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


Tracking trees: How one Amazon Indigenous community is using tech to fight illegal...

Blog entry by Marina Lacorte | 10 September, 2015 1 comment

For the Ka’apor people of Brazil, protecting the Amazon rainforest isn’t just about climate change or wildlife. It is about survival. As one community leader explains, “It's in the forest that lies our life. Without the forest, we...

How fixing palm oil could save orangutans from extinction

Blog entry by Achmad Saleh Suhada | 21 August, 2015 1 comment

The United Nations recently, and boldly, declared that orangutans could face extinction in Borneo. Why? Because deforestation is ‘simply unsustainable'. In Indonesia, we’ve shown that the palm oil sector was the single largest...

The old man and the sea of oil

Blog entry by Maria Favorsky | 18 August, 2015 1 comment

Lake Imlor is nestled deep within the Russian taiga in western Siberia. More than half of Russia's oil production comes from the surrounding region. For the Indigenous Khanty people who live here, the lake is sacred. They have...

Company destroys plantations to protect forest

Blog entry by Awang Kuswara | 13 August, 2015

This is a story of how setting an example and persistently struggling for change can eventually lead to a turnaround by governments and seemingly recalcitrant companies involved in environmental destruction. “First they ignore...

Tiger Day is about more than just saving tigers

Blog entry by Shuk-Wah Chung | 29 July, 2015 2 comments

Today is International Tiger Day! The lion may be the king of the jungle, but it's the tiger that holds mystique and charisma. From the Chinese zodiac, to Buddhism, and even Rocky Balboa (cue trumpets), the largest of the cat...

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