Deforestation has always been one of the key drivers of climate change. Trees play a crucial role in slowing down global warming. They capture greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and prevent them from accumulating in the atmosphere. And now we’re losing trees and forests at an alarming rate. More than 46% of the world’s trees have already been felled. What’s even worse, though, is that the felled trees release all the carbon they’ve absorbed. In the end, forests get replaced with livestock and crops, which create even more greenhouse gases.
Deforestation is a huge issue that requires continuous collaboration of commercial, governmental, and public sectors. Here are 4 simple yet effective ways to fight deforestation in your everyday life.
Community forestry and reforestation
Tree planting programs can be a great way to make a difference in your community. Doing tree planting on special occasions such as public holidays or opening ceremonies can draw more attention to deforestation and its consequences. Although it may seem like it won’t change a lot, it is much better than ignoring the issue altogether. While commercial organizations and learning institutions can take care of the planting, local governments have to ensure the forests are protected from any damage.
Reforestation is quite similar to community forestry, but it is a more systematic long-term process. Reforestation is crucial for regions that lost their forest territories to wildfires or logging. It requires participation from the local communities as well as the governments and non-profit organizations.
If you’re lucky to live in a region that hasn’t suffered any forest lost recently, there are organizations that let you help the affected areas. For example, One Tree Planted helps rebuild natural habitats for endangered species all over the world. Such projects also create new jobs and infrastructure, which helps improve the quality of life of local communities.
Reducing meat consumption is one of the best ways to fight deforestation. Livestock ranching is responsible for 91% of deforestation in the Amazon, one of the most endangered areas of the world. Since Brazil is a top exporter of beef worldwide, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, the Amazon is far from being the only area affected by the global demand for meat. According to an Australian environmental group The Wilderness Society, 94% of land clearing in Great Barrier Reef catchments is linked to the beef industry.
Of course, going vegan or at least vegetarian is the best thing you can do. But as a saying goes, we don’t need a handful of people doing it perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly. Eating meat just once a day instead of 2 or 3 times will make a difference too. There are new meat and dairy substitutes appearing on the market every day. They can be a great solution for people who don’t want to harm the planet but aren’t ready to change their eating habits overnight.
Rainforest Alliance and Forest Stewardship Council
Even if you’re not familiar with Rainforest Alliance, you sure have seen a green frog sticker on some products in your local store. This sticker is a Rainforest Alliance seal, which is given to companies that meet rigorous social, economical and environmental standards. Rainforest Alliance is also one of the founders of Forest Stewardship Council, a leading non-profit organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests.
Over the last 26 years, FSC has developed 10 principles and 70 criteria that apply to FSC-certified forests. When you buy a product with an FSC label, you’re supporting the companies that conserve their ecosystems, recognise the rights of indigenous people, and maintain the high forest conservation values.
Support anti-deforestation policies
Brazil is a great example of a country that relies a lot on its deforestation policies. In 2004, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the minister of the environment, Marina Silva, presented their new Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon. The plan expanded the system of protected forest areas, improved remote monitoring of the Amazon, and increased the enforcement of forestry laws. The results were truly incredible: by 2014 deforestation in the Amazon was cut by 70%. At a similar speed, zero deforestation, the program’s ultimate goal, could be achieved by 2020.
However, deforestation in Brazil rose to a 10-year high in 2019. Many Brazilians blame Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s President who was elected in 2018 and who believes using the Amazon rainforest territories is the key to Brazil’s prosperity. Bolsonaro has called for more farming, mining, and logging in the protected areas of the forest multiple times.
This shows just how crucial it is to vote for the candidates with the best environmental policies. The only way to stop deforestation for good is to make it illegal, so it is extremely important that we elect government officials who would support and enforce the ban. As usual, every single vote counts. So if people around you aren’t aware of deforestation and its consequences, talk to them about it and explain why it matters.