Deforestation is a common practice all over the world and is directly related to the need we have for wood-based resources. That’s why it can be tough to ask the question why when thinking about this practice. Something so common is easy to overlook, but have you thought about why people cut down trees?
Trees are cut down for many reasons, including building houses and furniture, opening up land for new use, and creating other wood-based resources. This process can damage environments, but the negative effects can be prevented when it is done mindfully with efforts to help restore the environment.
Below are some of the reasons people cut down trees as well as the best ways to do this in a way that ends with the least harm to the environment. We all need materials that trees provide, but using the knowledge about how to sustainably acquire it makes a big difference. Let’s get to it!
What Are The Positive And Negative Impacts Of Deforestation?
Before reading on and learning about the reasons and impacts of deforestation, we should discuss why this is such a hot topic. Context is key, and we hope to provide that in this section.
Negative: Deforestation Degrades Soil
One impact that deforestation has is that it degrades the soil in the area. How, you may ask?
When there are no longer trees to help maintain a life cycle of growth (seeds falling, animals eating them, insects in the soil below them), the soil itself has less opportunity to maintain a good, healthy, balance of nutrients.
This is a negative impact of deforestation, though other impacts are certainly more helpful than harmful.
Positive: Deforestation Opens Up Land For Agriculture
Another effect of deforestation, whether this was the original purpose or not, is that the land will is opened up for agricultural purposes.
Sometimes this is the intention that leads to deforestation, which we will discuss below, but other times it may be a result that simply happens.
Using deforested land to grow new crops can help replenish the soil and the ecosystem itself by allowing new plants to flourish. This is one way that some of the more harmful impacts of deforestation can be nullified.
Positive: Deforestation Supports Economic Growth
Many trees are cut down for materials of whatever kind. On the opposite note of the last section, an area where trees are cut down to allow for open space will still end up providing a ton of lumber that will be used in one way or another.
Making sure that those fallen trees don’t go to waste is another huge aspect of sustainability. It’s all about creating a balance between the give and take that occurs when trees are removed and land is opened up to new possibilities.
There is certainly economic value in being able to grow new crops, raise livestock, build houses, and/or harvest a bunch of lumber to create more materials.
So, deforestation does positively impact the economy, which can help support people, jobs, and lifestyles.
Negative: Deforestation Destroys Natural Environments
A negative that follows, even if the land is repurposed, is that deforestation destroys the natural environment that once stood in place of this newly barren landscape.
Again, ecosystems in nature are delicate and the loss of one factor can lead to the downfall of others.
Positive: Deforestation Creates Materials
A positive that can come, mostly when locals are not being directly impacted, is the rise in resources that cut-down trees provide.
So much of what we use comes from trees, and wood is a necessity whether or not we think of it as such.
So, the creation of materials that deforestation provides is ultimately positive, though the practice of refurbishing and reusing pre-owned materials like tables, cabinets, and chairs could certainly be utilized more in our modern world.
Negative: Deforestation Can Impact The Lifestyle Of People In The Region
To return to the subject of environmental alteration and struggle, deforestation affects more than just the plants and soil in an area.
Where trees are removed, animals and insects will either leave or have to adapt, and sometimes communities feel the impact of these shifts. Especially communities that are smaller and less modern.
For example, native people that live in or near rainforests and jungles tend to struggle when their home environment is quickly and severely altered by deforestation.
6 Reasons Why People Cut Down Trees
Okay, we are finally at the part you’ve been waiting for! Now we can discuss the reasons that lead people, or companies, to cut down trees.
This can apply to everyone from an individual hoping to make a wooden rocking chair to a big corporation needing wood to incorporate into their new buildings.
Perhaps there is a need for more land in which agricultural practices can be performed.
Maybe, the reason for cutting trees down is to make space for more people that are looking for a new place to live.
We’ll go through all of these different reasons, and explain where deforestation comes in.
Without further adieu, the reasons people cut down trees!
1. Trees Are Used To Build Furniture
Let’s start on a relatively small scale.
Think about your house- what in it is made of wood? Where might that wood be sourced from?
Everything from your kitchen table to a bedframe or even the shoe rack by the door has the potential to be made from wood that was chopped down for exactly that purpose.
While your side table might not use as much wood as the shoe rack in the other room, the cabinets on the wall, or your kitchen dining set, the amount of wood that you probably have in your home combines to be a large amount.
Wood products are everywhere and that wood needs to come from somewhere.
Oftentimes, companies will cut down a large section of trees to be able to produce wood that is good quality and fit to create furniture, decor and other functional pieces for people to use in their everyday lives.
2. Trees Are Used In Floors And Trim
Okay, let’s expand a bit. Not only are things in a home made from wood, but there are aspects of the home itself that are wood.
Your flooring, unless you’re a carpet person, is made of wood. The trim around your doors, the baseboards that protect the bottom of your walls, and possibly even your walls themselves are made of wood.
There is so much that goes into a living space and so much of that is made from wood. Trees are an essential part of building the things that we use in our daily lives, even those we don’t consciously focus on unless we’re redecorating or relocating.
3. Trees Are Used In The Structure Of Homes And Buildings
Thought we were done expanding? Think again.
Not only are pieces of furniture and parts of the interior of a building made from wood, but sometimes buildings themselves are made of wood.
Even if a building is made mostly of other materials, wood is almost always a component. Take the space between the drywall and the steel of a high-rise, for example. Even though the building itself is made from metal, the beams in the walls are quite likely to be made of wood. It’s the same for ceilings and floors, though the walls are the biggest structural piece of the puzzle in this case.
We don’t have to be talking about skyscrapers or ultra-modern homes, though. Think of your favorite coffee shop on the corner, the restaurant with the cool building design, or the craft shop that you used to pass on the way to work.
All of these buildings fall structurally somewhere in between a modest family home and a giant fancy office building, but they have one thing in common; they all use wood one way or another to achieve their building design, room layout, or aesthetic appearance. Maybe it’s even all three!
4. Trees Are Cut Down To Make Room For Agricultural Spaces
Let’s switch gears now.
Sometimes trees are cut down for reasons as simple as needing space. Farmers may need to start growing more food, so they’ll cut down trees to be able to plant more crops.
Perhaps, they will use the space for animals to graze while they are raised for food, milk, or simply used to help with the land.
This is a situation where deforestation might not have as harsh of an impact. The land is being repurposed for the good of the people, as opposed to being stripped clean without the replenishing of resources.
5. Trees Are Used For The Purpose Of Creating Space
On the flip side, trees are sometimes cut down just to create more space for people to build houses, businesses, or other things that are driven by corporations focused on economic benefits.
In these situations, nature tends to be ignored or, at the very least, brushed to the side.
The University of California San Diego notes how deforestation can drive disease and climate change through the industry’s overall lack of awareness for nature and the delicate balance that it sits on.
Deforestation has lessened in the last few decades, but the rate at which we are losing forests and jungles is still quite alarming.
On that note, let’s talk about another product that uses up lots of trees: paper.
6. Trees Are Used To Make Paper
Paper is something nearly all of us use in our everyday lives, regardless of where we come from or what we do. The digital age may be creeping in, but the paper isn’t going anywhere just yet.
Do you currently use a journal? Maybe it’s a notebook for school?
Ever read a book that’s not online? Used a dictionary the ‘old fashioned way’?
If you’re thinking that the answer is no, all these things are on the internet, then let’s ask this:
Have you ever ordered takeout, been handed a flyer, taken a receipt from the grocery store, or given a birthday card?
Odds are, you use way more paper in your life than you realize.
Most paper is made from wood pulp, through a simple process that began in China thousands of years ago.
Essentially, the raw wood is turned into pulp which is then dried and pressed until it comes into its final form.
If you’re interested in learning even more about this process, check out our piece on How Many Trees Are Cut Down to Make One Piece of Paper.
For now, we’ll just tell you that most paper is made from softwood trees and, after going through the process of turning that wood into pulp by way of chemicals or mechanics, you can get paper in no time. If you wait for it all to air dry and then be pressed dry, of course.
While there are beginning to be many alternatives to wood-based paper, that process is nowhere near complete.
Middle Georgia State University notes that an average American family wastes up to 13,000 separate pieces of paper per year. Now, when we think about all the trees that are cut down for those pieces of paper to exist, it might seem pretty crazy.
The thing is, it’s hard to realize how big of an impact each individual has on the environment. When a stack of paper is tossed into the trash instead of recycled, our minds just don’t have the time to ponder what that action might look like after another 5, 10, 100, 1,000, or more people do the same thing.
Now, before this turns into a guilt trip, that isn’t your fault. Paper products are what we have to use, typically, and recycling might not always be available to you. The point we want to make here is that there are so many times that trees are cut down to make a product that doesn’t last or gets disposed of in a way that creates issues.
So, Is Deforestation Good Or Bad?
As you can probably gather from the effects listed above, deforestation is a complex topic that can be beneficial when done correctly but harmful when done without the intention to rebuild deforested areas.
This rebuilding does not have to mean replanting new trees, though it certainly could. Deforested land must be used and maintained in a way that supports life in the area.
Deforestation is something that is typically perceived as negative, because of the impacts that it has environmentally. The positive reasons have more to do with human-focused topics like economics, materials, and food.
It is important to be aware that, though trees can be replanted and areas can be turned into agricultural ones as opposed to their original ecosystems, there is harm that comes from deforestation.
By cutting down trees that have potentially been around for centuries, the complex balance of nature is heavily impacted. Animals will likely relocate and with that, insects and other critters can help with everything from spreading the seeds for new trees to the pollination of smaller, yet important, plants.
There is quite a delicate balance between plants, animals, local people, and the way that resources are used.
Often, when the focus shifts from protecting plants and wildlife, even if it helps people in other ways, the overall result is more bad than good.
On the other hand, if local people need the space to be used for something that supports an increased population, the results may be different.
It just depends on who is taking what resources and using them for what reason. If that feels confusing, try to stick with us while we spell it out a bit.
So, that being said, are there ways to combat the waste of wood products and/or the negative impacts of deforestation?
How Can We Help To Reduce The Negative Impacts Of Deforestation?
While we see that deforestation is not likely to go away anytime soon and can have good outcomes, it’s worth discussing the ways that we can each help to mitigate some of the bad that does stem from this practice.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you want to do some good and help the planet keep producing the beautiful trees that we all know and love:
Plant New Trees, Or Support Companies That Do
So many of our articles are about helping you to care for the trees on your property, or even to plant new ones. That is because we LOVE trees and know how valuable they can be.
Not only is planting new trees great for the environment, but you’ll get personal satisfaction from watching something that you plant grow into a mature being. Kind of like a kid, but you know…not.
Additionally, there are a lot of companies these days that will plant a tree for every x amount of product that you buy, to help offset the materials that they use to make whatever said product may be.
We’ll leave the research to you on that one, based on what you buy and where you shop, but it’s a great concept that you can easily keep an eye out for!
Use Less Paper Or Alternative Paper
Using less paper is becoming easier in this digital age, but it is often still a decision that must be consciously made.
If you just cannot imagine giving up that feeling of putting pen to paper, we have a thought: Use a type of paper that isn’t made of wood. There are plenty out there, and it can be quite fun to explore the different looks, feels, and textures of these alternative papers!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
A classic for a reason, reduce the waste you create, reuse what you can, and recycle that which you cannot.
This is a practice you’ve probably been doing since you were a kid, but maybe one that has become more important as an adult. It’s easy enough to do and oh SO worth the extra steps.
You can feel good while not doing that much extra work. It’s a win if you ask us!
That’s All For Now, Folks!
Alright, that’s what we have for you this time. Deforestation is quite a complex topic, and we hope this helps you feel like you’ve begun to scratch the surface of all that it entails.
Thank you for taking the time to read this piece, and sticking with us as we work to help you help your trees.
May you continue to be successful in your tree journey, and remember that we are always here to help!
Until next time, friends.
Allen, J. C., & Barnes, D. F. (1985). The causes of deforestation in developing countries. Annals of the association of American Geographers, 75(2), 163-184.
Puyravaud, J. P. (2003). Standardizing the calculation of the annual rate of deforestation. Forest ecology and management, 177(1-3), 593-596.