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Project December 6, 2019

The Solomon Islands' Vanishing Forests

Authors:
A lush rainforest on a remote island in the Solomon Islands overhangs coastal water. Image by Ethan Daniels / Shutterstock. Solomon Islands, 2019. 
A lush rainforest on a remote island in the Solomon Islands overhangs coastal water. Image by Ethan Daniels / Shutterstock. Solomon Islands, 2019.

Solomon Islands is currently one of the world's most heavily forested nations, with some 80 percent of its total area covered in tropical trees and foliage. By 2036, the government estimates, that could all be gone. For a country already struggling with climate change—swallowed up by rising sea levels, battered by extreme weather, and living through unpredictable seasons that ruin crops—the results would be catastrophic.

Last year, timber was cleared and exported from the islands at a rate 19 times greater than what would be sustainable. This disastrous pace is primarily the result of unregulated and illegal logging, which is now so commonplace that most U.S. and European importers will not do business there at all.

Centuries of colonial abuses followed by power struggles and heavy fighting during WWII left the Solomon Islands impoverished. Unchecked logging is adding to these woes, causing huge damage to local communities. This project investigates and illustrates the massive destruction of Solomon Islands' forests through demand for tropical timber.