Devastating Truths of Deforestation and How You Can Help

by Madison Lemelin

Rainforests are one of Earth’s most precious natural resources, providing shelter and sustenance for a vast range of biodiversity and livelihoods for billions of people. Their ecosystems contribute to the overall health of the entire planet. Now, more than ever, these critical forests face the increasing threat of deforestation– human driven destruction of forests to create something else in their place. Here are four devastating truths about deforestation and three ways you can help prevent it.

1. Millions of acres are destroyed

Although exact statistics are difficult to determine, the World Resources Institute reported over 2.9 million acres of tropical forest lost in 2018 alone, including a Belgium-sized area of untouched rainforest. When these forests are destroyed, global climate is put in jeopardy, the wildlife within is displaced and communities lose access to resources.

deforestation in Kumbira Forest
Miillions of acres of the Kumbira Forest in Angola are lost, by Kostadin Luchansky.

2. Unsustainable agricultural development

According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), land conversion for large-scale agricultural production is the leading cause of tropical deforestation, accounting for about 80% of forest loss. Land is often cleared through slash-and-burn farming to create fields for commercial agricultural development, palm oil production, soy fields or cattle ranches. Methods like these are a major driver of wildfires in rainforests, like the ones that occurred in 2019.

Agricultural development in rainforest.
Agricultural development in rainforest in Ha Lang, Vietnam, by F. Potess.

3. Immense biodiversity loss

Rainforests house 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, which is the foundation of life on Earth. For example, FAO states that one-quarter of all modern medicines are derived from rainforest plants. If these tropical forests are destroyed, we not only lose some of our most critical species, but also the potential for discovery of many others.

A Clouded Leopard walking on a tree
A Clouded Leopard, by J.D. Ross.

4. Major contributor to the climate crisis

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration estimates that the trees in the Amazon contain more than 10 years worth of human generated greenhouse gases. When these trees are cut down, they release excessive amounts gases, such as carbon, back into the atmosphere, ultimately altering the planet’s temperature and destabilizing global climate.

dried up dirt
Climate Crisis, by Rainforest Trust

Change can start with you. Here are simple ways to help prevent deforestation no matter where you live.

1. Reduce, reuse, recycle

The production of new products requires extracting raw materials from Earth’s finite natural resources like minerals, freshwater and timber. Waste from these products eventually collects in landfills, which release harmful greenhouse gases into the

Eat clean, eat green at farmer’s market, by G. Mihail.

atmosphere. You can:

  • Buy from environmentally-friendly and socially responsible companies.
  • Avoid single use plastics.
  • Recycle appropriately to convert potential waste into new products.
  • Invest in reusable versions of everyday objects like cups, straws and grocery bags to reduce waste.
    Landfill. Photo by Michelle Arseneault.

2. Eat green, eat clean

Agricultural development is a driving force of deforestation, there are several ways you can mitigate this in your everyday life.

  • Buy locally sourced food products. Locally sourced food is often more sustainable, and consumes less fossil fuels required in transportation.
  • Reduce your meat and dairy intake to prevent the need for forest-clearing to graze animals or grow grain for animal food.
  • Be conscious of the source of your food–choose sustainably grown or sourced.

3. Invest in the right organizations

While individual change is critical, together, we can bolster our impact for a healthier planet. Donate to one of the many organizations that work tirelessly to defend our planet against deforestation, biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.Rainforest Trust has projects across the globe that protect the most threatened habitats on Earth. We ensure that 100% of your donation to the Conservation Action Fund directly supports our work maximizing your impact.

Rainforest trust at Funaeco Guatemala
Rainforest Trust Lain American Conservation Officer Stephanie Wester (far right) flying a drone with Fellows from FUNDAECO, photo by Stephanie Wester and Rainforest Trust.