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Deforestation Quotes (27 quotes)

Deforestation photo of burning brush and timber on the ground + quote caption “Earth skinned alive”
Deforestation of Amazon forest by burning to clear for grazing lands.
Credit: NASA LBA-ECO Project

A lot of people ask, 'Do you think humans are parasites?' It's an interesting idea and one worth thinking about. People casually refer to humanity as a virus spreading across the earth. In fact, we do look like some strange kind of bio-film spreading across the landscape. A good metaphor? If the biosphere is our host, we do use it up for our own benefit. We do manipulate it. We alter the flows and fluxes of elements like carbon and nitrogen to benefit ourselves—often at the expense of the biosphere as a whole. If you look at how coral reefs or tropical forests are faring these days, you'll notice that our host is not doing that well right now. Parasites are very sophisticated; parasites are highly evolved; parasites are very successful, as reflected in their diversity. Humans are not very good parasites. Successful parasites do a very good job of balancing—using up their hosts and keeping them alive. It's all a question of tuning the adaptation to your particular host. In our case, we have only one host, so we have to be particularly careful.
Talk at Columbia University, 'The Power of Parasites'.
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A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.
Bible
Psalms 74:5 in Church of Scotland, The Book of Common-Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments; and Other Parts of Divine Service For the Use of the Church of Scotland. With A Praphrase of the Psalms in Metre by King James the VI (1637), 250.
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A tree is beautiful, but what’s more, it has a right to life; like water, the sun and the stars, it is essential. Life on earth is inconceivable without trees. Forests create climate, climate influences peoples’ character, and so on and so forth. There can be neither civilization nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe, if the climate is harsh and severe, if people are also harsh and severe. ... What a terrible future!
In letter to A.S. Suvorin (18 Oct 1888).
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And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.
Bible
Jeremiah 2:7, King James Bible.
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By felling the trees which cover the tops and sides of mountains, men in all climates seem to bring upon future generations two calamities at once; want of fuel and a scarcity of water.
In Alexander von Humboldt, Aimé Bonpland and Thomasina Ross (trans. and ed.) Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America: During the Years 1799-1804 (1852), Vol. 2, 9. (Translated from the original in French.)
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Earth, Skinned Alive.
[Headline for deforestation book review.]
Newspaper
Headline to book review by Stephen J. Pyne in New York Times (21 Apr 1991), BR19. (The book being reviewed was Kenton Miller and Laura Tangley, Trees of Life: Saving Tropical Forests and Their Biological Wealth.)
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Forests and trees make significant direct contributions to the nutrition of poor households ... [as] rural communities in Central Africa obtained a critical portion of protein and fat in their diets through hunting wildlife from in and around forests. The five to six million tonnes of bushmeat eaten yearly in the Congo Basin is roughly equal to the total amount of beef produced annually in Brazil – without the accompanying need to clear huge swathes of forest for cattle.
In 'Forests and food security: What we know and need to know', Forest News online blog by the Center for International Forestry Research (20 Apr 2011).
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Forests … are in fact the world’s air-conditioning system—the very lungs of the planet—and help to store the largest body of freshwater on the planet … essential to produce food for our planet’s growing population. The rainforests of the world also provide the livelihoods of more than a billion of the poorest people on this Earth… In simple terms, the rainforests, which encircle the world, are our very life-support system—and we are on the verge of switching it off.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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Gifford Pinchot points out that in colonial and pioneer days the forest was a foe and an obstacle to the settler. It had to be cleared away... But [now] as a nation we have not yet come to have a proper respect for the forest and to regard it as an indispensable part of our resources—one which is easily destroyed but difficult to replace; one which confers great benefits while it endures, but whose disappearance is accompanied by a train of evil consequences not readily foreseen and positively irreparable.
Concluding remark, in 'A Country that has Used up its Trees', The Outlook (24 Mar 1906), 82, 700. The topic of the article is the extensive deforestation in China, its consequences, and that America must avoid such massive problems.
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I used to worry that all the trees in the jungle would be cut down to make paper for their reports on how to save the rainforest!
Quoted in Binka Le Breton (1993), Voices From the Amazon (1993), 26. As cited in Lykke E. Andersen (ed.), The Dynamics of Deforestation and Economic Growth in the Brazilian Amazon (2002), 1, captioning Nick Birch as a “Forester in Rondonia.”
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It was strangely like war. They attacked the forest as if it were an enemy to be pushed back from the beachheads, driven into the hills, broken into patches, and wiped out. Many operators thought they were not only making lumber but liberating the land from the trees...
[On the first logging of the U.S. Olympic Peninsula.]
The Last Wilderness (1955). In William Dietrich, The Final Forest: the Battle for the Last Great Trees of the Pacific Northwest (1992), 21.
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It's like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and the tunnel has leaves on it.
About rain forest destruction and species extinction.
Quoted in Douglas Martin, 'A Brief Walk Through Time', New York Times (4 Jan 2002), E39.
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My Rainforests Project … has three main elements. Firstly, to determine how much funding the rainforest countries need to re-orientate their economies so that the trees are worth more alive than dead.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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Now when you cut a forest, an ancient forest in particular, you are not just removing a lot of big trees and a few birds fluttering around in the canopy. You are drastically imperiling a vast array of species within a few square miles of you. The number of these species may go to tens of thousands. ... Many of them are still unknown to science, and science has not yet discovered the key role undoubtedly played in the maintenance of that ecosystem, as in the case of fungi, microorganisms, and many of the insects.
On Human Nature (2000). In John H. Morgan, Naturally Good (2005), 252.
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Once the forest has been removed and the swamp starts being drained, that organic matter begins to oxidise and give off continuing emissions. It’s sort of like the goose that keeps on giving.
From interview with Inter Press Service (IPS), with Stephen de Tarczynski, 'Environment—Indonesia: Deforestation Causing More Than Landslides' (9 Mar 2008).
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Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
Cree
Cree Indian prophecy. Quoted by the United Nations Director for the Environment at a conference in Geneva. Recalled by a writer in Ann: Zoologische wetenschappen Issues 275-276 (1984), 16.
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The cutting of primeval forest and other disasters, fueled by the demands of growing human populations, are the overriding threat to biological diversity everywhere. (1992)
The Diversity of Life (1999), 259
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The ruthless destruction of their forests by the Chinese is one of the reasons why famine and plague today hold this nation in their sinister grasp. Denudation, wherever practiced, leaves naked soil; floods and erosion follow, and when the soil is gone men must also go—and the process does not take long. The great plains of Eastern China were centuries ago transformed from forest into agricultural land. The mountain plateau of Central China have also within a few hundred years been utterly devastated of tree growth, and no attempt made at either natural or artificial reforestation. As a result, the water rushes off the naked slopes in veritable floods, gullying away the mountain sides, causing rivers to run muddy with yellow soil, and carrying enormous masses of fertile earth to the sea. Water courses have also changed; rivers become uncontrollable, and the water level of the country is lowered perceptibly. In consequence, the unfortunate people see their crops wither and die for lack of water when it is most needed.
Statement (11 May 1921) by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) concerning the famine in China in seven out of every ten years. Reported in 'Blames Deforestation: Department of Agriculture Ascribes Chinese Famine to it', New York Times (12 May 1921), 12.
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The simple fact is that the world is not paying for the services the forests provide. At the moment, they are worth more dead than alive–for soya, for beef, for palm oil and for logging, feeding the demand from other countries. … I think we need to be clear that the drivers of rainforest destruction do not originate in the rainforest nations, but in the more developed countries which, unwittingly or not, have caused climate change.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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The tragedy of deforestation in Amazonia as well as elsewhere in the tropics is that its costs, in... economic, social, cultural, and aesthetic terms, far outweigh its benefits. In many cases, destruction of the region’s rainforests is motivated by short-term gains rather than the long-term productive capacity of the land. And, as a result, deforestation usually leaves behind landscapes that are economically as well as ecologically impoverished.
From Anthony Bennett Anderson (ed.), Alternatives to Deforestation: Steps Toward Sustainable Use of the Amazon Rain Forest (1990), xi. As cited in Lykke E. Andersen (ed.), The Dynamics of Deforestation and Economic Growth in the Brazilian Amazon (2002), 2.
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The trees are man's best friends; but man has treated them as his worst enemies. The history of our race may be said to be the history of warfare upon the tree world. But while man has seemed to be the victor, his victories have brought upon him inevitable disasters.
'What We Owe to the Trees', Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Apr 1882), 46, No. 383, 675.
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The tropical rain forests of the world harbor the majority of the planet’s species, yet this wealth of species is being quickly spent. While the exact numbers of species involved and the rate of forest clearing are still under debate, the trend is unmistakable—the richest terrestrial biome is being altered at a scale unparalleled in geologic history.
In The Fragmented Forest: Island Biogeography Theory and the Preservation of Biotic Diversity (1984),
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The world's forests need to be seen for what they are—giant global utilities, providing essential public services to humanity on a vast scale. They store carbon, which is lost to the atmosphere when they burn, increasing global warming. The life they support cleans the atmosphere of pollutants and feeds it with moisture. They act as a natural thermostat, helping to regulate our climate and sustain the lives of 1.4 billion of the poorest people on this Earth. And they do these things to a degree that is all but impossible to imagine.
Speech (25 Oct 2007) at the World Wildlife Fund gala dinner, Hampton Court Palace, announcing the Prince's Rainforests Project. On the Prince of Wales website.
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We are consuming our forests three times faster than they are being reproduced. Some of the richest timber lands of this continent have already been destroyed, and not replaced, and other vast areas are on the verge of destruction. Yet forests, unlike mines, can be so handled as to yield the best results of use, without exhaustion, just like grain fields.
Address to the Deep Waterway Convention, Memphis, Tennessee (4 Oct 1907), 'Our National Inland Waterways Policy'. In American Waterways (1908), 9.
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We need to be realistic. There is very little we can do now to stop the ice from disappearing from the North Pole in the Summer. And we probably cannot prevent the melting of the permafrost and the resulting release of methane. In addition, I fear that we may be too late to help the oceans maintain their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. But there is something we can do—and it could make the whole difference and buy us time to develop the necessary low carbon economies. We can halt the destruction of the world’s rainforests—and even restore parts of them—in order to ensure that the forests do what they are so good at—in other words storing carbon naturally. This is a far easier, cheaper and quicker option than imagining we can rely on as yet unproven technology to capture carbon at a cost of some $50 per tonne or, for that matter, imagining we can achieve what is necessary through plantation timber.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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You hear headlines from time to time about the Amazon rainforest disappearing at a greater or lesser rate.... The real story is that over time the rate has stayed just the same. Year after year, decade after decade, we have failed to stop or really even decrease deforestation...
Online transcript of interview, segment 'Amazon Deforestation' on NPR radio program, Living on Earth (25 Feb 2005).
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[Destroying rain forest for economic gain] is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.
Quoted in R.Z. Sheppard, 'Nature: Splendor in The Grass', Time (3 Sep 1990)
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton