From Works in Progress:
The authors of that study didn’t include any economic indicators in their work; they classified countries only according to how much forest they started out with and how their remaining forests were changing. To assess how countries’ stage in the forest transition connects to their stage of economic development, I compared2 their categorization to a country’s real GDP per capita in 2013. I found that, in 2013, all countries with a GDP per capita over $25,000 had reached a post-transition state, with the exceptions of Australia and Equatorial Guinea.3 From this data, at least, a highly-productive economy was sufficient (though not necessary) to halt forest loss. Put another way, rich countries don’t deforest.
It’s a case that tracks with the counterintuitive-but-true trend of dematerialization: economic growth, innovation, and wealth track with using fewer resources, not more. Contra every Malthusian fear trend about overpopulation, runaway deforestation, or the general industrial mechanization of all things.
Once upon a time, wood was a primary fuel source — for centuries. What modern, post-industrial society derives most of its energy from wood?