Deforestation: The Problem Is Growing But The Trees Are Not


Deforestation has many negative impacts on the environment that contribute heavily to global warming and the endangerment of animal species. Not only that, but it can impact the lives of the people who live near forests as well.

The definition of deforestation is “the action of clearing a wide area of trees.” It’s essentially forest areas being decreased across the world in order to make room for agricultural croplands, urbanization, or mining activities. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that the annual rate of deforestation is around 1.3 million km2  per decade. The FAO has also said that the expansion of agriculture caused nearly 80% of global deforestation.

There are many causes for deforestation. Some natural factors of deforestation include natural fires or parasitic diseases. The main cause for deforestation is human activities. Agriculture is the number one cause of deforestation. 33% of agriculture-caused deforestation is a consequence of subsistence agriculture. Subsistence agriculture is a form of production where nearly all of the crops or livestock are produced to sustain one thing. This can be a family, a village, or something else of that nature.  40% of agriculture-caused deforestation is caused by commercial or industrial agriculture. Commercial agriculture is when food is produced with the intention of selling it. Industrial agriculture is the large-scale and intensive production of crops and animals. This often involves chemical fertilizers being used on crops or harmful antibiotics being used on animals. Many trees are lost in their search for space to grow food, fibers, or biofuels. 14% of agriculture-caused deforestation is being caused by livestock.

The reason behind this is because they need large areas to inhabit and grow their food. 10% of deforestation can be attributed to new infrastructure being built to serve the current human lifestyle in three ways: transportation, transformation, and energy generation. The growth of urbanization contributes to 5% of deforestation. 68% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050. Urban growth is leading to an exponential growth of housing and consumption sites. As cities grow, they remove trees from the surrounding natural boundaries to make more room, which leads to deforestation.

The Amazon Rainforest is a great real-world example of deforestation. It’s disappearing at a rate of 20,000 square miles a year. If this continues, it could be gone within 50 years. If the rainforest were to disappear, rainfall would decrease around the forest region. This would result in an additional shift in climate change that would cause more droughts, longer dry spells, and massive amounts of flooding. The main cause of deforestation in the Amazon is to make room for cattle ranching. In Indonesia, the country lost 285,300 acres of forest cover in 2020. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, this was a 75% drop from 2019. The main cause for the mass deforestation in Indonesia was to make room for growing oil palms. The rainforest in Borneo has been heavily deforested as well. It is estimated that only about 50% of the rainforest is still standing. Borneo is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, being home to around 15,000 different species. If this rainforest were to be completely deforested, all of these animals would lose their homes and most likely die.

Deforestation has greatly increased since 1960 and has negatively affected the natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and climate. The most known consequence is the threat to biodiversity. Forests represent some of the most veritable hubs for biodiversity. 80% of the earth’s plants and land animals live in forests. Human activities put ecosystems in danger and create natural imbalances by destroying forests. Trees provide shade and colder temperatures for animals and smaller trees or vegetation that wouldn’t survive the heat of direct sunlight. Trees also feed and shelter animals as well as support the livelihood of 1.6 billion people around the world. There are many people who depend on forests for survival and use them to hunt and gather raw products for their agricultural processes. In developing countries such as Borneo, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, or Mexico, land tenure systems are weak and allow big businesses to secure land and use them for their own means. This disrupts the locals lives and forces them to make a choice. They can abandon their land and migrate somewhere else, which would avoid conflict and force them to accept the challenge of a different life, or they can stay and work for the companies. They would be working under inhumane conditions and often get paid unfair wages.