Earth, Skinned Alive

- Earth, Skinned Alive -

By Aditya Seth

It was strangely like war. They attacked the forest as if it were an enemy to be pushed back from the beachheads, driven into the hills, broken into patches, and wiped out. Many operators thought they were not only making lumber but liberating the land from the trees...
— Murray Morgan, The Last Wilderness (1955)

Deforestation – the clearing of forest-land, typically for fiscal interests – has been a primary human interaction with the environment for centuries, if not millennia. Since the dawn of agriculture, mankind has been battling with the environment to satisfy its appetite – but at what cost? Certainly, more than a ninety-nine cent cheeseburger – that’s for sure. Deforestation can occur organically as well, through natural events such as fires, volcanic eruptions, or degradation brought on by climate change. These natural processes can actually serve to regulate ecosystems – such as by clearing out certain levels of the forest so that new growth can thrive. However, the complete razing of lands by activities such as commercial logging, commercial legume crops, or livestock grazing has brought about a significantly different level of ecosystem change – one that doesn’t serve any purpose other than driving profits at the expense of the local narrative. According to World Wildlife Fund, 46-58 thousand square miles of forest are destroyed every year, which is the equivalent of half of England lost every year. At this rate, deforestation could bring us to the point of no return.

So why exactly is deforestation Bad?

Millions of species call forests their home, with roughly 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity being found in them. Cutting forests down would kill and endanger many of those species, severely limiting the biodiversity, and in turn devastating the delicate symbiotic relationships that have taken millions of years to develop. In addition, cutting down trees leads to more drastic temperature swings. Trees provide coolness to the plants and soil underneath by protecting them from the sun’s rays and absorbing the heat. If the trees are cut down, the plants and soil have no shade, making them dry and more vulnerable to the heat. Forests are also one of the principal regulators for the planet, simultaneously absorbing carbon-dioxide and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Cutting down trees releases their stored carbon, and will reduce the filter of greenhouse gasses sustained in the atmosphere, which in further aggravates the issue of climate change. 

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Can the Deforestation Issue be Solved?

As most problems in the world, deforestation can be solved – it just takes some ingenuity! Arguably, the best solution is the simplest - carefully manage forest resources. One way we can do that is by getting rid of freelancing methods, such as clear cutting, to insure that the local ecosystems remain intact. Another way we can manage our forest resources is by planting new trees for every tree we cut down. Now, while that does sound like a great and obvious solution, it does take quite a long time for them to grow into full-fledged trees – which highlights our unique dilemma: you can cut down a tree in seconds that took decades to grow. We should also raise awareness about this issue since many people are either unaware of this problem or simply think that this issue is insignificant. By distributing flyers, holding socially-aware and conscious discussions at social events, and engaging friends and family, we stand to make a difference!

In fact, once a year, there is a special day devoted to the forests of the world, called the International Day of Forests. This is a global celebration on March 21 honoring, and raising awareness about, the different types of trees in the world. If everyone did their fair share of work, our forests and our future generations to come would be preserved with a happy life – alongside a healthy planet!