The term ‘Slash and Burn’ farming relates to an old agricultural practice that has historically been used throughout most of the world. It is a method which quickly creates open land through the cutting and burning of forests and woodlands to create fields for agriculture, or pasture for livestock.
Today the term is mainly associated with the dramatic loss of tropical rain forests, but the ‘slash and burn’ technique is still used by between 200 and 500 million people worldwide
The biggest problem of using ‘slash and burn’ in tropical rainforests is the large scale erosion that usually occurs afterwards. Since there are few active roots in the ground or a protective tree canopy to act as temporary water storage, there is no longer anything left to prevent the surface run-off of water. Therefore, any small remaining amounts of nutrients are washed away causing the phenomenon known as ‘desertification’ - this is when no further growth of any type may arise for generations.
The world’s rainforests - and therefore the world at large - are already at risk from catastrophic climate change. In less than 50 years we have seen the destruction of over half of the worlds rainforest environment due to logging and ‘slash and burn’ farming. However the loss of the rainforest continues to progress at an alarming rate - equivalent to an area of two football fields every second!
It is these emissions of greenhouse gases that are causing global warming. In simple terms, if there were no rainforests to absorb CO2, the temperature of the earth would rise, and in turn so would global sea levels. That is the reality that the world is facing and why its effects should concern everybody.