What’s Going On Here?
Consumer choices in the wealthiest countries have been revealed to be largely responsible for tropical forest deforestation.
The groundbreaking study, published on Monday, is the first to map and quantify the “deforestation footprint” of individual countries on an international scale.
What Does This Mean?
The global demand for tropical forest-related commodities is continuing to rise, including coffee, cocoa, cattle, soybeans (predominantly to feed livestock), palm oil and timber. Though some countries may be praising themselves for improving policies to protect forests within their own borders, their efforts may be undermined by the detrimental impacts that they’re having internationally via these imports.
To paint you a not-so-pretty picture – it is estimated that the average G7 citizen consumes an average of almost 4 trees worth of imported commodities from forests abroad every year! The research also highlights that imported deforestation in China and India has seen the most dramatic increase since 2001.
Number of trees lost per capita (left) and deforestation footprint per capita in m2 (right) for 24 countries. Credit: Hoang and Kanemoto (2021).
Why Should We Care?
We have long known that our rainforests are key to the planet’s health. They harbour a vast variety of biodiversity and store significant volumes of carbon – among countless other priceless services provided.
Protecting forests is also a human rights issue. The expansion of industrial agriculture is greatly responsible for the violence faced by Indigenous communities. Among the benefits of ensuring the survival of their communities and culture, research has predicted that by improving Indigenous Peoples’ security of land tenure, we can prevent a whopping 200 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted by 2050. This is as much as the US is anticipated to emit over the same timeframe.
This study comes at a critical time and paves the way for a greener future. Exposing who is using what and from where provides the opportunity for targeted intervention at every stage of the supply chain. It also further highlights the need for strengthening Indigenous Peoples’ land rights, tracking food waste, and encouraging people to reduce their meat and dairy intake.
???? Make better informed choices when you’re next out shopping – learn about the four foods that have a big impact on the world’s forests and how to choose better.
????Try introducing more plants and fewer meat and dairy products into your diet. Some of my favourite plant-based Instagram accounts for foodspo are @bosh.tv, @thehappypear and @vegansofldn
???? Support the Rainforest Action Network – join the network and sign their petitions.. Or donate to Not1More, an organisation who directly protect and support frontline environmental defenders of forests in Cambodia, West Africa and Brazil.