From Colorado to Australia, our woodlands are igniting faster and hotter than ever. The damages these fires cause rack up costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars and destroy the oxygen-producing flora that our planet depends on for clean, breathable air.
But the damage doesn’t start at the fires. Rapid deforestation is causing shifts in our forests and climate that, if left unchecked, could quickly render our planet far from the healthy, sustainable ecosystem we’ve depended on.
So, how does deforestation cause forest fires?
Industries such as palm oil and other commercial agriculture are rapidly clearing down large sections of long-standing forest to make room for more “profitable” crops.
Much of this forest is cleared by “slash and burn”, where chainsaws are used to clear everything down to the underbrush and the debris are left to dry before being burned.
Unfortunately, this method removes the forest’s natural protections against things like lightning strikes setting them ablaze, and the newly exposed and rapidly drying debris are prone to ignition. Not only that, but if the controlled debris burns are not done properly, they can quickly get out of hand and evolve into devastating wildfires.
In addition to removing forests for agriculture, the global demand for paper products, from notebooks to toilet paper, has created a high demand for timber.
Illegal logging removes long-standing trees with no replacements and leaves gaping holes in the forest, eroding at their natural fire-protection capabilities and robbing us of their atmosphere-scrubbing power.
Which leads us to:
As more forests are cut down to fulfill our demand for paper products, palm oil, and other unsustainable agricultural needs we lose their power to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere and replace it with the oxygen we need to thrive.
As CO2 builds, our planet warms, creating warmer, drier conditions than we have ever had before. These warmer, drier conditions are causing the natural cycle of wildfires to spiral out of control.
An analysis conducted in January, 2020 showed that the Australian bush fires that ravaged the country were 30% more likely to occur than ever before due to climate change.
What Can We Do?
If we keep depending on paper products, palm oil and other unsustainable crops and allowing forests to be removed at the rate they currently are, we will continue to see fires bigger and more devastating than what we’ve already suffered.
Thankfully, we have options.
First, we can reduce our reliance on paper products. Bamboo alternatives to products like toilet paper provide a more sustainable solution than traditional wood pulp paper.
Bringing your own tote bag for your errands allows you to pass on both paper and plastic bags at the checkout stand, keeping plastic out of the oceans and trees still standing in our forests.
Preventing forest fires takes more than campfire safety, it takes a global effort to protect our planet and preserve our environment by living sustainably and moving away from the unsustainable practices of the past.