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?
Other versions of this page
spanish | french | portuguese
| chinese | japanese
Continued / Next:
Other pages in this section:
Selection of information sources
Lao ecotourism project wins responsible travel award for innovation
(11/11/2013) An ecotourism project in a remote part of Laos has won the prestigious World Responsible Tourism Award for Best for Responsible Wildlife Experience. The Nam Nern Night Safari, an ecotour in Lao PDR's Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area in Houaphan Province, was recognized by the World Travel Mart for its innovative approach to generating benefits for local communities.
Solving 'wicked problems': ten principles for improved environmental management
(06/23/2013) As agriculture continues to expand at the expense of forests in the tropics, humanity struggles to meet environmental protection goals. Despite global efforts towards sustainable agriculture and some progress towards the gazetting of protected areas, there are as yet no general and effective solutions for meeting both conservation goals and food needs, and thus the loss and degradation of natural habitats continues. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has estimated a 70% increase in food production will be needed by 2050 to feed a population that will exceed 9 billion. How can such food production be met in ways that conserve the environment while also alleviating poverty?
Building a new generation of local conservationists: how improving education in Uganda may save one of the world's great forests
(06/20/2013) Conservation work is often focused on the short-term: protecting a forest from an immediate threat, saving a species from pending extinction, or a restoring an ecosystem following degradation. While short-term responses are often borne of necessity, one could argue that long-term thinking in conservation and environmental work (as in all human endeavors) is woefully neglected, especially in the tropics. This is why programs like the Kasiisi Project are so important: by vastly improving education for primary kids near a threatened park in Uganda, the project hopes to create a "generation of committed rural conservationists," according to founder and director, Elizabeth Ross.
More news on sustainable development
More rainforest news