Human Mistakes: Deforestation

Forests

Forests are long-lived communities of trees, shrubs, herbs, and wildlife. The communities form over centuries as birds and winds deliver seeds and spores to sites with sufficient moisture for big plants to grow. Across regions occupied by forests, the combined influence of annual precipitation and temperature usually varies from dry with small scattered trees to wet with dense forest with interlocked canopies.

Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee (Country Living)

As forests develop, soils form and a diverse assemblage of arthropods, amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles gathers to fill habitats from the ground up to the canopy. The animals interact with the plants, pollinating flowers, scattering seeds, and forming many novel alliances.

Forests and the litter that accumulates on the ground transform environments. They moderate temperature and they absorb and hold moisture from precipitation. They protect the land from extreme heat and flooding. Forests are much finer places to live than the bare rock and dirt upon which they form.

Landslide in Nepal (Navesh Chitrakar Reuters/Landov)

Forests exist in a dynamic equilibrium with the forces of nature. Across a forest, natural events, fires, windstorms, floods, droughts, and late freezes, are often annual occurrences. These create a mosaic of forest of varying age. In tropical regions with stable climate, forests are older and more uniform in age than they are in temperate regions with variable climate.

Harvesting the Earth: Deforestation

Over the past few millennia, humans have accelerated forest dynamics. We have cut and burned to destroy patches of forest at a higher rate than natural forces ever did. We are doing these things so often, the forests do not have time to recover. And in many instances, we create and maintain crops and plantations that insure the forests will never recover.

Loggers, ranchers, and farmers cut forests for lumber, and cut or burn forests for livestock pastures, plantations, and farms. In the U. S., the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and state forestry departments help timber companies maximize their profits by permitting clear cutting, and by building roads and erosion barriers. With the loss of trees and disturbance of the soil, flooding and erosion often increase. Habitat and wildlife are always lost.

Clearcut forest in Oregon.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than half of all animals on Earth have disappeared during the past 50 years (WWF 2016). Deforestation and other human activities are responsible.

Government agencies build roads to ease removal of the forests, and they pay ranchers to build fences and stock watering ponds. Sometimes they attempt to mitigate the harmful effects of tree removal by cutting terraces into the soil to slow runoff and by planting replacement trees. In few or no instances do the agencies give the planted trees enough time to regenerate the original forest before they are cut again.

Global Deforestation

A peatland forest clearing for a palm oil plantation in the Leuser ecosystem, South Aceh, Indonesia. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Deforestation is ongoing around the world as cutting and burning convert forests to pastures, farms, and plantations. For example, Arthur Neslen of the Guardian reports, “Europe’s contribution to global deforestation may rise by more than a quarter by 2030, despite a pledge to halt such practices by the end of this decade, according to a leaked draft EU analysis.

“An estimated 13m hectares (Mha) of the world’s forestland is lost each year, a figure projected to spiral in the next 30 years with the AmazonGreater Mekongand Borneo bearing the brunt of tree clearances.

“But despite signing several international pledges to end deforestation by this decade’s end, more than 5Mha of extra forest land will be needed annually by 2030 to meet EU demand for agricultural products, a draft EU feasibility study predicts.” –Arthur Neslen (Source: Europe’s contribution to deforestation set to rise despite pledge to halt it | Environment | The Guardian)

Justifying Deforestation

People sometimes justify removing the forest as the unavoidable costs of human progress toward a better life of increased comfort and security. In most instances today, however, for-profit companies remove forests with little concern for people’s lives or the consequences for soils and wildlife.

The counter argument that the forest, every tree, and all the animals of the forest have value independent of humans is rarely heard. Here’s how Judi Bari put it:

“Deep ecology, or biocentrism, is the belief that nature does not exist to serve humans. Rather, humans are part of nature, one species among many. All species have a right to exist for their own sake, regardless of their usefulness to humans. And biodiversity is a value in itself, essential for the flourishing of both human and nonhuman life.

“These principles, I believe, are not just another political theory. Biocentrism is a law of nature, that exists independently of whether humans recognize it or not. It doesn’t matter whether we view the world in a human centered way. Nature still operates in a biocentric way. And the failure of modern society to acknowledge this – as we attempt to subordinate all of nature to human use – has led us to the brink of collapse of the earth’s life support systems.” –Judi Bari (Revolutionary Ecology)

Humans have cut and burned forests for thousands of years. The delightfully moderate environments created by forests, the opposite of urban heat islands or the monotony of farms, are disappearing. In our own special way, we are fouling our nest, but unlike the birds, we are not cleaning up after ourselves.


You can expand on this rambling introduction to deforestation by reading more posts on this blog or by reading many of the fine books available on Amazon.

Previous Posts (84) in this blog describe events and consequences for sites around the world.

 

8 thoughts on “Human Mistakes: Deforestation

    • Most biocentrists are also biophiliacs. For some great articles on this chronic ailment that manifests as a love of animals and plants, check out Kellert and Wilson’s 1993 “The Biophilia Hypothesis.” It seems to me that there are faint signals, predispositions, within our individual genetic code for biophilia as for other innate emotional conditions such as love of god, or fear of snakes and spiders. bring on this condition. Some of the articles in the book especially Roger Ulrich’s support this idea.

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  1. While the rest of the family plants trees, Chris is eradicating Juniper-pinion to improve grasslands.  What do you think of that?

    From: GarryRogers Nature Conservation To: classactionclaims@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, July 3, 2017 11:37 AM Subject: [New post] Human Mistakes: Deforestation #yiv2059831565 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2059831565 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2059831565 a.yiv2059831565primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2059831565 a.yiv2059831565primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2059831565 a.yiv2059831565primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2059831565 a.yiv2059831565primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2059831565 WordPress.com | GarryRogers posted: “ForestsForests are long-lived communities of trees, shrubs, herbs, and wildlife. The communities form over centuries as birds and winds deliver seeds and spores to sites with sufficient moisture for big plants to grow. Across regions occupied by forests” | |

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  2. Deforestation has been devastating to me ever since I was a child and lived on Promontory Lookout.  30 years ago when we moved to Washoe County (Reno), I wanted to buy a house or buildable property in the forest, but my husband Wayne had fought too many forest fires and knew how fast they can move, taking out houses before the occupants have time to leave.  Hence we bought in the sagebrush, about 1/2 mile from the forest, some bare land between.  He pulled out all sagebrush and told me I could plant all the trees I wanted.  But after 20 or so he started balking.  Every year he said, “No more trees,” but every next year, my Suburban came home loaded with trees.  And then I discovered the State Tree Nursery, where people with 1 acre or more could buy small trees for $1 or $2!  So I was bringing home trees 50 at a time.  He complained about planting every single one, as we live in a glacial moraine, where you have to bring in dirt to fill the holes you dig to replace the rocks you took out.  The rest of the story : We had always planned to move North when he retired, but when that day came I asked him if he still wanted to move.  He said no.  I asked why.  “I couldn’t leave the trees,”  he replied !  (Now we have over 350 trees, so we are doing our part to reforest!) An old farm boy, he loves horses, but never rides, just happily shovels manure, pets, hugs, and takes care of them.  He says the worst possible day shoveling manure in the bitter cold and mud and wet manure is better than his best day working at BLM.  

    From: GarryRogers Nature Conservation To: classactionclaims@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, July 3, 2017 11:37 AM Subject: [New post] Human Mistakes: Deforestation #yiv2059831565 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2059831565 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2059831565 a.yiv2059831565primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2059831565 a.yiv2059831565primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2059831565 a.yiv2059831565primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2059831565 a.yiv2059831565primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2059831565 WordPress.com | GarryRogers posted: “ForestsForests are long-lived communities of trees, shrubs, herbs, and wildlife. The communities form over centuries as birds and winds deliver seeds and spores to sites with sufficient moisture for big plants to grow. Across regions occupied by forests” | |

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  3. Just another example of human overpopulation and its consequences. There were forests in Iraq a few centuries ago before the human population in the ” fertile crescent” exploded and over- reached the land’s ability to feed their growing number of mouths. With our population worldwide of 7.4 billion and counting, how much time will it take before we totally decimate this planet and the other species who live here? Water and topsoil are fragile and finite.

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