Have you ever wondered what a world without trees would look like? Close your eyes, and try to imagine a desolate Earth. There would be no more paper, and everyone would have to resort to technological use—that is, if anyone was left. Trees are a crucial factor to our existence not only because they produce paper, lumber and chewing gum, but because they serve an important role in the carbon cycle. And because of our ever-increasing population of 6.7 billion, that seemingly distant future is nearing each and every day. People have proposed many solutions to this environmental issue called deforestation, including either shipping everyone to the Moon or…to just stop cutting trees!
Without trees, humans would not be able survive because the air would be unsuitable for breathing. If anything, people would have to develop gas masks that filter the little oxygen that would be left in the air. Trees are a crucial part of the carbon cycle, a global process in which carbon dioxide constantly circulates through the atmosphere into organism and back again. Trees take carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis in order to make energy. This carbon is then either transferred into oxygen and released into the air by respiration or is stored inside the trees until they decompose into the soil. Therefore, the absence of trees would result in significantly higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the air and lower amounts of oxygen! The filthy air would also be full of airborne particles and pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide and its temperature may increase by up to 12 F.
If the air hadn’t already wiped out everybody, the next disastrous consequence of deforestation is its damaging effect on soil. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture for their livelihood. If deforestation gets its way, those people won’t be the only ones affected. The soil would become full of dangerous chemicals and pollutants that are usually filtered by trees. In addition, trees currently prevent soil erosion because they protect the land. However, soil would be unprotected, and vulnerable to reduction in soil quality and top soil nutrients. Soil erosion would become more prevalent, and eventually all the soil will lose its arability and agriculture will fall…leaving us people to starve.
Arid conditions will surface, not only because of dangerous, unfiltered substances, but also because at one point it will rarely rain. During the dry season, trees regulate and anchor the dirt by releasing water. Furthermore, trees add humidity into the air through transpiration, and the lack of trees results in the lack of moisture in the air.
Of course, if there aren’t trees, there won’t be any products you can get from them. We use and waste paper every day without realizing we’re helping to kill four billion trees cut down every year. Due to global deforestation, there would be no paper, baseball bats, barrels, books, blocks, benches, crutches, coffee filters, guitars, grocery bags, pencils, pine oil, beds, billboards, buttons, fuel wood, charcoal, industrial round wood, candy wrappers, chewing gum, cork, crayons, spices, egg cartons, kites, linoleum, luggage, paper, Ping-Pong balls, wooden chopsticks, rubber, tambourines, telephone books, tires, bark, fiber, dyes, incense, latexes, oils, resins, shellac, tanning compounds, waxes, toilet paper, turpentine, xylophones or wooden yo-yos. Food harvested from trees such as fruits, nuts, berries would be nonexistent as well.
Even if our species survived the devastation of deforestation, life as we know it would be very different from now in 2011, where only half of the world’s forests are gone. Scientists speculate our great-grandchildren might not even have the chance to visit the great Amazon rainforest in less than fifty years. Yet on such a dry, lifeless world, no one would be left to experience the disastrous consequences of deforestation. Little ordeals like the decrease of property value and potential increase of urban noise become irrelevant compared to other calamities like roadside spills, animal wastes, water runoff into streams, and sewage/farm chemicals left unfiltered.
Philosophers oft wonder, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” But when the forest shall fall, its sound would echo for centuries to come.