Although the planet's population continues to grow rapidly, its forests are being cut down to make way for more grazing land, more farmland and more development. Forests are finite resources and once they are gone, they are gone forever. That is why stopping deforestation around the world is a high priority.
The Earth's forest cover stands at just over 4 billion hectares and continues to decline, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rampant deforestation has led to the loss of 420 million hectares in just four decades, mostly in Africa and South America.
"The main countries with average annual net losses of forest area in the last 10 years are Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Angola, Tanzania, Paraguay, Myanmar, Cambodia, Bolivia and Mozambique," says FAO.
"However, there is good news as the rate of forest loss has decreased substantially in the last three decades," adds the UN agency. “The annual rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares between 2015-2020, compared to 12 million during 2010-2015. The area of forest under protection has also reached approximately 726 million hectares: almost 200 million more than in 1990 ”.
However, unless we stop forest clearing at current rates, our entire global civilization could be doomed in just a few decades, other experts warn. In a new study, two theoretical physicists who specialize in complex systems argue that with the decline of forests, the planet will not be able to support billions of people, which will be the death of human life as we know it.
"Based on current rates of resource consumption and the best estimate of technological rate growth, our study shows that we have a very low probability, less than 10% in the most optimistic estimate, of surviving without facing a catastrophic collapse", the two experts explain. , Dr. Gerardo Aquino and Prof. Mauro Bologna.
At current rates of deforestation, almost all of the world's forests will have been cut down in one or two centuries. Before human civilizations appeared, the planet was covered by 60 million square kilometers of forest, yet that rate has plummeted to 40 million square kilometers. And many of the remaining forests have been very thin and fragmented.
"The calculations show that, maintaining the real rate of population growth and the consumption of resources, in particular forest consumption, we have a few decades left before an irreversible collapse of our civilization", warn Aquino and Bologna.
Because forests play key roles in biodiversity, oxygen production, soil conservation, water cycle regulation, and food systems, significant losses in them will unleash a cascade of environmental effects leading to civilizational collapse and the possible extinction of humanity, at least in its present form.
"It is highly unlikely that I would imagine the survival of many species, including our own, on Earth without forests," the physicists argue. "The progressive degradation of the environment due to deforestation would greatly affect human society and, consequently, human collapse would begin much earlier" than the final disappearance of forests.
Needless to say, the continued loss of forests already poses an existential threat to countless species around the world, including such iconic and beloved animals as Asian tigers, orangutans, and elephants.