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

 

There are no human rights on a dead planet

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 16 April, 2014 5 comments

Yesterday I spoke at the International Association of Democratic Lawyers congress in Brussels. In the audience there were over 500 hundred progressive lawyers from over 50 countries. Many of these lawyers focus on human rights issues...

Can the FSC logo ensure protection of the world’s most valuable forests?

Blog entry by Daniel Brindis | 15 April, 2014

It seems obvious, but any operation certified as “responsible forest management” should not threaten the world’s most important forests. Although the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) features protecting High Conservation Value Forests...

Years of Living Dangerously: on a screen near you now!

Blog entry by Andrew Davies | 11 April, 2014 4 comments

If they don’t already care about climate change, then this might just be the thing that finally inspires and motivates your friends and family to. This isn’t just another Al Gore documentary , but admittedly, there are big names in...

Consumer power! Procter & Gamble decides to wash its bad palm oil away

Blog entry by Areeba Hamid | 9 April, 2014 7 comments

About 400,000 emails to Procter & Gamble CEO. Thousands of phone calls to P&G offices around the world. Dozens of protests throughout the planet. 7300 Sumatran orangutans at risk of being made homeless. ...

P&G commits to No Deforestation

Slideshow | 8 April, 2014

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