Forests - threats

Around the world, lush tropical forests are being logged for timber and pulp, cleared to grow food, and destroyed by the impacts of climate change. Four fifths of the forest that covered almost half of the Earth's land surface eight thousand years ago have already been irreplaceably degraded or destroyed.

Cattle Paths in the Amazon

Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football pitch is lost due to logging or destructive practices. Seventy two per cent of Indonesia's intact forest landscapes and 15 per cent of the Amazon's have already been lost forever. Now the Congo's forests face the same threat.

While the causes vary from region to region, they all have one thing in common: human activity. Through agriculture and logging, mining and climate change, humankind is wiping out irreplaceable forests - and the life that depends on them - at a terrifying pace.

View of the Amazon from above. This 1645 hectare area has been logged to plant soy.

Agri-business is responsible for massive rainforest destruction as forests are burned to make way for cattle ranches, or cleared for palm oil or soya plantations. In this way, irreplaceable rainforests are converted into products that are used to make toothpaste, chocolate and animal feed.

Industrial logging for timber, pulp and paper has also devastated much of the world's rainforests. Not only are ancient trees cut down on a vast scale, but unplanned and inefficient practices lead to enormous additional wastage. And, by building roads into pristine rainforests, the logging industry opens them up to secondary effects like human settlement, hunting, fuel-wood gathering and agriculture.

Today, forests face another threat. Deforestation contributes to climate change (overall, it accounts for one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions - which is why Indonesia is the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter and Brazil the fourth). At the same time, climate change itself threatens forests on a terrifying scale.

Rising global temperatures damage and kill trees, and increase drought and forest fires. Dying trees release still more carbon, which further increases our global temperature. This cycle of forest collapse represents a critical feedback loop that could drive warming for centuries, change life cycles on Earth, and usher in a sweeping transformation of human civilisation. The surest way to stop it is to end deforestation.

Pristine forests near Manokwari in West Papua, the last frontier of intact ancient forest in Indonesia

Greenpeace is campaigning for zero deforestation globally by 2020 because protecting forests is one of the quickest and most effective ways to prevent climate change, protect biodiversity and defend the rights of forest communities.

To realise this vision, the international community, corporations, forest communities and individuals in consumer countries will need to work together in an unprecedented, concerted effort. You can read more about the solutions to forest destruction here.

The latest updates

 

Protecting what protects us

Blog entry by Daniel Mittler | 2 December, 2016

The diversity of nature is essential to ensure our planet remains habitable. That is why we need to stand up to all those who endanger the global web of life – those who plunder the Commons for private gain. Back in 1992,...

Where is the hope?

Blog entry by Rex Weyler | 30 November, 2016

I’m not sure we can win with logic.  How do we reverse species loss, climate change, toxins, general overshoot of Earth’s generous habitats? We have the science, but humanity at the large scale does not appear to have the political...

Four ways our forests must be part of the climate conversation

Blog entry by Jannes Stoppel | 30 November, 2016 1 comment

On a warming planet, forests hold the key to stopping climate change. Forest landscapes and agricultural areas can absorb emissions like a sponge. They take carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis, and store it in wood and...

Russian gas in the EU: How consumers threaten an international nature reserve

Blog entry by Evgeny Yusov | 11 November, 2016

The Kurgalsky nature reserve, which traverses the shallow waters of the Gulf of Finland, numerous islands, and the Kurgalsky Peninsula between Russia and Finland, is home to a great diversity of flora and fauna, supporting numerous...

One year later and no justice: Communities affected by dam disaster speak out

Blog entry by Fabiana Alves | 8 November, 2016 1 comment

This past Saturday – 5 November, 2016 – hundreds of people gathered at the ruins of the Bento Rodrigues school in Mariana, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. They were there out of remembrance, and to call for justice. Exactly one year...

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