Corporate titans threaten to destroy important centers of biodiversity

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Deforestation is harmful and it is baffling that many people do not accept this fact. The Guardian reports that the earth’s rainforests might be gone in 100 years. Nevertheless, there remains strong stubbornness to avoid anything that will create change.

One must look at how the deforestation of all forests, not just rainforests, is something proliferated by the tire industry and agricultural exploitation.

Like any environmental issue, there is controversy between progress and conservancy. However, the cost-benefit analysis points more toward conservation being the right direction.

In Africa, Asia and Latin America, rainforests are being mowed down for a variety of reasons. Some are destroyed to create goods needed for international trade, like palm oil and rubber.

Other reasons include supporting communities by creating land for cattle grazing, farming, expanding cities and logging. None of these seem like unethical reasons nor have a malicious intent behind them. Rather, it is simply business for people who have forgotten exactly what they are doing to our environment.

Deforestation is incredibly problematic. When trees are cut down, they release carbon into the atmosphere where it gets trapped with other greenhouse gases, adding to the global warming crisis. Habitat destruction is also a huge problem. Rainforests in Brazil contain 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, including endangered species like the jaguar.

Other animals, like three-toed sloths and pink river dolphins in Bolivia, are also affected when 700,000 acres per year of land is deforested. Additionally, indigenous people native to the deforested areas are affected, as they are uprooted from their homes.

Yet some companies do not seem to care. The Sierra Club published an article in March condemning fast-food chain Burger King, which it linked to being responsible for millions of acres of deforestation.

Mighty Earth identified the chain’s two biggest suppliers of soy, Cargill and Bunge Limited, as being the culprits who destroyed half of Cerrado, a 500 million-acre savanna in Brazil. Yet, Burger King has no plans to reduce its deforestation efforts despite having the option of joining the Soy Moratorium, which brought tree cutting rates way down in the Amazon rainforest.

Some advocates are pushing back. Tropical countries have been working to reduce deforestation through the United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program, or REDD, which was formed in 2008. This is a reward-based program where countries reduce deforestation by using less land and managing their forests.

In return, they earn and sell carbon pollution credits. So far, the REDD program has earned over $17 million toward reduction in 44 countries. Brazil in particular has slowed deforestation by 40 percent as of 2012 and hopes to hit 80 percent by 2020.

Students can help by shedding light on the issue. Because they are each connected to multiple organizations within and outside of their colleges, students have the power to galvanize a coalition in opposition to deforestation.

Millennials wield a great deal of consumer power and can boycott the companies that are not taking responsibility for their harmful actions. Students can also support the companies that do help, such as Michelin, the only tire maker openly committed to zero deforestation.

Supporting the right companies can provide them with the money and clout they need to have industry rules tightened and enforced internationally.