A couple of months ago, I read a startling statistic. It went along the lines of this:
“The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Let’s scale that to 46 years. We humans have been here for 4 hours. Our industrial revolution began 1 minute ago. In that time, we have destroyed more than 50% of the world’s forests. This isn’t sustainable.”
The rate of the rainforests decline really is shocking when put into this type of context and it will make many green activists despair. But should they? Can this rate of devastation be slowed? Is stopping rainforest decimation possible? I would like to argue that it is.
Of course, stopping rainforest decimation won’t be easy. Self-interests are usually placed before the interests of the environment, and because society has become so dependent on the world’s natural resources, pulling ourselves from their dependency grip will have many consequences. However, the consequences of not doing anything will be far greater: a cure to cancer may not be found; half of the world’s animals may become extinct; two-thirds of the world’s wood supply may be lost. Because we owe so much of our existence to the lungs of the Earth, surely they deserve the protection they so desperately need?
So what can be done? It’s my humble opinion that this basic economic problem of scarcity, which is the principle cause of the destruction of our rainforests, can only be solved on the demand-side (i.e. the buying-habits of consumers), at least in the short-term. In the long-term, this scarcity problem could be dealt with on the supply-side, but because it takes hundreds of years for rainforest trees to grow, planting more of them isn’t a realistic solution. Furthermore, the biodiversity and number of species lost would be irreplaceable. Therefore, we, as responsible consumers, are the key.
Have you ever thought about recycling your old mobile phone? To make the average mobile phone, over 2 kilograms of raw materials are used, and many of these raw materials come from the world’s rainforests. Or how about saying no to palm oil? This crop has resulted in the decimation of thousands of acres of rainforest in order to make way for the huge palm oil plantations which are necessary to serve the world’s current needs.
Stopping rainforest decimation will be a long game and in my opinion, small steps are crucial. What’s more, consumer buying decisions will make or break the future of our rainforests. If you make a few changes to your spending habits today, it may make a difference for tomorrow.