Why does deforestation happen?
Deforestation is the permanent destruction of forests, usually so that humans can either use the cleared land or the trees. We depend on trees – to provide food and shelter, to protect the soil from erosion and flooding, to slow global warming, and to give us the oxygen we breathe.
But our growing population needs more space and resources increasingly. Right now, we are losing 18.7 million acres of forests, or 27 soccer fields, every minute because of five main reasons.
Farming and agriculture
Clearing land for subsistence farming in poor areas is increasing as the world’s population grows.
Two of the biggest agricultural culprits, soy and palm oil, are being used in an increasing range of products, from food and animal feed through to cosmetics and biofuels. Forests in Asia, and in particular the Amazon, are being destroyed daily to make space for these monoculture plantations and to graze cattle.
Clearing land for subsistence farming and agriculture is responsible for more than half of all deforestation worldwide.
The loss of forests in these areas not only further risks the survival of endangered species like the bonobo and Sumatran tiger, but it also increases the risk of floods and landslides through soil erosion.
There are also knock-on effects to our climate from such intensively farmed crops, including soy and palm oil. The fertilizers used on those crops contaminate the local waterways. Extensive irrigation lowers the water tables, increases salinity and may worsen droughts, leading to desertification. Deforestation is only the tip of the iceberg!
The demand for minerals and the lure of the profit that can be made is the other main driver of deforestation. Land must be cleared for the mines themselves, as well as for the roads, railways, and ports to transport the resources, and to deliver the electricity they need to operate.
Logging and paper products
Furniture, construction, fuel for heating and cooking, and of course paper all need trees. As our population increases, so does demand for these wooden and paper products.
Thankfully, most countries require the logging industry to replant the forests they harvest. But some companies aren’t so conscientious about where they buy their raw wood resources from, and illegal logging is a worldwide problem.
The spread of cities to house more people accounts for some deforestation. Trees are cut down to both build and make space for more housing as the population increases and people move from rural areas to cities.
The loss of forests around cities contributes to urban heat islands and lowers the local water and air quality. With few trees to hold the soil in place and soak up rainfall, erosion-caused landslides and floods have greater harmful impacts. Plus, habitats are increasingly fragmented by roads and other infrastructure, putting endangered species that rely on those forests at even more risk.
Some wildfires that destroy forests are intentional – ranchers clearing the land to graze the cattle, construction workers making space for roads and railways. But many are unintentional, albeit often indirectly caused by human activity through global warming.
Wildfires are a double punch – they destroy the forests, and they pump pollution and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
How you can help stop deforestation
It’s easy to support organizations that work to replant forests destroyed by illegal logging and rehabilitate overgrazed areas without making significant lifestyle changes. Each time you search using Givero, you can help Eden Reforestation Projects employ locals to plant trees.
By switching to recycled paper products and packaging, buying furniture made from certified renewable sources, and participating in your local paper recycling program, you can make a direct impact.
You can also make other small changes when you shop, like choosing to eat less meat, or avoiding food products and cosmetics that list soy or palm oil in their ingredients.
And of course, you can raise awareness about deforestation. Explain to friends and family why it’s such an important issue and ask them to make simple changes like switching to Givero instead of Google whenever they search. Encourage your friends and family to help prevent deforestation, just like you!