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

 

Damn the dam: The threat one mega-dam poses to the Amazon and those who live there

Blog entry by Tica Minami | 21 March, 2016 4 comments

The Tapajós River – in the heart of the Amazon –  is home to thousands of people and incomparable biodiversity. But all that could change if a proposed mega-dam project moves forward. At the moment you’re reading this,...

8 ways people are fighting for forests this International Day of Forests

Blog entry by Dawn Bickett | 20 March, 2016

Love trees? Then celebrate – 21 March is the International Day of Forests! Without healthy, thriving forests, our planet cannot sustain life. But they are facing serious threats from human activity. As much as 80 percent of the...

In Indonesia, a new tool helps communities protect their land from fire

Blog entry by Teguh Surya | 16 March, 2016 1 comment

One morning in early 2009, Pak Manan a resident of Sungai Tohor, a coastal village on one of Indonesia’s islands in Riau, Sumatra, took his regular walk to community land about four kilometres away from the village. When he arrived he...

The murder of Berta Cáceres – a sad day for the environment

Blog entry by Miguel Soto | 4 March, 2016 2 comments

Last week, defender of the environment and human rights, Berta Cáceres publicly denounced the murder of several indigenous leaders and the threats she herself was subjected to daily in Honduras. Today, we woke up to the shocking news...

Cutting Deforestation Out Of Palm Oil

Publication | 3 March, 2016 at 6:00

In recent years, the world’s biggest companies have woken up to the environmental costs associated with palm oil and the other commodities they buy. Nowhere are those costs more evident than in Indonesia, which has lost 31 million hectares of...

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