5 Rainforest Deforestation Facts to Call You to Action
Rainforest deforestation is a topic we briefly touched on in last month’s blog post, so this month, we’re doing a deep dive. For those of us working toward being ethical consumers as much as possible, these deforestation facts will empower you in your decision making and encourage you to join companies, like us here at Purse for the People, in doing what you can to be more environmentally friendly.
This can mean:
- Educating yourself on slow fashion
- As much as possible, buying clothing or bags made from sustainable materials
- Keeping up to date with sustainability initiatives such as the one led by the Katingan Farmers Rattan Group (or P2RK), an Indonesian initiative working in connection with the WWF
1. Why the Rainforest is Disappearing
In 2019 alone, over 20 million acres of the Amazon were burned.
The causes of rainforest deforestation are extensive, but nearly all are driven by the demand for specific materials and products. Major products such as palm oil, paper, rubber, and cotton require land that has been stripped of rainforest, endangering native species of plant and animal life. In Indonesia, where our rattan is sourced, one of the largest impacts is the production of palm oil, 20% of which is grown illegally.
Rainforest being burnt and cleared to make way for palm oil plantations.
2. The Effect of Global Rainforest Deforestation
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United States, the area of forest worldwide has decreased by over 80 million hectares since 1990. Brazil and Indonesia are two of the countries worst affected by rainforest deforestation. Not only does this level of deforestation have a massive effect on the local wildlife and native species of plants, but it also leads to the displacement and harm of indigenous peoples and communities. For example, according to The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2015 in Indonesia, over 500,00 people were hospitalized due to respiratory infections caused by peat fires and the related toxic haze.
3. Why Indonesian Rainforest Conservation is Important
The importance of the rainforest and its role in storing and recycling carbon cannot be overstated. The Rainforest Trust points out that each acre of rainforest may hold “as much as 400 metric tons of CO2 equivalent and remove as much as 2.2 metric tons of CO2 per acre for mangroves”. Similar to the mangroves, the peat forests of Indonesia, which run many meters deep into the earth, play a massive role in absorbing and storing carbon out of the atmosphere. A report done by the United Nations Office for Project Services in 2020 found that Indonesia contains 23% of the world’s tropical peatlands; 14 million hectares of this unique source of biodiversity. When peatlands catch fire, either by being deliberately set alight to clear forest for agricultural reasons or simply by accident, it releases up to ten times more carbon than regular forest fires. The carbon release can continue for months, as the fires continue to smoulder underground, bursting to the surface at random points until the rainy season can thoroughly soak the ground. But the damage to the peatlands extends far beyond increasing carbon emissions. The peatlands preserve biodiversity, help to minimize flood risks, and ensure clean drinking water. Protecting and rebuilding this biosphere is so important, a cause Purse for the People passionately believes in, as our next fact will cover.
4. Slow Fashion and Rainforest Conservation
We explored the fascinating rattan gardens of Indonesia in last month’s blog post, but the use of rattan in our customizable bags is more than just aesthetic. It even goes beyond our ethos of supporting indigenous artisans. Rattan, a type of climbing vine, needs the trees to grow and needs the peat for its roots. Using rattan as a material in our products creates positive economic pressures to leave the rainforest standing, creating an alternate income base for folks who live on the forested land. Many of the peatland and forest fires that release such huge amounts of carbon and cause so much injury to the local population are often caused by smallholder farmers and large companies. Burning is often the cheapest method of clearing the rainforest for grazing land or agricultural use. The Rainforest Action Network, in particular, is working alongside Indonesian partners to change policies and practices to help support the implementation of “low carbon, ecologically sustainable and equitable development”. By using materials that require the rainforest to be left intact, companies (like Purse for the People) can help create conditions to encourage rainforest conservation.
5. The Power of FSC Certification
But even when using materials that encourage rainforest conservation, there are pitfalls to avoid. Unethical commercial rattan harvesting can actually lead to deforestation, with the vines being overharvested and not given time to regrow. That is why Purse for the People is working closely with Katingan Farmers Rattan Group or P2RK. The group, based in Central Kalimantan, represent over 200 farmers on the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. In 2017, P2RK, which had been working closely with the WWF, became only the second place in the world to produce rattan officially certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC certification not only encourages rainforest conservation but also has a major economic impact. As the WWF article says, “prices paid to rattan harvesters in Indonesia are low [...] With FSC certification, P2RK smallholders are in a stronger position to command higher prices from buyers supplying high-value markets”. Purse for the People is in the process of working with P2RK to help us purchase FSC certified rattan in Indonesia for the Laurel and Juniper bags. Sourcing rattan from Indonesia is a complicated process.. The good news is that things are improving, and we are continuously searching for and locating partners who are working to make certified rattan a reality.
There is so much more to learn about the causes of rainforest deforestation and how we can work to encourage rainforest conservation. We encourage you to follow some of the sources linked in this article to expand your knowledge. Find ways to be more mindful of what you consume in your day-to-day life. Demand better of the companies who are responsible for this widespread destruction. Support slow fashion companies, like Purse for the People, who are working to reduce harm and actively work to operate in a way that brings about positive change.
Do you have a favorite eco-friendly tip or trick that you’d like to share with the P4tP community? Or maybe a favorite ecologically conscious brand you think more people should know about? Leave them in the comments to share your wealth of knowledge!