Wilderness. We all have an image in mind of what that word means.
Some might picture the majestic mountains, glaciers, and towering conifers of Alaska, while others might imagine the vast expanse of the Amazon, teeming with all sorts of life.
Humans are of course part of nature, but these wilderness areas are places of refuge that remain remote from human cities, infrastructure, and encroachment.
In the 21st century, such refuges are harder to find than ever.
Expanding agriculture, infrastructure, and cities mean the loss of forests and the degradation of wilderness areas worldwide. Yet forests are incredibly important to the continued well-being of everyone on the planet.
In this piece, I’ll cover 3 main topics:
- What deforestation is
- Why deforestation is a major problem
- How we can prevent and reverse deforestation
What Is Deforestation?
Deforestation may be defined as “the clearing or thinning of forests by humans” or as the “permanent removal of trees to make room for something besides forest.”
Forest degradation is a related term that indicates when a forest is no longer functioning as a healthy ecosystem: A degraded forest can no longer sustain populations the way it used to. For example, it might not offer enough quality habitat or food to animals. In other words, “When a forest is degraded it still exists, but it can no longer function well. It becomes a shell of its former self.”
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that around 31% of the world’s land is covered by forests. But this forest coverage is under severe threat due to factors including agricultural expansion, infrastructure, and logging, According to WWF, “in 2019, the tropics lost close to 30 soccer fields’ worth of trees every single minute.”
Both deforestation and forest degradation are serious problems in the 21st century. How and why did we get here? And are our forests really more in jeopardy now than they have been before?
A very, very brief history of deforestation
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