Hesperian Health Guides

Forest Destruction

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 10: Forests > Forest Destruction

Most forests are destroyed by logging companies and other corporations that profit from unsustainable resource use. When one forest is destroyed, the big companies simply move to another forest. But the people who live in or near the destroyed forest usually have nowhere else to go.

People who do not live off forests directly still use many forest products, such as books and newspapers, building materials, foods such as beef, soy, and palm oil from plantations cut out of the forest, and minerals dug from beneath it. Rarely do people consider the need to replace forests used up in these ways.

How forests are degraded and destroyed

If forest resources are not used and managed in ways that allow the forest to continue growing and producing, all of our forests will soon be gone. Causes of large-scale damage to forests include:

  • Clear cut logging (when most of the trees in an area are cut for lumber) compacts and erodes soil, destroys wildlife, and fills waterways with silt.
  • Large commercial farming, cattle ranching, and tree plantations often involve clearing land of forests.
  • Shrimp farms are built by cutting down and clearing mangrove swamps and other coastal forests, often putting small fishing communities out of work, contaminating water, and leading to increased sickness, poverty, and malnutrition.
  • Paper mills leave behind toxic waste that pollutes the land, water, and air.
  • Mining, oil, and gas companies cut down forests and leave behind toxic waste that poisons water, land, and air.
  • Large dam projects flood large areas of forest. People forced to move from the dam site then cut down more forest to make new homes and fields.
A fat man with a money sign on his pocket stands in a landscape of tree stumps in front of piles of timber and a smoky factory.
Corporations and governments seldom consider the effects on people’s health and livelihoods when forests become products to be bought and sold.