World Rainforest Day
The urgency of the climate crisis and its impact on our planet is widely known, with deforestation playing a significant role. Forests cover approximately 31% of the Earth's land area, with vital ecosystems that house endangered species of plants and animals and serve as the ancestral homes of many indigenous communities, such as those in the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon is responsible for more than half of the world's primary forests and is home to a third of known biodiversity. Devastatingly, the Amazon is losing an area equivalent to 500 football pitches of trees each day, leading to the destruction of its biodiversity and the displacement of native tribes.
Why are rainforests cut down?
Deforestation of rainforests occurs due to various factors. Equatorial countries where rainforests are located, face economic challenges, agricultural difficulties, water stress, and the heightened risk of disease transmission. However, certain crops, including bananas, palm oil, sugar, tea, and coffee, thrive in these tropical conditions and are in high demand globally, leading to many natives taking advantage of the land to get by. Consequently, some governments and large corporations seize the fertile rainforest land to establish extensive plantations for these cash crops to export globally.
One prevalent method used is slash-and-burn, where forests are intentionally set ablaze to enrich the soil with the resulting ash acting as fertiliser. Unfortunately, little regard is given to the existing fauna and indigenous tribes, who are often forced to relocate or perish. Moreover, the fertility of the land obtained through this destructive process is short-lived, requiring farmers to repeat the cycle every few years.
What are the spillover effects?
The consequences of rainforest deforestation are far-reaching. Trees play a vital role in absorbing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, but when burned, they release the stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. With fewer trees, the capacity to absorb carbon dioxide diminishes, resulting in a greater accumulation of greenhouse gases and accelerating the effects of global warming. Furthermore, mass deforestation poses a severe threat to forest biodiversity, as highlighted by the 2021 report from the Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) as reported by Reuters, which identified that over 10,000 plant and animal species are at high risk of extinction due to deforestation.
How can you make a difference?
Although it may seem challenging for individuals thousands of miles away to directly combat rainforest deforestation, there are actions we can take. One approach is to make more sustainable choices when purchasing products such as tea, coffee, and food containing palm oil. These products are often accredited with certifications to indicate they were ethically sourced and produced with sustainable and fair practices.
One notable certification is the Rainforest Alliance Certification, often found on the packaging of popular supermarket products. This certification ensures that products adhere to three key themes: forest protection, climate impact reduction, and human rights. Forest protection entails avoiding the expansion of cropland into forests and prioritising the health of trees, soils, and waterways. Climate impact reduction focuses on using trees as carbon storage and enhancing resilience against natural disasters like droughts and floods. Human rights provisions include fair treatment of workers, eliminating child labour, forced labour, gender inequality, and promoting better working conditions.
For more information about the Rainforest Alliance, go to their website.
The Fairtrade label is a familiar sight on the packaging of various consumer products, but its true meaning is often misunderstood. Fair Trade is not merely a standard; it is an organisation that advocates and lobbies for sustainable practices in businesses and governments. The Fair Trade mark is issued by an independent organisation called FLOCERT, which audits the practices of organisations working with Fairtrade. To receive the certification, a product must meet a set of social, economic, and environmental standards.
- Economic: Fair Trade ensures that producers at the bottom of the supply chain receive a minimum set price, allowing them to earn a fair share for their work and reinvest in local communities.
- Environmental: Fair Trade promotes the use of environmentally friendly practices, including responsible water usage, waste management, biodiversity preservation, soil quality preservation, minimal pesticide use, and the prohibition of hazardous materials.
- Social: Fair Trade advocates for fair and democratic practices within organisations, such as fair wages, freedom of association, the right to unionise, and effective health and safety standards.
While the Fair Trade standards do not explicitly mention deforestation, the environmental standards they promote, such as biodiversity preservation and soil quality, are significantly impacted by deforestation.
For more information about Fair Trade, go to their website.
Another certification you may see on products is the FSC symbol. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is a globally recognised standard for responsible forest management. It ensures that products such as wood and paper come from forests that are sustainably managed, socially beneficial, and environmentally conscious. The FSC certification guarantees that the forests are managed in a way that preserves biodiversity, protects wildlife habitats, and respects the rights of indigenous communities and forest workers. Additionally, the FSC chain of custody certification tracks the entire journey of the product, from the forest to the consumer, ensuring that each step along the supply chain upholds the highest standards of sustainability. FSC upholds 10 principles for certification holders to follow, including compliance with laws, improving the well-being of workers and local communities, and maintaining or improving environmental values.
For more information about FSC, go to their website.
Using Bespoke EcoBoard Ring and Stud Earrings Boxes we created a short stop-motion video showing deforestation. In many cases, vibrant and lush forests are forcibly removed for either farmland or wasteland for roads. To represent trees we used paper from G.F Smith's Colorplan and recycled Extract collection, which you can see in the carousel of images underneath our video.