can’t see the forest

UN: Deforestation Out of Control

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The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released a report indicating that improvements in forestation stability and recovery among developed nations are being negated by “out of control” slash-and-burn agriculture in less-developed countries, primarily in Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The Independent reports:

Forests in the developing world still suffer from widespread deforestation primarily caused by unregulated slash and burn farming practices and uncontrolled forest fires.

“Deforestation continues at an unacceptable rate,” said Wulf Killmann, a forestry expert at the FAO who helped compile the report, adding that the world currently loses approximately 32 million acres of forest cover a year.

Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are currently the regions with the highest losses.

Africa, which accounts for about 16 per cent of the world’s forests, lost more than 9 per cent of its trees between 1990 and 2005, the FAO said. In Latin America and the Caribbean, home to nearly half of the world’s forests, 0.5 per cent of the forests were lost every year between 2000 and 2005 – up from an annual net rate of 0.46 per cent in the 1990s.

Of particular concern is the future of the Amazon rain forest of Brazil. The Amazon has been shrinking for quite some time, but Brazil’s aggressive ethanol production may claim the rain forest at an increasing rate, particularly if Brazil becomes a major supplier to hungry economies like that of the United States. President Bush recently met with Brazilian President da Silva to discuss ethanol policy. While hefty U.S. tariffs currently make the import of Brazilian ‘clean’ fuel unfeasible—the U.S. favors its own corn-based ethanol, which requires large amounts of fossil fuels during its production process, over Brazil’s much neater cane-based product—a shift in this policy could spell doom for huge tracts of Amazonia and the many thousands of species that call it home.

Deforestation negatively impacts the biosphere as a whole because forests are key in regulating atmospheric CO2 and in producing fresh oxygen. Furthermore, the burning of forests releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

It seems clear that the primary solution is not alternative energy. It’s less energy.

Deforestation

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