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Why Can’t We Stop Deforestation?

It’s clear that deforestation is a major global problem that has hugely contributed to global warming while also leading to mass extinctions of plant and animal life. Yet while we recognize that deforestation is one of the biggest problems that the world now faces, it still continues unchecked. Why can’t we stop deforestation, and is there anything that ordinary people can do about it?

Humanity’s perceived right to nature

For as long as humanity has been around, we’ve always had our way with nature, and we’ve never had much concern for the damage that we did. Fortunately, throughout much of human history our population was too sparsely scattered to have any major effect on the environment. For example, the slash-and-burn agricultural practices widely employed by Native American peoples routinely cleared out sections of the Central and South American forest, but the cleared sections were only tiny spots in a vast wilderness, and they always grew back as almost fast as they could be cut.

Meanwhile, the Europeans during the first and second millennia A.D. actually did create widespread deforestation across the continent, but because they still left plenty of forests in the mountain and northern areas, and since Europe is only a relatively small continent, it never really had much of an effect on the planet’s climate.

So, although we’ve always had a somewhat misguided notion that we have ownership over nature, until modern times this attitude has never really done major damage. Now, however, our technology and the sheer size of the human population has dramatically changed this picture, and unless we have a change of heart in the near future, our self-designated lordship over the world’s forests could prove to be our downfall.

Deforestation is profitable

Beyond humanity’s unfortunate sense of entitlement over nature, there’s also the profit motive, which makes things much more complicated. In Brazil, for example, despite widespread efforts to check the destruction of the rainforests, major logging and agricultural companies continue to clear out large expanses of formerly virgin forest merely because it means profit for them.

And while it’s good for governments to have a business-friendly attitude, some businesses go too far, which is why regulations need to be in place. As long as we allow companies to pursue profits at the expense of all else, nothing is going to stop them from destroying our natural world, and if we’re not careful this destruction is going to be the suicide of the human race. It’s not too late to save ourselves, but time is running out. To save our planet from global warming, we have to stop deforestation within years, not decades.