We have destroyed another 12m hectares of woodland
The Woodland wipe-out continues on an industrial scale. A temporary pause gives us a final opportunity to mobilise and make a difference.
“The world’s forests are in the emergency room”
As we open up this Journal to offer a better picture of how we’re collectively adapting to environmental changes and the difficulties we face, particularly when it comes to the health of our planet’s forests, it’s worth talking about a recent study released by Global Forest Watch, the online platform that provides data and tools for worldwide monitoring of woodland destruction.
According to the data (sourced by using satellite imagery and remote sensing to monitor tree cover losses), the world lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018 – an area roughly the size of Belgium – with the researchers warning that the planet’s health was at stake.
“The world’s forests are now in the emergency room,” said Frances Seymour, who works with the World Resource Institute (WRI) in the US, which led the research.
This is the fourth-highest annual decline since records began in 2001. Moreover, the data represents a shift towards a reality where ecosystems and indigenous communities are now dramatic losing habitats and homes to rampant deforestation.
Deforestation doesn’t just affect the wildlife and people living in these areas either, as globally we rely on tropical rain forests to store a high percentage of the world’s carbon, which “represents a vital component of efforts to mitigate global climate change.”
“Old growth” or mature primary forests, such as tropical rain forests, absorb more carbon, and crucially are harder to replace once cut down.
The rate has slowed but that may be temporary
Some goods news though is that the rate at which we’re tearing through these vital forests has slowed somewhat, with 2018 being better than the two previous years. In 2016, it peaked when nearly 30 million hectares of tropical forest were lost partly due to rampant forest fires, according to the WRI.
Deforestation also slowed down for the second year running in Indonesia, which has the third-largest total area of tropical forest. Seven years ago, the government imposed efforts to slow logging and palm oil production, but despite these changes though, nearly 2.5 million hectares of primary forests and peatlands have disappeared since the government’s moratorium.
The study also highlighted new deforestation hotspots, particularly in Africa, where illegal mining, small-scale forest clearing and the expansion of cocoa farms led to an increase in tree loss in countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
Some work is being done, however (at least in the sense that money is being diverted towards addressing the problem). At a Global Climate Action Summit in California, leading philanthropists pledged $459m to rescue shrinking tropical forests that suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, the consensus remains that much more is needed to be done.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Everything needs to be seen in the context of the global economy which has recently come off the boil, particularly in China, but which could easily reflate, thereby refuelling the global appetite for resources.
The picture might be a bleak one, but there’s still hope. Research shows that community forest management projects have shown to make an impact, and grassroots organisations everywhere are doing their bit by raising awareness as well as pressuring lobbyists and large businesses to take responsibility.
Taking a stand by making a start
On an even smaller scale, we all as individuals arguably need to understand more now making better, smarter choices and, at Kentholz, we’re proud to be doing what we can to reduce impact on global deforestation by only using reclaimed pine and historic oak for our sustainable furniture manufacture. “From small acorns…”, as they say.
We are trying to heed the warnings and to take this final chance to organise ourselves and make a difference. but, we would be foolish to underestimate the size of the challenge.