Causes of Deforestation

Humans have been a one of the main causes of deforestation for thousands of years, with the main reason being land clearance for crops or livestock. Even though many tropical forests are confined to developing countries the continued economic globalisation has brought added pressures from the global population making deforestation a global, not just a localised issue. There are many direct causes of deforestation: agricultural expansion, logging, and infrastructural networks such as roads and rail expanding. To pinpoint the exact causes of deforestation is difficult as normally a combination of direct causes result in the deforestation of an area.

Throughout the history of mankind one of the biggest causes of deforestation is subsistence farming, which is the growing of crops and raising livestock for an individuals’ needs and not for profit. However, the problem is not subsistence farming as this only causes deforestation of a small amount of land. The problem is how this clearing of land leads to the need for access, this then leads to the construction of roads which creates a chain reaction for mass deforestation. Once the road network has been established this is when the mass deforestation begins as legal and illegal logging occurs, as previously inaccessible land is now accessible. Once these loggers are finished with an area they simply move on, leaving these areas deforested. Once logging companies have moved on, settlers, farmers, and ranch owners, move into newly deforested land and burn any remaining forestry and therefore completing the deforestation chain.

Amazon Rainforest before Deforestation

Due to the economic globalisation the more recent causes of deforestation and its scale, in tropical regions such as the Amazon, are related to worldwide requirements for commodities. Large-scale commercial activities are growing as there is a need to meet worldwide demand which is leading to deforestation on an industrial scale. Large scale cattle ranches cause huge deforestation to meet the worlds meat requirements. In the Amazon cattle ranches results in 80% of recent deforestation. In Brazil alone there has been 450,000 square kilometres of land deforested for cattle as Brazil supplies 25% of the global market. This is not only happening in South America, but commercial palm tree plantations are one of the causes of deforestation in Indonesia.

Amazon Rainforest after Deforestation

State Policies can be linked to causes of deforestation as this incentivises economic development through road and rail expansion which in turn causes deforestation. The impact from global pressures is apparent as certain farming subsidies are offered which are aimed at supporting the global market requirements. This generally encourages deforestation for agricultural land to benefit from the subsidies on a larger scale and this is a shift away from subsidence farming. An example of this is Borneo and Sumatra where global demand for biofuels has led to commercial palm tree oil plantations being created to meet the export requirements but this has led to wide scale deforestation of tropical areas.

To conclude, even though the causes of deforestation seem on the surface to be a result of localised activities from countries in  the regions of tropical rainforests. This is simply not true. We all have a bearing on deforestation as it is the consumer who has started this chain reaction to have the next trendy product or fruit. If current trends continue in 100 years’ time there will be no rainforests. The Amazon Rainforest alone produces 20% of the total oxygen on Planet Earth which is why the consumer in the global markets need to change and we cannot lay blame locally, blame is internationally. Various alternatives are available that are not causes of deforestation, rather than paper straws use wheat straws, rather than paper coffee cups use wheat cups. There are endless possibilities available to you as a consumer, make change in your life.