Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Sunday, August 12, 2018

Recently on the BBC, Deborah Tabart from the Australian Koala Foundation noted that "85 per cent of the world's forests are now gone." This statement is incorrect. Moreover, due to afforestation in the developed world, net deforestation has almost ceased. While Tabart may have had good intentions in raising environmental concerns, far-fetched claims about the current state of the world's forests do not help. After searching for evidence to support Tabart's claim, the closest source I could find is an article from GreenActionNews, which claims that 80 per cent of the earth's forests have been destroyed. The problem with that claim is that according to the United Nations there are 4 billion hectares of forest remaining worldwide. To put that in perspective, the entire world has 14.8 billion hectares of land. For 80 per cent of the forest area to have already been destroyed and for 4 billion hectares to remain, 135 per cent of the planet's surface must have once been covered in forests.

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GreenActionNews' claim not only implies that 5.2 billion hectares of deforestation occurred at sea, but that every bit of land on earth was once forested. Ancient deserts, swamps, tundra and grasslands make mockery of that claim. Amusingly, GreenActionNews' claims that "forest is unevenly distributed: the five most forest rich countries are the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China." Country size and forest area do not always correlate, but it is hardly "uneven" that the five largest countries also hold the world's largest forest areas.

The reason why most people labor under a misapprehension about the state of the world's forests is that news stories often ignore afforestation. In about half of the world, there is net reforestation and, as Matt Ridley puts it, this isn't happening despite economic development, but because of it.

The world's richest regions, such as North America and Europe, are not only increasing their forest area. They have more forests than they did prior to industrialization. The United Kingdom, for example, has more than tripled its forest area since 1919. The UK will soon reach forest levels equal to those registered in the Domesday Book, almost a thousand years ago.

It is not just rich nations that are experiencing net reforestation. The "Environmental Kuznets curve" is an economic notion that suggests that economic development initially leads to environmental deterioration, but after a period of economic growth that degradation begins to reverse.

Once nations hit, what Ridley dubs the "forest transition," or approximately $4,500 GDP per capita, forest areas begin to increase. China, Russia, India, Vietnam and Bangladesh are just some of the nations that have hit this forest transition phase and are experiencing net afforestation.

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The Kuznets curve not only applies to forest area, but also biodiversity. Ridley gives the example of three apex predators: wolves that live in developed countries of Europe and North America, tigers who mainly inhabit mid-income India, Russia and Bangladesh, and lions, which live in poor Sub-Saharan Africa. Following the Kuznets curve, wolf numbers are rapidly increasing, tiger numbers have been steady for the last 20 years (and have just began to increase), while lion numbers continue to fall.

To encourage reforestation and environmental protection, the answer is a simple one – adopt economic policies that encourage rapid development and urbanisation. As people grow rich and move to the cities, more money becomes available for environmental protection and more land can be returned to nature.

#1 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2018-08-12 01:09 PM | Reply

Ever eaten tiger? They're GRRRRRRRRRREAT!

#2 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2018-08-13 12:16 PM | Reply

What most of you call forest, are actually tree farms. Down south here they planted played out cotton farms with pine and that is why all the pulp mills that make the paper you use are down here. Up north they planted Douglas fir for lumber. Therein is the problem, a virgin forest has multiple species of trees. Multiple species of trees support a diversity of wildlife, single species are vulnerable to a single pest- such as the bark beetle in Idaho. If you desire a more natural, biodiversity, we could learn something from the Germans. They plant a variety of trees in areas that are not useful for pasture or cultivation, and BTW, they are all valuable. Beach, Yew, Chestnut, Oak and Fir.

#3 | Posted by docnjo at 2018-08-13 02:36 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

Ever eaten tiger? They're GRRRRRRRRRREAT!

#2 | Posted by MUSTANG

Do they tast as good as mountain lion or eagle?

#4 | Posted by Sniper at 2018-08-13 05:40 PM | Reply

They plant a variety of trees in areas that are not useful for pasture or cultivation, and BTW, they are all valuable. Beach, Yew, Chestnut, Oak and Fir.

#3 | Posted by docnjo

And do you have any large tracts staked out for that? It would have to be back east because any land that gets enough water in the west already has trees on it. The rest is desert.

#5 | Posted by Sniper at 2018-08-13 05:43 PM | Reply

#5 | Posted by Sniper There are over 500 verities of trees native to this country. Many are adapted to thrive in dry areas. Off hand I know of four types of dry land pine that is used commercially. Live Oak does well on less than 15 inches of rain a year. Hell, they found a commercial value for Mesquite.

#6 | Posted by docnjo at 2018-08-14 08:32 AM | Reply

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