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


Here's why I'm celebrating Russia's fire ban

Blog entry by Anton 'Benny' Beneslavsky | 13 November, 2015

Today the Russian government has banned the burning of dry grass on agricultural land and conservation areas. This might sound somewhat trivial, perhaps for those who have never witnessed a forest fire or had a chance to stand in...

Sad, scared, alone. The baby orangutan orphaned by the plantation industry

Blog entry by Zamzami | 13 November, 2015 3 comments

For half an hour Otan wouldn't let go. Only eight months old, he already had a vice-like grip, his nails digging so deep they left half-moon imprints in the skin of his carer. If there were trees, Otan would be swinging freely from...

4 ways to STOP Indonesia's forest fires

Blog entry | 2 November, 2015 8 comments

A brief spell of rainfall in Indonesia has minimised the number of fire hotspots that have been broadcasting toxic smoke across the country...for now. Here are four ways to #StoptheHaze…once and for all. 13-yr old sister holds...

"I'm tired of being made sick by this smoke"

Blog entry | 28 October, 2015

22 year old Indonesian student, Rahmi Carolina has spent her entire life living with the haze. Each year, as the fires rage and grow more intense, so does she. So she's using social media and doing something about it. Elementary...

Indigenous lands are going up in smoke in the Amazon - because of illegal logging

Blog entry by Luana Lila | 23 October, 2015

In just two months, fire has consumed over 45 percent of the Amazon rainforest in the Arariboia Indigenous Land -- an area of protected forest that is home to thousands of people. And despite their efforts, the fire continues to rage...

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