Preparation of cloves in Madagascar. (Photo by R. Butler)
SUSTAINABLE USE OF LARGE-SCALE FOREST PRODUCTS
By Rhett Butler
| Last updated July 22, 2012
More than half of rainforest deforestation today is caused by commercial interests: logging, cattle ranching, industrial agriculture,
mining, power generation and energy production. With few exceptions, these activities degrade the long-term health of rainforest ecosystems and, in so doing, deplete natural assets.
Historically natural capital loss was rarely accounted. Today that is changing to a degree, but in many countries environmental degradation is still a secondary or tertiary factor in land use decisions. As such, tropical governments often subsidize short-term gains with little thought to the long-term consequences — natural resources are mined without consideration of future harvests.
In promoting raw resource extraction over stewardship of their unique natural assets, governments may be ignoring the best path for future economic growth. Wealth collected from extractive industries—essentially rent earned not from hard work or ingenuity, but from the particular qualities of the land—is not necessarily a solid foundation for an economy. Leveraging natural assets, like traditional knowledge, biodiversity and services afforded by ecosystems, can contribute to the long-term health of an economy, spurring the development of new technology and industries.
The Corporate Sector
Saving rainforests will hinge partly on finding ways for companies to remain profitable without devastating the environment. If we value forests, these industries will need to provide jobs that save the environment and not destroy it. We cannot reasonably expect local people to shun employment with these companies if they are the only form of work available to feed, house, and clothe their families.
There are many challenges facing industries that exploit forest resources, and difficult decisions and compromises
will have to be made. These challenges stem from the differing opinions of the value of forest products and the
services that forests provide. Developers must find a means to satisfy the growing demand for forest products and
resources, while protecting forests and the environmental services they provide.
- Why is it important to promote sustainable use of forest resources?
- Why are extractive industries like logging generally not the best for long-term economic growth?
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Central Kalimantan to set up palm oil monitoring system to in bid cut deforestation 80%
(10/05/2014) The Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan is moving forward on an oil palm plantation monitoring system it hopes will help meet a commitment to reduce deforestation 80 percent by 2020. The online monitoring system will include "information on the performance of plantation concessions such as productivity, the number of smallholder farmers, deforestation and other land cover change, and fire occurrence," according to Earth Innovation Institute which designed and is helping the provincial government implement the system.
How do we save the world's vanishing old-growth forests?
(08/26/2014) There's nothing in the world like a primary forest, which has never been industrially logged or cleared by humans. They are often described as cathedral-like, due to pillar-like trees and carpet-like undergrowth. Yet, the world's primary forests—also known as old-growth forests—are falling every year, and policy-makers are not doing enough to stop it.
Next big idea in forest conservation? The 'double-edged sword' of democracy
(07/03/2014) Dr. Douglas Sheil considers himself an ecologist, but his research includes both conservation and management of tropical forests. Currently teaching at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) Sheil has authored and co-authored over 200 publications including scholarly articles, books, and popular articles on the subject.
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