Malaysiakini
LETTER

Save the forest, save the Earth

Nur Imani Abdullah & Water and Energy Consumers Association

Published
Modified 22 Apr 2016, 7:01 am

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22. It is held to increase the awareness of people about the importance of environment safety as well as to demonstrate the environmental protection measures that need to be undertaken by all parties. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 193 countries each year.

Earth Day enters its 46th anniversary on April 22, 2016. According to Earth Day Network, the theme for this year is ‘Trees for the Earth’. It estimated that by the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, there should be about 7.8 billion of trees that have been planted worldwide.

Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass. Furthermore, according to the journal Nature, the world is home to more than 3 trillion trees. However, people cut down 15 billion trees each year which is equivalent to 56 acres of forest every minute. The global tree count has fallen by 46 percent since the beginning of human civilisation, about 12, 000 years ago.

Forests are cut down for many reasons but the major reason is for agriculture. Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock. Countless trees are cut down every year for wood and paper products.

Trees are very prominent and crucial for ecology. They store huge amounts of carbon, which is essential for the cycling of nutrients, for water and air quality, and for countless human services. The significant loss of trees results in a critical impact to climate change, biodiversity and human health.

Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. As greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, the heat will be trapped. This increased heat leads to changes in climate patterns causing global warming.

Trees play a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and convert it into clean oxygen and carbon. Trees will release the oxygen gas and store the carbon. However, the deforestation of trees not only lessens the amount of carbon stored, it also releases carbon dioxide into the air. This is because when trees die, they release the stored carbon. Apart from global warming, deforestation has also major impact on water availability in the forest.

Another impact of wide-scale deforestation is the loss of habitat for million of species. Seventy percent of terrestrial species of animals, insects and plants live in forests, and many of them are unable to survive due to deforestation. When forest cover is removed, wildlife is deprived of habitat and becomes more vulnerable to hunting.

Each species of animal and plants plays a vital role in the food chain that could make a significant difference in animals and humans survival in the future. Deforestation has brought some of the animals, insect and plants to the brink of extinction as they need to adapt themselves with the new environment. Some animals and plants can only survive at a certain climate thus migrating to new habitats with different climate can have a negative impact on their survival.

Negative consequences for medicinal research

Deforestation also has negative consequences for medicinal research that rely on the plants in the forests for medicine. Forests are rich with rare and bizarre species of herbs which can be used for treatment. Herbal medicine is used to treat many conditions, such as allergies, asthma, eczema, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, menopausal symptoms, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer.

Herbal medicine is an alternative to treat certain illness. Apart from that, a less-recognised fact is that deforestation can also give an adverse impact to human health. Maintaining forests can prevent the emergence of infectious diseases. A number of infectious diseases associated with deforestation are yellow fever, dengue and Lyme disease. Many of the diseases linked to forest loss are transmitted by insect vectors such as mosquitoes but others are spread by direct contact.

In conclusion, deforestation is necessary for country’s development. However, wide-scale deforestation only leads to the destruction of the environment and ecology of the forest. Deforestation and logging activities should be reduced and the authorities should always monitor them.

The quickest solution to deforestation would be to simply stop cutting down trees, but financial realities make this unlikely to occur. Hence, a better solution is by re-planting the trees. Every person in this world should plant at least one tree so that by the 50th anniversary of Earth Day the number of trees planted is 7.8 million. Save the forest, save the Earth.

Share this story