Forests cover nearly 30% of the planet, but deforestation is clearing these critical habitats out on a massive scale, resulting in damage to the quality of the land. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that the Earth loses 18.7 million acres of forests per year. That’s equal to 27 soccer fields every minute. In fact, according to the FAO, half of the world’s tropical forests have been cleared already.
Deforestation. We’ve all heard of it and recognize that it’s becoming of growing concern to scientists, but do you know what causes it and just why it matters? First, we must recognize that forests are complex ecosystems that affect every species on the planet. As such, when they are compromised, it can lead to a series of negative environmental implications.
Causes of Deforestation
Deforestation occurs as a result of natural causes (such as hurricanes, fires, parasites, and floods) as well as human activities. According to National Geographic, the biggest driver of deforestation from either of these causes is agriculture. Specifically, the Union of Concerned Scientists identifies four daily commodities as being responsible for half of the world’s deforestation: beef, soy, palm oil, and wood products.
Other causes of deforestation include:
- Mining projects, often which are also accompanied by large infrastructure projects such as roads, railways, and power systems
- Timber/paper production
- Urbanization and the development of more and more housing settlements, roads, and highways to accommodate the world’s increasing population
- Logging, including illegal and unsustainable logging (the process of cutting and processing trees to produce timber and pulp to supply the world’s markets for furniture, construction, paper, and other products)
- Harvesting wood as a cooking and heating fuel, which is still done in many parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America
Effects of Deforestation
Let’s begin by identifying the critical role that forests in mitigating climate change. Forests, particularly tropical forests, store monumental amounts of carbon. Essentially, they act as a carbon sink by soaking up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere and contribute to ongoing fluctuations in climate patterns. “Unless we change the present system that rewards forest destruction, forest clearing will put another 200 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere in coming decades…,” says the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “Any realistic plan to reduce global warming pollution sufficiently—and in time—to avoid dangerous consequences must rely in part on preserving tropical forests,” reports EDF.
In addition to storing carbon, forests provide important habitat for a significant list of endangered species. 70% of the world’s plants and animals live in forests and are losing their habitats, according to National Geographic. Because rainforests are home to much of the world’s biodiversity, deforestation is a particular concern in tropical rainforests.
Because forests offer so many benefits to humans (such as clean water, materials used to manufacture common household products, and medicinal ingredients – some of which we have yet to even discover) deforestation can also attribute to life quality decrease, not only for indigenous people put for the global population as well.
Flooding, erosion, and water pollution are also consequences of deforestation. Without plant cover, erosion can occur, sweeping land into rivers. This runoff earth/soil often carries agricultural contaminants to our water supply leading to a decrease in the quality of our drinking water.
What Can I do About Deforestation?
So now that you know the causes and effects of deforestation, you might be wondering if there is anything that you can do to help. We’re pleased to tell you that there are simple changes you can make at home, at the store, at work, and on the menu that don’t contribute to the problem! Below we’ve listed some of the easy things you can do in your daily life to avoid deforestation.
- Recycle and purchase recycled products
- Go paperless at home and in the office
- Eat vegetarian, and even better, vegan as often as possible, if not always
- Plant a tree
- Buy certified wood products – look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark on the labels
- Raise awareness in your circle and your community
- Don’t purchase products that contain palm oil
- Don’t burn firewood excessively
- Support organizations that fight deforestation (such as Wild Forests and Fauna, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Alliance, and many more)
- Do your research and only support companies that produce products that cause minimal harm to the environment
Kiwi Energy is committed to sustainability and environmental protection. By providing innovative energy solutions for electricity and gas supply, we focus on environmentally conscious products and we support organizations and groups running environmentally friendly projects through the Ecogold Environmental Fund, including Wild Forests and Fauna, Earthwatch Institute. For every new customer acquired by Kiwi Energy, a portion of the proceeds are donated to the fund.
We’re very passionate about helping combat deforestation. In fact, our natural gas plan, Zero Gas, is 100% matched with Green-e Climate Certified Carbon Offsets, which Kiwi Energy purchases to ensure that the carbon emissions caused by a customer’s gas usage are offset from projects that encourage forestry and avoid carbon dioxide emissions.
We’ve chosen two valuable and worthy projects to offset a customers’ carbon emissions: The CIKEL Project, which is available to all new Green-e customers, and for a portion of our customer base, the RMDTL Portel-Para REDD Project. The CIKEL Project works to avoid CO2 emissions by avoiding planned deforestation of part of the Rio Capim Complex, located in the Para State, Brazil. According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research, this region has the highest rate of deforestation in all of Brazil. RMDTL Portel-Para REDD Project also aims to prevent CO2 emissions by avoiding planned deforestation in the Para’ State, Brazil.
Be sure to follow our tips for avoiding deforestation and sign up for Kiwi Energy to help create a more sustainable future for our planet.