What Can You Do To Save The Rainforest?

On August 14, 2014 by Tim Newman

How to reduce deforestation

I know that this article comes to you about 15 years after the “SAVE THE RAINFOREST” brigade stopped holding placards and became recruitment consultants and herbal pharmacists, but it’s still a worthy cause. I wrote an article the other day and mentioned deforestation and it just made me do a tiny frustrated tear in my heart. All of these pristine jungles and forests being laid to waste for the sake of the ever dominant industrial human plague.

So although most of us got the rain forest saving out of the way just after the save the whales push, I really feel like this is worth thinking about. I didn’t want to just list a bunch of charities that help minimise deforestation, but I know there’s plenty of them around doing good stuff. Most of the charities involved are fighting a losing battle with their thumb in the dyke, but if you have some cash to give then pass it on, they need it. 80,000 acres of forest disappear a day according to some estimates. That’s loads isn’t it?

Whether you’re a tree-hugger or not, and whether you care about the animals or not is irrelevant. This breathing blob of dust we live on, although robust, is being pushed pretty hard from all sides. Even if you don’t believe the climatologists it doesn’t take a genius to realise that if you remove the lungs from the earth it might start choking. And if it chokes hard enough it might spit us all the way out into space… (that analogy kind of broke down a bit but you get what I mean)

As Jesus rightly said – “money is the route of all evil”. If humans are funding the deforestation then people will keep doing it whether they’re doing it legally or not. So I had a look for ways that we can reduce the amount of trees we destroy by the things we do over here. I’ve tried to find some simple stuff we can all do to help things along and get that smug feeling that hippies have all day long:

1) Recycle Cans

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Recycle your cans of Skol. Bauxite (aluminium ore) is where recyclable drinking cans come from and that’s mined from beneath tropical regions (among other places). So cut out the bauxite and you won’t need the mine. If you get an option choose glass over cans.

In Jamaica it is bauxite mining that is the main cause of deforestation. The issue isn’t just that the bauxite mining chuffs up a patch of forest, the miners need roads and once they’re created it gives illegal loggers and hunters much easier access into the depths of the forest from that point on.

2) Furniture

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When you buy wooden furniture get it second hand, or if you’re too posh for that make sure you check where the wood’s come from. Don’t just take their word for it though, have a good dig about on the web before signing on the dotted line. It’ll wind up the salesman if nothing else.

Avoid buying mahogany, ebony and rosewood specifically.

3) Recycled Paper

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Buy recycled paper and recycle your own paper and card. The majority of deforestation isn’t through paper production but you may as well. Recycled paper does cost a bit more, but doodle on both sides of the sheet if you can’t afford it.

This goes for bog roll too, why should trees be cut down to wipe your arse? It’s mental when you think about it isn’t it?

Animal Collection

4) Eat Less Red Meat

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Now let’s not get into a debate as to whether we should or shouldn’t eat meat. We haven’t got time. But if you’re going to eat meat try and have it locally sourced and avoid eating meat that was plonked in a field where a jungle used to be. One statistic says that each quarter pounder costs 55 square foot of forest. I doubt that’s wholly accurate though so don’t quote me.

Around 60-70% of deforestation in Brazil is thanks to cow space.

5) Palm Oil

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Most jungle chopping is due to the clearance of land for palm plantations. These plantations look nicer than mines or car parks but they’re still replacing the sort of plants that should be there and the sort of critters that live there. Palm oil is a very handy compound used in a multitude of products so it’s very difficult to avoid entirely as a Western consumer, but keep your eyes peeled for it.

One estimate is that over half of the packaged products in the supermarket contain palm oil, so this is no small problem. Lipstick, instant noodles, soap, margarine, chocolate, bread, you name it, it’s in there. And to make it even trickier, sometimes it isn’t mentioned explicitly on the package’s ingredients. Palm oil can be called (or included in) these little lot too:

Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol.

6) Jewelry

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Sorry ladies, this will come as a blow, but gold, copper, diamond and many gems come from areas around pristine forests. Why not look for second-hand jewelry instead? Antiques are still cool right? I know diamonds are romantic and everything, but if you start wondering whether a teenager in a mine in South America died digging it out it loses its sheen a bit doesn’t it?

Gold panning in the Amazon basin is big business, on a small scale the process isn’t too destructive but on a big scale it certainly is. The chemicals used in the process (like mercury and cyanide) are supposed to be kept and reused but there’s the inevitable leakage into the waters of the Amazon and consequently the fish.

Golden Star Resources of Denver and Cambior of Montreal accidentally released a billion litres of cyanide laced water into the Amazon in 1995. They tried to cover it up by hiding the dead fish; six days later locals downstream started noticing animal corpses littering the forest, the company finally admitted their dirty faux pas… PS they still got granted mining contracts from the government.

7) Fossil Fuels

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Reduce the amount of fossil fuel you burn – everyone’s banging on about that these days, for all the good it’s doing. Whether it’s because petrol costs too much or chokes up the atmosphere, we’re best to pack it in where possible. Drilling for oil in the Amazon is on the rise and we certainly don’t need any more reasons to chop down the trees than we already have. So get your push bike out.

The other tricky thing is that bio-fuels, which are much better for the atmosphere, often come from cleared rainforests. Woopsy. So if you’re switching to bio-fuel try to get rapeseed grown in the UK instead.

I’m going to add to this list over time, and please send in your own ideas if you have any. Before I leave you I should also add that I understand the issue of deforestation is a complex one. Poor people clear forests illegally to feed their children and you can’t begrudge them that, and they will continue to do so. It is the large-scale illegal operations and legal operations that need curtailing the most. They make the biggest dent in the jungle. If it stops being financially viable they’ll stop doing it.








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