Why do we fight for forests?
Around the world, forests are being logged for timber and paper pulp and cleared to grow mono-crops like soy and palm oil while also deteriorating from impacts of global warming. Deforestation is a major driver of global warming, responsible for up to 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions–more than all the cars, trucks, planes, boats and trains in the world combined.
Deforestation doesn’t just threaten our climate, it threatens the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people that rely on forests for food, and economic activity. Rare and undiscovered animal and plant species call forests home.
Forests also provide water sources and erosion prevention.Protecting forests will not only preserve biodiversity and defend the rights of forest communities, it is also one of the quickest and cost effective ways of curbing global warming.
Greenpeace is campaigning for zero deforestation, globally, by 2020.
What’s causing deforestation?
Drivers of deforestation vary from region to region. Below are examples of human activity driving the destruction of the world’s natural forests.
- Agribusiness, in which vast areas of natural forest are burned or cleared for livestock or monocrops including palm oil and soy, is the largest driver of deforestation. Palm oil and soy are used in a wide array of products ranging from toothpaste, chocolate, animal feed and cosmetics.
- Industrial logging for timber, pulp and wood fiber to create building materials and consumer products like office paper, tissue, books, magazines and packaging.
- Mining for metals such as gold, copper, or aluminum clears large tracts of natural forests and contaminate forest ecosystems with their runoff.
- Road building through forests fragments the landscape, endangers wildlife habitat and provides access points for illegal loggers and other business operations that encroach into the forest.
- Hydroelectric dams flood upstream forests, leading to widespread forest loss, habitat degradation and displacement of forest communities and wildlife.
There are serious environmental impacts from illegal logging. There are also far-reaching social problems associated with unsustainable and illegal logging: Child and forced labor, abuse of indigenous land rights, and unsafe working conditions are not uncommon practices in the worldwide timber industry.
What is illegal logging?
Illegal logging violates international, national or regional laws. Illegal activities can include logging, transportation, purchase and sale of timber.
The timber felling itself may be illegal and can involve:
- Using corrupt means to gain access to forests;
- Extraction without permission or from a protected area;
- The cutting of protected species; or
- The extraction of timber in excess of agreed limits.
Illegalities may also occur during transport, processing and export, and include fraudulent declaration to customs, and the avoidance of taxes and other charges.
"Destructive but legal" logging
Legal logging does not necessarily mean ecologically or socially sustainable logging. Half of the world's forests have disappeared. Only 20 percent remain as relatively undisturbed and intact. This 20 percent contains the natural habitat of two-thirds of the Earth's known terrestrial species, and is the home for many indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities.
The world's remaining forests are disappearing at an alarming rate due to both legal and illegal logging. Every second, an area of forest equal to the area of the Orange Bowl stadium is destroyed - over 23 million acres a year.
Governments at every level urgently need to make a greater commitment to the protection and sustainable use of the the world's forests by passing and enforcing stricter forest protection laws.
A global problem
Some estimates suggest that the illegal timber trade may comprise more than a tenth of the total global timber trade, worth more than $150 billion a year. Reliable estimates indicate that more than half of all logging activities in particularly vulnerable regions - the Amazon Basin, Central Africa, Southeast Asia, the Russian Federation - are illegal.
Protecting our national forests
Our national forests are precious and irreplaceable. They provide us with clean air and water, soil production, flood control, climate stability and other essential needs. They also offer scenic beauty, recreational activities and related jobs, and vital wildlife habitat.
These priceless public lands are under the stewardship of our federal government and belong to every American citizen.
For more than 100 years, our national forests have been destructively mismanaged, primarily for timber. Today, the situation is more dire than ever. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the agencies entrusted with conserving our forests, have been given the green light to move forward with their pro-timber agendas.
With less than five percent of our ancient forests remaining in the lower 48 states, we cannot afford to destroy what's left. Deforestation of our national forests is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. It is also one of the most preventable. Only two percent of timber in the United States comes from our national forests. That's timber we can readily do without, simply by reducing our use of wood and paper products and using recycled materials.
There are solutions to both deforestation and illegal logging.