Deforestation is one of many issues that plague the world’s environment today. Some potential environmental problems, such as climate change, are difficult to evaluate. Vanishing forests are something that can be readily observed. Perhaps this is what makes deforestation such a disturbing and serious problem.
Forests, particularly tropical rainforests, are hot spots in terms of biodiversity. Therefore, if the forests go, a large bulk of life will be gone as well. For anyone who enjoys nature, this is a troubling possibility.
Rainforests contain more than half the species on the planet; however they take up less than 6 percent of the world’s surface. Clearly, the concentration of life in a rainforest is massive. There is no place quite like a rainforest on the surface of the earth, and when other types of forests are factored in, it is easy to see why deforestation is such a serious concern.
Forests are also extremely important to humans. One estimate says that roughly 25 percent of medicines are made up of plants from rainforests. Of course, people also depend on forests of all kinds for lumber and even food in some situations. Forests are an excellent resource, but care must be taken in order to preserve said resource for long-term use.
The online program Global Forest Watch has recently made news for its ability to give people up-to-date information on deforestation. It is hoped that more accurate information about the plight of forests will help raise awareness of the problem. Also, the information could help researchers identify specific problem areas that need more attention.
According to the information from the Global Forest Watch map, some areas that are supposed to be protected and kept pristine are in fact being heavily exploited. One area in Africa allegedly lost 90 percent of its trees. Obviously, destruction at this rate would not be sustainable if it occurs at similar rates across the globe. Perhaps Global Forest Watch can help monitor such places that are supposed to be under protection.
Deforestation is clearly a very serious problem, especially when one looks past the next decade or so. The question of course is, what can be done about it? As with the related issue of endangered species, resolving this problem is not simple.
Global Forest Watch is a helpful tool, but there are limitations. It has been pointed out that rainforests are very often cloudy. This makes satellite surveillance problematic. It is hard to get accurate information if the forest in question is partially obscured by cloud cover. Also, the financial cost of forest protection programs should not be ignored.
Of course, governments do not have to be the only ones fighting deforestation. In Zimbabwe, several companies have formed a group that is intended to address the deforestation issue. The name of this group is Sustainable Afforestation Association. The rise of groups like this is encouraging, since it will likely take the initiative of private individuals and businesses to curtail the deforestation problem.
Even with better technology and programs like Global Forest Watch, it is very difficult for governments to enforce rules protecting various forests. Therefore, private and corporate responsibility is a must.
Deforestation is a serious issue affecting the long-term health of the planet. Although it is still an uphill battle, perhaps the tide is turning in the fight to protect the earth’s forests.
Editorial By Zach Kirkman