What is deforestation?
A Native American proverb says, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." Yet our generations destroy the earth we have borrowed in many ways, and at a massive speed.
One example of large-scale damage is the destruction of the world’s forests. Forests are cut down to make paper or wood products out of trees, to plant large fields of palm trees for palm oil production, or to increase the amount of land that can be used for agriculture.
Think about your day: you’ve probably used paper for writing, drawing or crafting, read a book, wiped your mouth on a napkin, sat on a chair, and walked on a wooden floor. You may also have washed your hair with shampoo, and maybe you ate some ice cream or a different yummy treat — products that were made with palm oil. There are hundreds of examples of goods for which trees are cut down.
Together with unintended deforestation — that is accidental loss of trees due to wildfires or animals grazing on small trees — a forest the size of two football fields vanishes every minute. If this damage continues at the same rate there won’t be any forests left in about a hundred years.
Forests are essential for life on Earth. They provide us with half of the oxygen we breathe, and they are home to almost ninety percent of all land-based animals and plants on our planet. They help maintain the Earth’s water cycle and they prevent soil from being flushed away when there is a lot of rain. Trees are also very important in the fight against climate change because they turn greenhouse gases into oxygen.
Planting new trees is one way to fight the harsh effects of deforestation, but that is just a small step that can’t keep up with the speed of destruction. “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” initiatives also help. However, the only real solution is for governments to start protecting large parts of their forests from being cut down, and to carefully manage the way trees are cut in other parts.
Wangari Mathai, a woman from the African country of Kenya, is called “The Mother of Trees.” She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her Greenbelt Movement, which planted thirty million trees in the deforested areas of her homeland.
What you can do
Use both sides of paper when you write or draw. Read magazines and books online. Buy recycled paper products, look for grocery brands that use certified sustainable palm oil, and ask your parents and their friends to buy furniture that is made from reclaimed or certified wood.
By Constanze Niedermaier (Whyzz writer)
The article wasfirst published in "33 things to talk to kids about Global Challenges".