The growing global problem of illegal logging
Illegal logging is an ever-increasing global problem with devastating social, environmental, and economic consequences. The industry brings in around 152 billion USD annually, making it the world's “most lucrative environmental crime”.
What is illegal logging
Illegal logging can be defined as the unlawful felling, processing, transportation, and exporting of timber. It often includes serious crimes like tax evasion, fraud, bribery, and violations of local communities' rights, including violence and property damage.
Causes of illegal logging
Illegal logging is profitable. Greed is probably the primary motivation for illegal logging, with corruption often playing a role. Clearing land for unlawful agriculture seems easier in countries where forests are not well-regulated.
Effects of illegal logging
Indigenous peoples in many timber-producing nations have long relied on forests for their livelihoods. However, illegal tree cutting is now severely impacting these communities, causing human rights violations and violent clashes with illicit loggers who encroach on their reservations. The native residents have little control over the ownership of their land or its management, and have little leverage to solve the problem alone.
Illegal deforestation negatively affects economic sectors, including government resources, responsible logging companies, and indigenous communities. Unscrupulous loggers who operate illegally avoid paying taxes and permit fees, depriving government agencies of much-needed revenues. This costs governments around the world 5 billion USD every year. Similarly, responsible timber companies lose market demand and suffer from price pressure because illegal timber costs less to produce. The trade in illegally harvested timber is estimated by Interpol to be worth USD 51-152 billion per year.
Moreover, many developing countries and local communities are also kept in a cycle of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation through illegal deforestation. The sustainability efforts of responsible government agencies and ethical logging companies are thereby compromised, and indigenous peoples are deprived of their income and livelihoods.
The leading cause of biodiversity loss is deforestation. Illegal logging is one of the most considerable driving forces behind this. Many species are threatened with extinction because their vital habitat is being destroyed.
Moreover, climate change is increased by forest loss. An intact forest absorbs carbon dioxide and is a prime defence against rising global temperatures. Greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed in modern times due to the increased burning of fossil fuels.
Examples of illegal logging
The unethical, illegal logging industry is widespread in timber-producing countries. The WWF states that illegal logging makes up 50 to 90% of forestry activity in the planet's most important rainforests. The Amazon, especially the Brazilian rainforests, are under threat. In May 2015, Vice News reported that deforestation in Brazil has increased by a staggering 400% since October 2014. The largest and most species-rich European forests, protected by EU laws prohibiting illegal logging, are in Romania. Although Romania has been an EU member since 2007, in 2021 it was discovered that illegal logging had increased significantly compared to the previous year.
The rainforest in Indonesia is also under severe threat. But with a record low in deforestation in 2020, Indonesia represents the positive examples of threatened areas in this list. Comparing 2019 with 2020, Indonesia's deforestation rate has dropped by 75%.
How to stop illegal logging
Illegal logging is a major problem that needs to be addressed in order to improve the lives of those affected and to protect the environment. There is still hope for our world's forests.
Consumers can make an essential contribution by informing themselves about the origin of wood before buying wooden products to stop the demand for illegal timber.
Many countries worldwide are aware of the need to tackle illegal logging. Costa Rica is a prime example. The country reversed deforestation with pioneering forest conservation efforts after its ecosystems were hit by severe forest degradation in the 19th century. You can become active as a volunteer to restore the balance of the rainforest in Costa Rica.
Governments must partner with the private sector, non-profit organisations, international aid agencies, and civil society to save the world's natural resources. These natural resources are essential for our survival, and it is critical that we take steps to protect them. We must work together to ensure that our forests are managed sustainably and use them in a way that does not jeopardise our collective future.
Contribute to the exploration of the world's most diverse and largest rainforest. Volunteer at a research station in Peru and live close to nature