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

 

10 years ago, the Amazon was being bulldozed for soy. Then everything changed.

Blog entry by Paulo Adario | 10 May, 2016 3 comments

This week – after months of negotiation and uncertainty – the Brazilian government, the soy industry and civil society organizations, including Greenpeace, indefinitely renewed an agreement keeping huge swathes of Amazon rainforest...

Six months later: communities are still suffering from one of Brazil’s worst...

Blog entry by Alan Azevedo | 5 May, 2016

Six months have passed since one of the worst environmental tragedies in Brazil’s history: the Samarco dam collapse . On 5 November, 2015, Samarco’s mining waste dam gave way, releasing a torrent of contaminated mud that killed 19...

From the heart of the Amazon to the heart of corporate power: how Indigenous...

Blog entry by Daniel Brindis | 27 April, 2016 1 comment

Today, Munduruku Indigenous representatives and activists traveled thousands of kilometres from the heart of the Brazilian Amazon to the annual shareholder’s meeting of General Electric (GE) in the United States. Their goal: to...

When palm oil companies get banned, are they willing to change?

Blog entry by Kiki Taufik | 25 April, 2016

As Indonesia's president announces a temporary ban on palm oil development, one of the world's biggest palm oil traders faces a customer revolt over its deforestation in Borneo… and it could lead to some big wins for forest protection.

This huge Amazon dam was just stalled. Now it's time to stop it!

Blog entry by Danicley Aguiar | 22 April, 2016 1 comment

It’s a good week for the Amazon rainforest! Just yesterday, Brazil’s environmental agency – Ibama – announced it was suspending the license to build the massive São Luiz do Tapajós dam on the Tapajós River. The reason? The agency...

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