Is Reversing Deforestation Possible? Behind the Efforts to Fix What We've Damaged

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Mar. 11 2021, Published 3:14 p.m. ET

Can we reverse deforestation?
Source: Getty Images

Among the nauseatingly destructive human activities that contribute to global warming, deforestation is — by far — one of the worst. Not only does it kill and obliterate the trees that absorb carbon from the atmosphere, but the heavy machinery used to take down trees emits massive amounts of greenhouse gases, nearby waterways are polluted, and natural habitats often sustain severe damage, killing off species across the globe.

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In addition to using trees for paper and wood, deforestation also occurs as a result of poor agricultural practices and society's thirst for building roads and communities. But with climate change on the rise, many are wondering if it's possible to reverse deforestation — keep reading for more on society's efforts to reverse the years of irreparable damage we've brought to our planet.

reveerse deforestation efforts
Source: Getty Images
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What is deforestation? Behind the destructive practice:

For thousands of years, humans have been guilty of deforestation, which is basically defined as the act of clearing out wooded areas for other uses. Whether we're building towns and cities, making way for farmland, or if we're killing trees to use their wood, society is constantly finding reasons to alter natural landscapes — and in turn — harm natural eco-systems around the world.

Although deforestation happens around the world on a daily basis, tropical rainforests are especially at risk. In 2018, about 12 million hectares of tropical forests were decimated — in addition to damaging the exotic plants and animals that live within those lush, gorgeous trees, the vegetation that was effectively ruined held about 25 percent of the world's carbon. When burned or torn down, the stored carbon is unfortunately released into the atmosphere.

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Source: Getty Images

Is it possible to reverse deforestation?

Sadly, trees and plants are non-renewable — once cut down or burned, there's generally no bringing them back to life. But according to Eco Watch, protecting already-logged forests is crucial. Apparently, allowing plants and trees to regrow in damaged areas can help neutralize about 25 percent of fossil fuel emissions, and revitalizing these habitats could also protect endangered local species. However, scientists still need to research ecosystem restoration methods.

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But, there are many environmental organizations that are currently working to make up for the gorgeous lands we've lost. For example, Plants With Purpose has been working to make up for the trees lost in already-cleared forests, by planting 28 million trees worldwide. They also work with farmers to "reforest" areas that are eroded, burned, or barren to restore the soil, and to educate farmers on agroforestry, which incorporates trees into farming techniques.

Since corporations are largely at fault — for clearing trees for materials, farmland, and more — it's important to put pressure on companies to use alternative resources. According to Reuters, activists and environmental advocates alike have taken to protesting and outing corporations that are guilty of incorporating shady practices into their supply chains. Oftentimes, clearing these forests is completely illegal to begin with, and environmental legal groups like EarthJustice often bring these matters to court.

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Here's what you can do to help reverse deforestation:

There are many ways you can help "reverse deforestation," on a small scale. According to Click and Grow, using less paper, and reducing your use of paper napkins and plates drives down demand for tree products. Also recycling as much as possible, buying recycled products when possible, and only buying FSC-certified wood products, to ensure it comes from responsibly-managed woodlands ensures you're shopping responsibly. Eating less meat, and planting some trees, if you have the space, also helps.

TLDR? Deforestation has been killing our planet's natural beauty for several centuries now, and our planet is effectively dependent on us to reverse the damage we've done for years.

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