Deforestation is a serious problem today, and has been for a long time. It is one of the greatest threats to nature on Earth, if not the single greatest. It is one root cause of soil erosion, the root cause of global warming, and the greatest contributor to the endangerment and extinction of so many species throughout the world. To understand deforestation though, one must know exactly what it is first. Therefore, deforestation is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica Online as "The cutting down and clearing of trees from forests, usually causing ecological harm. The process has occurred as long as wood has been used as an energy source." Furthermore, "In the 1990's, the deforestation of tropical rainforests threatened to increase Earth's carbon dioxide levels, make much land unproductive, and force many plant and animals species into extinction," ("Deforestation" Britannica). Many reasons, including expanding population and resettlement schemes, ranching and pasture development, and the timber industry, are touted as root causes of deforestation (Mitten).
Each and every day more trees around the world are being felled due to the demand for timber, which has nearly doubled in the last twenty years (Mitten). According to Mostafa Tolba, in Audubon, "By the end of the decade, 2.4 billion people will be unable to satisfy their minimum energy requirements without consuming wood faster that it is being grown," (56). Some of the advantages to keeping well-maintained forests are the regulation of fresh water supplies, recycling nutrients and disposal of wastes, and the control of pests and diseases. The clear cutting that is practiced worldwide brings about a great many problems, one of which is the erosion of valuable topsoil. Loss of quality topsoil for farming leads to reduced crop yields, which can result in famine. Famine costs lives, and can be one of the roadblocks for third-world countries that so greatly wish to climb out of their unfortunate situations.
Also, all civilized and industrialized nations are guilty of contributing to the very serious problem of deforestation. That makes it all the much easier for global warming to occur. The United States has the dubious honor of producing the greatest amount of carbon dioxide, only to be followed closely behind by China, Russia, Japan, India and Germany (World Almanac). Carbon dioxide is a gas that, when high enough in quantity, acts like an envelope in that it helps trap excess heat within the Earth's atmosphere. This might not seem like such a problem to the casual observer, but this excess heat can throw off the intricate workings of the Earth's biome. Throughout the past two centuries, there has been an increase of about thirty percent of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, CH4, N20. Many scientists now believed that this buildup is the major cause of higher than normal average global temperatures, or the greenhouse effect, going into the 21st century. The hottest year on record is 1998, followed by 2002, then 2001, in order of highest average annual temperatures worldwide (World Almanac). Global warming is gaining momentum, and unless drastic measures are taken very soon, all could be lost.
Forests cover over 27.7 percent of all ice-free land in the world. Trouble abounds throughout the world when forests are lost. "In Haiti, where forests once covered most of the land, forty to fifty million trees are cut each year to supply firewood, cropland, and charcoal," (Audubon 56). In Panama, cleared forests serve as watersheds. Water runs off instead of collecting. It is feared that without the forests collecting water the locks in the Panama Canal will not be able to function (Mitchell 7). "In Bangladesh and India, deforestation has caused another kind of problem increasing the frequency and force of floods. Bangladesh used to suffer a catastrophic flood every fifty years or so; by the 1980s the country was being hit with major floods-which was away farms...
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