Deforestation has been occurring since people realized how essential trees are to living. The issue is that until the nineteenth century, people were unaware of how damaging deforestation actually is. Although people have realized the damage clear-cutting and other forms of deforestation can have on the environment, there continues to be large numbers of trees cut down without consequence. Deforestation is defined as “the removal of trees from a forested area” (Miller, 2013, G4). An estimated eighteen million acres, which is roughly the size of the country Panama, are lost each year to deforestation (Bradford, 2015). Trees continue to be an essential resource for people, but by cutting them down, organisms that depend on the trees are being dispersed. Forested areas are often home to many different organisms. Trees provide food, shelter, and many other things for the organisms it protects. Trees are also an essential part to the environment and the process of photosynthesis, which provides the air that humans and animals breathe. Although trees provide all of these things, people continue to cut them down and do not realize the damage that they are causing. Deforestation has become an ever-growing problem and if nothing is done about it, all forests could disappear in the near future. Better laws and structure should be placed for those who commit deforestation. It is necessary for humans to put an emphasis on not only saving the trees, but also the life trees provide and protect.
Humans have by far the largest impact on the global environment. One of the biggest impacts humans have can be seen through deforestation. Humans need trees as resources for many different things. Wood provides power/energy, shelter (houses, infrastructure), everyday products (paper products), etc. People take many of these things for granted and continue to clear-cut and destroy forests in large numbers. Without the replanting and allowance of growth for more trees, trees could go extinct and cause extreme disruptions in ecosystems and food chains. In fact, “deforestation in tropical areas is the greatest eliminator of species” (Miller, 142). This is because forests are incredibly relied upon to support many different species. From the protection of minute plants and organisms on the forest floor to larger animals like elephants and tigers, forests are a necessity to life. When humans intervene and cut forests for resources or to build a road, habitats are destroyed and animals become dispersed; this is known as “habitat fragmentation” (Miller, 143). When habitats get destroyed, organisms must attempt to find new habitats and survive. This can be a very difficult process and many organisms may not survive the displacement. Humans do not take into consideration how relied upon forests are. By continuing to cut down trees in large numbers and displacing animals, there is a likelihood that not only the environment will be severely impacted, but as will food chains.
Food chains are an essential part to life in every single environment. A food chain is a “sequence of organisms, each of which serves as a source of nutrients or energy for the next” (Miller, 43). A food chain is the way that energy is passed from organism to organism. For example, the sun provides energy to the first trophic level, which includes producers (plants). Primary consumers (herbivores), like a caterpillar or other insects, included in the second trophic level, eat the plant and get a portion of the energy the plant contained. The third trophic level, which is made up of secondary consumers (carnivores), which includes animals like a crow. The crow eats the caterpillar, getting another portion of the energy. All of this energy can be related back to the plant and even the sun. The fourth trophic level includes tertiary consumers (top carnivores). At this level an animal like a wolf can eat the bird and again is passed energy. What has just been described is a very linear food chain. Food chains actually tend to be food webs, where multiple organisms provide energy for other organisms higher in trophic level. For example the caterpillar may be food to birds, rats, and other organisms. There are millions of different food webs in existence. Every single part of the food web is essential and if an organism is taken out it can be devastating to the entire web. This is why deforestation can be so harmful. When trees are clear cut and organisms are forced from their habitats, their food web is broken. They then must attempt to fit into a new habitat and create a new food chain. If a certain organism is goes extinct in the area because of deforestation, the whole food chain will be drastically affected. As shown each organism relies on the lower trophic level for energy. So, if when the trees were destroyed, all the plants in that area die off, the entire food web will suffer and likely die because producers are the most essential part of the food web. If the caterpillar dies off, many other organisms that feed and rely on the caterpillar will either die or will need to adjust and find a new source of food. If it takes a long time for the birds to find another source of food and many of them die, the wolf will then be pressed for food and could begin to deplete as well. This domino-like reaction not only shows how important each member of a food, but just how drastic clear-cutting and deforestation is to habitats, therefore food chains.
Deforestation can also be a leading cause of environmental change, such as global warming. Forests play an essential part in the carbon cycle within the environment. When forests are cut down carbon absorption decreases, causing more carbon to remain in the air. This causes issues within the environment and the ozone. Other plants then have to work harder to absorb carbon and balance the levels in the air (Geist, 2002). Not only is this an issue with cutting forests, but when forests are burned to clear the area quickly, more chemicals are released into the air, specifically carbon dioxide. This can also be harmful to the environment and lead to climate change. It is estimated that 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air due to deforestation. Climate change is due to the carbon dioxide buildup that trees are not able to deplete. If deforestation continues at the current rate, it is likely that severe climate change can be expected in the very near future. Climate change can cause issues everywhere. Certain effects of climate change can already be seen in areas far north where glaciers are melting due to warming temperatures. Seasons can also be effected due to climate change, which throws off the balance of animals, trees and other organisms. For example, organisms that typically hibernate can go into hibernation too soon or end too soon based on climate change. This can throw off natural balance, particularly with food webs. Another example is birds that migrate south for the winter. There have been many instances where birds return from migration earlier every year. This is likely due to climate change. It is suspected that birds are returning from migration earlier each year to cope with climate changes (“Climate Change Making Younger Birds Migrate Earlier Every Year”). This can be an issue because natural balances are again disturbed, causing problems for food webs and habitats. There are so many drastic effects that come from climate change caused by deforestation. If the number of trees being cut down were decreased, trees could keep up with carbon dioxide buildup a little better and reduce climate change, or at least slow it down. This would help with so many issues caused by climate change and could help reregulate organisms that are currently effected.
Deforestation has been ever increasing, particularly in North America, since settlers first came. As stated previously, forests are an essential part of supporting wildlife. In fact, about thirty percent of the United States’ land is covered in forest. Within that thirty percent, eighty percent of the wildlife in the United States is supported (Miller, 165). This is an overwhelming statistic that shows just how essential forests are to providing habitats and supporting organisms. If deforestation were to occur to this remaining thirty percent, the wildlife living there would be dispersed, many would likely die, and food webs would be extremely disturbed. Although many people are now aware of how bad deforestation is, it continues to happen in alarming amounts. This is particularly true in areas in South America. The Brazilian government plans to dramatically increase the size of Brazil’s highways. In order to do this, deforestation to the Amazon rainforest is necessary and many areas will likely be clear cut or burned. Brazil has already been clear cutting and destroying the Amazon forest. In fact, “in 2002 and 2003 the rate of deforestation climbed to about eleven football fields per minute” (Laurance, 2004). This is an insanely drastic number; that meant millions of organisms were being displaced and their habitats destroyed. What is even more shocking is the fact that the sole purpose of this deforestation was to expand highways. Apparently highways are much more important than protecting wildlife and regulating climate. The Brazilian government did not want to alarm the public and claimed to be “monitoring the deforestation” (Laurance, 2004). However, the government is not doing nearly enough. Deforestation continues to occur at an alarming rate as the new highway plan is put into action. The government does not seem to be doing anything to stop it. If this expansion and deforestation continues, the Amazon could be completely destroyed in a matter of a decade or two. This could be potentially devastating to the environment and the wildlife that seek haven within the forest. As one of the last great forests, the destruction of the Amazon rain forest would be something to weep at.
There was once a time where people were completely oblivious and ignorant to the harms of deforestation. This occurred before the late nineteenth century, particularly in North America. A common belief was that the amount of forest was endless, this is because people had not reached the far west of North America and did not grasp the fact that the United States did not continue on forever with unlimited resources. These naïve thoughts led to a great increase in deforestation, with no hope of there being resources left for the future. This is especially true regarding the industrial revolution. At this time companies were taking whatever they wanted and leaving the land degraded and out of nutrients. They did not replant or do anything to help with the damages they were causing. Luckily, Gifford Pinchot came and began changing mindsets about deforestation, thus saving some forests.
Gifford Pinchot was born into the wealthy business class. He studied environmental science, specifically forestry, at Yale. He became extremely educated to the damages deforestation were causing. Pinchot also had an epiphany and realized that unless something was done, there would be no trees or resources left for future generations. This is when Pinchot coined the term “conservation of natural resources,” which called for the slowing of deforestation and an effort to plant a tree for every one that is cut down (Johnson, 2007). In 1899, President William McKinley appointed Pinchot as the first ever Chief Forester. With his background and education, Pinchot was the perfect person to fight for the environment and do it economically as well. Gifford Pinchot was committed to public service and thought that protecting the environment and ensuring that resources would remain for generations to come was his best servitude. Under Roosevelt’s administration, Pinchot created national parks, which until that point had been unheard of. These national parks were completely protected by the government and could not be touched by anyone. They were a place where people could go see the beauty of nature and bask in it (Johnson, 2007). One such national park was Yosemite National Park. It was protected because of its shire beauty. Pinchot also made efforts to ensure that people would be more knowledgeable of the harmful effects of deforestation. Gifford Pinchot was far ahead of his time and may be one of the reasons that forests still exist today. In fact, forests have been growing back in the United States since the 1920s. There is actually “more wood grown in the United States than is cut and the total area planted with trees increases” (Miller, 165). This is all thanks to Gifford Pinchot. By setting the standard for the U.S. Forest Service and ensuring that people understand deforestation, there has been some success in the regrowth of forests within the United States. If it were not for the Progressive Era and this environmentalist movement, there is a likelihood that Pinchot would have been right and there may not have been any more trees or resources for the generations of today.
Unfortunately, not everyone has listened to Gifford Pinchot’s message. While the United States may have cut back on deforestation, it continues at an alarming rate in other areas of the world. Deforestation is extremely common in tropical forest area and is the new growing cause for concern. As already mentioned, the cutting in the Amazon should be cause for major concern, but there are many other forests that are being cut at a rapid rate. These include: Africa, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. Satellite scans show these forests disappearing extremely fast. In fact, about seventy-two percent of Indonesia’s original forest has been lost. This is a number that should leave people extremely concerned. Another alarming statistic is that by the end of this century fifty percent of the remaining old-growth tropical forests will be completely gone or degraded (Miller, 166). This means that if tropical forests continue to be cut at the current rate more than half of whatever is left will be gone and by the beginning of next century it is likely all tropical forests could be completely gone. If this were to actually happen, it is highly doubtful there would be any life on earth because the carbon dioxide buildup would likely have killed all forms of life. It is amazing that people realize how damaging deforestation is, yet continue to do it. Something needs to be done and deforestation needs to be as much of a concern as global warming, the extinction of animals, even nuclear war. At this rate the population will be exterminated due to deforestation before a nuclear war actually happens.
People need to take a stand against deforestation. Environmentalists already do, but if regular people stand up and realize how bad deforestation is, a change can be made. The United Nations should make deforestation a priority. With the power to invade countries who are doing unethical things, the United Nations is really the only organization that can unite countries against this problem and make a difference. While everyday people can do something too, like standing up to the government or the business involved in deforestation, the United Nations is more likely to make a real difference. If the United Nations set rules and regulations regarding deforestation, it would eventually gain support from people and countries. The United Nations is also the only organization that can punish countries that do not follow the rules. This is why the support of the UN is vital. The only way to really make a difference is to raise awareness. The more people that know exactly how devastating the costs of deforestation is, the more people that will likely support the cause and want it slowed or stopped. There will be a difference made only if people unite on this topic and want deforestation to change.
It is time for people to be alarmed. Forests, which are an essential part of the environment as well as for wildlife, are disappearing at an extremely rapid rate. People seem to not be that concerned and continue to allow forests, particularly tropical forests, to be cut. This is causing animals to lose their habitats and to be dispersed. Dispersion can cause death among important organisms and can cause drastic affects in the food web. Deforestation also causes issues in climate change which messes up the natural balance of the environment. Many terrible things are happening due to climate change. Change needs to happen in order to slow deforestation and ensure that there are forests for future generations. This was Gifford Pinchot’s philosophy and should continue to be the philosophy of today. If those clear-cutting and responsible for deforestation would slow their rate, replant, or do something to help with the effects deforestation is having, the environment would likely become a better place. Deforestation needs to be made a priority or else survival on this planet may not last much longer.
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