Over the past few years, we’ve gained significant ground in getting major companies to move toward forest-friendly business models. You might think that means deforestation is beginning to be a thing of the past.
We want it to be. Unfortunately, threats to forests are only increasing. Just last year, the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose — for the first time since 2008.
A barge loaded with timber in Para state. The top image of this post also depicts logging operations in Para.
Deforestation is not just an environmental issue. It’s an everything issue. Here are six reasons you can tell.
1. Forest loss is not decreasing. Although they still cover about 30% of the earth’s land area, we lose an area roughly equivalent to the size of Panama in forested land every year. At this rate, there would be no forest left by around 2100. Even where forests are protected on paper, they aren’t protected in reality. Somewhere between 15 and 30% of the global trade in timber is harvested illegally. In countries where monitoring is difficult, up to 90% of timber exports are illegal. So yeah, it’s still going on.
A boy and two old women of a community of Baka people (pygmies) who live on the outskirts of Libongo, Cameroon.
2. Forests are home to 200 million people. An additional 1.4 billion people depend directly on forest goods for their survival. With practices of deforestation for products like palm oil, displacement of forest communities is rampant, and conflict between companies and communities has been very common. Deforestation threatens to deprive almost a quarter of the humans on the planet of their homes or livelihoods.
3. Biodiversity. Up to
—i.e. a vast majority of all species of land plants and animals—lives in forests. Deforestation and the destruction of forest habitat is the leading cause of extinction on the planet. Yes, climate change is making a big dent, but make no mistake, the direct clearing of forest is still the number one reason we are living in the sixth great extinction.