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Deforestation: A Growing Epidemic
Miranda Hancock
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Deforestation is becoming the leading cause of destruction to the world and its’ ecosystems. This process of deforestation is not only posing a threat to locals, but people of the country, and people worldwide. New methods are being developed to stop deforestation, but at the same time the people that are committing these crimes are inventing new ways to keep this disastrous process going. The purpose of this essay is to examine the emerging forces of deforestation and the long and short term effects that keeps deforestation occurring, and what forces that will keep it around for many years to come.

Deforestation is a very hard-hitting and grave act. In a sense deforestation is necessary, but there are other ways around this other than destroying the ecosystem. If deforestation does not stop then the rainforests of the world may disappear quicker than what we thought possible. Two world famous deforestation researchers, Rob Glastra, William F. Laurance, and their research teams separately went out to find what underlying forces are pushing the issue of deforestation. Glastra’s research focuses on the mismanagement of the logging companies of the rainforest, and problems, impacts, and temporary solutions on these happenings (Glastra 61-65). Laurance and his team’s research also talks about were the logging is taking place and what effects it is having on the basin. Meanwhile, Glastra and Laurance both discuss how the governments of tropical regions are trying to keep the rates of deforestation at a low. Glastra’s research emphasizes more on government and how they are trying to make it harder to do work in these endangered areas. Laurance’s research informs people on what the government is doing in terms of regulations and fines etc., after the illegal logging companies get caught participating in the act of illegal deforestation (Laurance et al 439). This powerful research by these two men and their teams are very useful. If combined to form a solution and a punishment, then deforestation may be on the decline.

There is also another scholar that plays into this research, this is Phillip Fearnside. Fearnside’s research tells who, what, where, when, and, why, deforestation is taking place. One of Fearnside’s most interesting findings would help Glastra and Laurance figure out why the government seems to keep dragging their feet on the issue of deforestation. This interesting factor is that in some area, such as Brazil, the federal governments are big pushers of the issue of deforestation. Fearnside states, "Government is a big incentive for deforestation, they make arrangements with the farmers, miners, loggers, etc., for income tax exemptions, forgiveness on back taxes provided that the money is invested in Amazonian Development, and loans granted at rates lower than the Brazilian inflation rate" (18). The authorities also pass laws on were dams are to be built, therefore causing places for cattlemen to bring there herds to drink. This introduces an interesting twist to the research that has been done by Laurance and Glastra. It poses a question, are there different reasons for deforestation in different regions of the world? A scholar by the name of Eric F. Lambin, with the research help of Helmut J. Giest, suggests, "He believes there are different reasons for deforestation in diverse and opposite regions of the rainforest" (24-26). Lambin executes his research to a greater extent than all of the other scholars mentioned. Lambin has taken a large-scale approach (worldwide) to finding out whether or not deforestation takes place differently in opposite regions of the world. Lambin states: "The environment and land-use history of a region sets a pattern that contemporary deforestation has followed, built upon, or broken; it defines the initial conditions upon which current patterns are formed" (25).

Not only does government play a big role in the issue of deforestation, but so does the military. The military sees the rainforest as a burden on their strategic war plan (What are the Underlying Causes). What does the military do about this so-called burden? They commit acts of deforestation. The difference between the military and logging companies is that the military is a government agency and they do not get punished for committing these acts. The military also commits acts of illegal logging and participate in the growing of cash crops, such as cocoa etc., doing these things consist of starting fires, clearing land, and deforestation (What are the Underlying Causes). According to the What are the Underlying Causes website, "Every dollar spent on weapons is one dollar less spent on education, health-care, sustainable technology development and sustainable development in general. It is also one dollar on the wrong side of the balance of payments. The export of weapons constitutes big business for many - particularly Northern - countries. Naturally, war and violence themselves place a major direct and indirect burden upon forests" (What are the Underlying Causes).

While Laurance, Glastra, Fearnside, and the What are the Underlying Causes website’s research strategies and results differ, their research complements each other in such a way to figure out a common response on why deforestation takes place. This research compares and contrasts the findings of Helmut J. Giest, along with research help of the previously mentioned Lambin; local scale case studies show that other scholars have place emphasis on all the wrong aspects of deforestation. Then, Giest and Lambin constructs various types of large and small scale tables and graphs that accentuate what the proximate causes of deforestation seem to be, and what aspects make them fall into these categories (Giest and Lambin 146-150). These are very useful, but only to someone that would be doing hard-hitting research on his subject; these are very technical for the common person to understand.

Another scholar Peter Bunyard studies the effects of deforestation on the climate. This is one of the more serious issues associated with deforestation. Bunyard states: "The Amazon and [other rainforests] play a number of key, often neglected roles-including that of a giant ‘heat-pump’ that sends energy from the tropics into the colder high latitudes - that produce a climate in which we can live"(81). The rainforest plays a crucial role in the lifestyles of people everywhere. If not for the rainforest people may freeze to death in the deserts and burn up in the Artic (Bunyard 82). Bunyard and Giest should combine these studies to add more aspects to the large scale causes and effects of deforestation.

Fearnside and Laurance also research another interesting point, which is the building of railroads, highways, and waterways through the rainforest basins. According to Laurance, "This commercialized building that is causing deforestation only became an issue recently" (439). Commercialization is becoming a problem among the rainforest and to the find for a cure for deforestation. People have completely infiltrated the outer boundaries of the rainforests and now there is nowhere for someone to build, except further into the rainforest, which means that people are now not only commercializing the outer limits of the rainforest, but also the center, or basin (Laurance et al 439). This is also another result of logging companies. There is no way for these companies to get the illegal timber from the center or south of the basins to the mills, without it costing a fortune. Laurance claims, "It is cheaper for these illegal loggers to build a railroad or highway through the basin, than around the whole rainforest" (438). Fire is also becoming a way of commercialization in the rainforest. The fires that are burning the earth’s valuable resource (the rainforest) are on purpose. Lambin’s earlier research also uncovered that fire is being used for means such as commercialization. These fires are being started to clear land for cattle pasteurization (Lambin and Giest 24). When these fires are out the cattle will graze, however when all the soil has lost its fertility the farmers will find new land to burn and the process will start all over again. It is a vicious cycle of the practice of clearing the land plot, cultivating it for a short time, and abandoning it for a new plot of land. This is thought to be one of the most underlying forces of deforestation (Lambin and Giest 28). This in accompaniment with Geist, Fearnside, and Laurance’s research could help pinpoint one of the actual proximate causes and underlying forces of deforestation.

According to the World Rainforest Movement website indigenous people are also against deforestation, but the reasons for them not agreeing with this process are varied from the reason scholars previously discussed. The indigenous people of the rainforest fear deforestation because of the fact of no longer being able to live in isolation. People in these areas live in small communities that do not interact with the outside world. The only interactions that these people have are with other small tribes that may live within a few miles of their "home base" (What are the Underlying Causes). This is their only means of life and if it is destroyed they would not have any way to survive. This information is a report from the indigenous people of the rainforest. This combined with some of the mentioned scholars information should be investigated to find a way to keep these peoples homes from being destroyed.

Not everyone shares the same opinions and views as the previously mentioned scholars. Douglas Ian Stewart wrote a book on the life of the people that live on the transamazon highway. This book informs readers what it is like to live on the other side of the deforestation, were deforestation is not a bad thing, but a way of life. According to Stewart, "Deforestation is not something colonists do for kicks; it is nasty business" (52). Most people hire labor, usually men that do not own land to do this dangerous work for them. People in regions around the rainforest have to participate in deforestation or they will never survive. This ongoing deforestation results from social and economical pressures that exclude them from the cultures that settle in the country, so they are forced to live in the rainforest (Stewart 58-60). The soil in the rainforest is very fertile until deforestation for crops takes place. After crops are planted it drains the soil of any nutrients that was not taken by the sun or wind. This soil is no longer useful. Migration occurs soon after this; people have to move to a new place with fertile soil so they can continue to grow crops. This information would immensely help Fearnside, Laurance, Giest, and Lambin with their research. With the combination of the causes why people commit acts of deforestation, socioeconomic factors, and the underlying factors of deforestation, these scholars should be able to produce a unanimous conclusion on why deforestation is taking over the rainforest, and how to suspend this predicament.

Works Cited

Bunyard, Peter. "Eradicating the Amazon Rainforest will Wreak Havoc on Climate." The Ecologist 29.2 (1999): 81-84.

Fearnside, Philip. "A Prescription for Slowing Deforestation in Amazonian." Environment 31.4 (1989): 16-20, 39-41.

Geist, Helmut J., and Eric F. Lambin. "Regional Differences in Tropical Deforestation." Environment 45.6 (2003): 22-36.

Glastra, Rob, ed. Cut and Run: Illegal Logging and Timber Trade in the Tropics. Ottawa: International Development Research Center, 1999.

Lambin, Eric F. and Helmut J. Giest. "Proximate Causes and Underlying Driving Forces of Deforestation." BioScience 52.2 (2002): 143-50.

Laurance, William F., Mark A. Cochrane, Scott Bergen, Philip M. Fearnside. "The Future of the Brazilian Rainforest." Science 291.5503 (2001): 438-39.

Stewart, Douglas Ian. After The Trees: Living on the Transamazon Highway. Austin: U of Texas P, 1994.

What are the Underlying Causes of Deforestation. Dec. 1998. World Rainforest Movement. 10 Oct. 2004 <http://www.wrm.org.uy/deforestation/indirect.html>.

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