Yes, the numbers are sobering — as they should be. And while it can seem overwhelming — an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest felled, burned and ground into sawdust each year — there’s room for help. For another decade, anyway, if we’re to believe even the most pessimistic of climate scientists. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FOA) cites, as just one example, the case of Afghanistan, which has lost more than 70% of its forest cover in just the past two decades.
And so it goes. Logging. Overgrazing. Forest fires. Deliberate burning. Urbanization. Unchecked soybean farming, to provide cheap feed for cattle on ever-expanding cattle ranches. And so on.
One and a half acres of forest is cut down every second. Shrinking forest cover contributes to between 12% and 17% of annual greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the World Resources Institute. At the current rate of destruction, it will take less than a century to destroy all rainforests on Planet Earth — that is, if climate scientists are wrong when they say we have just 12 years to stop irreversible climate change.
The Amazon rainforest alone produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, but the newly elected national government in Brazil is committed to wholesale destruction, in the name of development and boosting local economies. Short-term thinking, in a world where more than 25,000 animal and plant species are expected to become extinct in just the next 25 years.
“Against stupidity, the Gods themselves battle in vain.”
There are things we can do, though, according to the website Conserve Energy Future.
The NGO Green Match named Conserve Energy Future (https://www.conserve-energy-future.com) one of the best green-energy websites for 2017, not so much for its dire predictions — though this is one problem that won’t be solved by just shutting our eyes and hoping it goes away — but for its practical how-to pointers on how nearly everyone can, if not save the planet exactly, slow down its destruction.
(It’s worth noting, for the record, that there are exposés online denouncing Conserve Energy founder Rinkesh Kukreja, such as an April, 2017 essay in medium.com headed “Credibility Becoming an Issue,” but these pointers are common-sense enough that they don’t need a scientific study to back them up. Sometimes, common sense is just that.)
• Use and re-use paper bags or, better yet, switch to canvas.
• Eat less beef. Cattle farming is one of the planet’s most destructive agricultural practices.
• Choose products that require little or no packaging.
• Support eco-friendly companies (easy enough to ascertain online). Likewise, boycott or simply shun those companies whose products actively encourage environmental degradation.
• Sign those online petitions, even if you suspect they have little effect. If nothing else, the old saw, “Not worth the paper they’re written on,” doesn’t lead to much deforestation if they’re not written on paper to begin with.
• Plant trees — in your garden, your backyard or with a local neighbourhood group that actively plants trees in nearby wilderness areas. “The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it,” Kenya Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai famously said. “As I told the foresters, and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.” Lend a hand to save trees.
• Try to wean yourself off plastic. Collins English Dictionary named “single-use” as its Word of the Year, but that’s not a good thing: “Single-use plastics” drew unwanted attention across the UK following the airing of BBC’s Blue Planet II, in which presenter David Attenborough showed sea birds trying to feed bits of plastic to their newborn chicks, in remote regions of the ocean previously believed to be untouched by human presence.
Stay informed, and spread the word.
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.
It’s never too late, until it is.