The dangers of deforestation
Deforestation is the clearing of trees, transforming a forest into cleared land. It changes the land into a less bio-diverse ecosystem such as pasture, cropland or plantation. Forests cover over 30 percent of Earth’s land. Rainforests make up 6 to 7 percent of the earth and contain over one half of all plant and animal species in the world. The largest rainforests on earth are: Amazon basin in South America, the Congo River basin in Central Africa, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and Madagascar.
Why are forests and rainforests important? Trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen in return. Twenty percent of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon. Forests help preserve biodiversity, as they are home to over 70 percent of Earth’s plant and animal species. Forests also play an important role in offering watershed protection, preventing soil erosion and mitigating climate change.
One half of the world’s tropical rainforests have already been cleared. Rainforests are cleared mainly for agricultural reasons: to plant crops or make room for grazing livestock. It is estimated that 2.4 acres of rainforest are destroyed per second (about 2 football fields) which equals 214,000 acres per day (larger than New York City). This causes the extinction of 137 species per day, totaling 50,000 species a year. Loss of forest contributes to between 12-17 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. If the current rate continues, the Earth’s rainforests will be completely gone within 100 years. This will cause unknown effects on the climate as well as eliminate the majority of the plant and animal species on Earth.
What can you do, you’re asking yourself? Even here in Cleveland, we play an important role in helping to stop deforestation. The United States accounts for less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we consume more than 30 percent of the world’s paper. Furthermore, the paper industry is the fourth-largest in contributions to greenhouse gases. Reducing your paper use is crucial.
Here are some easy tips that you can try to reduce your use of paper. When you use paper, make the most of it by using both sides every time, and recycle it when you're done. Reuse old envelopes for writing grocery lists and other notes. Recycle your newspapers after you're finished reading them. When you purchase paper-based products (notebooks, printer paper, napkins, paper towels, etc.) look for products made from recycled paper.
When you purchase furniture or wood, make sure it’s FSC certified; this certification means that it was made from trees that were legally cut down from a responsibly managed forest. Eat more vegetarian meals or purchase locally raised beef; a lot of forest being cleared is done so for livestock grazing. Stop junk mail and cancel catalogues easily by going to ecocycle.org. Bring your own bag not only when grocery shopping, but when shopping everywhere including places like the mall, Crocker Park, the drug store, etc. Lastly, plant trees in your yard!
If each of us were to try these things, you can bet we would make a positive impact on reducing the need for more trees to be cut down. Rainforests and forests are so important to the health of our Earth and the health of us! We need to work together to save them.