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An Environmental Struggle
Justin Hasenfus 7/2/2009

This paper explores the topic of deforestation. A general overview of the concept is explained, along with the urgent issues this problem raises for the planets residents. Included are such issues related to the global carbon cycle, the loss of biodiversity, the monitoring of deforestation on a global scale, the preventions and precautions taken daily to limit deforestation, and climate change.

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Table of Contents Deforestation: The 5 Ws and an H Deforestation Effects on Biodiversity The Global Carbon Cycle Monitoring of Deforestation Today and Actions Taken at the National and Global Levels Bibliography

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Deforestation: The 5 Ws and An H

The basic gist of any sound introduction concerning a set topic generally includes the bare minimum of direct and concise information, formerly known as the five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why) and an H (how). To begin this traditional format, we must first define the topic of discussion, deforestation. Deforestation refers to, put simply, the clearing and loss of forests (Brennan & Withgott, 2008). Why is this such a problem you may ask? If I were standing in front of you, I would be smiling at you wishing I could do like the movies and answer smoothly with a one word reply accompanied by a signature gesture or expression. The stark reality of the situation is that its just not that simple. Deforestation is an ever -growing daily crisis upon which not only local ecosystems and niches suffer the consequences of, but the global biosphere in its entirety as well. The garden over which we labor, the grass fields through which we scurry and the oceans over which we fly, are all in more danger than we could ever imagine. If we continue to treat this world with which we are blessed in the same demeanor as has been followed in the past, then surely an unfavorable fate awaits. Our natural environment is a structure and structures require a certain amount of maintaining. Neglectful behavior as the natural-born human inhabitants of this planet can and will lead to a world of disorder and chaos. The sooner we all come to realize just how precious what we have is, the sooner we will all make movements collectively, towards restoring Earth back to the best possible condition we can achieve. Our world is changing day-by-day and the importance and urgency augments itself with each tick of the clock. We the people have misused our beloved sphere and have abused the power which was bestowed upon us by one higher presence.

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The bigger picture is that climate change is at the focal point of attention of environmentalists and the current issues they must tango with. Within the realm of climate change is a tangled web, made of smaller silk threads, all interconnected with one another and dependent upon each others activities and happenings. These silk threads translate into their environmental equivalents in the form of such contemporary matters as deforestation, loss of biodiversity, a skewed global carbon cycle, elevated concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, melting glaciers, rising ocean levels, soil erosion, increased rainfall runoff, and higher concentrations of greenhouse gases. Every single item I just ran through is related to one another and resides in a cause-and-effect type relationship. Each environmental construct slowly worsens in condition, affected by the previous, like watching dominos fall one-by-one in slow motion. Deforestation is a serious issue that continues to occur at an alarming rate in such areas as the Brazilian Amazon Basin and Mount Hood National Forest in western Oregon, each bearing their own set of problems, different in situation, but same in principle. The Brazilian Amazon Basin holds the title of the biggest, most prevalent region of unbroken tropical forest, accounting for approximately thirty-one percent of the worlds total tropical forest regions. Tropical forests are important because they house more than fifty percent of ALL plant and animal life known to exist in the modern day world (NASAs Earth Science Enterprise, 2001). These two statistics are in themselves jaw-dropping, especially since the very same tropical forests we speak of only take up seven percent of terrestrial terrain (NASAs Earth Science Enterprise, 2001). If you can grasp the idea that that proportion of the animal/plant kingdoms dwell within the Amazon Basin region, than you can probably come to understand just why it is so important that we exercise heed when dealing with an area of such concentrated organisms. It is quite easy to then draw the distinction that destruction to such a habitat would cause great disruptions amongst those

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everyday functions that comprise the very fabric of the tropical society. It is amazing to just view some of the numbers calculated by NASA over the years. Another number that popped out at me was that between the years of nineteen seventy-eight and nineteen eighty-eight, the Amazon Basin had five-point-six percent of its over four million square mile area affected either by deforestation (which accounted for nearly thirty-nine percent of total affected area) or other methods of forest deterioration. Also, the number of square miles affected in nineteen eightyeight nearly tripled in three major areas of declination, deforestation being one of them (NASAs Earth Science Enterprise, 2001). Tropical forests consist of large quantities of plant life, a necessary part of the balancing of the global carbon cycle. These very same trees take part in a carbon cycle equation that has become skewed as of recently , as a result of deforestation. Trees and other plant life absorb the carbon dioxide given off by such processes as the combustion of fossil fuels and the eruption of volcanoes. Plants use this carbon dioxide to produce sugars and proteins, just to name two of the abundance of organic compounds synthesized during photosynthesis and/or respiration. But perhaps by far, the most important by-product of photosynthesis in plants are the six molecules of oxygen that are excreted back into the environment. On the most basic level of understanding of why deforestation is a bad occurrence, it is plain to see that we require oxygen to survive and so to demolish plant life in excess as we have so recklessly done is to draw the human race one breath closer to extinction. The underlying danger is that deforestation decreases the amount of carbon dioxide our plant life can take in ultimately. As deforestation continues to rapidly transpire, a whole set of related problems begin to churn and cascade as water does down a waterfall. The excess of carbon dioxide in the air causes the biosphere to trap heat more steadily and so the Earth slowly begins to tip the scales in the

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direction of a hotter climate pattern. This rising temperature causes glaciers and ice sheets to melt gradually, and causes ice shelves to dissipate; all three events lead to a rise in the elevation of the sea level. This potentially threatens to place certain continental coastal regions underwater, which holds true if the carbon dioxide continues to accumulate in the atmosphere at the current rate of one point nine particles per million per year, (U.S. EPA, 2009). This is calculated to occur by the projected year two thousand fifty (Bender & David, 2006). These are pretty steep consequences and chains of events to be set in motion by the malpractice of deforestation. Reasons for deforestation are pretty cut and dry. Logging, the process of chopping down trees for lumber, is the most likely cause for deforestation for construction purposes or supplies (this paper). Some group of individuals also may have decided that it was imperative that they clear the way for a road or trail at some areas. Other reasons are most indubitably industryrelated. Since the industrial revolution, corporations have been eliminating forestry left and right for the sole purpose of profiting from the short term production of wood and employment with disregard to long-term effects and environmental agendas. A recent study conducted on major industries in the state of Kentucky showed that tourism is Kentuckys third largest industry, with sight-seers at the front line, accounting for approximately forty percent of mainstream tourist activity according to Southern Living Magazine. Statistics also show that for every one dollar attained through this relentless logging, five dollars would be lost by local community and tourism interests (Appalachian Sustainable Forestry, 2009). This provides not only financial incentive, but preservationist incentive to join the fight against government logging. How the government and other corporate industries have evolved in the logging business has become a despicable practice. Decades ago, when the demand for lumber was not as intense and population increase was not so incredible, the forests and wooded area fated with

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deforestation were able to recover at a somewhat manageable speed. Methods of logging were more traditional through the usage of saws and axes. Now, in our commercial world of incredulous supply and heavy demand, companies/the government are going all out on a by any means necessary campaign. Bulldozers and other construction apparatus used in the exploitative process compact soils, disturbing the flow of rainwater and leading to sediment runoff into our national and global water supplies. Places spanning from United States national parks to third world countries, such as Malaysia and Bangladesh, have been subjected to this malicious deforestation (Preserving the Legacy: Introduction to Environmental Technology). Third world inhabitants are left to try and farm the bleak logging sites after they have been stripped for first world usage. In addition to the agricultural disadvantages the third world countries are plagued with, these poor people are expected to continue pressing on in near-bare environment, practically raped of all its natural, inspirational beauty. This is especially a shame because this is nothing short of just about all third world populace has, besides family that is pure and dignified. Deforestation has been occurring at increasing rates for decades now. Areas once exposed to minor deforestation have now become burdened and plagued by it. Mahajamba Bay on Madagascar Island, Rondonia state and Rio Sao Francisco Brazil, and the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington, U.S., are just a few of the hundreds to future thousands of worldwide areas in which deforestation has beaten and battered the environmental condition (NASAs Earth Science Enterprise, 2001). This widespread practice will continue to contribute to the very real problem of climate change. Environmental awareness, and genuine heartfelt lobbyists and campaigners, are key components to tackling the overwhelming task set before us. These, of

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course, mean nothing without international cooperation, teamwork, and scientific logic, as we move forward into the future.

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Deforestation Effects on Biodiversity It is quite apparent what effects deforestation has on biodiversity. Natural ecosystems are like the federal government, a system of checks and balances. One slight rift in an ecosystem can have minor rippling to devastating effects on the system. An example would be a keystone species. A keystone species is a species that has an especially far-reaching effect on a community. To better reinforce this concept, think of an actual keystone. It is wedge-shaped stone at the top of an arch that is vital for holding the structure together. Removal of the keystone will result in collapse (Brennan & Withgott, 2008). I think the simplest, yet truest, most concise way Ive heard the concept of deforestations negative impacts on biodiversity described was by a college professor at the University of Arizona and reads: Systems are connected together; the removal of one species will affect the presence of another (Oliver, 2009). Well put. But lets elaborate. In a given ecosystem there are always predators and for those predators, prey. Take the prey out and maybe youre facing a food shortage for that particular predatory species, leading to loss of biodiversity. Or maybe you take out the predator and you have a previously prey-listed species that now runs rampant and destroys the surrounding ecosystem, leading to adaptation. If this adaptation does not occur for the species trying to locate a new food source, then biodiversity can chalk up a loss as a result of inefficiency and the vanishing of that particular niche being from the area. Conversely, if the species is able t o adapt, maybe it is this prey listed species that becomes the predatory one and causes biodiversity to decrease for another species. The point is that it only takes one solitary occurrence to shift an entire community in either a good or bad direction. This can take place over a gradual period of time or a brief one. Deforestation is a clear shift in the negative direction. The harmful effects of deforestation are virtually impossible to document in their entirety, but can be observed and

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categorized by the rather substantial overall problems that erupt as a result. Probably the most recognizable and shocking of this information is that tens of thousands of species are being lost per year (Preserving the Legacy: Introduction to Environmental Technology)! Our technologybased society is frequently causing imbalance in the foundations and innate processes of nature. Every year we create some new technology in many areas of science, mathematics, and commerce. How we use this new technology is the bearer of just what influence those innovations have on our global society and ecosystems. As of recently, I feel this has taken a slight turn in the direction of helping the environment, although destructive processes still are in execution. It could be years before laws are passed through Congress and finally enacted to legislate for the determined fist of environmentalists and people generally concerned about future generations.

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The Global Carbon Cycle

An everlasting exchange of carbon is in progress every day. This biogeochemical process runs through many different, yet linked spheres of our environmental influence: biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and pedosphere. There is a constant exchange of carbon absorption and production, which takes place in four main conduits of transfer: plant life, oceans, fossil fuel emissions, and inorganic and organic substances within freshwater systems. Deforestation plays a direct role in the global carbon cycle, as less plant life leads to less absorption which, in turn, releases more carbon in the atmosphere. As previously described, global warming and climate change are set off by this simple, yet very important process. Our annual global emissions of carbon to the atmosphere have increased almost exponentially since the year eighteen-fifty, a terrifying statistic. Carbon emissions due to fossil fuel combustion are nearly nineteen percent in petagrams per year of our global carbon cycle, with oceans accounting for nearly seventy-seven percent (Houghton, 2009). If these previously stated statistics continue to stay unchanged or increase, we will have serious implications to deal with in the next century or so.

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Monitoring of Deforestation Today and Actions Taken at the National and Global Levels

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) is an agency deployed by the United Nations (Global) to combat world hunger. Such items as break-through agricultural methods and forestry practice are discussed at the international meetings where negotiations and policy are established. This fifty-five country strong organization works with both developed and developing countries to decrease national hunger. This is done by encouraging and implementing policies based upon the monitoring of national forests and using a powerful, enhanced knowledge-based approach to forest assessment. Of the fifty-five countries, thirteen belong to the Coalition for Rainforests Nations (CRNs), an intergovernmental organization whose aims are to revamp forest wardenship by promoting environmental awareness and establishing an interconnected database of invaluable information concerning the current issues with deforestation and climate change (United Nations Forest Department, 2007).

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Bibliography Appalachian Sustainable Forestry. "Ten Reasons For Preventing Exploitive Logging In Kentucky." Appalachian Sustainable Forest Center. 28 June 09 <>. Bender, Lawrence and Laurie David. An inconvenient truth: a global warming. Perf. Al Gore. DVD. Paramount: A Viacom Company, 2006. Brennan, Scott, and Jay Withgott. Environment: The Science Behind The Studies. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008. Pg. 151-152, Glossary of Terms Houghton, Richard. "Understanding the Global Carbon Cycle." Woods Hole Research Center. 07. 1 July 2009 <>. NASA's Earth Science Enterprise. Computer software. Vers. 3. Hyattsville: NAFEO Services, Inc., 2001. Oliver, Jeff. "Topic 19: Deforestation and Biodiversity." The University of Arizona. 1 July 2009 <>. Preserving the Legacy: Introduction to Environmental Technology. DVD. Intelecom: Intelligent Communications. Episode 1: The Delicate Balance Part I

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U.S. EPA. "Climate Change - Greenhouse Gas Emissions." U.S. EPA. 12 June 2009. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 29 June 2009 <>. United Nations Forest Department. "Part I: FAO?s partnership with developing countries ? opportunities for the REDD process." FAO Corporate Document Repository. 28 Sept. 2007. 2 July 2009 <>.