Norway, Brazil saving the rainforest


CASH FOR TREES — By offering to pay Brazil to not continue the practice of deforestation,
Norway has saved thousands of acres of beautiful rainforest, like the area pictured above. (Reuters)

Deforestation has been, and continues to be, a global problem. Not only does it reduce habitat for unique and often endangered species, but it also contributes quite considerably to climate change. To put deforestation into perspective, take a look at the Amazon Rainforest. Since 1970, 230,000 square miles of forest, roughly an area the size of Venezuela, have been clear cut. That is in the Amazon in Brazil alone and does not include the rest of the Amazon or the many other great forests of the world. This is a huge issue because it is forcing species to the brink of extinction and causes a problem with longevity, due to an incredible amount of carbon being pumped into the air. This happens when these forests are burned, which is the most common method of clearing forest for usable land. Yet, as bad as they are, these issues do not go unaddressed. In fact, there has been incredible progress made for conservation in recent years.

Norway has been leading the charge for forest conservation. Last year, Norway made a commitment to be deforestation free in its acquisition of timber and other forest products, the acquisition of which (globally) contributes to a little over half of deforestation in the world today. This a huge step in conservation efforts, as Norway now becomes the first country in the world to actively ensure that public procurement will not contribute to deforestation around the world. If other countries begin to follow suit, deforestation could be a thing of the past. Happily, even outside of grand gestures like Norway’s ban on deforestation, conservation efforts in the world have been going well in recent years. In Brazil, encroachment into the Amazon has been dropping rapidly in the past decade, and although the sheer volume of trees removed is still startling, the pace at which they are being removed is dropping promisingly fast.

After peaking in 2004, deforestation in Brazil started to fall rapidly, and in 2008, Norway did something that would give that trend a serious boost. In 2008, Norway gave Brazil one billion dollars to fight deforestation. Brazil used that money to fight it, and it fought it effectively. Deforestation in the rainforest was down by 75 percent in 2015, saving an incredible amount of forest that would otherwise have been destroyed. This means more sustainability for species, preservation of untouched rainforest and reduced carbon emission.

Reduced carbon emission ends up being the most important part of the reduction of deforestation in the long run. In fact, forests store an incredible amount of carbon, and their burning, the most widely used method of deforestation, releases a dangerous amount of carbon dioxide into the air. To better understand the scale of carbon dioxide released in deforestation, you must keep in mind that the amount of carbon dioxide not released into the atmosphere as a result of conservation efforts is three times greater than if all motor vehicles in North America were unused for the same period of time. Thus, understanding the effect that conservation can have is vital to understanding why it is important. While it is both noble and extremely important to maintain biodiversity and untouched forests from an ethical and humanitarian standpoint, it is not necessary to human life. Yet, when it is considered how much our actions affect the world around us and potentially harm it, it becomes highlighted how much we could affect the future through deforestation.

With world leaders like Norway setting a precedent for conservation efforts world wide, the future looks bright. Yet, not all is well. Deforestation is climbing considerably higher in Brazil again due to economic factors that make exporting agricultural goods more and more profitable, leading to more clear-cutting for farmland.

It is going to take leaders like Norway to continue leading, and more importantly, for countries to follow their example if deforestation is to be truly tackled. However, the future does look bright, and as long as countries continue to work together towards the goal of conservation and sustainability, the future could look a lot greener.

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