The consequences that come with deforestation affect everything from nutrition to infections.
Many experts believe disease emergence is connected to the integrity of the forests.
“Trees buffer air pollution, so they can absorb the air pollution that we know makes people sick,” said Ari Bernstein, with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “They can cool down cities, and cities are warmer than their surrounding areas because they’ve been paved over, and that’s a big deal because climate change is making heat waves much more dangerous.”
He went on to say that nature is really trying to tell us something, and we need to work on making sure we acknowledge and understand that our health is not just about the foods we eat and the medicines we take. Whether it’s on a large scale in a forest or a small scale in a neighborhood, deforestation has a major impact on all of us.
“It’s really, fundamentally, about the state of the natural world and climate. Without those things, it really doesn’t matter,” Bernstein said. “A lot of these other things -- they’re important, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not going to save us from pandemics and climate change, and these other things that are just overwhelming, potentially, if we don’t address them.”
Romulo Batista, with the Senior Forest Campaign in Greenpeace, Brazil, has been living and working in the Amazon for 15 years.
“For the first four hours, it’s completely forest. And I saw this forest become smaller and smaller and smaller and change by soy fields and cattle ranchers,” Batista said. “And this, for me, was wrong [sic]. (People) from around the world come to see this place that is perfect and safe. It changed me. How can we change everything just to put in soy and cattle?”
Most forests are not cut for fun -- they are cut for timber, cattle pasture, agricultural production and palm oil, among other things that we use each day, but at what cost?
“If we’re waiting for an apocalypse to happen of that nature, where we’re going to blow up in an instant, well, I mean, it’s also possible, but I think we’re actually slowly killing ourselves right now, already,” said Amy Vittor, assistant professor of medicine at the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida.
In the video above, several experts weigh in on all the reasons why deforestation is happening and the impact it’s making on our climate and, ultimately, our health.