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Photographer's appalling before-and-after photos show the dark truth behind deforestation: 'It's total annihilation'

"Over the past 10-15 years, I've sadly witnessed the destruction of many incredible and irreplaceable old-growth forests."

TJ Watt to protect old-growth forests

Photo Credit: iStock

Canadian photographer TJ Watt has spent years using his photography to protect old-growth forests, including taking before-and-after photos to show exactly what is being lost to logging, PetaPixel reported.

According to Watt, the project began when he visited the Caycuse Valley on Vancouver Island, a forest he was familiar with already, PetaPixels said. When he got there, he discovered logging was already underway.

Destruction of Ancient Forests
Before-and-After Photos Reveal the Destruction of Ancient Forests

"On the edge of the cutblock stood a giant cedar that I knew would fall the next morning, and unless I captured photographs of it, I would be the last person to see this tree standing, other than the fallers," he told PetaPixels. "That became the first photo in the series."

Watt's photos, available on his website, are a memorial to the incredible trees being ruthlessly destroyed in Canada's old-growth forests. Most come in pairs. The first is a "before" shot of a living tree, wider than a person is tall, with Watt posing in front of or on the tree in a red jacket.

The "after" photos show the exact same place, with Watt in the same pose and wearing the same jacket — but with the breathtaking trees reduced to dead stumps.

"Over the past 10-15 years, I've sadly witnessed the destruction of many incredible and irreplaceable old-growth forests, forests that rival almost any other on Earth in terms of sheer beauty and grandeur, often with trees upwards of 500-1000 years old," Watt told PetaPixels. 

"It's nearly impossible to translate into words what the loss of an ancient ecosystem looks like after clearcut logging," he added. "It's total annihilation."

"Clearcut logging," or "clearcutting," is the practice of cutting down most or all of the trees in a stretch of forest. It's profitable for businesses but incredibly destructive to the environment and wildlife — and just replanting the trees doesn't fix the damage.

According to the Global Environmental Governance Project, "The loss of forest cover that accompanies clearcutting leads to habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, species extinction, soil erosion, flooding, nutrient loss, elimination of indigenous tribes, disruption of weather patterns, and increased climate change."

By documenting the horrifying outcomes, Watt hopes to end clearcutting. His photos have drawn attention to the issue in the media and online.

"The forest and trees are so magnificent," said one Instagram commenter. "It's heartbreaking to hear about and see all that happens there!"

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