In this article, I’ll try to be objective about the positive effects of deforestation and the negative ones. Although I must admit that I am a bit biased, my gut feeling is that at the moment the negative effects outweigh the positive ones.
“What now remains is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and soft earth having wasted away, and only the bare framework of the land being left… Moreover, it was enriched by the yearly rains…”
This could very well be a quotation from a present-day text. It is not. It’s a complaint from the Greek philosopher Plato about the slopes of Athens in Critias which he wrote in 360 BC. Deforestation has been taking place from the time when agriculture became more widely practiced 4,000 years ago.
Yet, we need trees as much as we need food and water. Meaning it is vital to find a balance between human activities, such as agriculture, and the forests we need.
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The positive effects of deforestation
- Paper and cardboard. Thanks to trees we have paper to write on and cardboard to make boxes from. Paper is cheaper than the parchment that used to be written on. If it is properly disposed of separately, it can be reused as recycled paper;
- Wood, which is used as a construction material in houses, furniture, crates, etc.;
- Provides jobs. Carpenters, lumberjacks, and farmers are just some types of work that forest and deforestation provide;
- Farmland. There are so many people on this earth and they all need food, which requires a lot of agricultural lands;
- Space. People have to live somewhere and deforestation creates vacant areas on which to build.
Reforestation to limit the drawbacks
When I was still working as a graphic designer, every representative from a paper mill spoke enthusiastically about their reforestation program.
They recommended FSC-certified paper. The certification mark of the Forest Stewardship Council signifies responsible forest management and balancing social, environmental, and economic interests.
Fast-growing wood is often used for the production of paper so that the cutting of the trees keeps pace with the planting.
Related: 10 Reasons Why Trees Are Important And Vital For Us
The negative effects of deforestation
- Climate change. Where trees are removed, the sun burns on the earth, causing the temperature to rise;
- Soil erosion. If the soil is not held by tree roots, it will either be washed away in heavy downpours or the wind will have free rein and blow the surface away;
- Affects the water cycle. Trees play a role in the global water cycle. The roots and trunk transport the water from the soil to the branches and leaves where it evaporates into the air.
- At the expense of biodiversity. The habitat of animals that live in and under the trees is disappearing through tree felling;
- Will cost us quality of life. The Amazon forest has been called the lungs of the world. Trees purify the air by converting CO2 into oxygen. They filter the particulate matter from the air to a limited extent;
- The soil lacks nutrients. If there were pine trees on the vacant terrain, the soil is too acidic. A rainforest that has been cleared also leaves behind soil that is not immediately usable. Fertilizers and artificial nutrients have to solve this, poisoning the earth;
- Communities are affected. Some populations of people live in forests, which are losing their homes and livelihood due to deforestation.
Cons and pros
On one of our trips to a nature park in the US, we saw devastating amounts of burned forest. As soon as we were in the visitor center, I asked a forester about it. He explained that the fires were set on purpose.
It is a form of forest management, just as it happens when lightning strikes and a forest fire starts. New shrubs and trees grow on the released soil, with the ash serving as a natural nutrient.
This contrasts sharply with the pieces of rainforest that are burned down with the intention of turning them into agricultural land. This releases so much CO2 that it no longer outweighs the oxygen that trees usually give.
The attempts of big companies
The attempt by 40 major companies to stop deforestation by appealing to Brazilian lawmakers is commendable.
I am a bit suspicious because it is not the first time that they have threatened to stop buying Brazilian products. Someday they have to live up to their threat, otherwise, it won’t help.
Still, it is a good start.
And we as consumers can help speed up that process.
Our positive contribution
Refuse single-use plastic and buy goods that have so little packaging that they can still be transported safely.
Related: 9 Tips to Reduce Packaging for Consumers (and Listening Producers)
Support responsible paper production
Pay attention to the FSC certification. It does not say anything about the quality, but it does say something about the treatment of the forest
You can plant trees in your garden if the garden is big enough. You can do like my husband Tom does. He collects all the seeds of the fruits we eat, dries them, and then throws them on wasted land during our hikes.
Or you can do what I occasionally do: buy a tree that gets planted in endangered areas.
Stop eating beef
One of the biggest causes of the depletion of the earth is our meat consumption. Tom and I became vegetarians 45 years ago when we read that it takes 7x as many resources to feed a cow as it yields. Nowadays we eat organic poultry about 2x a month, but we have never eaten beef or pork again.
Don’t choose products that contain soy or palm oil
The cleared farmlands in the Amazon are cultivated with soy, which serves as animal feed and as the basis for many vegan products.
If you read the nutrient list on the packaging, you will be amazed how many products contain soy or palm oil. For palm oil, tropical forests are also rigorously cut down to be able to plant palm trees.
Instead of soy-based products, you can buy goods with almond or coconut milk. A sustainable alternative to palm oil is olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, or corn oil.
Related: Why is Coconut Oil good for your Skin, Hair and Body?
Boycott destructive companies
Companies have discovered they can earn more money when products are labeled as green. As a result, there is a lot of ‘greenwashing’. The big companies are required to have a sustainability report as part of their yearly statement.
Do we as consumers have the time and the stamina to read every report? Moreover, companies are very well aware of how to formulate their texts. I would suggest to look for certification labels on the product and to try to have a feel for a shop.
The other day we were at C&A. There was an occasional product advertised as organic cotton. At the cashier, people could choose between a plastic bag or a paper bag to wrap up the bought items. We didn’t want a bag at all, which was also no problem.
All good, you would think. Yet, although I was really glad about my organic cotton nightshirt, it also felt like window dressing. The whole store was packed with plastic hangers, plastic clothes, and plastic decorations. So much for sustainability.
Inspire your friends
Talk with your neighbors and friends about the things you do to fight deforestation. Inspire your family with your example. Start a blog, like this one. You can even make it an affiliate blog to earn money from home.
The effects of deforestation
Diving into the subjects of deforestation made me aware that some effects indeed are positive, provided that the effects are handled well by minimizing destruction and reforestation.
We cannot ignore the fact that we as humans have an influence on our earth. Just like plants and animals have an effect on the earth.
But we can do our utmost to make that effect as positive as possible.
Did you ever plant a tree? Tell us in the comment box below.
8 thoughts on “What are the Positive Effects of Deforestation or are the Negative Effects Worse?”
Thanks for your informative article. I completely agree with you and think we are close to the point of no return with the environment. The rise in the “throwaway” culture we have grown accustomed to has to stop but I feel that unless there is a MAJOR change in attitudes we will just continue doing what we are doing. There needs to be a steep change in people’s attitudes, not a gradual one.
What do you think is the most important change we can make that will have the greatest impact?
It is my experience that a lot of people get overwhelmed when they fully realize what is going on. I do agree with you that a steep change is needed, but I would rather have everyone be aware of the problems than just some people putting in all the efforts. Because as soon as everyone would be aware and try to change one step at a time, there would be more change overall in the end.
Tom and I take it as our responsibility to live our speech and try to inspire people to take some steps as well. And I must admit we feel good when we notice that it works and that someone tries to adjust a little bit. I am sure it will work like an inkspot. Because that person will start talking about his or her change with friends and surely will inspire others too.
We’ll get there in the end. 🙂
Thanks for your reaction, Robs, and take care!
It was very interesting to read this article, I already knew a lot, but I also learned something new, for example, using products that contain soy or palm oil. We mainly use sunflower and olive oil.
I have already planted a few trees because I am aware of the importance of forests for the existence of our ecosystem. I’m excited about your husband’s idea, and I’ll start practicing it myself in the future.
Thanks for raising awareness about the importance of forests and for some practical tips!
I love that idea of not wasting the seeds as well, Nina. We heard the tip from one of our friends and this way the idea travels like an inkspot. Inspiring more and more people. Isn’t that marvelous? Tom does it for a year now. We haven’t seen any results yet. 🙂
Sunflower oil and olive oil are great. I like it most if they are not in monoculture orchards. A lot of areas over here in Spain have rows and rows of olive trees. It makes a great visual pattern, but from the viewpoint of biodiversity, it’s not that good.
And although there is a lot of sunshine, there are not so many sunflower fields in Spain. I am wondering why. For the big fields, we have to go to France. 🙂
Thanks for your reaction and stay healthy.
Of course, there are both positive and negative effects of deforestation. However, there are more negative effects.
In my opinion, the biggest problem is “uncontrolled” deforestation. We’re using too much wood for unimportant things which could be made from some other materials.
The biggest problem is the finance of governments, wood industry is a large industry, and it’s tough to change everything. Just like you mentioned, many people work in that industry, and we should consider that too.
There should be an international plan for woods, and every country should obey it.
You are right, Petar. However, try telling the Brazilian president about it! Maybe that is the biggest problem the earth faces at the moment; some dictatorial leaders that willingly and on purpose destroy the earth’s resources.
Change is always tough. We notice it ourselves too, of course. Even something as simple as going on a holiday interferes with our routine as I notice at the moment. 🙂 I am convinced there is a lot of positivity in changing routines. On a small scale for ourselves as human beings. And on a big scale for companies and governments.
But I am still optimistic. There are a lot of young designers that design with a keen eye for sustainability.
I disagree with you in one respect. If the things you mention are unimportant, they shouldn’t be made of other materials either. In the end, there is a limit to all resources we have on this earth. 🙂
Thanks for your reaction and stay healthy!
I think it should be clear to anyone that the positive effects of deforestation are fewer than the negative ones. We should all plant trees as much as possible and make sure we plant the RIGHT kind of trees. We shouldn’t just plant any tree, anywhere. Every area can be positively or even negatively impacted by some trees. Most people don’t know this but we can sometimes hurt an area, a forest by planting the wrong types of trees for that place. Always do your research and ask around and plant the trees that are needed in that place.
That’s very good advice of you, Martha, thank you so much. I should dive into that more as well because I am wondering if trees would do well anyway if they are planted in the wrong spot. But if animals can be a pest in the end, like the rabbits that were imported into Australia, then plants can be a pest in the end too.
That’s what I like about Click-a-tree. They only work with paid experts and not with good-willing volunteers, to be sure that the trees get planted the right way.
It is a risk that we should be aware of. By trying to do good, we sometimes get the opposite result.
Thanks for your comment and take care.