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June 2009

Amazon deforestation fails to improve local life

A new study by the department of life sciences at Imperial College London (and published in Science this month) undercuts the persistent argument that deforestation in the Amazon leads to long-term development of the local economy and social conditions.

Doubtlessly this seems to be the case temporarily: logging creates jobs, the new roads can give better access to education and medicine, and newly available natural resources in a cleared forest area attract investment and infrastructure. But once the timber and other resources dry up, things change again! 'A lot of the agricultural land is only productive for a few years,' says Rob Ewers, a member of the study team. 'On top of that you tend to have much higher populations because a lot of people have been attracted to the area.' This higher population has to survive on ever-dwindling local resources, which pushes the standard of living right down again. After the loggers have gone, development quickly falls back even below national average levels.

Every year, around 1.8 million hectares of rainforest are destroyed in the Amazon — a rate of four football fields every minute. Deforestation causes 20% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The Amazonian rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, and guards against climate change by absorbing CO2 and maintaining geochemical cycles.

'Slashing and burning rainforest to make way for cattle ranches or soya farms is simply not sustainable, because profits are short-lived and the big companies simply move elsewhere. Instead we need sustained international funding to protect this massive natural resource, to make trees worth more alive than dead.'

Fact is: Trees already are worth more alive than dead, always have been, but word hasn't got round yet.

source: Alok Jha, Amazon deforestation leads to development 'boom-and-bust, The Guardian, 11 June 2009

string: The real importance of the Amazon rainforest


Related Articles: Amazon | CO2 | carbon | climate | deforestation | ecology | forests as vital organs of the planet | greenhouse gas | South America