Robin from Wisconsin
October 20, 2008 at 8:44 am
This past weekend I had the opportunity to work with a friend from the Milwaukee office to participate in Halloween Glen with Milwaukee Parks & Rec. We had beautiful weather and a great time. The idea behind the event is that families walk around the park and stop at stations to watch funny skits to learn different things about animals and the environment. My friend and I were a warbler (which I still can’t pronounce very well and really can’t make the proper bird sound despite hours of practice) and a robin, respectively. Our skit was about these birds migrating and how devastating deforestation can be for migratory populations. And lots of bird puns – it was down right fowl. Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Deforestation seems like a very distant and not-so-relevant problem when you are living off of ramen noodles and red bull to make it through the next big project. However, when you need some medication because you have worked yourself sick, remember 1/4 of all drugs prescribed in the US contain derivatives from tropical forest plants and 70% of the plants identified by the National Cancer Institute as useful in the treatment of cancer are only found in the rain forest. Deforestation also causes soil erosion, disrupts the water cycle (who doesn’t remember having to color that picture in elementary school!?!), and releases carbon into the atmosphere.
However, recycling and some other very easy, small changes can have a large affect in helping slow or stop deforestation. Bauxite comes from the tropical regions of Brazil and Jamaica to make our aluminum. It takes 10 tons of mining bauxite to get 1 ton of aluminum. Most of this would be unnecessary if we just recycled all of our aluminum. Despite the high price being paid for aluminum right now, only about 50% actually gets recycled. In America, we throw enough aluminum away every 3 months to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
Another big culprit of deforestation is paper. When you purchase items made from virgin tree paper, there is a good chance that an old growth forest may have been cut down for that item. There is this great statistic floating around that we have more forests in America than we did 70 years ago. However, this is not accurate. There may be more trees than 70 years ago, but single species tree farms are replacing diverse forests. This affects bird migration and wildlife as well. By using recycled paper products, we can harvest fewer trees and when we do harvest trees, it can be for far more permanent uses than toilet paper. This is especially a problem in Canada:
“Many logging companies over-harvest and target late seral or “old-growth” forests at levels that are not sustainable. . . . Forestry companies preferentially select the oldest stands for harvest because these stands have the greatest tree volume and are at risk of being lost to fire or insect damage. . . . Catalogs, copy paper, lumber, newspapers, magazines, and even toilet paper are made from Canada’s old-growth forests. U.S. consumption accounts for about a million acres of clearcuts in the Canadian Boreal every year.”
– Bringing Down the Boreal, ForestEthics, 2004
Also, by purchasing items made from recycled materials, we support the market strength for these items.
Other causes for deforestation, worldwide, include other mining needs, needs for building supplies, and clear cutting land for growing crops and grazing land. I’m not building a house anytime soon, but I do eat – a lot. Beef takes up a lot of space. By cutting back on the red meat, even a few times a week, will require that less land be used for grazing.
Well, I didn’t think I would end up assessing my own dietary habits (I already reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost all the paper I can) would be a result of dressing up like a bird in a park for a few hours, but I guess that little life lessons can be found everywhere.
Entry filed under: Deforestation, Facts & Figures, Little Action, Recycling, Sustainability. Tags: Deforestation, Facts and Figures, Little Action, Recycling, Sustainability.