As reported by the Psmag website, it looks like we’ll lose one of the planet’s biggest remaining rainforests by the year 2100. It’s the unbelievably precious Congo Basin rainforest, and between the years 2000 and 2014 it lost an area bigger than Bangladesh.
Africa’s Congo Basin is home to the world’s second-largest rainforest. But if deforestation carries on at this rate, the entire primary forest will be gone by the end of this century. When the University of Maryland delved deep into satellite data collected between 2000 and 2014, they were horrified to realise the extent of the loss. Sadder still, while the researchers were doing the work about 165,000 square kilometres more forest were lost to deforestation.
Apparently the dominant force behind the savage Congo deforestation we’ve seen, the driver behind over 80% of the loss, isn’t down to big business. Unusually, it’s almost all down to small-scale clearing by families engaging in subsistence agriculture, mostly done by hand without machinery. And this is, in turn, often the only way to make a living locally, the only way to survive thanks to years of political instability and conflict.
The issue is also a geographical one, since the Congo Basin rainforest covers Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon. The DRC has the biggest chunk of the forest within its borders, an astonishing 60%, and more people live in this particular bit of the forest than in any other area of it owned by any other country. At the same time the DRC’s human development index languishes in the bottom 10%, which means life span, education and per capita gross domestic product are some of the world’s lowest.
When ignorance and poverty rule, environmental disasters are more likely to happen and people are less likely to care. When all you are doing is subsisting, you’re desperate. You have to find ways to feed your children, and you don’t much care how you get that food. Until we resolve poverty, the destruction will probably carry on.