Why Deforestation Matters

David Attenborough called for an immediate halt to deforestation in his Netflix documentary “A Life on Our Planet.” Let’s talk about why this is important.

We all know greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide cause climate change. And as I learned in elementary school, plants “breathe in” carbon dioxide and “breathe out” oxygen.

This is actually really significant, because it means trees can take carbon dioxide out of the air and help us with our climate change issue.

Trees hold carbon in them, but when you cut or burn them down, that carbon is released into the air. And then you no longer have that tree to take it back out.

To many, the solution might be to simply “plant more trees” to replace the ones cut down. But even if an American like myself could single-handedly plant enough trees to replace every tree cut down in the Amazon, that still wouldn’t replace the valuable ecosystem that was lost there. Forests are more than just trees; they’re intricate ecosystems, and every part – soil, plants, animals, climate – plays a role in circulating water and nutrients.

1.2 million trees are lost in the Amazon Rainforest every day, to be replaced by cattle ranches and farms. In Malaysia and Indonesia, the forests are being replaced with sprawling palm oil plantations.

Palm oil is actually the most productive vegetable oil, and boycotting it to switch to a less efficient alternative would require more land. There are ways to consume palm oil sustainably, by supporting brands that get their palm oil and palm oil derivatives from producers that aren’t linked to deforestation. Pressure from consumers on the worst of the palm oil companies sends a message to others in the industry to stop deforestation.

But let’s say you’re just cutting down a rainforest to make wood and paper products. You think to yourself, “the trees will just grow back! It’s nature, it’ll be fine.”

Not necessarily. A rainforest with no forest can quickly turn into a dry savanna, through a process called desertification. Forest ecosystems are more than just trees; the endangered species living there can’t just wait for a suitable ecosystem to rebuild itself. And what about the effects on the people that may use the forest as a source of food, habitat, or even just flood protection?

Biodiversity just isn’t that replaceable. And neither are forests. Preservation is key.

But let’s pretend you don’t care so much about “biodiversity” and the orangutans. Lucky (or unluckily) for you, forests are actually important for human beings, too.

Many Indigenous peoples live in the Amazon Rainforest, yet their future becomes increasingly uncertain as more of their land is taken and their forest is destroyed to be turned into farms.

Additionally, the Amazon Rainforest has an effect on global water cycles. Its deforestation is affecting the rainfall in regions hundreds of miles away. The ecosystem services it provides are priceless. And of course, the trees help sequester carbon, a natural service that only becomes increasingly valuable as more people realize our dire climate situation calls for immediate action.

Pressure on both companies and governments will likely be necessary to halt deforestation. But large, undisturbed, healthy forests are critical for decreasing climate change, saving endangered species, safeguarding functioning water cycles, and ultimately, protecting people.


Global Warming for Gen Z

helping the generation who decided uppercase letters were overrated pass AP environmental science.

every time you turn on a light, your TV, or your car, you use energy. every single thing you own also required energy to be manufactured (the materials for your house, your clothes, your phone, literally everything).

when i say energy i mean like electricity. there’s lots of different ways to make electricity, like with fossil fuels, biofuels (like wood and stuff), wind turbines, dams, solar panels, etc.

for most of them, the real goal is to spin a turbine. which spins a generator, which makes electricity. apparently that’s the best way to do it.

so what humanity has decided is that we’re also gonna use steam to spin the turbine. and to make steam you need water. but you also need heat, so you have to burn something.

so we burn coal, oil, or natural gas (your classic icky sticky fossil fuels) to make heat, which heats up water, which turns into steam, which spins the turbine, which spins the generator, which makes electricity. here’s a diagram if that’s too much.

sorry its not that high quality but at least it’s simple, i didnt make it, you can click on it and it’ll take you to the source website

when you burn wood you get smoke, right? well, when you burn fossil fuels you get a bunch of carbon dioxide, along with some other pollutants like nitrogen and sulfur oxides. the pollutants go up into the atmosphere and trap heat. heat comes in from the sun and can’t leave. our global temperatures rise. thus, global warming.

so far global temperatures have risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (a little over 1 degree Celsius)

so how do we fix it? renewable energy. you’ve probably seen dams, wind turbines, and solar panels. you may have assumed they’re more expensive.

there’s pros and cons to every source of energy. i break that down here (jk not yet, blog post coming soon though!). but really, fossil fuels are only getting more inefficient. we dug up all the easiest coal first, but now they have to spend more money digging deeper just to get the same amount of coal, natural gas, and oil. geothermal, nuclear, solar, hydroelectric, & wind energy have higher Energy Return On Investments (EROI) than natural gas or oil, meaning they’re more cost efficient.

another way to stop/slow global warming is carbon sequestration which is why everyone wants to plant so many trees.

so how are fossil fuels still in business? why do we still use them?

well you give them money everyday. look back at the first paragraph of this post. chances are everything you own was made with fossil fuel energy, and chances are you get your electricity from them too. the energy that’s powering whatever device you’re using right now probably came from fossil fuels.

also we use petroleum to make plastic so everything made out of plastic is made out of oil.

also the government subsidizes them a lot and if you don’t know what a subsidy is, it basically means the government gives them free money. from 1950-2010, the U.S. government gave $594 billion of its citizens’ money to oil, gas, and coal corporations. the government subsidizes renewable energy a lot less, giving $171 billion in that same time period, mostly to hydro-power and corn ethanol.

fossil fuels are non-renewable by nature, but coal will last us for over a hundred more years.

oil and natural gas will be completely depleted in the next 50-60 years. like before you die.

if you want our government to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and start prioritizing using renewable energy in the USA, let them know. vote for politicians who actually care about the environment. put pressure on local, state, and national government to create & enforce policies that protect the planet.

i think that’s all! if you have any questions comment down below or send @protectingplaneta a DM on instagram and i’ll respond or make another blog about it.