Affluence, Poverty, and Deforestation

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/21/2007 12:10:00 AM
Here's yet more evidence that poverty is related to deforestation courtesy of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in its State of the World's Forests 2007. From figure 67, you might gather that, among regions, Europe is least concerned with deforestation as it has designated the lowest percentage of forest area for conservation. You might be saying to yourself: "I knew it, those Europeans with their 'green parties' and 'leadership' on environmental issues really don't give a damn about deforestation. It's one big sham. Look at those Africans--they've set aside the most forest area for conservation. Africans--not Europeans--are those most concerned about deforestation."

However, figure 66 tells a different story altogether. In reality, Europe is second in the world in forest area gained percentage-wise from 2000 to 2005, whereas Africa lost more than anywhere else. The disparity between rhetoric and reality could not be starker in this instance; Africa's rate of loss is alarming.

The lesson is simple: setting aside forests for conservation is an entirely different thing from actually preserving forest cover. Poverty is associated with clearing for substinence agriculture, illegal logging and other environmentally-damaging practices that are difficult to discourage where poverty is rife. Resources required in monitoring designated areas for compliance and imposing sanctions on violators are harder to come by. While European countries may not mark off as much forest area for conservation, those that are marked off are subject to good monitoring and sanctioning. Nevertheless, there are success stories like Costa Rica that show developing countries too can begin winning the battle against deforestation if they focus on the problem in earnest.