Deforestation, a major international problem
Deforestation is a major international problem, which plagues countries all over the world. This conflict has major negative consequences on earth and its climate, atmosphere, and threatens people’s cultures and physical survival. 40% of the world’s land area is forests. 15% of the world’s forests have been cleared out. During the 20th century, the rate of forests being cleared is accelerating greatly and this problem will not go away. The effects are too great and actions must be taken because of the importance of forests around the world. Deforestation is also being effected by another process called desertification.
As the deserts expand, it robs area away from forests. Another problem which, contributes to deforestation is forest fires that aren’t being contained. 70% of plants and animals homeland are in forests. More than 200 species per hectare live in the forests. Besides the forests being homelands to many, forests have an immense amount of effect on temperature and humidifies the atmosphere. Forests are responsible for absorbing atmospheric carbon and refilling our air we breathe with oxygen. Forests supply humans with a large percentage of water and are used as a tool for water irrigation.
Forests also prevent natural disaster such as floods. The soil absorbs the rainfall and gradually lets out water into streams and supplies rivers. Trees in the forests also serve as a purpose. Trees act as windbreaks, reducing the effect of eroding winds. Five hundred million people live somewhat near forests and depend on it for certain products. Forests provide us with a wide range of wood assorted products that we use in daily life such as lumber, panels, poles, and paper. Tropical forests supply twenty five percent of this production. The numbers are endless and this wood related production has a huge aftereffect to the forests.
Fuelwood and charcoal also make a huge part in damaging the forests. Other products that are made through forests are fibers, resins, latexes, fruits, and traditional medicines. Tropical forests are responsible for economically improving and breeding certain plants. Forests have been known to improve corn crops and increase speed of growth. Forests are also the site of sources used to fight cancer, AIDS, some forms of leukemia, prostate disorders, and some other serious diseases. All of these facts listed above express the importance of forests and the advantages it brings to the world.
There are many causes for deforestation, which are responsible for destroying the atmosphere. Groups, which are responsible for causing deforestation, are small farmers, ranchers, loggers, and corrupt politicians. One cause is since the ozone layer is depleting, there are rapid changes in the atmosphere causing forests to decrease. The atmosphere also changes due to the increase of people living around forests. Forests lie mostly in third world countries where overpopulation is a tremendous problem. The population increases by 1,000 million people every decade.
These poor countries are forced to clear land to find shelter for its civilians. As the population increases, the usage of products that are derived from forests increases with the population. Financial debts are indirectly causing deforestation. Due to the countries in financial turmoil, they are also pressured into clearing the forests and sell the lumber to manufacturers. Wood pulp and paper are important commodities, which lie in forests. This industry has grown over the years despite organizations attempting to prevent the usage of forests for these products. Charcoal and fuelwood are products that supply the world.
These products have been accounted for utilizing 80% of wood that has been found in forests. Forests are being cut down to explore for petroleum and coal. Greed is causing these countries to give in to large companies. Another part of this problem is hunger in these third world countries. Governments are forced to clear the forests to form cattle ranches. The need for food causes the forests to disintegrate by the minute. The beef market has grown and countries in Central America are responsible for 20% of the beef market that is exported to Europe and Asia Cattle graze on flat lands, which were once forests.
When herds increase and can’t be supported on the limited grazing lands, the source for more land are tropical forests. Forests are also being cleared and are converted to farms. Lands that have previously been forests are plantations that contain sugar crops, coffee, citrus, and rubber. Commercial agriculture is growing more. This problem persists because the when the forest land is cleared, its agriculturally useful for only a short period of time. The land is overused and then the process of clearing the forests continues. It is a cycle, which continues because of independent farmers who have no knowledge of the use of the land.
One major problem is weak governments who have no control over the country and corrupt government officials. Governments at times, have no control on the countries economy and laws are not obeyed. The country can’t enforce the laws that are placed. Sometimes the economy is so low that the government is desperate for money due to its instability. At times, government officials are bribed to vote against conservation laws and give permission to clear forest for ranching or agricultural needs. In rare cases, officials have given permission to clear forests containing endangered species.
Another problem, which causes deforestation is most of the third world countries attempt to boost their economy by urbanizing these forests. Forests are being cut down for society reasons and governments have ignored deforestation. Governments have encouraged pioneer farmers in order to increase produce. These farmers use a technique known as “slash and burn” farming which is most harmful to forests and is the major cause of deforestation. This form of farming is a modern technique used to grow cash crops. There is no rotation on the crops and it’s close to urban areas.
This technique devalues the soil and overuses the land to an extent that the land is desolate after 10-15 years. Then this area becomes used for economical and urbanization reasons. All of the reasons mentioned all play a part in destroying the forests and unless actions are taken. There are many examples, which demonstrate deforestation. Deforestation has occurred in Madagascar, an island off the Southern coast of South Africa. In Madagascar, people have been cutting down forests for decades. Throughout the past century, much of the rainforests of Madagascar have disappeared.
People have begun moving out of the cities, industries have started to expand, and the use of land for farming has increased. All of these factors have led to the destruction of the forest of Madagascar. Because of Madagascar’s unusual and rare species, this has become a major international issue. 5% of the world’s species live in Madagascar, and the island has 80,000 species of flowering plants alone . This island is in grave danger. Rapid deforestation caused by the large population of the country, collapse of the economy, and mass migration to cities, is destroying much of the natural beauty of Madagascar.
Logging, grazing, fuelwood gathering, economic development, cattle ranching, and mining have occurred in Madagascar. Prior to 1950, small independent farmers did most of the deforestation. Recently, deforestation has increased tremendously. From 1950 to 1985, one half of Madagascar’s forests disappeared. In 1985 only 34% of the original forests existing in Madagascar remained. Much of this destruction is for economic reasons. Madagascar is one of the poorest nations in the world. Unfortunately, due to Madagascar’s hardship, citizens utilize their natural resources and drive it extinct.
The people of Madagascar are ignoring deforestation and this is not even a priority. In addition, corporations have influence in dealing with the problem of deforestation because the government of Madagascar wants their economic involvement. Due to the extreme debt incurred by the former government, the country is destroying its wood resources to pay off money owed to other countries. Deforestation in Madagascar is directly caused by the introduction of coffee cash cropping. All fertile areas were devoted to exporting coffee and as a result caused forests to be cleared.
In addition to crops, the constructing of railroads that are used for the transportation of timber, therefore, increasing the demand for wood. All of the following reasons mentioned above are causing forests in Madagascar to dissolve slowly but surely. The amazon, located in Brazil is another forest, which is plagued by deforestation. Agricultural production, cattle ranching, commercial logging and local demand for fuelwood plays an important role in destroying the rain forests. Exports of wood products are permitted in Brazil and is a widely traded commodity. This is the responsibility of the government to prohibit such exporting.
Brazil is responsible for supporting many European countries with wood materials. International demand for forest products plays a large role in the process of deforestation. Beginning in 1990, Brazil has tried to reduce exports of wood and wood related products but its not enough. The forests are still decreasing despite laws, which have a minimal effect. Products, which come from the forests such as nuts, provide important economic benefits though harmful to the forests. Candy bars using nuts in Brazil are very popular causing producers to collect more nuts by the year doing more damage.
Although such forests cover only 7% of the earth’s land surface, they contain 50% of the plants and animals found on the globe. As many as 27,000 species endure extinction every year. The impact of these extinctions is horrific. The rain forests have major spiritual, cultural, scientific, and economic significance. Because Brazil is considered to have the highest species diversity on earth, it is the center of efforts to prevent deforestation. Honduras is a perfect example of deforestation. The downing of maple and pine trees within the rain forests affect the water supply and conservation of rare species throughout the country.
The region of Honduras where the Rio Platano Biosphere is located, also face serious conflicts as both the resources of the forest are under attack. In 1980, the Honduras government set aside 2000 square miles of tropical forest in this area to be included in the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve (RPBR). Many species are being conserved within this reserve and have been funded by Honduran government. Some of the flora species that grow in this area include pine, mahogany, cedar, balsa, ceiba, guayacan, rosewood, sapodilla, and rare orchids.
The region also houses animal species, including quetzals, jaguars, ocelots, harpy eagles, iguanas, alligators, falcons, macaws, toucans, tapirs, and spider monkeys. Some of the rarest plants and birds in Central America depend on the forest for survival. Although the government of Honduras designated reserves to prevent deforestation, it failed to monitor the activities within the forest. Colonization of the forest by poor Hondurans looking for land, lumbering, migratory agriculture, cattle ranching and illegal wildlife trade continue to deplete the valuable resources of the forest.
Deforestation continues at a rapid pace despite the reserve’s efforts. In 1968, 46,000 square kilometers of Honduras’ forests and woodlands were reduced to 31,000 square kilometers by 1988. In this period, 14. 5 % of the forests in all of Honduras were lost to deforestation. Honduras’ main exports consist of coffee and bananas, generating 51% of total Honduran export revenue in 1995. Honduras’ principal commodities include coffee, bananas, textiles, timber, citrus, shrimp and wood products.
The increased trade in wood, wood products and furniture has caused demand for the mahogany and pine trees located within this reserve. In order to promote conservation and protection, the Honduran government created the Secretariat of the Environment. However, the culprits deforestation remain unknown, although locals believe that it is the work of illegal lumberjacks. The poverty in Honduras has forced peasants to seek any method possible to earn money and these measures include slash-and-burn techniques of deforestation as well as the destruction of timber.
The land opened up by deforestation provides many peasants with money earned from the timber itself as well as the value of the land, agriculturally. The process of deforestation has disrupted the ecological equilibrium in Honduras. Many rare plants and animals inhabit the Honduran rain forest, including such rare endangered species as the quetzal, the harpy eagle, iguanas, the tapir and orchids that depend upon the atmosphere of the forest. The loss of the ecological surrounding for these species would eventually result in their death. In 1994, Honduras suffered from severe power outages because the El Cajon dam became dry.
The hydroelectric plant, which from 1985 – 1990 met about 70% of Honduras’s electrical needs, became non-functional when the water levels dropped so severely due mainly to the deforestation of Northern and Northeastern Honduras. As trees continue to be cut down illegally, the forest depletes. Mahogany and pine are great demands, especially in the United States. As long as these timbers continue to bring in money for the Honduran peasant, the trees will continue be downed, legally or illegally. This can be stopped but there needs to be some regulations on the consumers from the United States.
There are many solutions to deforestation, which are being done to prevent and slow down this process. Some things are being done but there are things that are missing. Surveys should be given out to all ages to inform the public about deforestation. The public should be notified about the decreasing carbon level in our atmosphere. The public should be notified of all the species that are becoming extinct at the hands of loggers. The public should be told the consequences of cutting down the forests. By doing so, the public can influence the government to be more cautious when they give permissions to clear the land.
Here are some examples of groups that are preventing in somewhat way deforestation. The Tropical Forestry Action Program (TFAP) was the most productive, internationally informing many counties of deforestation and its tremendous effects. TFAP raised public awareness of the impacts of deforestation, and developed new resources for forestry. Yet, TFAP considers themselves to be a failure because it did not stop deforestation completely. Other organizations criticize this TFAP because of its weak representation. Complaints say that there was a basic misunderstanding of the causes and potential solutions of deforestation.
Some criticisms had more truth than others but the result is still there has been a loss of forest area. Organizations still work harder than ever even though development assistance funding to forestry and conservation has plummeted in recent years. The 1992 United Nations Conference on environment and development in Rio de Janeiro brought forestry issues, in particular deforestation, to the world stage. The proposed Forest Convention set up many international laws prohibiting the clearing of forests without the permission of the government.
Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development, are working hard to put a holt on clearing forests and are setting up programs to grow more forests. The main conflict is the organizations can’t stop the clearing of forests as a whole, just reduce it. As a result, this process will just lengthen the time until forests are extinct. When this day comes, the reactions of humans to our atmosphere are endless and people with knowledge on the matter, fear this day greatly.