Issues

Deforestation

Summary

An excerpt from Green to Gold (pages 48-49):

"Deforestation should not be a big issue in the United States; forest cover is increasing across most of the country. But how trees are cut remains an issue. Clear-cutting scars the landscape and leads to soil erosion and water pollution. Cutting down "old growth" forest destroys precious habitat and often inspires an uproar of protest. And while some North American and European timber companies have gotten religious on the need to manage their forests with care, others around the world have not. In South America and in some Asian countries (Indonesia, for one), deforestation is barely slowing...Even with reforestation, we lose millions of acres of forest every year. Since 1990, the net result is the destruction of forests equal in area to Texas, California, and New York combined, or in European dimensions, an area larger than Spain and France combined. ."

The Science

Human beings depend on forests to supply many of our basic needs, but many of the industries which provide for these necessities contribute to deforestation when they harm or destroy forests without replenishing them. In addition to the timber and paper industries, mining contributes to deforestation, as well as the search for oil. In developing countries the need for more fertile land for ranching and farming is pressing, and land acquired through "slash and burn" methods of deforestation provides fertile land temporarily. This quest for economic stability can do lasting damage to the environment. Many companies take part, directly and indirectly, in the process of deforestation. But through the efforts of a variety of organizations and individuals strides are being made to provide viable alternatives to the practices which cause deforestation.

Business response and resources

Any company that uses paper, wood or any product, such as beef, cultivated on deforested land must be mindful of its potential relationship to deforestation. Through consumer and legal pressure some companies have stopped practices that contribute to deforestation. The non-profit Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a program that certifies forest products. In response the American Forest & Paper Association started the more flexible Forest Stewardship Council in 1995. A Yale University study compares the two programs.