You most definitely have heard our forests are disappearing, but do you know WHY? And no, the answer isn’t as simple as paper.
Out of all deforestation drivers, “beef has by far the largest impact” and is the primary leading cause of deforestation worldwide (Union of Concerned Scientists). Forests are clear-cut or burned down to make way for cattle pastures. Most of this affects Latin America, who lose rainforest the equivalent size of Massachusetts every YEAR based solely off of animal agriculture. The growing demand for daily consumption of meat is unprecedented in human history, and we are not paying or SEEING the real cost it has on our planet and communities.
The second largest driver of deforestation is soy. And no, not soy for humans (those damn vegans!) but soy for ANIMAL FEED. The production of soy has doubled in the last 2 decades, primarily going to feed for chickens, pigs, and dairy cows in mass quantity. The remaining amounts are used to produce vegetable oils and biodiesel. Majority of soybean production is also targeting Latin American rainforests (and of course the animals and human beings that live there).
Palm oil is the next runner up, used in TONS of processed foods and personal care products (Oreos, shampoos, soaps, snacks, etc). Its extracted largely from Southeast Asia, and does even more drastic damage to climate change because the trees are extracted from peatlands, which release "up to 28 times as much carbon as the forests above them” (UOCS). Behind beef, palm oil does the most damage.
Finally we’ve made it to the most well-known forest destroyer: wood products. These trees are harvested for 2 reasons, pulp and timber. Pulp is what is used for paper products, and timber for construction/furniture/etc. Just remember that even though wood and paper seem the most obvious when we look at them, they are not the most deadly in this game.
Knowledge is power, and contrary to popular belief, ignorance is not bliss. Our climate, habitats, animals, and communities are taking a MASSIVE toll for our daily life choices. Nobody is perfect, but the more we are aware and conscious of our purchasing power, we truly can start to make a difference. Take it day by day, one shopping cart and one meal at a time. Let us remember the true cost of our consumption; this IS life or death for plants, animals, and indigenous peoples.