Avatar – Deforestation

by | 18 October 2023


Deforestation has been a natural part of life since the dawn of agriculture. In order to create space for crops and animals, our ancestors had to clear obstacles, such as small forests. This was true of the entire world for hundreds of years. However, in the last few decades, deforestation has become one of the key contributors to climate change. How has this happened, why has it happened, why is it important and, most importantly, what can we do about it? 

The Earth’s abounding forests and rainforests, particularly the Amazon, have long been the “lungs of the Earth”. But what does that mean? The process that keeps trees alive (remember photosynthesis from GCSE Biology) is integral to our planet’s health. Like our own lungs with oxygen, leaves pull in carbon dioxide from the air to convert into energy for the plant’s growth. The byproduct from this is oxygen – our favourite, life-sustaining molecule.

When our forests are cut down, all of that CO2 they absorb in their daily breathing is then released back into the atmosphere. The UN has now stated that deforestation accounts for 10% of global CO2 emissions. 

Some might say, but the Amazon is all the way in Brazil, what has that got to do with us, how can we affect what happens there? To some extent, that is true. We as individuals nor as a nation can do huge amounts to prevent Amazon deforestation. However, we can look at ourselves, our own corporations and our own global policies. 

Recently, the BBC did a Panorama investigation on Britain’s largest power station, run by the corporation Drax. Drax has received billions in green energy subsidies from the government, alleging that its energy is renewable since it runs on the burning of imported wood pellets and sawdust. Burning trees is viewed as renewable as trees are replantable. Equally, the trees that are burnt must be sourced from old or dead wood, rather than cutting down healthy forests, as that releases the aforementioned stored CO2 back into the atmosphere. 

According to the BBC, Drax has been cutting down large swathes of the ‘primary’ forest under their jurisdiction (essentially meaning an old forest) in British Columbia. Since our tax money has gone into subsidising Drax for the great task of producing renewable energy, we should expect that the energy is renewable and is not contributing to climate change! 

But what can we do about it? Drax is close to home, they are under the jurisdiction of our government. But our government cannot act without the support of its electorate. We must inform our MPs of Drax’s deforestation and ask them to reconsider the subsidies towards the company. If they are to receive our money, they must use it properly. 

So that is what we can do on a national level. How can we fight against deforestation on a personal level? If you are often buying wood products due to your profession, look for sustainable businesses that deal with recycled trees. Alternatively, get recycled paper for your office and your home. There are dozens of new green initiatives that ask for small donations to help them plant trees. Equally, you can suggest to your office, business, place of work, child’s school, or community centre, to get involved with tree planting charities. One quick Google of ‘tree planting businesses/charities’ shows the plethora of different organisations you can help fundraise for or partner with. 

Ultimately, global deforestation is one of the harder aspects of climate change to battle individually. However, replanting is easy and attainable on a personal level! The solution to climate change lies within us all. Working together with our governing bodies, big businesses, small businesses and our communities, we can make a difference. Alone, we can do so little – but together, we can do so much. United, together, we can change the world. 

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