Rainforest Deforestation: Do We Care Enough?
The villagers walk the charred ruins of their village, looking for any personal possessions that can be salvaged after the fire. Looking out from the remains, they see the trucks already winding their way up the newly made dirt road. Soon, the landscape around their village will be irrevocably changed as well. The loggers will strip the forest of all trees, and then move on. They leave the landscape barren, and allow erosion to destroy it utterly. Sadly, this scene is common in many Latin and South American countries containing rainforests. In these regions, the rainforests are being cut down at an alarming rate, with no thought being given to the rights of the indigenous peoples whose way of life is inseparably connected with the rainforest itself. There are several viable solutions to this problem, the governments of these rainforested countries making wiser decisions and create new laws and programs to deal with the problem among these solutions. While the most advantageous solution would be for the foreign countries to recognizing that the blame lies as much with them as with those of the locales containing the rainforests Many countries containing rainforests feel the need to become as industrialized as possible in a short period of time. To accomplish this, they commonly build massive dams, flooding thousands of acres of rainforest, as well as displacing the many jobless poor attempting to live off of the land (Weisman 1). These poor, along with others simply needing to get away from overcrowded lands, move onto the indigenous peoples land and clearcut portions of forest and farm these new fields. These poor often come into direct conflict with the indigenous tribes already living there, who oftentimes had no contact with outside civilization prior to their land being invaded and cut away. These conflicts are often violent, even fatal for both sides involved (Weisman 1). The first solution to this invasion of the tribes land would be for the governments in which clearcutting is happening to make wiser decisions. Often, farmland would be readily available were it not for unwise decisions on the part of the government. The flooded land is usually quite fertile and easily farmed. Also, land is often used for purposes that in no way benefit the people of the country. In Columbia, the savanna surrounding Bogota, some of the most fertile land in South America, is not used to produce food for the locals. It is used for growing flowers such as chrysanthemums, roses, and carnations that are sold cheaply in the United States (Weisman 2). If these lands could be designated to be used for farming, many of the people who are responsible for the deforestation would have no need to move to the forest in the first place. Another example of unwise governmental decisions took place in Mexico. The government here actually encouraged farmers to move to the forested Los Tuxtlas region. They were encouraged to deforest the land in order to plant crops. Their goal was to alleviate overcrowding and boost the agricultural economy. These farmers, used to farming in a different climate, often clearcut more land than was necessary and exhausted the nutritive value of the soil as well (Tangley 1). The advantage to the governments making wiser decisions is that it can be accomplished within the countries themselves and done cheaply. The disadvantage is that the legislators would have to admit their errors and they may be unwilling to do this because they may look foolish to their voters. Another disadvantage would be that the poor people that have moved onto the tribal lands would have to move once again still jobless. The next solution, would be for the countries in which deforestation is a problem to make practical programs towards clearcutting. These countries do not currently have these programs because of their precarious fiscal situations. International banks have loaned large amounts of money to these countries due to their abundant natural resources and high potential for economic growth. However, in the early 1970s and 1980s, interest rates rose and the market values of these countries cash crops, such as coffee and tea, fell (Friede 1). Thus, the countries found themselves deeply in debt. To pay off these debts, they cut government programs such as environmental protection agencies and sold off large amounts of forested land to foreign logging companies (Friede 1). Some of the forested countries have started to pass legislation to give back land to its original owners, the indigenous tribes. Many of these countries have begun to accept the positive relationship that exists between the tribes and the rainforest. The Colombian government acknowledged that the indigenous people were the best protectors of the rainforest. In 1990, this government gave back half of its rainforest to the indigenous tribes, stating that they would take the best care of the forest (Friede 4). Like the Colombians, the Panamanian government may also give back some land to its native peoples. The government leaders are debating whether to give the Kuna Indians the watershed to one of the nations dams (Weisman 3). If the nations would reinstate the environmental protection agencies, it would help the natives immensely. First, it would help with the deforestation of the indigenes lands. It also would help with the relations between the tribes and the foreign logging companies. This agency along with others could be instituted rapidly once the legislators are convinced. It is a disadvantage that the legislators may be unwilling to cut off the supply of foreign logging money. Enforcing the new laws and starting new programs would be an expensive process, which also is a deterrent to implementing change. The last solution is not only effective but would alleviate some of the disadvantages, such as expenses of the other solutions. It is that of foreign, industrialized countries, such as the United States, recognizing that the blame lies as much within our own border as with the rainforested countries themselves. Nearly every instance of deforestation has an indirect cause lying with an industrialized country that in theory condemns deforestation. For instance, if the fertile fields in Columbia, which are used to grow flowers, were to be used for farming, much deforestation could be prevented. The United States could simply refuse flower shipments from Columbia and they would have no choice but to use the fields for something else. Another option these industrialized countries have would be to alleviate the debts that the forested countries owe them in several different ways. First, the industrialized countries could offer tax breaks to the companies that lent the forested countries the money. Also, they could directly pay part of these countries debts. In ten years, the rainforested countries have paid a net average of $25 billion (Friede 1). Meanwhile, Mexicos national park system has a total budget of $1.5 million. Of this amount about eighty percent goes to administration (Tangley 6). Also, with the elimination of these debts, many of the forested countries would no longer need the logging companies money. The countries could, therefore, refrain from selling any more land, which would slow deforestation of the indigenous peoples land greatly. There are many advantages to this option, including the fact that it strikes at the very financially driven root of the problem This would eliminate all the causes of the problem at once. Next, it also equally spreads the burden, making the richer countries that can afford to pay do so, and the poorer countries deal with the administrative and judicial parts of the plan. This is not to say that these nations should be absolved of all responsibility for regulating the deforestation, but with proper financial aid and expert advice, these countries can overcome both their debts and their internal problems. The main disadvantage to this solution is that many people in the industrialized countries do not see the rainforests as being their responsibility in any way. This results in an unwillingness to take any sort of financial burden to pay for the restoration of the rainforests. With proper education, however, many people would realize that they share responsibility for the destruction of these forests because it is their fax paper, newspaper, and magazines that come from these forests. In Alan Wiesmans article Out Of Time, he tells a story of a shaman and a tribe sitting around a campfire as their homes smolder around them. Their homes were burnt to make way for the logging companies, which believe that they own the land the tribe has lived on for centuries. The shaman believes that the white man is a curse because they do not follow the ways of their God, and that only the indigenous people know how God meant the world to truly be. He is then asked by someone not of his tribe why the white man has triumphed over his tribe, and they must suffer. He replies in a quiet voice that, The white man hasnt triumphed, when the Indians vanish, the rest will follow. If the nations do not do something about the rainforest being clearcut, the world may soon know whether his statement was true. In conclusion, the violation of indigenous peoples rights as a result of deforestation can be prevented if the leaders of the nations containing the rainforests make wiser environmental decisions. They must also pass new laws restricting logging companies access to the rainforest, and most importantly the governments of the industrialized nations who are the creditors of the forested nations need to accept part of the responsibility for the problem and alleviate part of the debt of the involved nations.
Rainforest Deforestation: Do We Care Enough?