I plan to use this site to post news, commentary, and analysis of current environment and development issues. Of course, I reserve the right to rant about politics now and then.
The section of this website regarding "Disappearing Opportunities" shared some interesting facts about the "status" of rainforest deforestation, stating that "in most areas environmental degradation has yet to reach a crisis level where entire systems are collapsing." I am curious how much deforestation has to occur for degradation to be considered at a critical level. Can rainforests be treated like farming lands, and left untouched for 10 years or so to allow some semblance of stability and regrowth? Or do loggers, construction companies, etc blow through entire rainforests without ceasing? Though I do not support this idea, I am curious if a compromise can be made between environmentalists and big business that would helps to stimulate regrowth within damaged rainforests? What would such a policy look like?
If you want to learn anything about rain forests, this website you want to go to. It has a tremendous amount of information available and provides links and more articles throughout the text. This would be a good site to go to to find data for a research project as well. The only problem I have with it is that there is too much info. I think it could be a little more organized so individuals can find specific information and maneuver around the site quickly.One thing that stuck out to me in the deforestation section were the various standards for defining forests. Different organizations and governments all have different numbers which can be misleading and difficult to analyze. I believe having a international standard can help solve this problem (although it may be difficult to achieve politically).Another interesting fact about rain forests is that we really don't know what benefits they may bring in the future. It is possible that they may be holding a cure to cancer (that would certainly change perspectives). This is something we definitely need to keep in mind while discussing policies.
One of the most interesting links on the website was entitled "Amazon rainforest will bear cost of biofuel policies in Brazil." In this article, the author discusses the relationship between deforestation of the rain forrest and the incentives linked to biofuel production.This article caused me to think about the situation in the U.S. where tax and other business incentives from politicians elected through the Iowa caucus caused the potential benefits from biofuel production (less reliance on oil) to be greatly overshadowed by the problems caused by the overproduction of corn (pollution of fertilizer into water systems, high food prices, etc.).It is incredibly important for politicians to be conscious of the incentives that certain pieces of legislation produce. Without acknowledging the potential problems caused by the promotion of certain agenda items, politicians can unknowingly promote the destruction of important environmental resources.
I really like this website- mainly because it offers such a diverse background of information in relation to rainforests. From reading the 'half of indonesia species remina..." it appears that the pressures of deforestation stem from wood harvest and oil palm harvests. I found it surprising and even more distheartening that Indonesia is the world’s largest emitter of GHG's. Is there no way for countrey to address this issue? Can the price of palm oil incorporate the massive rates of deforestation? Or can that not be factored in...? In the article, “Asia's biggest logging company accused of bribery, violence in Papua New Guinea” I was more upset than anything else. But I wonder if other countries acknowledge what costs corruption has on certain goods? Can something like corruption, bribery and violation of human rights be put into the cost of something?
The article on an Indonesian government report recommending a moratorium on peatlands conversion as a cost-effective method for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia, since peatland conversion contributes to half of the 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitting country's total greenhouse gas emissions, but accounts for only 1% of the GDP. The report suggests swapping with oil palm plantation developers for peatlands, relocating developers to the vast areas of abandoned and degraded grassland. The higher development costs on grasslands might be subsidized through the UN's reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) program. I wonder how successful the moratorium enforcement will if be and if it is undertaken. IF the REDD subsidies are sufficient that would appear to create an incentive to relocate, easing compliance. Also, how does REDD work? How do they decide how much and in what cases to provide subsidies. How reliable is REDD's funding? Does it take into consideration just forestation or the ecological value as well?I was unaware that such vast major carbon sinks of forested wetlands contributed such a large portion to greenhouse gas emissions (peatlands conversion in Indonesia accounting for 4% of ghg emissions worldwide). It's a great example of discussion in class about how while oil palm may be wooded area, it lacks the richness in ecological services of peatlands which sequester insane amounts of carbon and provides critical flood control.
The article I found particularly interesting on the fairly extensive website pertains to google's hiring of a company out of Massachusetts (Clark Labs) to enhance their deforstation monitoring capabilities on the Google Earth Engine. By doing so, the engine would become similar to GIS, allowing for istant response from the Amazon regarding forest degradation, analyzing vegetation, and determining other land use. The article states how the firm has proposed use of the new program for U.N sponsored REDD projects aimed at compensating rainforest countries for reduced emissions. My question involves how this open access could potentially drive public opinion of the matter and thus maybe business policy. If people could see and interact with the maps showing deforstation, might this increase awareness and some of the values (existence, etc.) we have talked about in class? How would this affect talks about compensation to countries located in rainforest areas?
I was amazed (and looking back it should have been pretty obvious) at how intimately the protection of rainforests and other environmental resources are correlated to political stability. Reading the piece on Madagascar's logging crisis showed how political instability leads to deforestation for timber, increased poaching for game meats, and catalyzes a steep decline in tourism. It will be hard for any organization to promote conservation while marauders, poachers, and even timber barons remain unckecked and uncontrolled.
On a similar strain to Jarett, I also found the article entitled "Amazon rainforest will bear cost of biofuel policies in Brazil" incredibly interesting. It is ironic how a policy initiative that many hail as being strongly related to helping Brazil become one of the world's more environmentally friendly nations can actually have a strong backlash. Using biofuels means that crops need to be harvested in order to produce those fuels. In order for there to be growth in this field, more forest land will need to be cut down to allow for additional growing space. Overlooked by politicians is the fact that this means a decrease in biodiversity, reduced carbon sequestering, reduced water filtration, reduced oxygen production, and many more negative externalities. As is often the case, this example shows that there should be more focus upon effective research before a strong policy initiative is agreed upon such as the one the Brazilian government has made. With more complete research and the allowance of opinions from various sectors ranging from environmentalists to economists to businesspeople, the best decisions can be made. These decisions can then be must less costly by not requiring additional actions later on such as cleanup or the creation of new counterpolicies to try and fix the issue. Sometimes the people in power simply forget to think, and encouraging conversation across various disciplines can ensure that all angles of a problem can hopefully be addresses before a decision is made.
I agree with everyone that this website is a great resource for research on rainforests. I found the article, “How to end Madagascar’s logging crisis,” particularly interesting since it addresses the negative influence of political instability that is so common in developing countries. Madagascar experienced a military coup in March of last year, and as a result of the shift in political power, the country’s rainforests have suffered at the hands of loggers. In addition, the lack of enforcement has increased illegal hunting of already rare lemurs for restaurants. The coup leaders are even taking an active role in logging as a form of income. Threats of violence from coup leaders have discouraged NGOs and governments from intervening, and have driven away tourism, a source of income for much of the country’s population. Sadly, this is simply one of many examples of the deforestation and destruction of biodiversity that result from political instability. With 57% of the world’s forests in developing countries, political instability serves as an enormous threat to environmental causes (http://www.nature.org/rainforests/explore/facts.html). Money-minded governments, such as the coup currently in power in Madagascar, tend to focus on short-term income and fail to acknowledge the impact that unsustainable practices have on the future.
I found the article titled "Cheerios maker linked to rainforest destruction" particularly informative and also slightly disturbing. This article first caught my eye because I love cereal and I was horrified to find out that General Mills was buying palm oil that is irresponsibly-sourced, meaning that its production emits a significant amount of greenhouse gases. We talk about how policies need to be implemented to monitor corporations' contributions to global warming, but I think consumer preference could also be a fad that could help decrease greenhouse gas emissions. However, this would require a greater percentage of the consumer public to know the negative externalities associated with global warming. Hopefully this issue will become more widely discussed and that the American people will not be apathetic when large corporations are using procedures that are increasing greenhouse gases. Consumers not buying products will perhaps have a large enough effect on corporations to make a change.
After reading of the logging crisis in Madagascar, the future looks bleak for the island's rainforests and biodiversity levels. Being an island, many of its species are endemic and will face extinction if the current logging practices continue unchecked. While money from more developed nations and NGO's had provided incentives for Madagascar to preserve its rainforests, the political climate has greatly reduced ecotourism and NGO conservatin projects. The author of the article proposes some an immediate logging moratorium, with an auction of logs already stockpiled. This seems highly unfeasible given the nature of Madagascar's current government, and without any enforcement this moratorium will be ineffective. To end this logging, other countries must be willing to place high enough economic value on the intact rainforest to discourage any motivation to continue harvesting timber on Madagascar.
I thought the article titled "Commodity trade and urbanization, rather than rural poverty, drive deforestation", to be very informative in regards to the major culprits of deforestation. This article demonstrates that rural depopulation and growing urbanization will lead to exponentially more rapid deforestation than rural slash and burn agriculture. Urban consumers typically demand more processed meat and agricultural products - the cattle and crops to supply our increasingly urban population is being produced on large soy farms, sugarcane fields, cattle ranches,and oil, palm, and rubber plantations. Slash and burn agriculture is destructive, but it is done on a much smaller scale than these industrial plantations. Corporations that move into the rainforest, like Cargill which runs oil palm plantations in Papau New Guineau, often claim that their business operations will bring wealth and improve the quality of life for the surrounding rural population. This sharing of wealth rarely occurs and the original inhabitants of these areas often suffer from the loss of habitat and pollution of water sources due to the conversion of forest. There is one aspect of this trend that could be advantageous to environmental coservation - it is ehtically easier to attack large corporatiosn in comparison to poor small scale farmers who are just trying to feed their families. Also, it is more practical to bargain with a few companies or large land owners than a few million small farmers.
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