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• A Glance at Deforestation

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A Glance at Deforestation

By June Narber Harrison

Forests are among Earth’s most important ecosystems. What many people do not realize, is that many of Earth’s ecosystems are inter-related. The oxygen in the atmosphere, the waters of the ocean, and the living plants and trees interplay on each other to sustain their cycles, keeping their internal living creatures fed and alive. When one element is altered in any ecosystem, all others have the potential of being affected.

If toxic chemicals are sprayed on crops, they seem into ground water (and then drank by humans, and absorbed into surrounding flora). Animals then eat the crops in turn, being eaten by humans. Any way it is looked at, the toxic chemicals end up in our own cell structure. Many of the cancers and illnesses we face today can be linked to pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides.

The forests of earth are complex in their composition. The rain forests of Brazil offer the most lush and varied flora and fauna to be found anywhere in the world today. However, it is being deforested at an alarming rate. When large parts of a forest are cut down, without careful planning, many other internal microecosystems are disrupted.

What Causes Deforestation?

Deforestation is caused by over cutting of the trees by large timber companies; slash and burn (called swidden horticulture) cultivation of native peoples (this is found today in many developing nations). Commercial development is the leading world wide cause (mineral and oil exploration; burning down of huge forest areas for cattle production; and urban development, infrastructure development such as roads; Deforestation is a result of careless planning and not taking necessary precautions to protect the forests to guarantee their survival as a resource for future generations.

Can the world’s forests survive the intrusion of man? As Christians, we can rationalize that God gave us the world to rule over. However, with rulership, comes great responsibility to do it properly. Mankind was made the husbandman of the earth. That did not give him license to kill and destroy recklessly. With the earth’s population doubling every nearly every twenty years, we have to realize that means more mouths to feed and more natural resources will be used up. The earth can only produce so much wood and other products per generation. What if the need and usage outweighs the production? What if so much of earth’s forests are cut for fuel and by-products, that not enough trees are left or replanted to replenish the forests for the next generation? That is exactly what is now happening.

Without the forests, especially the tropical rain forests, the oxygen levels of the world could not exist! The ozone layer and other ecosystems of earth are directly affected by the health of the world’s forests. Only during the last decade have scientists began to view the different ecosystems of Earth as part of a giant whole. Prior, they thought of each ecosystem existing apart from the others. However, with the devastating effects that needless pollution, ozone layer depletion and other chronic manifestations of a sick planet. Scientists finally began to realize that the oceans, atmosphere, land and forests ecosystems interact with each other to produce the oxygen and nutrient rich planet that we call home. We have to remember that God created a balance in the Earth’s natural cycles. When we pollute and destroy, we are upsetting the structure God ordained. In turn, we will have to face the physical consequences. Among these many consequences are chronic worldwide pollution, new deadly disease strains, reduced crops, changed weather patterns, and altered ecosystem biodiversity.

Consequences of deforestation

In economic terms, the tropical forests that are destroyed worldwide represent a loss in forest capital of 45 billion US dollars. By destroying forests, all potential future revenues and future employment derived from their sustainable management for timber and non-timber products vanish. Biodiversity (the variety of different animal and plant species) is also severely reduced. In many cases, the actual extinction of thousands of varieties of plants and animals is a result (many of which never have been scientifically classified or studied yet!) Estimates put the annual average of loss of biodiversity at 50,000 separate species (including flora and fauna).

You’ve probably heard of global warming. There is debate over this theory, but the evidence is that the polar caps are getting warmer, and world temperatures are shifting. The world’s ocean temperatures are rising. What does this all mean? Global warming influences the world weather conditions. This leads to droughts in one part of the world and severe flooding in other. In turn, famine from ruined crops. It has been proven that deforestation is a leading cause in global warming, however, not a sole or only cause. The principal cause of global warming is the discharges from burning fossilized fuels from the developed countries.

Another thing to consider is that deforestation causes soil erosion (increasing its compaction where crops cannot grow therein, leeching out of its nutrients, increasing the aluminum toxicity of the soil). This leads to soil marginal for crop production.

With less forests, and more demand for its products (mainly timber and fuel-wood), the result is a shortage of a needed human resource.

Points to Ponder:

  1. You can make a difference by not wasting paper and other forest produced resources.

  2. You can support local efforts to protect national forests in your area.

  3. Refuse to buy products that were produced or taken from tropical rainforests, especially from Brazil.

  4. Participate in planting trees for future generations in your area.

  5. Plant a tree for every one you cut down for personal use.

  6. Learn careful cutting techniques if you cut wood, so that you do not damage surrounding trees, and you leave enough cuttings to allow proper reforestation.

  7. Don’t use paper products that can be avoided, such as paper bags from the grocer: buy a cloth sack to put your groceries in. Don’t use paper plates that are thrown away after one use. Concern on your paper usage, like writing on both sides of a piece of stationary or printing on both sides of a page from a printer or copying machine.

  8. Recycle everything that you can including paper products, metals, and glass.

  9. Don’t support large enterprises that are responsible for destroying the rain forests of South America. Listings of these companies are available through many different non-profit organizations and the Internet.

  10. Go to your library and read about these problems and educate yourself about the the world’s resources and forestry trends.

  11. Teach your children to respect nature and how to conserve resources.

Realize that deforestation is a really serious problem and that it need immediate and international directed attention. No matter how long we have before the return of Christ to rule all nations, we have to live on the planet and we want it to be as fruitful and beautiful as we, and our forefathers have enjoyed.

Region Main agents of deforestation


  1. slash-and-burn farmers

  2. commercial farmers

  3. loggers

  4. livestock herders

  5. refugees from civil disturbances

Asia - Oceania

  1. commercial farmers

  2. slash-and-burn farmers

  3. loggers

  4. commercial tree planters

  5. infrastructure developers

Latin America and Caribbean

  1. slash-and-burn farmers

  2. cattle ranchers

  3. commercial farmers

  4. loggers

  5. infrastructure developers

North America

  1. Infrastrucutre developers

  2. Loggers

  3. Commercial enterprises

(source: adapted from: FAO 1997; World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development 1998; ** adapted from FAO 1997)

Copyright © 2010 June Narber, All Rights Reserved.