President Obama made history when he endorsed a†new EPA rule that would (finally) crack down on some of the worst polluters in America: dirty power plants. While the proposed rules are far from perfect, they’re a step in the right direction. They’re also going to be fiercely disputed by those who will have to adapt or become obsolete (I’m looking at you King Coal).
As the environmental community braces for a fight, I can’t help think about other, easier options that we’ve ignored for decades. Options like protecting the natural resources that clean our air automatically and act as sanctuaries for the plant and animal life that’s fading fast.
I’m talking about forests.
Forests are the largest terrestrial carbon sink known to man, and America has nearly 751 million acres of forest land. Sadly, instead of protecting this massive asset in the fight against climate changing air pollution, we’ve exploited it.
According to the United Nationís†Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the 33 million acres of forestland that are lost annually around the globe are responsible for 20 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.†Deforestation is one of the planetís most dire environmental issues, and yet few people realize that by eliminating our forests, we’re actually fast-tracking our own extinction.
“Direct causes of deforestation are agricultural expansion, wood extraction (e.g., logging or wood harvest for domestic fuel or charcoal), and infrastructure expansion such as road building and urbanization,” explains NASA’s Earth Observatory. “Rarely is there a single direct cause for deforestation. Most often, multiple processes work simultaneously or sequentially to cause deforestation.”
Each of us is responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the systematic elimination of the planet’s precious forest systems. The products we buy, brands we support, political candidates we vote for, and even the drugs we consume all help decide the fate of these vital ecosystems.
Read “5 Ways to Show Trees the Love” for some simple changes that can help our forests and scroll through the infographic below to learn more about why they’re so important.
Infographic via American Forest Foundation
Image via Thinkstock