Monday, October 15, 2007
Blog Action Day: Environment
I grew up in a tropical third world country. Most of the country is covered in pristine rainforest. Sadly, ever increasing areas are being logged or destroyed by mining. It is sad. For a couple of years I left the capital and moved to the rainforest. It really brought the rainforest to life for me, in ways short visits never had before that time.
In the tropics plants and animals (especially insects) are a normal part of daily life, but the diversity in the rainforest is truly astonishing. On a field trip on day I saw the most amazing caterpillar. That is, I think it was a caterpillar, since it's main body was long and narrow. However, it was unlike any caterpillar I had ever seen before. It had huge colorful ornamentations, spikes sticking out from all over it's body. I must have stood there watching it for the longest time, not wanting to take my eyes off of it. Where is the damn camera when you need it anyway?
Another time a black panther (or jaguar) crossed the dirt road right in front of me. Amazing, the large glistening body, the muscles in his legs as he ran, the sparkle in his eyes. I'll never forget the sight.
Snakes are not uncommon in the capital, but in the rainforest you run across one virtually every day. Since I don't know how to distinguish most of them, I've always kept a polite distance from them. Crocodiles were frequently sunning themselves on the bank of the river where I lived.
And then one day I awoke to the sound of heavy machinery. Across the river trees were falling one by one, and a few weeks later the river bank was barren. It tore at my heartstrings. Isn't there anything anyone can do to stop this?
Many organizations worldwide condemn large scale logging in tropical rainforests. Understandable, but often demands are rather unreasonable. Logging and mining are responsible for a substantial part of the gross domestic product of nations that are struggling to keep their heads above water in the modern world. As developing countries we don't really want to cut down the entire forest, it simply helps to diversify our economies. Often poor countries perpetuate their poverty because their economies are not diversified enough to grow. Dependency on one or two major export products can be devastating if the market for one breaks down. Many people living in rich countries really have no idea what it is like to live as an underdog in an underdeveloped country. It is a constant struggly to prevent yourself from drowning in the maelstrom that is todays world economy.
This post is in memory of my father. He opposed the ban on imports of tropical hardwood from countries with tropical rainforests. He argued that if developed countries no longer import hardwood, it would greatly decrease the value of each tree. There would be no financial incentive for us to keep our rainforest as intact as possible.
The solution, in his opinion, is to encourage developing countries to maintain their rainforests by giving incentives for logging in a responsible manner (which is possible). Ideas he had were incentives for a minimum trunk size before logging, so that the trees had had plenty of opportunity to propagate. An adoption program, which would allow people to adopt trees, or sections of the rainforest in return for sustainable management. He argued that if hardwood has no value for us, we would ultimately have no choice but to cut down the rainforest to allow more lucrative ways to use the forest. The bottom line is, it is all a question of economics.
Responsible programs have been developed and are in use in tropical rainforests all over the world. Poor countries need financial incentives to implement these programs.
In loving memory of EAB (November 1944- June 2007)