“It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these western woods…Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ’s time – and long before that – God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools(read mankind).”
These are the famous words of John Muir (1838-1914) and hold a lot of relevance today and also it will not be wrong to say that the importance and relevance of these words is increasing with every passing day. It is sad to note that today humans while knowing the importance of trees are not showing any mercy towards them and this is clear from the large scale deforestation that has taken place over the couple of decades. The results of this human activity are already visible in the form of rain deficit, global warming ,drought among others.
Let us first understand the term deforestation before getting into the extent that forests have been affected by humans, the consequences of forest loss and how can we preserve, manage and restore forests . Deforestation can be defined as permanent destruction of forests and woodlands by humans for human settlement, timber harvest, conversion to agriculture and road building among other ways. Deforestation is one of the greatest forces bringing about global environmental changes and is affecting every life on this planet and the reason for this is simple i.e even a slight change in the delicate balance of earth results in the disruption of the place in one way or the other which is home for millions of species residing on the planet.
Of great concern is the rate at which deforestation is occurring. Global deforestation accelerated after the process of industrialisation began in European countries around 18 century. It’s been since then that its been continuing and even after passing of laws (making deforestation illegal) has not been controlled to an extent needed. It’s been argued by many environmentalists that one-fifth of the world’s tropical forests were lost between the years 1960-1990 and that the rainforests covered about 5o% of our planet and that area has now been reduced to mere 5%. It’s been predicted that if strict measures are not taken then all the tropical forests will be lost by 2090. It has to be noted that West Africa’s coastline has lost about 90% of its coastal rainforests since 1990 and many countries like Brazil have declared deforestation as their national emergency. Countries like India, Mexico, China, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Thailand among others have lost large areas of their rainforests.
The rate at which deforestation has been taking place has resulted in major environmental changes and has considerably affected life on this planet. Deforestation has led to the extinction of many species as many species depend on forests for their survival. Carbon cycle has also been affected by the same. This is because trees act as major source of carbon storage. When trees are burnt carbon monoxide is released which is very harmful for environment and also the process of converting carbon dioxide exhaled by humans into oxygen gets affected which is harmful for living beings as they don’t get to inhale fresh air. Also because of deforestation water level is getting affected and this is because trees play a major role in holding ground water level and loss of trees is leading to a drier atmosphere. Decrease in the amount of rainfall due to loss of trees is a well known fact and this in turn has resulted in droughts while disturbing the ecological balance. Among other effects of deforestation is the soil erosion that takes place because of the absence of vegetation cover over soil. Soil erosion also leads to silting of water bodies like rivers, lakes etc.
So it is clear that it is of utmost importance to save forests if we want to save our planet and make it a better place to live in. To ensure this we have to stop cutting down trees no matter what our needs are and if in case there is no option left then we should ensure that we replace every tree that we cut by planting a new one in its place. Also we should start the process of saving trees at our homes only by using fuel and energy efficiently and if possible by using conservative sources of energy. Alongwith this one very simple step that we can take is that we should stop wasting paper and recycle it so that we don’t have to cut more and more trees. We can also contribute by raising awareness among the masses about the potential hazards of cutting trees. Conservation policies need to come into picture and these policies should cover every country of the world and not only rich and prosperous countries of the world. It is well understood that a lot of money is needed for the implementation of these conservation policies and for this developed countries should come forward for assistance of developing and under developed countries.
All in all we can say that trees are the best gift of God to mankind and all of us should come forward to save them from getting eliminated.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crustmania/233523196/]