Surprising Sources of Global Deforestation

What are the most common causes of global deforestation? The answers might surprise you.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines deforestation as the conversion of forests to another land use or a permanent loss of forest cover. Deforestation is not a major issue in North America. In fact, in the United States, net total forest area has actually increased in the past 60 years, while in Canada, forest cover remains stable. However, this is not the case in other regions of the world, where the rapid loss of tree cover has reached alarming rates.

Despite the fact that the pulp and paper industry is not a major contributor to deforestation in many regions, myths continue to persist about the role our industry plays in this growing problem worldwide. That said, consumers who purchase pulp and paper products without considering the source drive demand in regions where less sustainable practices are common. Consider Indonesia, a country identified by several environmental organizations as a hotspot for deforestation related to the pulp and paper sector:

According to the Rainforest Alliance, agriculture drives 80 percent of tropical deforestation. A major culprit is palm oil, which is found in everything from cosmetics to food. In fact, the World Wildlife Fund estimates that more than half of all packaged products contain palm oil, including:

• Lipstick
• Pizza dough
• Instant noodles
• Shampoo
• Packaged bread
• Soap
• Ice cream

Unfortunately, the great demand for palm oil has driven producers to clear native forests in Asia, Africa and Latin America in order to create massive palm oil plantations. The result is a high rate of global deforestation that has proved devastating to local environments.
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