Quick! Define Deforestation!

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Image courtesy of The Stock Exchange ("logging in BC," uploaded by apljak

When people hear the word “deforestation,” the image that comes to mind is logging. Logging is tied to paper and fiber-based products, which are subsequently labeled forest-killers.

That’s some powerful imagery. But is it accurate?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines deforestation as “a non-temporary change of land use from forest to other land use or to the depletion of forest crown cover to less than 10%. Clear cuts (even with stump removal), if shortly followed by reforestation for forestry purposes, are not considered deforestation.”

In other words, deforestation is a permanent change in the landscape — trees removed and never replaced.

You know a major contributor to deforestation in the United States and around the world? Not paper or other fiber-based products. It’s agriculture!

As reported on Print Grows Trees:

Printed paper is taking a lot of the blame in the public’s mind for this act. We are told to “Think before you print” in order to save trees and shown pictures of clear-cut forests that break our hearts and anger us. But when we see a beautiful pasture with grazing cows, a field with new-mown hay or endless acres of corn, we think it is beautiful.

The fact is that those beautiful scenes were once forests. Between 1850 and 1910, we lost about a third of our forests – about 190 million acres. When you fly across the Midwest, it’s the most evident. That’s where most of it was converted to agricultural land – when Americans cleared more forest than the total amount cleared in the previous 250 years of settlement.

But what if farmers could be encouraged to plant and grow trees instead of other crops? This could potentially encourage re-forestation of deforested areas.

This is a scenario put forth by Print Grows Trees, which is an educational campaign started by the Printing & Graphics Association of the MidAtlantic. Granted, it’s self-serving (but then, so is the “Got Milk?” campaign), but it’s an interesting idea. If we drive down demand for paper and fiber-based products, we drive down yet another incentive to keep trees around.

Print Grows Trees concludes:

What if we gave landowners a viable reason to plant more trees in places where there are none now? Maybe we need to “Think before we DON’T print.”

It’s kind of a mind-bender, if you think about it.

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