Peru Amazon River forest
Peru Amazon River forest (Credit: World Resources Institute / Flickr)

Cutting down trees leads to more carbon in the atmosphere – and it’s happening at an alarming rate. In 2017 alone, tropical forests lost 39 million acres – that’s larger than the state of Georgia.

Seymour: “If tropical deforestation were a country, it would rank third after China and the United States as a source of emissions.”

Frances Seymour of the World Resources Institute says deforestation is not only a climate issue. Forests are important sources of food, fuel, and medicine for people around the world.

Seymour: “They’re also a source of cultural identity and livelihood for the indigenous peoples who inhabit those forests, and it turns out, are the best stewards of those forests. I mean, you can look at the maps and see that where there are tropical forests remaining, you know, there’s a good chance that indigenous peoples are present there.”

Seymour says when countries give indigenous people more control over land, deforestation slows.

A study in the Peruvian Amazon found that granting forest property rights to indigenous communities reduced tree clearing by more than three-quarters.

So Seymour says protecting indigenous land rights and tropical forests go hand in hand.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.