Forests around the world are constantly threatened by our ever expanding consumer societies, and rainforests are particularly targeted. Replanting a rainforest or completely restoring any forest ecosystem is nearly impossible. We are capable of destroying something that took millions of years to develop in the matter of minutes. We live in times where the responsibility is on us to do our best in order to slow down and ultimately put an end to this destruction. Here’s a list with our top suggestions for direct action. Simple acts that each of us could do every day and have a very real impact.
Most people don’t know this, but the leading cause for Amazon is farming animals : soy production and cattle ranching are ravaging the rainforest and the soils. In fact between 65% and 91% of Amazon deforestation is directly linked to animal agriculture, depending on the source. A huge amount of this production gets exported in the form of beef or feed for livestock. Quitting meat and animal products certainly sounds like the best option if you want to reduce your personal impact while also inspiring others to take action. This said, don’t be intimidated to take action even you don’t feel that you’re ready to stop completely. Make place for the awareness in your mind and let it guide your actions. Reduce your consumption of animal products, and replace them with plant based foods. Keep in mind that we don’t really need to eat meat and that we can meet all our nutritional needs on a purely plant based diet.
Deforestation in Indonesia is mostly driven by the global demand for palm oil. It is actually not that easy to avoid palm oil since it is part of a wide variety of products ranging from processed foods and oil for cooking to cosmetics and bio-fuel. The devastating implications of the palm oil production can’t be ignored. The ever expanding industry, could wipe out what’s left of the habitat of many endangered species Palm-oil biodiesel was supported as a low-carbon alternative to burning fossil fuel-based gasoline in vehicles but, research has revealed the clearing of intact forestland which often accompanies oil palm development, contributes far more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than it helps to avoid. Read the labels on the products that you buy !
Some climate change deniers point out that plants breathe CO2, which should mean that driving a SUV helps forests. This of course is far from the truth, greenhouse gas emmissions and the changing climate that they bring may worsen many of the threats that forests face, such as pest outbreaks, fires, human development, and drought. Transportation is not the main source of greenhouse gases, but has nevertheless a significant impact. Walk and ride a bike or take public transport. Rethinking our transportation will have impact beyond the immediate reduction of CO2 emissions. Changes in our lifestyles and our societies ripple through space and time. Demand that your city and country provides better public transport and better infrastructure for bikes and public transport.
Extracting gold, copper, diamonds etc. in rainforests is a destructive activity that damages the rainforest ecosystem and causes problems for people living nearby and downstream. Large-scale mining operations, especially those using open-pit mining techniques, can result in significant deforestation through forest clearing and the construction of roads which open remote forest areas to transient settlers, land speculators, and small-scale miners. Gold mining causes a lot of mercury pollution that is harmful to the ecosystems and to the people who live and work there. It is also particularly hard to deal with : mercury pollution from the Gold Rush of the 19th century might affect ecosystems for the next 10,000 years.
We can’t expect to solve this problem solely by adjusting our consumption, yet it is crucial to understand the magnitude of our role in this process. We definitely don’t need to keep on expressing our social or relationship status with gems and gold. Especially when we find out that an astonishing 78% of the gold consumed each year is used in the manufacture of jewelry. Gold is also used in most electronic devices: TVs, computers, cellphones, GPS, calculators etc. Although the amount of gold used in each device is small, their enormous numbers translate into a lot of gold that isn’t recycled. We need to buy less, repair more and demand sustainable products with longer lifetimes.
We all have wood products in our homes and this is not necessarily a problem on itself. Well-made wood products can last a very long time especially if they are well taken care of. Share, exchange, and donate the wood products that you already own but don’t need anymore. Before buying a new product think find out if you can’t buy a used one. When you decide to buy be sure to make an informed choice : Ask where the product comes from before making a purchase and choose products originating from sustainable sources.
Hemp growing could very well negate the necessity to use wood at all because anything made from wood could possibly be made from hemp. Trees are great at things like creating bio-diverse ecosystems and producing oxygen, but they are actually really not great at making paper or even wood products. Hemp contains much more cellulose than trees and grows really faster, while requiring fewer fertilizers or pesticides. On an annual basis, 1 acre of hemp will produce as much paper as 2 to 4 acres of trees. From tissue paper to cardboard, all types of paper products can be produced from hemp. Its uses go even beyond wood replacement : it can be used for plastic, clothes, construction material and its seeds are an excellent protein source. Humanity has a very long history of using hemp that the drug laws in many countries are ignoring. The War on Drugs has created an atmosphere where speaking of hemp in a positive manner is considered politically incorrect or taboo. We should talk about this issue and fight for a change in our laws.
Earth’s resources are finite, the more we extract the less we leave for ourselves, and our future generations. By recycling, there is less need for raw or virgin materials, less need for the resources that has to be planted, grown and harvested or extract from underground and less need for space in which to propagate these materials. By using recycled materials instead of virgin ones, there is less demand for forestry and mining practices, which are environmentally devastating. Recycling is not necessarily profitable on the short-term, but it is the responsible attitude that we should have as a society. Beyond what we already recycle, we should fight for smarter regulations, establishing better recycling practices from the public authorities and producers.
Industrial civilization has submitted indigenous populations to genocidal violence, slavery and racism. While the true objective has always been the theft of their resources or their work force, it is still covered under the pretexts of “progress” and “civilization”. The indigenous populations have lived in the forests for thousands of years and evicting them has caused much more harm than it has helped to protect the environment. We need to work with and support indigenous populations around the world.
Our environmental laws don’t reflect the gravity of the situation that we’re facing. We desperately need common sense regulations that will put an end to the global exploitation and waste of Earth’s precious resources. In an ideal world producers should have to pay the real price of their products, including the environmental damage caused by them, which would make techniques like planned obsolescence obsolete. Consumers should the possibility to make a real informed choice, by at least having products labeled in a manner that would allow people to have a good idea of their environmental impact. There is certainly a lot that we can do as individuals, but there is also a lot that we can decide as a society. Democracy is a precious tool that should be used by the people and not by corporate lobbyists. We need better laws that reflect our understanding of the natural world and reflect the gravity of the situation that we have put ourselves in. Treating nature as a disposable commodity is leading us on a path of self destruction. We need to create a vivid dialog about the role that our governments and institutions should play in the ongoing crisis. We should also discuss truly innovative regulations, that will make producers take responsibility for the externalities caused by their activities.
If you’re passionate about the environment, speak up about it as much as you can. Don’t forget that your speech can take many different shapes, and we shouldn’t underestimate any of them. Use your social media profiles as a media platform, that’s what they are. Engage in protests and manifestations that you find important. But also don’t forget to just talk to the people that you know about the things that matter to you. We know that the situation is very dire, and it might too late to change course, but we have the responsibility to do our best. Start by sharing this article with your friends and family !
If you have other ideas for solutions to deforestation, please let me know. I’m looking forward to updating and expanding this article in the future.
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