An image from artist Maya Lin's "Unchopping a Tree"
Deforestation. It might seem obvious that rainforests are needed to continue life on earth - but why? Maya Lin lays it out in a gorgeous video with a message that will make every viewer pause and consider the scale of deforestation. Check it out, and get refreshed on the latest information that shows just how vital unchopping a tree is to global health and systems.
50% of Species
A large study has found that up to one half of all plants and animals species on dry land could face extinction by the year 2050 due to global warming. According to the World Resources Institute, 100 species die each day due to tropical deforestation. Ultimately, though, all species on earth depend upon the rainforest for survival. Tropical rainforests produce 40% of Earth's oxygen.
Cures for Illness
A plant called the rosy periwinkle, which grows in the "rainforests" of Madagascar, has been used to make a drug that can cure some kinds of cancer. It's not just this potential cure that comes from rainforests. About 1/4 of all the medicines we use come from rainforest plants.
Almost half of all the world's rain falls on rainforests.
No Sign of Stopping
While we've been excited in the past to report improvements on deforestation rates, the news is tenuous - it is nestled within the context that still far too much is being destroyed. Science Daily recently reported, "From August 2007 to July 2008, Brazil deforested 11,968 square kilometers of forests in the area designated as the Legal Amazon, a 3.8 per cent increase over the previous year and an unwelcome surprise following declines of 18 per cent over the previous period."
Here is a must-read article from Mongabay about why deforestation occurs, and what can be done to stop it. The five primary factors are: Clearing for cattle pasture, Colonization and subsequent subsistence agriculture, Infrastructure improvements, Commercial agriculture, and Logging. And the five biggest challenges for concervation include: Rehabilitation and increased productivity of formerly forested lands, Expansion of protection areas, Development based on concepts of sustainable use of some existing forest, Land policy reform, and Law Enforcement
Here, you can look up deforestation rates by country, but here are the world's top ten worst.
What's Happening to Help Rainforests
Brazil's development bank BNDES plans on requiring beef producers to track their products back to their place of origin in order to qualify for bank loans, and a plan for barcoding trees can also help with illegal logging. The G8 showed support of ending deforestation, and even Prince Charles notes that appropriate markets could help.
But ultimately it's up to us, the consumer, to be diligent and avoid products that promote deforestation, right down to what tissues and toilet paper we use.
Ways You Can Help:
Help Monkeys Fight Loggers in the Rainforest
3 Steps You Can Take to Preserve Rainforest Right Now (and Slow Down the Effects of Climate Change for Everyone Else)
More on Deforestation
Rainforests Destroyed as Fast as a Field of Matches (VIDEO)
Deforestation Increased as World Prepared for COP15
Amazon Deforestation Shoots Up in June - Forest the Size of Los Angeles Cleared in One Month
WFC 2009: Zero Deforestation by 2020 a Utopia; Net Deforestation Reduction, not that Much