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Deforestation and Degradation

Vocabulary

Deforestation Forest that has been cut off from trees purposefully.

Degradation Forest that is not able to function properly due to factors which may differ.

Illegal logging occurs when for example harvesting, transporting, or selling timber is made against applicable laws. 

Water cycle is the continuous movement of water within the Earth and atmosphere while changing its stages, for example from liquid to vapor.

Sustainable development means a development that meets the needs of contemporary society without compromising the future generation and their needs. Important factors of using sustainable development are understanding the number of natural resources and focusing on the renewably ones while also using a circular economy. 

Greenhouse gases are gases that while being in our atmosphere are heating the climate and increasing the climate change by trapping the heat. 

Greenhouse effect is a phenomenon causing the warming of the Earth due to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. While the sunlight is hitting the Earth’s surface, some of the energy is let into the surface and some is reflected back to space. However, gasses in our atmosphere, like carbon dioxide (CO2), trap the energy, which will heat the Earth even more. The name comes from the nature of the gasses, because they allow the light to go through, but trap the heat – like greenhouses made from glass.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common greenhouse gas causing the greenhouse effect mainly by human actions like when the fossil fuels (e.g. natural gas, coal) are acting as the source of energy. 

Watch the video and answer the questions:

  1. What is happening to forests globally?
  2. What kind of material are the books made of?
  3. Can you do something to protect the forests?

 

Transcript

Hello everyone! 

My name is Jenna, and I am an intern here at Bellona in St. Petersburg. I am from Finland, which is a very beautiful Northern country and where nature is a big part of people’s everyday life. That is why today’s topic is very close to my heart and I am very excited to be able to tell you more about it. Let’s start!

Today I will tell you about forests which cover around 31% of our planet’s land area. I have lived my whole childhood having forests in my backyard! So, I can say that forests have always been a big part of my everyday life. Did you know that Finland is the most forested country in Europe with forests covering 75% of our land! So, you can guess that we have forests everywhere. Russia is also a country with many forests since they are covering 49% of its land. That makes Russia to have the most natural forests in the whole World! Pretty amazing!

I am quite sure you already know what forest is; it is an area dominated by trees, quite simple isn’t it? However, forests have many very important roles in our World, which you may have never even heard of. They are maintaining nature’s diversity and the cycle of water while providing breathable air by releasing oxygen, which we all breathe. Therefore, you may have heard that tropical rainforests are “the lungs of the earth”. Forests also protect us from climate change because they can absorb harmful greenhouse gasses which are warming our planet, like carbon dioxide. And which many of you probably know already, forests are a home of many different species and plants, and they also support livelihood and provide different goods while supporting sustainable development. 

Maybe we don’t always think about this, but there are also plenty of products made from wood that are present in our everyday life. We read books and newspapers while sitting in the chairs by our desks. Wood products are everywhere! It seems to me that forests are quite cool, am I right? But even though they are such a powerful supporter of our planet, forests are facing severe threats which we will discuss next.

Even though forests are so valuable to us, we are now losing them rapidly. While temperature is rising due to global warming, we are seeing more dangerous and longer forest fires around the globe. I think many of you have heard about the horrible fires in Siberia which are now creating a threat to many species. Climate change is one reason why forests are in threat, but there are also other different human-made actions causing harm to the forests. Every other second around the size of the football station of forests are getting destroyed. These two major threats to our forests are deforestation and degradation which both are causing threat to our beautiful and very important forests. Let me now tell you what exactly these terms mean and how they differ from each other. 

Deforestation

Deforestation means purposeful actions to clear the land from forests and from the way of something else. This can be for example palm oil & soybean plantation or cattle ranch, which makes the meat production a severe factor of deforestation globally. So, the main reasons for the deforestation are agriculture and poorly planned infrastructure. Deforestation creates a major concern especially in the tropics and the Russian Far East. For example, Amazon has lost around 17% of its rainforests during the last 50 years. Deforestation occurs for example when farmers are burning the forests to be able to grow crops. However, the land stays fertile from the ash only a couple years and after that this happens again somewhere else. In addition, maybe you remember when I mentioned in the beginning that forests are slowing the climate change, but in this case, the burning will release the carbon dioxide that has been preserved into the wood and speed up global warming. 

Degradation

Differing from deforestation, which means that forest is cut off completely, degradation means that forest still exists, but it has been harmed and it doesn’t function properly anymore. Because of that, the forest is not able to support its wildlife or its own functions anymore. So basically, it can’t do its job anymore, at least not properly. One reason for degradation is simply climate change, because for example changing weather patterns are creating higher risk of forest fires. However, the main cause for forests getting weaker is illegal logging. Illegal logging in this context means when forests are harvested and processed and after which the timber is sold against the laws. This happens because it will allow them to sell wood products at a lower price. And when the logging of forests is done illegally, it means that loggers are cutting all the valuable timber while also destroying the undergrowth. These kinds of actions also attract others to start using illegal ways, and it easily leads to deforestation. 

Both deforestation and degradation are putting forests at great risk. I have already given some examples from the tropical rainforests, but as already mentioned, these are not only problems there, but all over the World.

What can you do?

I think many of you are now thinking what you can do to help our forests. So, let’s talk about what we can do to prevent the deforestation and degradation happening to the lungs of the Earth!

  1. Make sustainable consuming choices. For example, prefer plant-based food and choose products that are certified as safely and legally produced. Like mentioned agriculture is a major factor for deforestation, since forests are logged primarily of soybeans eaten by livestock. Palm oil and wood products produced by illegal logging are also a severe cause of increased deforestation. Palm oil is the most use plant-based oil, which is included in many daily-used products like margarine, ice-cream, and different detergents. Palm oil can also be produced sustainable which is marked as RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). As a consumer, you can check this from the packaging before buying the product. 
  2. Recycle. Recycling is one of the most important factors when we are speaking about sustainable actions. This is also very important in the context of forests, because a lot of packaging is made from paper or cartons which are made of wood. When recycling these packages, we are not overloading the wood production. 
  3. Be safe with fire. Wildfires are happening because of global warming which is making the temperature warmer and dryer. Approximately 75% of wildfires are caused by human actions. This makes it extremely important to handle fire very carefully. If you are making a campfire, make sure you know how to make it safely and legally, which means for example picking a safe place without any inflammable nearby and making sure to put out the fire properly and having water to do it. Keep in mind that during the forest fire warning there must be no fire made outside at all.

It is good to keep in mind that even though some negative events would not happen locally, they are happening somewhere else. For example, 93% of the diversity impact of Finland’s food consumption is focusing outside of our borders. So, our consumption and food choices will affect forests globally. However, you can see from the given examples, that we can all create change by our own consuming choices! Let’s protect our beautiful forests, the lungs of our planet.