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Depletion of Forest Resources
Echo systems around the world help sustain life for millions of species. Echo systems that are primarily forests provide a home for a large majority of living species. Therefore the trees in these forests are considered the most important species. Although it is true, that most species are not able to live without each other.
There are many benefits we get from our forests. Some of these include cleaner drinking water, a home for plants and animals, economic growth, clean air, recreational opportunities, a calming future. Another benefit we get from trees is called oxygen. If there were no trees to give us oxygen to breathe, we would not be able to live. So if you need a good reason why a forest should exist, staying alive is a good enough reason.
CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM
Forests have many resources that people can use to raise their living standards. An example is wood for building houses. Some wood materials last a long time, they keep the house warm and make it easy to make houses. Unfortunately, the world is overpopulated and the demand for a higher standard of living is constantly increasing. Therefore the demand for more resources is increasing to unsustainable levels. Since forests provide a large portion of the world’s resources, many forests are cut down or burned.
The cause of deforestation is directly related to the high demand for wood for the production of paper products and lumber for other products. We use wood for practically everything. It is used in home construction, marine products, furniture, and the list seems endless. Just look around you now and chances are you will find a product within your reach that is made of wood. Wood is not only a good building material, but also has excellent aesthetic qualities. Most people appreciate a nice set of wooden dining tables or classic wooden rails on a staircase. Unfortunately, we don’t always consider how many trees need to be cut down in order to have these luxuries in our lives.
Another major direct cause of forest depletion is simply the burning of forests for agricultural land. This is more common with countries that are underdeveloped and have tropical rainforests. Many poor farmers in these countries burn or clear small patches of rainforest to make room for farming and livestock. But the problem of scale is created when large corporate farms burn thousands of square acres a year. They need so much space to be able to provide agriculture on a much larger scale to compete in the world market for food. The reason forests are burned for farmland is because of the mineral-rich fertility of the soil.
Unfortunately, even large-scale farmers in underdeveloped countries are not educated on how to maximize their results when reusing land. The land is therefore used and left as wasteland, while farmers burn more forest to make another farm. The Amazon rainforest, which is the largest in the world, has fallen victim to such deforestation. This forest is located in South America where countries are going through hard financial times. The Brazilian market is one third of all Latin countries included. However, “Brazil’s external debt, except in the most improbably positive economic circumstances, is simply unsustainable in the coming years” (CRF.org 2002). Economic pressure on a country is another major cause that will force a country to deforest as is the case in Brazil. The Basic Science and Remote Sensing Initiative (BSRSI) data show that between 1978 and 1988 230,000 square miles, nearly the size of Texas, were affected by deforestation (bsrsi.msu.edu). This is 16.5% of all the rainforest in the Amazon.
The next example shows the cause of deforestation for agriculture. According to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), “Between 1990 and 2001 the percentage of processed meat imports into Europe coming from Brazil increased from 40 to 74 percent” and by 2003 “For the first time ever, The increase in Brazilian cattle production – 80 percent of which was in the Amazon – was largely export-driven.” As more roads are built to provide access to forests in undeveloped countries, more deforestation is evident.
SCALE OF THE PROBLEM
As mentioned earlier, we get a large portion of our oxygen from vegetation, such as trees. Since most trees live in forests, it is important to understand the negative impact deforestation can have on our air quality. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas that has an impact on the greenhouse effect. There is a cycle between CO2 producers such as cars and CO2 consumers such as plants. Together they create the “Global Carbon Cycle”. Tropical forest plants and soil hold 460–575 billion metric tons of carbon worldwide (McKane et al. 1995). From 1850 to 1990, worldwide deforestation released 122 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere, with the current rate between 1.6 billion metric tons per year (Skole et al. 1998). In comparison, all fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) burned in a year release about 6 billion tons per year. Therefore deforestation even when compared to all other pollution plays an important role in global warming and clean air.
Another scale of the problem with deforestation is the reduction of biodiversity. Biodiversity is important for ecosystem sustainability, agriculture, medicine, recreation, aesthetic and commercial value. There are an estimated 5 to 80 million species living on this earth (Lawton and May 1995). Tropical rainforests cover about 7% of the world, but are home to more than half of the world’s living species. After cutting down a forest, many species cannot live without it and will probably become extinct. Since we depend on these species for many resources, their expansion will rob us of their benefits. We may be destroying the next AIDS cure with deforestation and not know it.
The negative impacts of deforestation are being noticed internationally. Many countries are taking steps to reduce the problem for a more sustainable soil. Unfortunately, financial gain and high competition still exist with deforestation, and for some it is the only way to survive. Many people are not educated about the long-term results that their actions can cause. Due to these reasons, deforestation is still a reality around the world in many countries.
With more international involvement, countries will take effective steps to bring deforestation to sustainable levels. But there is still much work to be done. For some forests it is not yet too late to bring them back faster. Other forests that have been logged can take centuries to grow back to their original state. Areas where pesticides have been used may have damaged the ecosystem and may take a long time to regrow. Many forests were replaced by large banana plantations. These plantations use pesticides that kill many species that are vital to maintaining an echo system. Erosion caused by deforestation may lead to more water pollution in the future and may affect agriculture in the area. Other reasons for deforestation are simply to make room for paved roads, residential and commercial development caused by urban sprawl. These types of developments destroy forests forever. Deforestation is a serious threat to the future of life on our planet. It has major effects on our global climate. It leads to the loss of millions of species that are important to sustaining a living earth.
As we discussed the causes of deforestation, we realize how these causes are very different. Because the causes are often controlled by a country’s economy, overpopulation, and many other social reasons, it is impossible to find a solution to deforestation. Although there are many solutions, it will take time and the cooperation of many different groups of people and organizations to make the solutions work.
A popular solution that has been in place for several decades is forest conservation. We can work internationally, regionally and locally with organizations to develop policy and influence industry to help ensure a sustainable future for forests. Conservancy helps protect, manage and restore the world’s most important forests by identifying threats and developing solutions to them.
Reducing the amount of products that are produced as a result of deforestation. For example, using materials other than wood to build houses, furniture, and other common wood products. Encourage recyclables so people don’t go back to wood. The shift from wood to other materials will decrease the demand/supply of wood.
Applying more efficient farming methods to encourage land reuse.
Educate people around the world about the negative impacts of deforestation and what can be done to prevent it. Help fund more educational programs. Help countries make the right economic decisions.
Sign international treaties and make laws/regulations to control annual deforestation.
Import meat and dairy products from markets that do not cause deforestation.
The solution that I believe will be very effective is the second one. In terms of cutting down trees, this is a very viable solution. Today we have many products that are made of wood. As economies around the world grow, so will the middle class. This middle class will increasingly demand products that are made of wood. The American middle class is obsessed with wood products and we don’t even realize it. A large part of our houses are built of wood, and so is our furniture. Only most cabinets require that much wood. If we like wood products, the rest of the world will too.
The solution is to take most of the wood products and find alternative materials for them. This is certainly not as easy as it seems, but it is very doable. Once completed, it will greatly reduce the demand for wood, thereby reducing deforestation. With such high advances in technology, we can travel to space and replace hearts. Therefore it is possible to make materials that are safe for the environment and replace wood. Maybe even make materials that share most of the properties that wood has. We can even invent wood-imitating materials like “buried wood” in our cars today. This “burnt wood” on most cars isn’t even wood anymore, it’s a type of plastic and a pattern to mimic the look of wood. Speaking of the automotive industry, I can’t believe how advanced our cars have become. These are the cars we drive every day. Yet we live in new houses that are built with an ancient method of wood and nails. I think this is ridiculous. Perhaps the solution to replace wood with alternative materials will also lead to more efficient assembly methods and a safer environment. And most importantly, the first solution is to change our attitude to help prevent deforestation.
of Depletion of forest resources is a big problem with challenging solutions, let’s work as a team around the world to help solve these issues.
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