The third of our Top 5 Environmental Issues is deforestation. According to Professor T.M. Das at the University of Calcutta, an adult tree is worth $193,000 annually. The benefits include oxygen production, pollution removal, and increased soil fertility. So if trees are so valuable, then why have humans destroyed half of the world’s forests? Are we all tree-haters?
Today, students played a board game in class. Their goal was simple: win the game by making the most profit. Students took turns rolling dice, moving their game pieces around the board, and cutting down trees. On the back of each tree was the earned value of that tree’s lumber. Every 50 years (5 rounds of the game), students paused to regrow the forest. Just like in nature, small patches of cleared forest regrew quickly, while larger patches regrew slower or not at all. Of course, the result of the game was severe deforestation.
Deforestation isn’t a symptom of tree-haters running wild through Earth’s forests. It’s an example of the Tragedy of the Commons. When someone cuts down a tree, the benefits (the value of the lumber, the paper, or the land) go directly to that individual. And the negative effects (less oxygen, more CO2, less soil fertility, etc.) are spread out. So how do we solve the problem and stop deforestation? That’s tomorrow’s lesson.