilet paper regularly in a tremendous amount without realizing how it is made and what it is doing to the planet.
Effects on the Planet
The effects of deforestation on the planet are very sad for all of us. Trees purify water and air. Without them there is an increase of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, in particular the amount of carbon dioxide. Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide. If forests are cleared, or even disturbed, they release carbon dioxide.
Flooding and land erosion are other effects of deforestation on the planet. The water cycle overall has been disturbed, resulting in dryer soil and the incapability to grow crops.
About 70% of land animals live in our forests. We have contributed to the loss of their habitats and now many species are under threat.
Effects on Human Health
Deforestation leads to the rise of deadly diseases that can destroy human health. The trees help clean the air and make it fresh and healthy for human beings to breathe in.
With deforestation increasing, people are becoming more prone to skin and respiratory diseases since the air is not clean anymore. Also, increasing earth temperature is affecting human health adversely.
In some countries, it has been understood that deforestation drives wild animals out of their natural habitats and closer to human populations, therefore creating a greater frequency of zoonotic disease spillover into people. In fact, EcoHealth Alliance research has shown that 31 percent of outbreaks of new and emerging diseases like Nipah virus, Zika, and Ebola are linked to deforestation.
Ways to reduce deforestation
The problem is big, but as individuals there are many little changes, we can make that together, can make a big impact on our forests.
For instance, choose recycled or bamboo paper products and look for the FSC ‘tick-tree’ logo when you are shopping for wood-based products.
Make sure any palm oil in the products you buy is sustainably sourced – it may say RSPO on the label.
But surprisingly it’s our diet can have the biggest impact. If you haven’t already, think about moderating the amount of meat you eat, perhaps considering it a weekend treat. Experiment with plant-based ingredients instead – there are plenty of new, innovative alternatives now.
Bamboo toilet paper
A perfect replacement for traditional toilet paper is bamboo toilet paper. Yes, they are made of bamboo plant, but they are environmentally friendly and incredibly sustainable. Bamboo is actually a grass and grows over a meter a day and keeps regenerating after being harvested.
The good thing about this shift from traditional toilet paper is that the quality is not compromised, and the bamboo toilet paper is as soft as conventional toilet paper and hypoallergenic. Bamboo toilet paper is an easy switch and can work as a force to protect the world's trees and its wildlife.
Our health, our environment, our world: it is all connected.