Rainforests Have Been Declining Rapidly over the Last Few Decades Essay

Rainforests have been declining rapidly over the last few decades. There are various factors responsible for this decline, resulting in serious impacts on the environment and the economy. Critically discuss the causes of deforestation and solutions to it. Deforestation is the cutting down of a large area of trees and the destruction of forests by people. Forests are what we call an exhaustible resource, one which can be used up if it is not used carefully. Over the last few decades, deforestation has threatened the rainforests with total extinction.

To understand why deforestation is such an important issue, you first have to understand why trees matter. Trees improve in many ways the life of all species, including the human race. They help to maintain the Earth’s benevolent atmosphere, provide shelter for much biodiversity, but also have a high commercial value. As a consequence there is much critical debate around the causes and solutions for deforestation. Data released by the Brazilian government in 2009, shows that the deforestation of the Amazon is at its lowest rate since record-keeping began in 2000.

However, despite many conservation efforts, global deforestation continues and generates almost 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Claudio Maretti, Conservation Director of WWF-Brazil, explained that the country needs to work on decreasing deforestation as much as on reducing emissions generated by the industry and transport sectors. For him, the creation of a cash incentive for producers who conserve the forest would be the solution for halting forest loss. (WWF 2009)

For this cash incentive to be effective in conserving forests, studies shows that a distinction needs to be made between the benefits to society, and the values accrued to private agents as a consequence of deforestation. These show that the problem of deforestation is more down to a market failure where private agents (entrepreneur, corporation, community, etc. ) and society do not take account of what each other are doing. According to this idea, it seems that Adam’s Smith’s “Invisible hand” has failed.

In his concept, Adam Smith explains that in a free market no regulation of any type would be needed to ensure that the mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services can take place, since the ”invisible hand” would guide market participants to trade in the most mutually beneficial manner. (www. investorwords. com) Many private agents, according to these studies, have no interest in maintaining the forest’s beauty and biodiversity, as services provided by forests are benefits that cannot be priced, so are not profit-making. Another factor precipitating deforestation appears to be poverty.

Commonly held views argue that “high discount rates” received by poor countries are a cause of deforestation (The World Bank Forestry Policy 1991, Pearce and Watford 1993. ). Because forests imply long gestation; private agents, particularly from the poorest countries, value what they can get immediately from forests more than what they can get in the future. But in 1999, Ekbom and Bojo challenged those views in a World Bank examination by showing that poverty does not necessarily lead to shorter time horizons and an increased rate of environmental degradation.

They show how in fact the rural poor have used resources in a conservationist manner over a long period spanning centuries. Ostrom (1990), one of the various analysts they quoted, established a number of conditions that would lead to long term use of common resources despite their short-time horizons. For example: an effective system of sanctions for those who violate the rules requires that an inexpensive conflict resolution system must be in place. (Contreras-Hermosilla, 2000).

However, WWF International describes several other processes that are being undertaken in an attempt to avoid an Amazon tipping point. Irresponsible landowners are burning the forests to clear the way for intensive agriculture and cattle grazing . So, because most forests recover rapidly in absence of fire, landowners are encouraged to avoid using fire as a management tool and protect the degraded lands from fire during re-growing periods (Uhl et al. 1988, Nepsad et al. 1991, Jipp et at. 998). Secondly, to encourage responsible land stewardship and enable consumers to shop discriminately organisations have created certification schemes. For example two non-governmental organisations in Brazil launched in 2007 the Registry of Socioenvironmental Responsibility (Cadastro de Compromisso Socioambiental – CCS) to make production more transparent to buyers. Thirdly, by reducing the negative impact of logging in the forest, it is possible to manage the timber (Holmes et at. 002, Barreto et al 1998). Last, at a regional level, there is the planning of forest reserves in anticipation of new roads and highways in an agricultural frontier helps to build a broad base of political support (Campos and Nespad 2006) . Then, at an international level, there is are the negotiations to create an economic incentive( REEDREDD) to compensate forests people as forests guardians based upon satellite analyses of deforestation (Nespad et al. 2006a).

In summary, it seems clear that the causes of deforestation are varied and underlying. As forests are one of the most valuable ecosystems in the world, they have incited many international, regional and national conservation initiatives. However all these example show how these causes are closely interrelated one to each other with varying degrees of responsibility. Governments, charities and consumers must preserve persevere to influence the markets to persuade landowners to be more responsible.