Every year an approximate 32 million acres of forest are destroyed which is equivalent to about 50,000 square miles (Kremen 1). These forests that are being torn down provide communities and wildlife with resources such as food, water, medicine, and shelter as well as breathable air. At the rate that forests are being cut down we are not able to replant them due to lack of funding and space. Many of the lands that were once forests are now homes to factories that encourage more deforestation.
Although it may not seem relevant to some people of the United States, this country still benefits from rain forests around the world. The United State’s government does have some economic incentives for preserving forests in the U. S. and other countries, however, most of the funding comes from conservation organizations and individual efforts. The majority of these efforts are not motivated by economics but by environmental concern. Efforts to conserve forests around the world should be increased by governments and communities because of how important the forests are for the well being of our lives and our planet.
The United States government protects 24. 5 million acres of temperate rain forest that stretches from northern California to Alaska. Alongside the American government, the Canadian government of British Columbia has 19 million acres under strict land use management, with five million acres protected under historic land use agreements. These areas, however, are not protected due to economic incentives, but are protected for the wildlife and communities in the area. The environments provide many resources for the surrounding communities.
The coastal waters and rivers are home to a wide variety of fish, including salmon which provide food and nutrients for the communities and wildlife. This forest also has one of the highest oxygen roductivity levels (McKittrick). If it were to be cut down North America would suffer from air pollution and the climate would be greatly affected. These factors do not give the government economic incentives to conserve the environments because they important to the people and wildlife in the surrounding communities and a necessity for clean air.
In South America the Amazon River basin covers 40 percent of the continent and is home to the world’s largest rain forest. Since 2000 Brazil has established the world’s largest network of protected areas, the majority of which are located in the Amazon region. Since 2004 he Brazilian government has also had a deforestation reduction program in place, which includes improved law enforcement, satellite monitoring, and financial incentives for respecting environmental laws (Butler). The United States has little to do with these efforts.
However, the Brazilian government is also hoping to accelerate their economic growth. By doing this they have spent nearly 40 billion dollars on highways, railroads, power lines and other such projects. Environmental agencies are being kept out of the decision making process regarding these projects (Laurance 1). They are kept out because the overnment is mostly concerned about making money and bettering their economy. The continuation of removal of the Amazon would have tremendous effects on atmospheric chemistry and species diversity.
Nearly 50 percent of the world’s animal species reside in the Amazon River basin. The forest also plays a large role in maintaining the Earth’s atmosphere and ozone. There are many long lasting effects on the environment that are caused by deforestation of the Amazon. Without as many trees there is less water vapor in the air which leads to less rain in the area. What remains of the forest needs as much ater as it can get but with less rain the trees and plants are unable to receive the amount they need in order to survive.
The lack of vegetation can also influence the climate of the surrounding areas (Shukla 1). If this forest is continuously cut down we will lose many of the species of animals because their homes would be destroyed. Many of the species that live in the Amazon are already endangered and will become extinct once the forest is gone. A forest cannot be replanted in the same time it takes for it to be cut down. If deforestation efforts are stopped or even slowed down we would be able to repair the damage. However, the government is not willing, or able some may say, to pay for theses expenses.
In order for the United States government to provide worldwide protection of rain forests they would have to spend a yearly sum of 8 to 10 billion dollars. At this cost the government could double the efforts they put towards projects that harm the environment, projects such as logging and community expansion (Penn). Some may say that rain forests outside of the United States do not need government protection, however, most of the world’s rain forests are within developing countries whose governments cannot afford the costs of conservation. These foreign rain forests are the ones that the world needs the most.
The North American temperate rain forest does not provide the United States with many exports which prevents the government from making any profit. In fact, most activities which may cause deforestation can result in large increases of incomes and profits. This is why governments place no value on forest protection. Most Forest reserves are established in response to international concerns about ecological destruction. The plans for protecting habitats and preserving a specific proportion of the tropical forest are nature-for-debt swaps, ublic and private partnerships, and the Tropical Forest Action Plan (Katzman 3).
Martin Katzman was a Yale graduate and an author and William Cale was the president of the University of North Alabama. They conducted their studies in Latin America. The United States provides protection of foreign rain forests because of the profits of investing the money in them. Chocolate and coffee, which are often harvested from rain forests, are common products that are often imported into the United States from countries that farm them. There is a high demand for these two particular products which pushes the overnment and American companies into providing funds to preserve the farms and the forests.
However, this is not an economic incentive to save the trees themselves but to save the profits that the United States makes from what grows on the trees. Over the past century an estimated 860 million acres of forests have been destroyed. The consequences of this deforestation include the loss of goods such as timber and medicine, and habitat loss to the indigenous people that live in the forests (Lamb 1). Annually, tropical deforestation releases 2O to 30 percent of greenhouse gases that pollute the air.
Conserving forests could reduce emissions, but the cost- effectiveness of this depends on the associated opportunity costs (Kremen 1). Alongside deforestation for expansion and timber, palm oil production accounts for a large amount of total forests reduced. The problems associated with palm oil production are likely to get worse. Demand for palm oil, which is used primarily in snack and fried food manufactures, increased by an average of 2. 2 million metric tons worldwide each year since 2000 and continues to grow. The most common way of producing the oil is to cut down the trees it comes from.
This urge has had disastrous consequences in the rain forests all along the tropical belt, from Belize in South America to Indonesia in southern Asia, where native forests are destroyed to clear room for industrial palm oil production. While many governments and the palm oil industry have guaranteed that new plantations will be planted on previously deforested or non-forest lands, Butler and Laurance argue that producers have a significant economic incentive to clear forests so that they can use timber profits to invest in the construction of new palm plantations.
Simply put, forests are being torn down to ncrease the amount of space for plantations. While the palm oil industry has claimed that plantations have the potential to increase biodiversity, a large and growing body of research empirically documents significant biodiversity losses in forests converted to oil palm. Many of the forests that are cut down for palm oil production are home to many species of wildlife and indigenous people. (Isenhour 5). The production of palm oil also has a significant carbon footprint.
Because many primary and secondary forests have been cut down to make way for palm oil plantations, the atmospheric emissions associated with deforestation are significant. A total of 12 percent of anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide emissions are associated with deforestation for agricultural purposes. Despite all of the concerns about tropical deforestation, biodiversity loss -many palm oil producing nations fervidly defend the industry, arguing that the crop has fulfilled its promise to provide a highly productive and profitable means for poverty and development (Isenhour 6).
Cindy Isenhour is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Maine whose research topics include environmental issues and climate change. Many, but not all, palm oil plantations threaten the habitats of already ndangered orangutans. These animals are on the brink of extinction and if they were protected by the government their habitats would not be as diminished than they are now. This production shows that most governments are not concerned with the environment and are focused more on the economic incentives of deforestation.
The United States government has very little economic incentives and most conservation efforts come from organizations. The United States has passed the Rain Forest Conservation Act, though. This act allows deals to be made between the U. S. and 14 other countries and these deals ill generate over $326 million for tropical forest conservation in these countries. The act allows the countries to pay off their debts owed to the United States government while they generate funds to pay for conservation activities.
The Rain Forest Conservation Act, also known as the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, offers many benefits to the participating countries. It allows them to not only pay off their debts and conserve their forests, but also allows third parties to increase the amount of funds, and strengthens their civil societies. Aside from this act, little efforts are put forth from the government to protect forests (USAID). National governments often make large-scale natural resource decisions affecting conservation.
Governments decide what land is made into parks and what is used for logging and other such activities. Yellowstone, the first national park, was established by the United States government in 1872. Since then fifty eight parks have been established, the latest being the Great Sand Dunes Park in 2004. These parks are spread across the United States mainland as well as Alaska and Hawaii and cover more than 84 million acres including land in District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
These parks are protected under the United States government and are the biggest conservation projects that the government takes part in (National Park Service). Until recently there were three major responses to deforestation. One was to improve agricultural productivity on abandoned plots in order to improve the lives of communities living in these areas. The second was to expand networks of protected areas to help preserve the remaining biodiversity. The third response has been to take on some form of reforestation.
This has been done with the use of industrial cultures involving a limited number of species such as Pinus, Eucalyptus, and Acacia. Although many of these plantations have been productive and generated goods such as pulpwood, few provide the variety of goods, such as timber, medicine and food, once provided by the original forests to the people living in these areas. However, Lamb states that “neither agricultural development nor past forms of reforestation have been sufficient to provide sustainable livelihoods and environmental services over the large areas of degraded land that have developed” (Lamb 1).
Most efforts put forth into conserving rain forests have little to no economic incentives and all agree that economic incenti should not discourage governments from environmental enforcement (Di Leva). Aside from the government, there are many conservation organizations that work towards preserving national forests as well as forests around the world. The National Forest Foundation was founded in 1993 to bring people together to restore national forests and grasslands. They are a non profit partner of the U. S. Forest Service that works with Americans to promote the health and well being of their 193 million acres National Forest System.
The National Forest Foundation works on mostly donations from sponsors and volunteers. Throughout their 23 years of services the foundation has protected 9,126 miles of scenic byways, 148,295 miles of hiking trails, 4,418 miles of wild and scenic rivers, 5,107 campgrounds, 1,200 boating sites, and 328 natural pools. These provide water for 123 million Americans. The incentives of this organization are not economical but visitor spending produces about $13. 5 million annually and sustains nearly 223,000 jobs (Possiel).
The Rainforest Foundation U. S. rtners with indigenous communities to restore their rain forest homes. This organization focuses on human rights and enables communities to protect their own forests which then allows the rest of the world to use those forests for resources. They state that human life depends on rain forests because their resources are a necessity. Rain forests once covered 14 percent of Earth’s surface but now only cover about 6 percent. The Rainforest Foundation works in Brazil, Peru, Panama, and Guyana and focuses on the Amazon and other South American forests.
The efforts of this organization are motivated by the importance of these forests (Pelletier). The United States does not have enough intent, economical or environmental, of conserving rain forests and the environmental intent only comes from national concern, not the government. All government incentives of conserving American forests and foreign forests come from saving our own money instead of saving the environment and the people in rain forest communities. The environment should be a top priority because without it we would not be able to survive.
Protecting the people and animals that live in these forests should come before producing things such as palm oil because there are other alternatives. The economic incentives that the United States government does have are small and there are more incentives for cutting down the forests for products such as oil and lumber. The economy may benefit from the destruction of forests but it is not worth the loss of the environment. All everyone wants to do is make money but they way they are doing it is going to end up doing more harm than good.