The Hidden Message Behind Our Planet’s Desperate Plea to Save Forests

In Forest

Young male lowland gorilla (at this age - approx 12 yrs - they are known as 'blackbacks') in pristine jungle. Mondika, Republic of Congo SCREEN GRAB

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The bad guy in the story? Humans.

The opening scene of the ‘Jungles’ episode pans out to reveal a tropical forest in all its natural glory.

The pristine lowland jungle of Tawau National Park in Sabah, Malaysia.
©Silverback Films Our Planet Image

Accompanied by the background calls of insects, birds and monkeys, it instantly evokes a sense of peace and wonder. You can almost smell the fresh jungle air. The episode then quickly transports you to a variety of emotionally impactful scenes of the unseen in nature: mating rituals of New Guinea’s fascinating bird-of-paradise, the grotesque parasitic fungus attacking the insects of the Amazon Basin and the tough life of a teenage Philippine eagle (you know how it is with teens these days).

The visuals are incredible. So is the storytelling.

But occasionally breaking the stillness of nature and disrupting the sense of peace is a couple of sad, hard-to-swallow facts as narrated by David Attenborough in his soothing, crisp voice.

“Today, the diversity of the world’s rainforests is falling at an alarming rate,” he explains.

To which he added disappointingly, “and that is because of us.”

What follows after is a heartbreaking depiction of hectares of trees that were cleared for palm oil production.

But that alone, unfortunately, portrays only a small window of life in the forests.

If anything, the tender storytelling almost feels nostalgic.

Today, we have already lost 70% of the world’s forests because of our need for food.

Forests are the breathing lungs of the planet. We don’t just get clean air when we have forests; they take in carbon dioxide and help reduce global warming. Areas with forest cover also experience better rainfall and protection of water sources.

Many of the trees exist in the Congo’s forests because of animals like this lowland male gorilla who helps to disperse their seeds. But its kind is now critically endangered.
©Silverback Films Our Planet Image

Every year, the world loses an average of 15 million hectares of jungles. It is no surprise that the destruction of these intricate ecosystems has led to the loss of biodiversity, so much so that 60% of biodiversity has been lost over the past 44 years.

The call for change has never been so urgent. And the solutions lie in our hands.

#1 Our extreme consumerism is depleting natural resources like never before

Today, mankind requires the resources of 1.7 planets to provide the goods and services we use each year. In Singapore alone, it’s four planets.

There is a better way. We need to completely change the way we consume and produce natural resources.

Denim products, and other clothing materials use enormous amounts of water in the production process. One pair of jeans is estimated to use up to 7,600 litres of water. Do you really need a new pair?

#2 Our constant dependence on paper, pulp and palm oil is wiping out precious rainforests

Eco-certifications such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) are recognised certifications by WWF as they meet the minimum benchmarks of sustainable production. Certified producers also enjoy an increase in productivity.

By making an active decision to buy certified products such as FSC-certified wooden furniture or RSPO-certified food products, you are sending clear demand market signals to the industry for deforestation-free, sustainable products.

#3 Our addiction to meat is converting forests to agricultural land at unprecedented rates

Livestock agriculture is a primary cause of deforestation in many tropical forests. In Brazil, over 170 million hectares of forests have been degraded for cattle grazing. That’s a little less than half of all land area in Southeast Asia! Reducing your consumption of meat overtime will reduce your overall carbon footprint, and will immediately lessen the pressures on deforestation.

Saying that, the path to reversing the loss of nature will be a difficult one. It will need the cooperation of governments, businesses and people. But it is not impossible, and will need continuous efforts across the globe.

Responsibility rests on all of us to ensure nature documentaries don’t become a nostalgic window into a past that once was.

It is, after all, Our Planet.

The eight-part series of Our Planet is now streaming on Netflix.

If you like reading this, see why it might be too late if we leave it to our kids to fix the planet, why the haze could be much worse in Singapore, and why our planet needs de-clutter guru Marie Kondo.

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