Deforestation- whatever that is

By Anna Klucnika

Society is slowly forgetting about deforestation.

That’s not in the sense that we forget it’s happening, but rather forgetting to care. I am one of the few who consciously try to recycle, to use less paper, to switch off lights. My family only recycles because otherwise the normal bin will overflow. My roommate has commented that environmental issues have been made up, as it’s “convenient” to allows us Westerners to stop development in other parts of the world.

The Bornean Rainforest  - how long will it last?

The Bornean Rainforest – how long will it last?

Even Rhett Butler, the man who founded a website that tracks global deforestation and has “devoted tens of thousands of hours to the cause of protecting forests” is not promoting a change in society’s attitude. He unwittingly commented that “lately – for the first time, really – I’ve started seeing cause for optimism about the future of forests”. This was gloriously picked up by the Independent in an article titled “Rainforests ‘out of danger’ thanks to global giants”.

This is like thinking world peace will work out next year.

Now clearly Mr Butler did not mean his words to seem that all of the world’s deforestation issues are resolved. I’m also delighted to hear Sally Uren, head of the sustainable development charity Forum for the Future, say “there is a much greater sense of shared responsibility and I am feeling reassured by the seriousness with which many big multinationals are taking this responsibility”.

But these are just words and many people will jump for joy that they can jump off the eco-friendly bandwagon.

Visiting the rainforest of Malaysian Borneo has made the issue or tropical forest conservation real to me. Driving into the heart of the land you see the town turn into jungle. Then once you get into the core primary rainforest, you realize what you thought was jungle earlier is just the left-over bones. The growing demand of palm oil (have a look at most labels and you’ll find it, probably mixed in with “vegetable oils”) has lead to dramatic fragmentation.

The new forests: Oil Palm plantation

The new forests: Oil Palm plantation

Fresh research by Benny Yeong has revealed that rainforest fragments below a certain size do not yield viable seedlings. This means that the forest will not regenerate. With an increasing proportion of the world’s forests being restricted into national parks, funded by ecotourism, this is a bad omen. Humans must intervene to help sustain forests. Conservation is no longer about stopping deforestation and conversion of land. It’s too late for that. Instead what precious forest we have left must be managed.

But with attitudes concentrating on tree hugging to prevent logging, society’s’ interest is fading. Instead there must be a new green revolution. Just as we try to prevent animal population declines and manage the populations of nearly-extinct species, we must do the same for forests.

Just go into your local bit of woodland and just experience the sense of awe. The sensation that a forest can provide is just as wonderful as that awe of watching wild animals. Forests are an evolutionary masterpiece of conquests, coalitions, and competitions. Since mankind has had such an impact on the Earth, we can no longer rely on the environment sorting itself out. Intervention is needed in a structured and positive manner. Some people are thinking in this way and making plans. But that does not mean that the cause should be abandoned. We must fight on for our forests.

Photos by Anna Klucnika