What’s Up With the Rainforest: Rate of Forest Loss Has Decreased, But We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

It is no secret the impact humans have had on earth. With the world population nearing 7 billion, can we even come close to realizing the magnitude to which our impact extends? Part of the problem in understanding this is due to the fact that our influence is complicated; our actions are not only formidable, but can yield unforeseeable results. And even though we have come to realize the severity of our actions and the actions of previous generations on our planet, the solutions to these errors are not as clear. The fact that our impact on the planet is multi-faceted is brought to light by the recent news and events facing the rainforest; exposing the ways in which our previous actions have had both unexpected and severe consequences, the efforts being made today to ensure our impact leads to a better tomorrow, and the decisions underway that are about to affect this precious land.

Our first story encompasses this well, focusing on the current state of one of the biggest threats to the rainforest, deforestation. For the first time, “the deforestation rate is going down across the world”, thanks to not only years of raising awareness, but also to commitments being made by countries such as Brazil, which has cracked down “on illegal lumber operations and the expansion of plantations into protected area”.

Some leaders, such as President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, are making efforts to tackle the harmful practice of illegal logging, which remains a rampant and severe threat to the rainforest. While at the same time, we see a stark difference when we look at Madagascar, where illegal logging continues to be common practice “despite a recently announced moratorium on precious wood exports and logging”. We should view this progress as a sentiment to the fact that we can change the world for the better, but we can’t overlook the fact that the situation in many countries is still very alarming. We must also not forget that actions, such as illegal logging, aren’t just a threat to the trees, but to communities as well. This is the situation facing the village of Wyndham, where logging in the Yurammie State Forest is threatening their water supply, displaying once again how interconnected and far-reaching the consequences of one decision can extend.

While it’s not hard to conclude that logging and high rates of deforestation are detrimental to the forests, a realization that may come as a surprise is the impact urbanization has had on the rainforest. Whereas one might think that as people migrate from the rural Amazon to urban areas land would be left to nature, new research in the journal Conservation Letters suggests the opposite. According to these findings, urbanization actually leaves “forest areas vulnerable to exploitation by outsiders” and has taken “a heavy toll on distant forests through hunting, fishing, logging, and harvest of non-timber forest products”. However, sources of aid can come from unpredictable sources as well. Avatar film director, James Cameron, has taken a stand on indigenous issues in the rainforest, and this article details the potential power Hollywood has in helping save our Earth. We also see an effort being made in Borneo, where the British High Commission and the Centre of British Teachers have funded the production of 3,000 booklets “on ways to preserve biodiversity” that “will be distributed to schools nationwide”.

Finally, we take a look at the recent plans being made that will inevitably have repercussions on our environment. In New Zealand environmentalists are horrified that Meridian Energy has been given the okay for a dam that, according to Forest & Bird Top of the South field officer, “would result in the greatest inundation of conservation land for a hydro scheme”. Sadly, the story is similar in Myanmar; where dam construction is predicted to not only create problems for the environment, but also “displace more than 15,000 people”, causing “thousands to lose their livelihoods”.

Our impact on the planet is obviously complex. And while we have yet to uncover the answer to all the problems humans have had, and will have, a hand in creating, we do know one thing for sure. While we have been the greatest influence on the state of our planet, we are also the only ones that have the power to do something about it. If we want to see a change, we can only look at ourselves. So we, along with our partner Rainforest Alliance, ask you to join in the fight for our future and future of our environment. Visit the Rainforest Site on Facebook to find out the latest news and ways you can help.

Image credit: Ovarati, courtesy Flickr

James Boyce is the founder of Common Sense, an advertising agency supporting progressive causes like the Rainforest Alliance, Human Rights First, Natural Resources Defense Council, and others. James was one of the original contributors to The Huffington Post and is one of the top progressive bloggers in the country.

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