Deforestation Essay, Research Paper
Table of Contents
Important Facts 1
Historical Background 1-2
Background Law 2
Causes of Deforestation 2
The Green House Effect 2-3
Reducing Deforestation 3
Case Studies 3-4
Pros and Cons 4-5
Ninety percent of our trees, 300 – 900 years old, have been cut down.
The remaining 10% is all we will ever have. Deforestation is a significant issue
of our time and must be taken seriously if we want to protect our remaining
forests. The definition of deforestation by the Random House Dictionary of the
English Language is “to divest or clear of forests or trees” and we must stop
deforestation to save our planet. My intent on writing this essay is to
enlighten the reader about the facts on deforestation and to express my opinions
There are approximately 3 400 million hectares of forests in the world,
nearly 25% of the world’s land area. Close to 58% of the forests are found in
the temperate/boreal regions and 42% in the tropics. For about a millennium,
people have benefited from the forests. Forest products range from simple
fuelwood and building poles to sophisticated natural medicines, and from high-
tech wood based manufactures to paper products. Environmental benefits include
water flow control, soil conservation, and atmospheric influences. Brazil’s
Amozonia contains half of the world’s tropical rain forests. The forests cover a
region 10 times the size of Texas. Only about 10% of Brazil’s rain forests have
been cut to date, but cutting goes on at an uncontrollable rate.
Since pre-agricultural times the world’s forests have declined one fifth
from 4 to 3 billion hectares. Temperate forests have lost 35% of their area,
subtropical woody savannas and deciduous forests have lost 25% and ever-green
forests which are now under the most pressure have lost the least area, 6%,
because they were inaccessible and sparsely populated. Now with new technology,
such as satellites systems, low altitude photography and side looking radar,
scientists can now figure that the world is losing about 20.4 million hectares
of tropical forests annually and if these figures are not reduced, we will lose
all of our tropical forests in about 50 years. It has been suggested that the
high deforestation rates are caused partly by the fact that the new surveys are
more accurate and thus reveal old deforestation rates that have not been
detected with older methods.
At first there was concern only among foresters about deforestation but
now the public has created organizations such as Green Peace to help increase
awareness and reduce deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization or
F.A.O, has worked mainly within the forest community to find new and better ways
to manage the forests. Also, in 1985 there was the introduction of the Tropical
Forestry Action Plan or T.F.A.P. This plan involved the F.A.O, United Nations
development programs, the World Bank, other development agencies, several
tropical country governments, and several government organizations. Together
they developed a new strategy. More than 60 countries have decided to prepare
national forestry action plans to manage their forests.
Tropical deforestation has various direct causes: The permanent
conversion of forests to agricultural land, logging, demand for fuelwood, forest
fires and drought. Slash and burn clearing is the single greatest cause of
tropical rain forest destruction world wide. Air pollution is also a major
threat to the forests in the northern hemisphere and is expected to increase.
Reduced growth, defoliation and eventual death occur in most affected forests.
From 1850 to 1980 the greatest forest losses occurred in North America and the
Middle East (-60%), South Asia (-43%) and China (-39%). The highest rates of
deforestation per year are now in South America (1.3%) and Asia (0.9%).
Over the last two decades the world became interested in the loss of
tropical forests as a result of expanding agriculture, ranching and grazing,
fuelwood collection and timber exportation. The consequences are increased soil
erosion, irregular stream flow, climate change and loss of biodiversity.
Deforestation is second only to the burning of fossil fuels as a human source of
atmospheric carbon dioxide. Almost all carbon releases from deforestation
originate in the tropics. Global estimates of the amount of carbon given off
annually by deforestation is 2.8 billion metric tons. Deforestation accounts for
about 33% of the annual emissions of carbon dioxide by humans. In 1987 11
countries were responsible for about 82% of this net carbon release: Brazil,
Indonesia, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Thailand, Laos, Nigeria, Vietnam,
Philippines, Myanmar and India. During 1987 when there was intense land clearing
by fire in Brazil’s Amazon, more than 1.2 million metric tons of carbon are
believed to have been released.
To save our remaining forests we have to learn three important
principles: Reduce, reuse, recycle, i.e., lower the consumption of paper and
paper products. Some examples are getting off junk mail lists, writing or
photocopying on both sides of the paper, using cloth shopping bags, cloth
instead of paper napkins and paper towels, cloth diapers, recycling waste papers,
and buying recycled paper products. Another important fact to reduce
deforestation is that we should communicate our views to our elected
representatives and build a movement toward forest protection. Finally we should
visit forests and learn to appreciate them as places of inspiration and
The following two examples of case studies represent deforestation in
the U.S. and in Canada. It used to be that Northern California’s Pacific Lumber
Company was a timber operation that was an example of good forestry. The family
run firm harvested selectively from it’s 195 000 acres of Redwoods. Besides
looking after the forest, Pacific Lumber looked after it’s employees, many lived
in the company town of Scotia, the company paid their kid’s college tuition, the
company’s controlled logging virtually guaranteed that the trees would last well
into the next century. All that changed in 1985 when Charles Hurwitz of the New
York based MAXXAM group bought the company and financed the take-over by issuing
some $800 million in high interest bonds. To pay the dept., Hurwitz doubled the
rate of logging. Since the late 1980’s huge tracts of land have been clear-cut.
Economically the result has been a logging boom which will be followed by
inevitable bust when the tall timber is gone. Ecologically the logged land has
been left bear.
The B.C. government nearly owns all the forest land and seems inclined
to support timber interests than acting as guardians of the land, Everyday
loggers cut down more than 1.5 square miles of growth forest. Few native
American tribes there have signed treaties with the Canadian government. After a
struggle, the Haida nations in 1987 won the creation of a $350 000 acre park off
South Moresby Island. A fight continues over 22 000 acre Meares Island, claimed
by the native Clayoquot tribes. In 1984, a blockade by the Clayoquots (off
Vancouver) turned back a boat load of loggers. The vigil to defend the island
lasted for six months, when a court ruling prohibited further logging until the
Clayoquots’ claim to the land is settled.
In Conclusion, regulated deforestation can supply us with lumber without
completely destroying the forests, but deforestation which is geared
economically can permanently destroy our ecosystem. If deforestation is used
wisely, possibilities of positive effects take place. Some of these are: Jobs
would be created, the economy would be strengthened, expanding agriculture would
provide much needed resources to underdeveloped countries and people from poor
urban areas could be resettled. Proper deforestation also increases foreign
exchange (for example, our government promotes a new type of harvest and sells
it to other countries).
Still, if deforestation is used badly it will destroy forests, add to
global warming, and destroy cultures. Bad deforestation degrades the ground and
the economic benefits from unwise deforestation barely enriches the community
while the money goes into the pockets of politicians or timber companies.
Furthermore, there is the loss of local products such as fishery, honey, game,
berries and also important species of plants that could help modern medicine.
I believe that if deforestation is not reduced soon, our ecosystem will
be permanently damaged and we will have lost many our resources. Until then you
might want to contact these organizations to find out more about our forests and
become involved: ?Association of Forest Service Employees for
P.O. box 11615
Eugene, OR 97440
P.O. box 2000
Washington, DC 20013
?National Wildlife Federation
1400 Sixteenth St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
Zuckerman, Seth. Saving our Ancient Forests. Los Angeles: Living Planet Press,
Westoby, Jack. Introduction to World Forestry. New York: Basil Blackwell Ltd.,
Gallant, Roy. Earth’s Vanishing Forests. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company,
Kerasote, Ted. Canada: The Brazil of the North? Toronto: Sports Afield, 1994.