Can you picture our earth without forests? Many of us cant. Forests cover approximately one fifth of the worlds land surface and play an important role in our everyday lives (Dudley 4). Forests provide us with many products and services from helping maintain erosion to providing jobs for our citizens. Humanity depends on the survival of a healthy ecosystem and deforestation is causing many social, economic and ecological problems. One ecological problem is Global warming witch is caused when carbon is released into the air after the burning of forests. Governments and industries must become more aware of these consequences of their activities and change accordingly. They need to cooperate with forest management and work towards a future that benefits all. Humans need to be educated about the current issues of the forests in order for us to save, preserve or sustain these places that provide us with so much.
Humans depend tremendously on the worlds forests, but yet were the ones destroying them. For humans, the forests have many aesthetic, recreational, economic, and cultural values. Timber and other products of the forests are important economically both locally and as exports. They provide employment for those who harvest the wood or for those who make products from the living forest. Forests also provide us with medical drugs, dyes and fabrics. There are many people who are dependent on forestland for their livelihoods. One third of the worlds people depend on wood for fuel as a significant energy source (Dudley). Not only do the forests provide some people with homes, but also provides a popular setting for ecotourism, which includes hiking, camping, bird watching and other outdoor adventure or nature study activities. All these activities and products the forests provide us are at great risk from deforestation.
Not only do forests provide us with all this but also protect soil from erosion and reduces the risks of landslides and avalanches. Trees help sustain freshwater supplies therefore are an important factor in the availability of one of lifes basic needs. Forests affect the climate and are also a very important source of oxygen. One major factor that the forests carry is that they are the home to over one half of the worlds total species (Dudley).Currently we are discovering 20 new species of insects and 15 species of plants each day (Dudley 13). Recent reports by the World Resources Institute have shown that more than 80% of the plants natural forests have already been destroyed (Hatch). Yes humankind is the cause of deforestation, however us humans are also capable of having a positive effect on this crisis.
Tropical forests cover about 10 per cent of the worlds dry land surface, mostly located in South America and Asia (Dudley 6).In the tropical forests of the world, deforestation is occurring for agriculture and livestock pastures. The main cause is the unequal distribution of land (Anderson).
Temperate forests are found in land areas that are warm enough and low enough to support trees but not so hot to be tropical. They are found in North America, Europe and cooler parts of Australia (Dudley 4). The problems in temperate forests are not so much the decrease in overall forest area, but the substantial change in the types of forests and their ecological diversity and stability.Commercial forestry is the main cause of deforestation in temperate forests. In very broad terms, the total area of forest in Europe, the USSR and North America is likely to decrease only slightly in the medium future, but the proportion of forest existing as plantation is liable to rise sharply (Dudley 66). This however is going to lead to an increase in conflict between the recreational and conservation interests and will also tend to make forestry a more capital-intensive operation, thus providing fewer jobs.
Since so many people are dependent on the worlds forests, deforestation will have a social, economical and ecological effect on the world. Most of these effects are negative ones. The loss of forestlands is connected to desertification, which translates into there being fewer trees, thus decreasing the future forest workers employment.Heavy rainfall and high sunlight quickly damage the topsoil in tropical rainforest, causing them to regenerate slower and also providing insufficient farming grounds. When forests are replanted there will also be a loss in quality. Also the medical treatments, cures and vaccines will never be discovered if there are no forests to discover them in. There may be a loss of future markets for ecotourism. The value of a forest is often higher when it is left standing than it could be worth when it is harvested (Dudley). Deforestation can cause the climate to change which could cause and increase in floods and droughts.
Global warming is a big factor in the destruction of trees. Forests store large amounts of carbon that are released when trees are cut or burned. It is said that deforestation and the burning of biomass will be responsible for fifteen percent of the greenhouse effect between 1990 and 2025 (FAO).Because of global warming ranges of tree species could shift with respect to altitude and latitude (Humankind 2). Furthermore, the stress of such environmental change may make some species more susceptible to the effects if insects, pollution, disease and fire (FAO). Also, areas of trees may be lost and genetic diversity may decrease.
The clearing of forestland results in increase of erosion and landslides. Landslide is a descent of a mass of earth and rock down a mountain slope. Landslides may occur when water from rain and melting snow sinks through the earth on top of a slope, seeps through cracks and pore spaces in underlying sandstone, and encounters a layer of slippery material, such as shale or clay, inclined toward the valley (Encarta).
Logging has directly and indirectly damaged spawning grounds, blocked river channels, raised water temperatures and caused water levels in streams to fluctuate dangerously. Therefore, the removal of tress can reduce the viability of fist stocks in their watershed and down streams environments.
People destroy or degrade forests because, for them, the benefits seem to outweigh the costs. Underlying causes include such issues as poverty, unequal land ownership, womens status, education and population. Immediate causes are often concerned with a search for land and resources, including both commercial timber and fuel wood (Dudley).
The government and industry play a huge role in the destruction or stability of forests. The government is the major aspect in controlling and maintaining the forests. They have a huge say on what can and cant be done. For example on March 14th 1996 the senate voted 54-42 against repealing a section of the 1995 rescissions law that allows the forest industry to salvage burned and downed trees from national forests (Shuster 1). They can restrict loggers by making laws but also are the link between compromising with the environmentalists.
High unemployment and job loss is usually blamed on the restrictions set on foresters. However this is a myth. Most of this unemployment is from worldwide economic change. The production of value-added forest products would create more jobs and bring more wealth to these logging communities. The whole goal of this would be to reduce the pressure on the forests.
If commercial forestry is to have a future, its methods need to become more ecologically sound and sustainable. The technique of salvage logging, removing dead and diseased trees from the forest, is good if the loggers dont take advantage of it and know what trees to go after. Another affective method loggers use is known as whole tree harvesting. This uses all of the wood from a tree. The branches and the treetops are converted into wood chips. Whole tree logging provides more jobs for the people and more products to be sold for the economy.
The government must play a greater role in forest management to protect the environment and employment. The government should ensure that the interests of all stakeholders and as well as the long-term effects associated with forest areas are taken into account during forest planning. Governments should stop defending the forest industry from criticism and end the practice of subsidization. Propaganda originating from governments and corporations requires elimination if the public is to be able to make the right choices.
Probably only the action of concerned citizens and consumers will compel government and industry to make changes in the forests. Individuals can communicate their uncertainty about the future of the worlds forests to politicians, corporate executives and non-governmental organizations through personal communication in the form of letters, telephone calls, faxes and e-mails.
Deforestation is a serious problem, but humans can make a difference. And individual as well as a business can practice green consumerism. They can make an effort to purchase the most ecologically sensitive products. Recycled paper is always available, which can reduce the demand for timber. One of the most important ways a person to have a positive effect is to reduce his or her consumption of forest and related products. An increase in the participation of reducing, reusing and recycling is necessary.
Education is one of the most effective ways to promote change in our environment. Society should educate people of today to change their ways and teach the younger generations to have respect for nature. The young people in our society should also be taught about the biological, social and economic values of forests. Environmental conservation should be as important as math, physics, and history in school. Workers should be taught to use technology to enhance forest ecosystems instead of destroying them for reforestation. If humans would just see themselves as a part of nature, they will respect it so much more and not just exploit it for its resources.
Humans bear the responsibility for deforestation and the global ecological crisis. But humankind has the abilities and potential to change its ways and prevent the destruction of our worlds forests. If the forests are protected and regenerated they will benefit us all in many ways. Trees will help benefit the land from erosion. Endangered species will have better chances for survival. Human health will benefit from medicinal compounds that are given a chance to be disvocered. Local economies will benefit from ecotourism and consumers worldwide will gain satisfaction from knowing that their wood products were harvested in a sustainable manner that left four out of five trees standing (Greenpeace). In order for this to occur humans are going to have to undergo some degree of ideological change. Humans are going to have to live more sustainable lives and become closer with nature. Once the crisis of deforestation has passed, humankind will enjoy a finer existence, and will look forward to a bright future.
Anderson, Anthony. Alternatives to Deforestation: Steps Toward SustainableUse of the Amazon Rain Forest. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
Dudley, Nigel. The Death of Trees. London: Pluto Press Limited, 1985.
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. The Challenge ofSustainable Forest Management: What Future for the Worldnt Forest? Rome: FAO, 1993
Hatch, Chris. Consuming Canadas Forests. Brazil of the North. 1997, pg. 23.
Land Slides. Encarta Reference Suite 2000. CD-ROM. 1999
Ness, Bryan. Saving Tropical Forests Profitably. 17 May 1998. 23 Oct. 1999.
Shuster, Laurie. Senate Votes to Continue Salvage Logging. Home
Improvement Market v 233: p10. 24 Oct. 1999