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


1.4 million Brazilians just stood up for Zero Deforestation

Blog entry by Maïa Booker | 20 October, 2015 3 comments

It was an historic moment. After three years of campaigning, a coalition of activists, celebrities and civil society representatives crowded into the Brazilian Congress last week. They were there to submit a bill calling for an end to...

Cocoa, community and the forest

Feature story | 14 October, 2015 at 10:30

How can the increasing demand for cocoa help protect forests and improve the lives of farming communities around the world?

The generation living under Indonesia's deadly forest fires

Blog entry by Zamzami | 7 October, 2015 1 comment

The impacts of Indonesia’s forest fires are being felt most amongst Indonesia’s young, turning them into the “haze generation”. I flew from Jakarta and landed in the city of Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan, in...

The Amazon’s Tapajos Basin is in danger

Blog entry by Maïa Booker | 30 September, 2015 2 comments

The Brazilian government is currently gearing up to build dozens of energy-producing megadams in the Amazon. São Luiz do Tapajos will be one of the largest – second only to Belo Monte. If it is built, it will devastate the rich...

“My land is not for sale.” One First Nation’s fight to save ancestral forest

Blog entry by Marie Moucarry | 24 September, 2015 3 comments

The Broadback Valley is one of the last intact forests in Quebec, Canada. For hundreds of kilometres, there’s not a road, not a clearcut, not a mine, not a power line, not a pipeline…just pure wilderness. And without protection,...

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