Forests Issues & Threats

What's driving deforestation?

The world’s natural forests are hanging on by a thread. In places like Indonesia, central Africa, and the Amazon, forests are being cleared to make room for livestock, replaced by monocrops plantations of like soy and palm oil, exploited for timber, and withering from the impacts of climate change.

Villagers Evacuate During Forest Fires in Sumatra

Villagers forced to evacuate during forest fires cleared to make space for the PT Rokan Adiraya Plantation oil palm plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia.

© Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

Half of the world’s forests have already disappeared, and only 20 percent of what remains is intact. As it stands, the world loses more than 23 million acres of forest area every year. The window of opportunity to reverse deforestation and protect the world’s remaining intact forests is shrinking.

Not only does this have huge consequences for the climate and for wildlife, it’s a major human rights concern: some 1.2 to 1.7 billion people worldwide depend on forests for the livelihood.

That’s why Greenpeace is campaigning to expose the companies that profit off of deforestation and the governments that turn a blind eye, bringing us closer to a deforestation-free future.

What’s Driving Deforestation?

The causes of deforestation vary from region to region, but have one important thing in common: us. Human activity is behind all major causes of forest destruction, whether its to support the industries that make products we use every day or make space to grow our food. Here are just some of the ways business-as-usual is contributing to deforestation.

Agribusiness

Agribusiness—in which huge areas of forest are burned or cleared to make space for crops and livestock—is the number one driver of deforestation. These practices are turning some of the most biodiverse areas in the world into monocultures.

Read more about how agribusiness drives deforestation. 

Illegal Logging

Illegal logging is an immense, multi-billion dollar industry threatening forests worldwide. Some research even suggests that illegal activities make up more than 10 percent of the global timber trade, representing more than $150 billion per year.

Read more about the global threat of illegal logging. 

Mining

Coal and bitumen (oil) extraction have permanently destroyed large swaths some of the world’s most important forests. In Canada’s tar sands region, millions of acres of wildlife habitat have been disrupted, with millions more on the chopping block.

Mining for metals like gold, copper, and aluminum not only requires clearing forests, it also contaminates forest ecosystems with pollution and runoff.

Roads

Building roads through forests fragments the landscape endangers wildlife habitat and makes it easier for illegal loggers to exploit the forest.

Hydroelectric Dams

Hydroelectric dams can flood upstream forests, causing widespread forest loss, habitat degradation, and the displacement of forest communities.

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