Deforestation and Disease: How can we fix it?


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“We have to really hold everyone accountable. And this is a problem that does not just stay in one country. That is the thing, it goes everywhere, and progress, and it’s a challenge to move things along.” Daniel Brindis, Greenpeace Forest Director

How do we fix deforestation and climate change and all things evil that are happening to the earth? Accountability is a good place to start!

There is not a one-size-fits-all, quick, and easy fix to these issues. After all, it took decades to create the problem. It will likely take more than that to get back to even. Stopping the regression is a must, says Romulo Batista, “Cancer disease can be cured by one small piece of plant that can be lost tomorrow.” Batista is the Senior Forest Campaigner in Brazil for Greenpeace.

His point is, medicines for many diseases may be in the Amazon, but if we destroy it, we may never get the chance to find them, “The COVID can be cured by a microbe from a frog that can be lost tomorrow because we not stopping deforestation.”

Cattle ranches and beef trade are significant threats to rainforests. Companies continue to clear forests to make way for cows and grazing. The hunger for beef is the demand, the cows are the supply, so one-way people can slow deforestation is by eating less red meat.

Many suggest limiting the amount you eat per week. That’s one step to take, says Amy Vittor of the University of Florida. She says there’s plenty more to do, “Engaging a more active transportation meaning walking or bicycling will indirectly but very tangibly, though, impact the rainforests, because by doing so we emit less co2, right, we contribute less to climate change. Climate change, unfortunately, is driving deforestation as well, by fueling fires even more.”

You can also vote for change. If you care about the future of the earth, you can reflect those feelings by voting on the matters, both nationally and in-state, to help keep the environment safe.

We can also be picky about what we purchase and the brands we choose, “We all make choices with how we spend our dollars in this country,” says Ari Bernstein, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Bernstein says we have the power, “It turns out that there’s a wide range of health effects that associate from what we buy. And there are companies that pay more or less attention to this.” Bernstein says we should investigate and figure out if the companies we buy from are motivated by money and money alone or if they have altruistic motivations as well.

This issue is far-reaching and goes beyond the forests. Everything is connected, and so if another city-sized section of the Amazon cut, that might mean the earth heats up, and the next hurricane season is harsher than the one before, and maybe the polar ice caps melt a little more, and water levels rise, and more damage comes from that. The issue is large and complicated. Joe Eisenberg, The University of Michigan, says “Deforestation is a big part of it. But you know, it’s really about the relationship between our ecosystem, how we change how we affect and impact our ecosystem and how that ultimately then impacts disease and disease transmission.”

We can’t simply snap our fingers and make the forests regenerate. We can’t wiggle our noses and reverse climate change. It will take time, effort, thoughtfulness, and patience. Greenpeace’s' Daniel Brindis says we have to treat this like a triage situation, knowing that we can do better. He says all we can do is our best, “That’s really what we’re looking for right now is the best-case scenario.”