Forests – the problems


We are destroying ancient forests at an unprecedented rate. As demand for anything made from wood increases – whether it’s books, furniture, construction materials or even toilet paper – we risk stripping away the last remaining ancient forest areas.

Extinction threatens many species of wildlife, particularly larger animals such as tigers, grizzly bears and gorillas that need large intact forest areas to survive. In addition, the rights of traditional landowners are being abused as they are evicted from the lands they have occupied for generations, often as a result of violence and intimidation. Sixty million indigenous people depend on forests for their survival, while a further 1.6 billion make their livelihoods from forest products.

Destructive and illegal logging

More and more areas of pristine forest are being cut down to feed timber and paper mills around the world – an area the size of a football pitch disappears every two seconds. Much of this logging is destructive and can also be illegal, particularly in poorer countries where corruption, weak governance, and a lack of money make it difficult for the authorities to police and enforce the law. Read more.


Deforestation is also being driven by another human factor – agriculture. Ancient rainforests are being cleared to open up new land for crops such as soya and palm oil, which are grown on an industrial scale to supply the growing demand from food companies across the world, including the UK. The land is often stolen from the people who live there, and in the Amazon farms in cleared areas of forest still use slave labour. Read more.

Climate change

From storing carbon to recycling water into the atmosphere, it’s increasingly clear that ancient forests play a critical role in the regulation of the global climate while their destruction is a major contributor to climate change. Deforestation accounts for 18 per cent of all emissions, more than the entire global transport sector, so protecting our ancient forests from further devastation is absolutely essential if we’re serious about tackling climate change. Read more.

The role of governments and companies

If these threats are so apparent, why have governments not done more to combat them? Simply put, there is a distinct lack of political will on all sides to take action. In the developing world, a lack of funding for management and policing protected areas is aggravated by widespread corruption, while in industrialised nations products made from illegally logged timber are cheaper than those produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

Even our own government can’t abide by its own guidelines for buying timber- despite Tony Blair’s verbal commitments towards forest protection, it’s still absurdly easy to find products made from illegal and unsustainably logged timber on sale in this country. Read more.