Rainforests and tropical rainforests (along with soil) contain the highest concentrations of biodiversity on Earth (far more than man made forests and tree plantations).
Rainforests also contain many benefits for humans, the economy, and the environment & wildlife.
It is therefore in our interest to consider how we might help preserve them, and address deforestation.
This guide outlines potential solutions on how to save rainforests, and reverse deforestation and declining canopy cover – on both the society wide level, and on the individual level.
We also look at how many trees we might actually need on Earth
Summary – Saving Rainforests
There’s two approaches that can be taken:
– an individual approach
– and, a society wide approach
Individual approaches can entail:
– supporting products and companies that don’t use resources that have an origin from rainforests, or weren’t produced on land that was cleared in a rainforest area
A society wide approach that might be effective is either:
– giving legal and land rights to local communities to manage rainforest lands themselves (as they will naturally care for resources they depend on for their living),
– or have programs that give economic incentive to countries and local populations to preserve rainforests within their countries.
… essentially it comes down to … either there has to be other equal or better ways to make money (that don’t involve clearing rainforest land) for those doing the clearing of forest land, or, there has to be an incentive to keep the forest in place.
A more diversified and wealthier economy can help with this, as well as the availability of resources elsewhere, and better management of society in general.
If more of these things are put in place, there is more validity to put in place laws and regulations that outright protect rainforests.
Extra validity to protect rainforests could come if it can be proved that the preservations of rainforests help address other problems in society.
Locals need a way to provide a livelihood for themselves that involves both of preserving rainforests whilst also making money from them, and earning income from other avenues other than clearing rainforests.
What might not be mentioned enough as a solution is diversifying local economies so people have other ways to make money other than to clear forests.
Careful consideration should also be paid to whether big companies, governments and other parties are clearing rainforests for an easy profit (and also in some instances exploiting rainforest resources), where there are other options to make money that don’t involve clearing rainforests.
Rainforests and forests in general are often cleared for subsistence farming, logging, and commercial and industrial agriculture.
So, it’s worth starting with these causes to the problem when looking at rainforest clearing in a particular area.
As long as rainforests are economically worth more to cut down than to leave standing or conserve, deforestation will be a big threat.
The Problem With Rainforest (& Tropical Rainforest) Destruction & Deforestation
Rainforests contain heavy concentrations of biodiversity
Rainforests can also provide many benefits to society and the environment when they are left standing
But, they tend to be worth more economically to some people to cut down, and tend to be located in poorer regions of the world where local populations need the money to survive, and local corruption and foreign corporate advancement are also common (care2.com)
Globally, tropical tree canopy loss has almost doubled over the past decade (weforum.org)
Rainforests can take far longer to be restored than man made forests and tree plantations, and sometimes never return to their original condition
How To Save Rainforests, & Reverse Deforestation, & Declining Canopy Cover
These are some of the main steps we have synthesised and paraphrased from a Weforum.org article, that outlines steps that Costa Rica took to bring deforestation to zero, and increase canopy cover:
Restrict the number of logging permits
Create a national forestry commission to police forest activity
Introduce a system of payments for environmental services … to help reduce poverty, especially in poor rural areas
Introduce a National Forestry Fund to provide landowners per-acre financial incentives to conserve their land and prevent it degrading, which can lead to improved land management and reforestation. Individuals and entire communities benefit from the fund via jobs and income. A fund can be financed by foreign investment and loans, as well as internal revenues from fossil fuel taxation.
General safeguarding of rainforests by policy makers – especially to secondary rainforests
Focus on both natural forests and man made forests
Understand that human land clearance for agriculture is the key driver of large-scale deforestation
Understand that climate change might cause accelerated deforestation
Communities with rights to resources conserve those resources; communities without rights have no reason to conserve… and deforestation will ensue
If you want to stop deforestation, give legal rights to [local] communities for these forests [as history has shown they manage them sustainably]. [This has happened in Brazil in some parts]
One problem being faced is that under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) mechanism, carbon sinks and carbon credits are being sold off to companies in the name of conservation – but this money isn’t going to locals as the legal, logistical and scientific barriers are too high. Governments don’t help out local populations either.
Governments with international environment groups and corporations are the ones usually profiting from it [and, this happens in the DRC to an extent]
The above approach is a double win, as locals can still make an income, and forests can better be managed and sustainably preserved
[Poor and local populations often depend on rainforests to make a living]
[Subsistence farming, logging and clearing for agriculture are the main reasons for deforestation]
[Commercial and industrial agriculture and logging can be hard to turn down for poor countries]
Closing or or fencing off rainforests doesn’t work
What can work to reduce deforestation is …
[There needs to be economic incentive to keep a rainforest standing’
[Give poor farmers a sustainable way to make a living that doesn’t involve destruction of rainforests]
[Make more productive and sustainable use of the land already cleared and being farmed … instead of clearing new forest land]
Funding rainforest conservation efforts via payments for ecosystem services, commodity roundtables, eco tourism, bio-prospecting fees, corporate sponsorship
Once funding is in place, these steps can be taken – expand protected areas, increase surveillance of and patrols of protected areas, build research facilities for training local scientists and guides, establish programs that promote sustainable use, compensate displaced people, ensure economic success is decoupled from deforestation, encourage other forms of employment and entrepreneurship
In order for the forest to be preserved, the underlying social, economic, and political reasons for deforestation must be recognized and addressed.
Individuals can take the following steps to help save rainforests:
Reduce paper and wood consumption … and try to buy recycled or alternative plant fibre products instead (like bamboo)
Reduce oil consumption (helps address deforestation)
Reduce beef consumption (helps address land clearing for agriculture)
Hold businesses accountable – support companies that support rainforests, and stop buying from those who don’t
Invest in rainforest communities such as RAN’s Protect-an-Acre Program
Join a local forest preservation group
Support Rainforest Action Network
Individuals can take the following steps to help save rainforests:
Support organisations that work to save global rainforests through incentive-based initiatives, education and conservation programs
Try to stay away from palm oil products
How Many Trees Might We Actually Need On Earth