Introduction

The aim of this blog is to analyse and critique the medias involvement in not only the public’s awareness of the tragic crisis known as deforestation, but in the suggested solutions to the problem at hand. This is done by using the ideas presented by theorists Poul Holm et al. in their article, Humanities for the Environment – A Manifesto for research and action (2015) as well as theories by Shelby Grant and Mary Lawhon in their article, Reporting on rhinos: analysis of the newspaper coverage of rhino poaching (2014), to do an in depth analysis on three selected articles. Namely, Deforestation is Decreasing — or is it? (www.amazonwatch.org), Deforestation: Compromises of a Growing World (www.conserve-energy-future.com)  and Population Growth and Deforestation: A Critical and Complex Relationship (www.prb.org).

First things first: What is Deforestation?

According to thefreedictionary.com, Deforestation is classified as: ‘The cutting down and removal of all or most of the trees in a forested area’ (thefreedictionary.com, 2016)  In turn, deforestation leads to the damage of the environment by factors such as soil erosion, flooding, global warming and lack of much needed resources, as well as a decrease in biodiversity, destroying the habitats needed for different organisms, leading to wildlife extinction. In order to properly understand the factors leading to deforestation, as well as the path to change, one must critically analyse data in the framework of these analytical questions, as theorized by Holm (Holm, 2015:985): 

 

Who/What are the drivers of change? What is happening? What can be done?
Agricultural Activities – such as food growth.

Logging – wood-based companies manufacturing paper, match sticks and furniture.

Urbanization – the construction of roads and buildings.

Mining – oil and coal mining create waste that is harmful to forest life.

Forest Fires – due to warmer weather (Global warming).

Overlapping licenses for registry of land – documentation administered to multiple companies creating land claim disputes.

Due to the growth in population – and therefore the increasing need for agricultural and industrial resources such as paper, food and fuel – forests are being mercilessly chopped down, causing world issues such as floods, soil erosion, climate imbalance (global warming), razing, and wildlife extinction. The cutting down of trees must be followed by the planting of trees.

Companies must be advised to join “zero-deforestation” pledges.

Urbanized areas must be urged to plant more vegetation.

The clear cutting of forest areas must be banned.

Strict felling laws must be created and maintained.

The right to traditional land of indigenous groups must be revisited so as to avoid razing.

Table 1

Do the drivers for change relate to the “Great Acceleration” of human technologies, powers and consumption?

As can be seen in Table 1, there are many drivers of change leading to deforestation, but five out of six of those drivers are caused by human interference such as mining oil and coal, and urbanization. It has been proved that population density is closely linked to the loss of forest cover, and that due to overpopulation, the world is now sitting with less than half of it’s original forest cover (Meyerson, 2004:1). The human races need for more natural resources, such as food, fuel, paper, and land, has left the world deserted of much needed trees.Trees are vital in the absorption of greenhouse gases, as well as the creation of oxygen.Therefore the deforestation of vegetation leads to the increase of greenhouse gases in the ozone layer, in turn causing the planet to heat up — a term now readily used, Global Warming (Rinkesh, 2016:1).

“The Great Acceleration” can be defined as ” human technologies, powers and consumption in [of] the last 70 years that has operated as a key driver of Global Change” (Holm, 2015:980). Therefore, the Great Acceleration refers to humans that have used technology and other powers in order to increase levels of consumption (a necessary objective due to overpopulation), leading to harmful effects on the planet, such as global warming, deforestation, extinction of wildlife and even death of humans them-selves.

When comparing the drivers of change to the definition of the Great Acceleration, it is clear that they definitely walk hand-in-hand. It is humans need for more natural resources that has spurred this onslaught of the natural world, turning our planet into the waste ground for our ‘innovative technology’.

How does the absence or presence of solutions relate to “The New Human Condition”?

The “New Human Condition” refers to “how we choose to identify, respond to and cope with the consequences and responsibilities of environmental concerns” (Holm, 2015:283). Do we plead ignorance, or band together to solve our planets crises?

According to conserve-energy-future.com, the solutions to deforestation include employing strict laws and rules that decrease the felling of trees, the banning of clear-cutting forests (insuring that there is still vegetation left after trees have been cut down, curbing the depletion of forests cover), as well as the planting of new trees. According to the website, the third solution has already been implemented, but unfortunately due to the excessive amount of time it takes a forest to grow, it still fails to match the number of flora casualties (Rinkesh, 2016:1).

According to amazonwatch.org, the solution lies in large agricultural businesses willingness to join the “zero-deforestation” pledge known as the ‘Paris Climate Agreement’ (Hance, 2016:1). The Paris Climate Agreement is a united nations agreement that “sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C”. This includes the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage created by deforestation (Paris Agreement, 2015:1). It also suggests that recognizing and strengthening the rights that indigenous groups have to the land that they inhabit as the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to protect forests from deforestation as well as razing.

The third website, prb.org, fails to suggest a suitable solution for the deforestation caused by increase in population, but does state that the two problems are very closely linked, and in that way, must be treated together (Meyerson, 2004:1).

Therefore, it seems that in the instance of these three articles, the solution constantly lies with an alternative party, never with the audience, creating a stance of blame, but not of responsibility.

Do the proposed solutions engage with the business / corporate sector?

All three articles place solutions in the hands of the business and corporate sector, alone, and none in that of the public. According to the articles, the solution relies on government officials employing and maintaining laws, corporate bodies signing pledges to plant more trees, or businesses declaring a ‘zero-deforestation’ pledge. All of these things suggestions have merit, but are very difficult to instill, and therefore might be somewhat effective-less.

Do the proposed solutions and means to do it stem from collaborative processes of research, stakeholder engagement and public participation?

It seems that there is little to no public participation in most of the above mentioned solutions due to the fact that the urbanization of western society leads to most people not being readily affected by deforestation, and therefore creating a gap in the public’s awareness. Awareness can often depend of the direct experience the public has with the issue, meaning that in a case such as this, where people are not directly influenced, the media is trusted to be a “window” that shapes the way that the public views issues such as deforestation. It is thus the medias responsibility to inform the public about the harm deforestation has on the planet (Grant & Lawhon, 2014:46).

There is stakeholder engagement, as businesses are signing pledges and uniting together to cease deforestation, but for the most part stakeholders are more likely to actively reject positive legislation due to the overall loss in revenue they might encounter should deforestation become completely illegal.

Are the solutions translated into practical means that can easily be achieved by the public?

The above mentioned solutions are not particularly viable for public participation, as they are mostly driven towards government, agricultural and corporate bodies. However, a solution not mentioned above is awareness. If the public and media can work together to create a steady amount of exposure, then businesses failing to cave to the laws and regulations of reforestation will be called into question, and will have to face the consequences of business and support loss. In this way, awareness is the most important responsibility the public and media has in terms of saving the planet from harm.

Conclusion

As can be seen in the above mentioned articles, deforestation is a growing issue that is becoming a bigger problem every day. People and organizations have tried to create solutions for the felling of our much needed trees, but in the end, the solution lies with the media and it’s ability to bring these issue into the minds of the public. Humans rely heavily on forests to maintain their way of living, but don’t realize that it is our current way of living that may lead to our very destruction. It is understandable that the ever growing population has led to global deforestation, but it is in the hands of the readers — of you — to make a change in the way that the world perceives its fauna and flora. Our planet is exquisite in it’s natural state — let us fight as best we can to keep it that way.

For more information about environmental humanities, please search the hashtag #DigEcoAction on Twitter today.

Author: Coral Taylor (15195024), Published: 3 April 2016

Sources Consulted

Grant, S & Lawhon, M. 2014. Reporting on rhinos: analysis of the newspaper coverage of Rhino Poaching. Southern African Journal of Environmental Education 30:39-52.

Holm, P et al. 2015. Humanities for the Environment – A manifesto for research and action. Humanites 4:977-992.

Hance, J. 2016. Deforestation is Decreasing – or is it?  [O] Available from: http://amazonwatch.org/news/2016/0201-deforestation-is-decreasing-or-is-it [Accessed: 2 April 2016]

Rinkesh. 2016. Deforestation: Compromises of a Growing World. [O] Available: http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-solutions-of-deforestation.php [Accessed: 2 April 2016]

Meyerson, F. 2004. Population Growth and Deforestation: A Critical and Complex Relationship. [O] Available: http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2004/PopulationGrowthandDeforestationACriticalandComplexRelationship.aspx [Accessed: 2 April 2016]

European Commission. 2016. Paris Agreement. [O] Available: http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris/index_en.htm [Accessed: 2 April 2016]

The Free Dictionary.com. 2016. Deforestation. [O] Available: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/deforestation [Accessed: 2 April 2016]

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