By: Haley Walsh

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The use of timber is in our everyday lives, from reading the newspaper, switching on a light or using paper. The need for wood is constant and deforestation is a by product of the increasing demand. Deforestation is the "permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses."(Bradford, 2015). The land could be cleared for multiple purposes such as farming, establishments of towns, urbanization, resorts for tourism, timber for production, etc. There are different methods to clearing trees such as burning and clear cutting. There are many effects and damages caused by deforestation to the ecosystem. Deforestation is a major contributing factor to climate change. The shortage of trees results in higher levels of carbon dioxide because with more factories and cars releasing carbon dioxide there are not enough trees to balance the greenhouse gases to the oxygen levels. Deforestation also affects habitats which has a domino effect on species, the water cycle and water pollution, soil erosion and humans' life expectancy. With deforestation on the rise and the threat to the remaining forests, governments are pressured to reserve portions of forests. The increase of reserves leads to the increase of illegal deforestation. The awareness of the issue have led to more policies regarding to ban deforestation. Deforestation is an inevitable process because it is a well established industry integrated in the economy. However the effects on the environment and society and the amount of deforestation can be altered. With the help of sociologists and their theories and perspectives can assist with brainstorming alternatives to deforestation and the understanding of deforestation.


Environmental Effects

Social Impacts

Deforestation and Indigenous Communities

Indigenous communities are often located near forests, as deforestation destroys their homeland, they are forced to relocate. Whether it is to a new location or to a more urbanized community, indigenous communities must accommodate to their new atmosphere. That includes altering their beliefs or practices. Deforestation has forced multiple tribes into slums because they relocated into the city however they cannot find any jobs. "Seeking jobs and forced out of their native lands by loggers, miners and farmers, an estimated 22,000 Brazilian Indians now call the crowded favelas their home." (Brazil's indigenous seek out city, end up in slums, 2014). In Canada, there are five out of nine Cree communities inhabited within the Eeyou Istchee in the commercial forestry zone. Therefore their home is at a threat to deforestation. Deforestation also threatens indigenous people's food supply because the destruction of animals' habitats leads to a loss of habitat and consequently food supply. As a result, deforestation again alters their way of life. Deforestation challenges indigenous people's values and beliefs of the earth because they believe the Great Spirit is in all things and should not be harmed. However when loggers destroy the earth and their home it violates their belief that the earth is a gift.
The Female Activist of the Tembe Tribe (Excerpt from 'Fighting the Amazon's Illegal Loggers’)
(the video basically explains how the indigenous communities are fighting for their land against illegal loggers. The tribe allowed a woman to go and study law and now she speaks during official meetings.)

Illegal Deforestation

Illegal deforestation occurs when timber is harvest, cut, transported and sold in violation to national laws. It occurs when there is an increase in demand for timber, there is no limit as to how much one can cut and one does not need to obtain permission. Companies who extract timber illegally can sell the wood for less than those who properly cut trees. This creates for an unbalance and competitive industry. It is hard to identity illegal timber therefore it is easy to get away with. As a result, illegal deforestation will continue to exist unless laws or better monitoring systems come into play. Loggers who do not pay the taxes on timber, lowers the price on timber and effects the industry as a whole. Illegal deforestation can lead to the loss of millions of revenues owed towards the government. This creates a situation where developing nations cannot capitalize on their resources and gain revenues. "A study by the American Forest & Paper Association has estimated that illegal logging depresses world timber prices by between 7% and 16%, depending on the product. This causes US firms losses of at least US$460 million each year." (WWF-Illegal Logging, n.d.) Illegal deforestation prohibits nations to improve their financial status. Illegal deforestation ignores the negative impacts on the environment and encourages corruption within the system.
Illegal Logging
(The first minute explains the causes of deforestation and the effects. Start at 1:30.)

Is Society Shooting Itself in the Foot?

Deforestation puts a halt in the advancement of medicine and in return increases the transfer of diseases. The lost of natural tropical forests from deforestation influenced the increase of Chagas diseases and other parasite diseases. Chagas disease is a disease caused by trypanosomes transmitted by bloodsucking insects targeting the heart and central nervous system. The reasons for deforestation such as hydro-power developments, settlement and construction, farming, mining, etc. has an impact on the levels of diseases. "Deforestation and a reduction of of fauna diversity can lead to animals with high T. cruzi parasite loads in their blood."(Chagas: one hundred years later, 2009). Deforestation creates new habitats for Anopheles darlingi mosquitoes, a malaria carrying insect. Deforestation jeopardizes advancement in medicine because it destroys possible means of cures for diseases. "In three cities near Sao Paolo, Brazil, interviews were conducted to determine the number of herbal plant remedies used for traditional medicine." (Will we lose a cure, 2013). Scientists found a cure for AIDS in the bark of a gum tree in Malaysia but when they went back the tree was cut down. The rainforest currently supplies a lot of remedies for illnesses and if loggers continue to threaten the rainforest, they jeopardize our chances for survival against diseases.


Modernization Theory

On a social level, deforestation is hypothesized to be a result of modernization, population growth and dependent development. Modernization theory is the transformation of an underdeveloped or traditional community or country to a more modernized country. Deforestation supports the modernization theory because cutting trees goes towards production and development of communities with housing, resorts or highways. The establishment of communities attracts immigrants and companies and the revenues will go towards further expansion. Deforestation also involves modernizing the people within the community. That includes their lifestyle and beliefs. Take the indigenous communities for example, deforestation forces them to relocate and challenges their beliefs that the earth is a gift. They are forced into urban cities to look for a job and alter their lifestyle.

Dependency Theory

Dependency theory explains the unbalanced distribution of power and resources that leave developing nations in poverty. The importation of resources from developing nations supports the economy in developed nations while protecting and sustaining their own natural resources. As well, developed nations apply taxes on developing nations who want to export their resources. This way developed nations receive money based on the taxes and the resources. They still have to pay for the resources but not a substantial amount because if they believe the price is too high they can take their business to another developing nation. The dependency theory can be applied to the forestry industry to explain the dependency of developed nations for developing nations' timber.

Neo-Malthusian Theory

Neo-Malthusian theory describes the certain point where natural resources will not be able to support or sustain the over population and western society. Although more trees can be planted, some trees or plants will become extinct and thus takes away from available materials. For example, in the rainforest there are still many plants that have yet to be discovered that could be a cure for an illness. However with deforestation and the increase demand of trees, these plants are threatened by extinction. The Afromosia found in central Africa is an endangered species due to the high demand. The wood can be found on many high end furniture. Afromosia trees are valuable wood stock that many loggers target because they can sell for hundreds of dollars per cubic meter. If loggers continue to cut these trees they will become extinct.

Ways to Combat Desforestation


"Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development." (Un-REDD Programme, n.d.). The funds goes towards ways to conserve or sustain the use of forests. The funds are raised through carbon trading. REDD+ policies aim towards reducing emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and to sustain forests. REDD+ gives indigenous communities an opportunity to develop in a sustainable way.


Corporations need to become more mindful of the forest and the importance of the forest, from medicine to the protection of the soil and habitats. Corporations need to keep with the demand and not go over what is needed. Corporations could also put some profits into planting trees and improving the soil. They do the damage and have an obligation to contribute to maintaining the forests.

Illegal Deforestation Must Be Addressed

Close monitoring need to be enforced to prevent illegal trade and deforestation. Governments must enforce policies and hand out permits to ensure deforestation is for the right cause and the amount of deforestation is limited. Governments can open up more national reserves, however when they do they need to keep a close eye on the land. Therefore perhaps fencing can enclose the area so vehicles and equipment cannot get past the barriers. The FSC, Forest Stewardship Council, can combat illegal deforestation because it is a certification program that encourages environmentally appropriate forestry. Therefore when purchasing furniture consumers can look for the sticker that reads FSC.

Quality of Life

According to the Oxford Dictionary, quality of life is the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by an individual or group. "A tool developed by the United Nations to measure and rank countries' levels of social and economic development based on four criteria: Life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling and gross national income per capita." (Human Development Index (HDI) Definition, 2011). There was a study conducted on the correlation of population growth, human development, and deforestation in biodiversity hotspots. The results revealed when there was a high population and the quality of life was low, there was a high rate of deforestation. However when the quality of life was high, the rate of deforestation was low despite the population growth. Based on HDI studies, two causes of deforestation are policies and human-development constraints. The less policies to protect conservation may cause more deforestation and lack of development may lead to more deforestation in order to keep up with demands.


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