- Category: Politics
02 Aug 2012
- Published on Thursday, 02 August 2012 10:19
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A new book from the Earth Policy Institute finds that there is “vast unrealized potential” in all countries to reduce various demands that are shrinking the earth’s forest cover.
According to author Lester R. Brown, protecting the 10 billion acres (4 billion hectares) of remaining forests on earth and replanting many of those already lost are both essential for restoring the earth’s health.
Since 2000, the earth’s forest cover has shrunk by 13 million acres (5 million hectares) each year, with annual losses of 32 million acres (12 million hectares) far exceeding the regrowth of 19 million acres (7.6 million hectares).
Mr. Brown, says the “greatest opportunity” to reduce demands on the earth’s forests lie in reducing the amount of wood used to make paper, especially for industrialized nations.
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“The goal is first to reduce paper use and then to recycle as much as possible,” he said. “The rates of paper recycling in the top 10 paper-producing countries range widely, but South Korea, which recycles an impressive 91 percent, stands out. If every country recycled as much of its paper as South Korea does, the amount of wood pulp used to produce paper worldwide would drop by more than one third.”
For developing nations, reducing fuel wood use should be the focus, as it accounts for just over half of all wood removed from the world’s forests.
“Over the longer term, pressure on forests can be reduced by replacing firewood with solar thermal cookers or even with electric hotplates powered with renewable energy.”
Some international aid agencies are currently addressing this issue by sponsoring projects to increase fuel wood efficiency through the use of more efficient cook stoves.
The challenge of harvest forests responsibly is a major one, and he suggests selectively cutting only mature trees instead of clear cutting, leaving the forest largely intact – ensuring that forest productivity can be maintained forever.
“Forest plantations can reduce pressures on the earth’s remaining forests as long as they do not replace old-growth forest,” he says.
Wood for paper mills or wood reconstitution mills can be taken from tree plantations. Reconstituted wood can be substituted for natural wood as the construction industry adapts to the shrinking supply available from natural forest.
Restoring and preserving forests will also have additional benefits such as protecting the soil from erosion, the reduction of flooding risks and the sequestration of carbon.
The shrinkage of forests in tropical regions has released 2.2 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere annually, while expanding forests in the temperate regions are absorbing close to 700 million tons of carbon. Also, some 1.5 billion tons of carbon are released into the atmosphere each year from forest loss, roughly one fourth as much as from fossil fuel burning.
“We need a tree planting effort to both conserve soil and sequester carbon,” he continued. “To achieve these goals, billions of trees need to be planted on millions of acres of degraded lands that have lost their tree cover and on marginal croplands and pasturelands that are no longer productive.” – EcoSeed Staff