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Deforestation

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Deforestation
Deforest is defined as the cutting down and removal of all or most of the trees in a forested area. (Dictionary.com) The action of deforestation damages the quality of the land. The removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in damage to habitat, biodiversity loss and aridity. (Wikipedia) Deforestation affects the environment greatly and is one of the primary contributors to climate change. When deforestation occurs, carbon dioxide is released and remains in the atmosphere. As the carbon dioxide accumulates it catches radiation, which leads to heat. Oxygen doesn’t hold radiation like greenhouse gasses do. The heat that is produced is considered global warming. Trees store carbon and when it is cut down that carbon is released into the air. According to the World Carfree Network (WCN), cars and trucks account for about 14 percent of global carbon emissions, while most analysts attribute upwards of 15 percent to deforestation. (Scientificamerican.com) Another aspect of the environment that deforestation affects is the water cycle. Trees help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees to fill these roles, many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts. (Society) Water vapor is a greenhouse gas. The flow of water vapor and carbon dioxide is disrupted directly by cutting down trees. The water that the trees draw from the ground is eventually emitted into the air. When the land is empty the groundwater and moisture in the air dries up some, which can change precipitation and cause desertification. When forests are lost erosion and sediment increases leading to potential landslides and flooding. Deforestation also reduces biodiversity. The animals that lived in these forests cannot survive without the trees. They are susceptible to danger without their home or camouflage of the forest. Animals are now easy to get to by hunters and predators. Furthermore, some species may become extinct in result of deforestation. One principal that deforestation violates is the equity principle. Equity is defined as the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality. (Dictionary.com) According to Joe Streit, author of “Green Okapi: Environmental Principals applied to Deforestation”, when arguing against deforestation, it should be mentioned that it decreases the standard of living of people living near deforested areas, and mainly provides money for large companies that is not fairly distributed to the poor. Another principle that seems to be violated is the basic human rights principle. Everyone is entitled to life, health, and well-being. The Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme Klaus Toepfer stated that “the fundamental right to life is threatened by soil degradation and deforestation”. (Streit) The change in climate, precipitation, and ground water can be linked to premature death. Therefore deforestation has resulted in multiple ecological impacts.
Human impacts of deforestation are large and there is a need to influence change to support future generations. First, human health, when erosion occurs lakes and other water sources can be affected. The erosion causes poor water quality and in turn degrades human health in the surrounding areas. Another health issue is air contamination. As humans we require oxygen to survive. The less trees that we have to balance our gas emissions the worse the air quality is. One example of the effect that deforestation has on humans is, In the Peruvian Amazon, 75 percent of the forest disruption, from 1999-2005, was within 12 miles of a road. Consequently, the areas that had suffered the most deforestation also suffered more malaria. (Fic.nih.gov) As a final point, many over-the-counter drug ingredients originate from tropical forests. A lack of these ingredients can alter human defense and recovery from illness. Deforestation can threaten human survival. There seems to be a social issue around the world that pertains to people who depend on these forests for hunting, or medicine. Deforestation is upsetting the land and lives of people. When you take away the opportunity for someone to feed their family you are violating the basic human rights principle again. When people must migrate to survive there can be social conflict over land and resources. Racial and ethnic rights may also cause conflicts which can turn violent. (Mongabay.com) Some indigenous cultures will disappear due to lack of land and resources. Not only do we potentially lose multiple species of animals we also can lose multiple cultures of society. The economy is also affected by deforestation. Many renewable resources are destroyed in the process of deforesting and that can lead to a decline in the economy. Logging is a business where trees are cut down and transported to saw mills. Logging is a hard business to sustain because reforestation cannot keep up with the rapid rate that it requires. When there isn’t any more trees to collect, or they are protected by an organization, it causes a slow in the industry and in turn affects the economy. Another problem with logging is that it reduces ecotourism. Ecotourism is defined as: tourism to places having unspoiled natural resources, with minimal impact on the environment being a primary concern. (Dictionary.com) The main idea of ecotourism is unspoiled resources, and a region where deforestation has occurred does not fall into that. When ecotourism is reduced it greatly affects the economies of developing countries. Non-timber forest products are another factor that plays into economics. These products are a crucial part of income support to those living close to forests. Non-timber forest products include but are not limited to, the animals, nuts, fruits, latex, spices, medicine, and berries. All which can be traded or sold and can benefit the economic ideals of the community.
Many drivers cause deforestation, and there are organizations that are causing the problem to become worse. One huge driver within this issue is agriculture. Subsistence farming is responsible for 48% of deforestation; commercial agriculture is responsible for 32% of deforestation; logging is responsible for 14% of deforestation and fuel wood removals make up 5% of deforestation. (Wikipedia) There is a need for more food as the population grows. Demand for products from agriculture cause farmers to need more space to produce the supply. When an area is completely deforested for farming, the farmer typically burns the trees and vegetation to create a fertilizing layer of ash. (Earthobservatory.nasa.gov) Most often when a forest is destroyed for the purpose of agriculture, it cannot be reforested ever. The number one driver is money. Logging is a multi-million dollar industry and the demand is extraordinary. Since demand is high there is an opportunity for illegality. Illegal logging is where more trees than allowed are collected, trees are removed from restricted areas, or protected species of trees are harvested. It is also suggested that illegal activities make up more than 10 percent of the global timber trade, representing more than $150 billion per year. (Greenpeace USA) The demand for resources from forests is causing deforestation to become worse. State policies to encourage economic development, such as road and railway expansion projects, have caused significant, unintentional deforestation in the Amazon and Central America. (Earthobservatory.nasa.gov) One more cause is the need for fuelwood. Eighty percent of all wood harvested in the tropics is used for firewood and charcoal. For some 2 billion people in developing countries (80 percent of all households), it costs nearly as much to heat their cooking bowls as to fill them. Pressure on the forest will only mount while petroleum prices remain high and populations grow. (Cultural Survival) In the rainforest, roads are needed to access the resources provided by the trees. These roads are needed by loggers, mining companies, and oil and gas companies. When roads are created, the deforested area left behind is ideal for farmers who will slash and burn the area and convert the area to survive, provide, and earn money. An indirect cause to deforestation is forest fires and government programs and policies, such as those for increased transportation infrastructure. (Lawrence and Vandecar) Areas that have been deforested or logged are more susceptible to accidental fire with the increase in dry conditions. When a road is made it allows entry to previously isolated areas. It has been reported that 95% of all forest destruction in the Amazon occurs within 5 km of a road. (Lawrence and Vandecar) Mining also has a foot in the door with deforestation. In order to dig a mine all the forest cover must be removed. There is also a possibility of needing a road to access this mine which results in removing more forest. Lastly, Palm oil demand is on the rise. Palm oil is used in pre-packaged foods and beauty products. Its rising prices make it more valuable, and, in response, Indonesian and Malaysian farmers destroy acres of trees to harvest it. (Ronca) Both direct and indirect causes for deforestation work hand in hand to complicate the problem further. Governmental policy and regulations vary between the U.S. and other countries. There is also multiple laws in place to reduce deforestation and the impact it has on society. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 26, marks the first major step toward reducing heat-trapping emissions and avoiding the most dangerous impacts of global warming. ACES combines energy efficiency and renewable electricity standards with a first-ever nationwide cap on carbon emissions. (Ucsusa.org) ACES will also provide financing to fund a tropical country if they establish baseline levels, plan to reduce deforestation to zero in a time frame, include certain provisions, and show a reduction in deforestation. It would only cost the Unites States a small amount to help protect tropical forests. This funding would not only reduce emissions and pollution in the air, but it can improve and sustain biodiversity and development. In 2008 Congress passed amendments to the Lacey Act, that combats trafficking in illegal plants and wildlife, and thus closed the entire U.S. market to illegally sourced wood. If effectively implemented, the Lacey Act will: Reduce illegal logging and its costly impacts. Help ensure that businesses know where their wood is coming from. Protect the legal forestry industry in the United States. Provide economic development opportunities, and help promote sustainable management of tropical forests. (Ucsusa.org) The U.S. also has laws such as the Wilderness Act and the Roadless Rule which also support the Lacey Act. All three laws are in place to protect our forests and cut the amount of illegal wood from inflowing into the open market. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is an international treaty between governments. Its aim is to certify that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not impend their survival. (Cites.org) Forests for Climate attacks a global problem and requires a pledge to reduce pollution and deforestation. Greenpeace wants forest protection to be guaranteed, not to be traded off in place of real emissions cuts. The way they figured out how to do this is to create a new and separate forest currency. (Greenpeace International) Incentives would be provided when trees were not cut down. There would also be permits that would require payment to attain. Greenpeace says that this proposal would produce 15-30 billion dollars yearly, and that money would be used to protect forests. The Bali Roadmap includes specific measures to reduce deforestation. The roadmap will investigate policies to financially reward countries who reduce their emissions by a certain percentage. (Ronca) Some non-profits that assist in reducing deforestation include: Greenpeace, The World Wildlife fund, Rainforest Action network, and the Environmental Defense Fund. One proposed movement is Eco-forestry. Eco-forestry is where only wisely designated trees are cut down and are transported with least damage to the area. The forecast ecosystem is preserved while commercial timber extraction is still permitted. (Ronca) Another movement is Green business. Green business is also known as sustainable business. In general, business is described as green if it matches the following four criteria. It incorporates principles of sustainability into each of its business decisions. It supplies environmentally friendly products or services that replaces demand for non-green products and/or services. It is greener than traditional competition. It has made an enduring commitment to environmental principles in its business operations. (Wikipedia) For example, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced $600 million in aid for Indonesia in 2011, most of it for “green prosperity” in the world’s third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter. According to the Millennium Challenge Corporation, more than 300 million dollars of U.S. funds will go towards renewable energy and natural resource projects. These projects are designed to raise incomes and reduce emissions. (Jakarta Globe) Indonesia is known to be rated high on the list of the world’s most corrupt countries. They are also known for having previous problems with protecting the forest. Indonesia would need to “sustain the political will to overcome these challenges at all levels of government” for the agreement to work.(Jakarta Globe) The World Bank has altered lending policies to shrink the risk of direct negative impacts to forests. The World Bank and G-8 have recently introduced the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) method among producer and consumer nations to fight illegal logging in Asia and Africa. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Forestry Programme provides an extensive range of technical support in sustainable forest management. (Ipcc.ch) Many governmental policy options are in place throughout the world, but the need now is to find the balance between them all. Greenpeace is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that has to deal with environmental issues. There are three approaches thought to have a large impact needed to protect the forests. Pressuring corporations and markets says that if a company implements deforestation policies and cleans up their supply chain, they can make a difference. Greenpeace is confronting major companies with their abuse of the environment and causing a change in their ways. Promoting sustainable consumer options says that individuals can make a difference by using leadership and establishing a best example. An example would be buying only recycled products and only supporting businesses with policies against deforestation. Leading by example and having communities as a whole follow through with support of certain companies will send a message. Companies that don’t have these baseline regulations in place will receive the message of becoming part of the effort to have zero deforestation in the future. Changing the politics is the final and potentially the most important approach. Government has a large part in change in deforestation. World leaders need to embrace ambitious domestic and international forest policies based on the latest science. (Greenpeace USA) As mentioned before, the U.S. is using the Lacey Act, the Roadless Rule, and the Wilderness Act are laws in place to protect forests. Globally, Forests for Climate, an international funding mechanism, is used. World Wildlife Fund, (WWF) is a NGO that focuses on sustainable forestry around the world, and is concentrated in four key areas: forest certification, combating illegal logging, reforming trade and protecting forested areas. WWF works with local communities and other partners in forest management efforts so that forests can be secured and local economies can still benefit from their resources. (World Wildlife Fund) The WWF policies and regulations go hand in hand with the Lacey Act. WWF created the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN). GFTN is a network that links hundreds of companies, forest-dependent communities, NGOs and entrepreneurs, in more than 30 countries around the world, with the goal of creating a market for environmentally responsible forest products. (World Wildlife Fund) Greenpeace and WWF are well known NGO, but there are hundreds of organizations that support zero deforestation and have proposals on how to combat it. The utilization of forest products role is comparable to the role of water and land in human society. Therefore it is a large part of the economy. The impact some of the proposed actions will cause is a possible decline in the economy. Policies and laws are put into place requiring permits and issuing penalties. These penalties or requirements can cause a change in the economy due to the change of flow of forest products into the market. Supply and demand run the industry and plays into economic change. Wikipedia says that, Damage to forests and other aspects of nature could halve living standards for the world's poor and reduce global GDP by about 7% by 2050. Illegal logging causes billions of dollars of losses to national economies annually. The new procedures to get amounts of wood are causing more harm to the economy and overpower the amount of money spent by people employed in logging. (Wikipedia) The reduction in deforestation plays negative role in the economy when it comes to transportation infrastructures. This can affect communities by reducing or eliminating new road construction. New roads that provide jobs, and open the door for expansion, which can boost the economy. By expanding and making new roads, consumers now have a chance to expand and explore new jobs and economic ventures. There is a fine line drawn between how to get to zero deforestation while balancing the economic impact. There are a few companies who have positive examples of dealing with deforestation. Kimberly-Clark has released a new environmental policy called the Kleercut campaign. Under the policy Kimberly-Clark has set a goal of ensuring that 100 per cent of the fiber used in its products will be from environmentally responsible sources. It will greatly increase its use of recycled fiber and fiber from forest certified to Forest Stewardship Council standards. By 2011, it will also increase the use of recycled and FSC fiber for North American products to 40 per cent from 29.7 per cent in 2007. By 2012, the company will no longer use pulp from the Boreal Forest unless is it certified to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council. (Canada) Another company who has made significant changes in regards to deforestation is Burger King. Burger King was doing business with a company called Sinar Mas. Sinar Mas is a company who tried to make their operations look “greener” than they were. Greenpeace put pressure on the company and when the audit was released, Sinar Mas’ past, present, and future actions were shown to be far from green. Since the release of the audit, Burger King has cut ties with Sinar Mas. “As a result, we have decided we will no longer purchase palm oil from Sinar Mas or its subsidiaries. We are in the process of transitioning to a new palm oil supplier for the 176 BURGER KING® restaurants that were supplied by Sinar Mas. In addition, we are notifying our suppliers of our intent to discontinue the use of palm oil supplied by Sinar Mas in the manufacturing of our products." (Greenpeace USA) Both of these companies have shown improvement in their impact on deforestation, and are leading the way for more companies to follow suit. My first recommendation for the war on deforestation is, the problem needs to be recognized by more than just NGOs and governmental agencies. The problem needs to be marketed to the communities and the people, as individuals. If the problem is not marketed correctly, the problem may be looked over, until it causes a direct problem to individuals. Once more of society is aware of the issues that deforestation causes, it would make reducing it a much more would take an interest in change. I recommend that stricter laws and policies are put into place. For example, a law requiring that when trees are removed/cut down that new trees must be planted, or receive a penalty. I believe in harsher penalties for illegal logging. I recommend that we promote sustainable organizations. On an individual level I recommend to create a potential tax break for people who plant trees, like a deduction. Another deduction that would be nice would be for purchasing recycled products. I get a five dollar credit off my internet bill because I bundled internet and cable, and I signed up for paperless billing. That incentive is a positive for me and for deforestation. Reducing the use of paper products and reducing waste potentially caused by throwing the bill in the trash. Giving a discount on the waste bill for recycling would benefit both individual and environmental needs. I agree with the putting pressure on corporations’ outlook because I believe that individuals are the first level in making a large impact on deforestation. I consider that the most important feature of putting pressure on corporations is that individuals can send a message and be heard. Deforestation is a macro level problem but I believe attacking it at a micro level will show to have a greater effect. Individuals have the power to make drastic change with simple education. I recommend to be more aware of the problem and individually do whatever is possible to help. Whether that change be a reduction in waste habits, the use of paper products, or non-recyclable purchases. A combination of micro and macro solutions will significantly make a difference. More people should become advocates, the more society knows the greater the chance of improvement. Finally, I believe as humans we have a duty and a job to sustain. We should not cause harm to the planet, and we as individuals can make a transformation, on the issue of deforestation.

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