Deforestation in the Amazon Forest
The current paper focuses on environmental conservation with specific reference to the deforestation of the Amazon tropical rainforest. Amazon, the world’s largest known rainforest has come under intense scrutiny because of the wanton destruction that it has undergone. Such an ecosystem is of great significance although people continue to pile pressure on it thus exposing the forest to an unprecedented level of destruction.
The paper proceeds to capture the manner in which the forest has been destroyed, measures taken to control the destruction and consequences of uncontrolled destruction. The efforts directed towards protecting the forest are not enough. For instance, the government has not dealt with culprits of the destruction decisively. In addition, the government’s disregard of deforestation laws has attracted more encroachers into the forest. The paper concludes that failure to protect natural ecosystems such as the Amazon poses serious dangers to biodiversity.
Environmental protection has grown in stature owing the widespread destruction of the global ecosystem in the recent times. Ever since the realization that the problem of global warming was adversely affecting the world, efforts have been directed towards improving environmental sustainability. One of the most notable contributing aspects to environmental degradation is deforestation. Current paper explores the issue of deforestation and conservation of the Amazons. It is argued that deforestation of the Amazon poses a danger to biodiversity.
Amazon is the world’s largest known rainforest
Despite the apparent significance of such an ecosystem, the forest has come under intense pressure from human activity leading to an unprecedented level of destruction. Based on the views of environmental activists, the weakening of legal framework passed under the leadership of Dilma Rousseff contributed largely to the state of affairs (Kirby et al., 2008). Reducing the surveillance allowed loggers and farmers access the forest.
Bringing down natural forests is a notable contributing factor towards the rising of global temperatures which in turn accelerate environmental destruction. In practice, trees absorb carbon which is released to the earth besides providing livelihood to a number of people. With unabated logging, the environment becomes exposed to increasing carbon emissions which remain unabsorbed from the earth. Consequently, deforestation such as the one taking place in the Amazon needs to be halted before the consequences become severe.
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Literature Review on the Amazon Deforestation
According to Kirby et al. (2008), following a high-resolution global analysis via satellites indicated that from the year 2000, an area estimated to equal the size of fifty football playgrounds was being destroyed within a span of a minute. Enormous activities have led to the destruction of an area approximated to be more than the total size of the United Kingdom. Of the large area that has been destroyed, only a third has been reforested although the overall destruction continues towards the tropics.
The reliance on satellite data has proved useful as it has allowed the government to intensify efforts to stop illegal activities in the Amazon from 2003. The satellite data is used in pinpointing the exact locations of illegal operations. However, by 2012/13, the rate of deforestation had extended further since the total affected area was five thousand eight hundred square kilometers. In percentage terms, the area deforested increased by twenty-eight percent. Despite the insistence by the government that it was enhancing efforts to reduce the destruction of the forest, critics cited the alteration of the Forest Code as the turning point in the destruction of the world’s largest rain forest. The conservation efforts are undermined by the amnesty extended by authorities, forgiving the culprits of the destruction send a message that environmental degradation has no consequences.
For purposes of clarity, it is pointed out that the Forest Code was revised in 2012 after over ten years’ lobbying efforts from agriculturalists. Following the revisions of the code, restrictions on small landowners, which previously disallowed clearing land near riverbanks, were eased. Other additions involved no penalties to individuals who illegally cut trees so long as they agreed to replant. The new provisions, especially on illegal logging and replanting of trees proved difficult to enforce, and in effect led to a wide scale destruction of the forest.
The accusations directed towards the government of Rousseff are further cemented in the finding that the government pushed for carrying out infrastructural projects within the Amazon region. A notable proportion of the destruction in the region is along highways which pass Para and Mato Grosso (Wallace, 2007). The roads ease illegal activities such as logging. Another concern relates to increasing food prices globally. As food prices rise, the quest for more land to farm soya beans and rear cattle is also on the rise.
It is noted that about seventy-five percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions emanate from the clearing of the Amazon forest (Williams, 2006). Trees that are brought down or burned rot bring about a significant proportion to the accumulation of carbon dioxide. The destruction of the Amazon meant that the country rose through the numbers to occupy the position six globally in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
Dean (2009) alleged that the forces of globalization are major contributing factors to the deforestation of the Amazon. The complexity surrounding the deforestation of the Amazon forest is further highlighted by numerous wars, a high level of uncertainty and fear, threat to livelihoods and other negative effects that characterize the events at the Amazon.
A number of ways on resolving deforestation issues exist. One of the approaches that the Brazilian government has explored is soliciting for foreign funding. In the year 2009, the then President Luiz da Silva indicated that although the country was focused on protecting the environment, the government was not prepared to put the livelihoods of its citizens in danger (Dean, 2009). Demanding that rich countries should contribute towards the preservation of the environment is a welcome idea although it is too much to demand that such states must fund the protection of the environment. The view is held in regards to the fact that Brazil would be the ultimate looser shall it fail to preserve the rain tower.
Apart from initiating policies that appear to support the destruction of the forest, government ineptitude demonstrated in the level of graft on the part of its officials remain mindboggling. It is also alleged that the government officials are either ill equipped or outmatched by those destroying the forest (Fernside, 2005). Given that now large-scale soya bean growers have joined loggers in clearing the forest, environmentalists have a reason for worry. Not to be left behind are cattle ranchers who have joined the degraders of the forest in grabbing land.
In the previous forty years, up to twenty percent of the forest has been cleared (Fernside, 2005). The percentage is bigger than what had been cleared in the previous four hundred fifty years after the European colonialism. Worse still, the figures could be underestimated given that selective logging is often not accounted for. Environmental scientists fear that in the next twenty years, another twenty percent of the forest will be lost. Were that to happen, the grave consequences of the degradation of the forest would be laid bare. It should be recalled that, the Amazon processes its rainfall via the moisture it releases to the atmosphere. If an additional twenty percent of the forest is cleared, then the possibility of the Amazon drying would increase tremendously. It is apparent that the rain which falls because of the moist nature of the forest would not fall. Desiccation is complicated by the high rate of global warming. The possibility of wild fires is now higher than it has been in the past. Consequently, the Amazon would be among the endangered ecosystems given the high incidence of fire. In 2005, a drought ravaged the
Amazon leading to the reduction in water levels down by twelve meters. The drought had disastrous effects on the communities in the area.
A closer examination of Pará, Mato Grosso and Rondônia illuminates the extent of the destruction that is being witnessed in the Amazon region (Wallace, 2007). Reference to roads in the area paints a grim picture. Safe for few state and federal highways, (including the soy highway, the controversial BR-163, and the East-Western Trans-Amazon Highway), almost each road in the forest is unauthorized. Roughly, illegal roads cover one hundred thousand miles. Such roads are constructed by loggers who target hardwoods and mahogany trees for the lucrative export markets.
Within the region, events that are set up to facilitate logging are more destructive than the exercise of logging itself. After extracting trees and moving ahead, loggers leave behind roads which conduits such as squatters, ranchers, speculators, farmers and gunmen take advantage of to launch other destructive activities. This category of people penetrates previously impenetrable areas of the forest before destroying large tracts for illegal purposes. Land grabbing is enhanced by corruption, under-hand tactics and fraudulent deals which are widespread engagements in the country. Upon a review into land ownership in the forest, the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária declared as void sixty-two thousand claims which were found to be fraudulent (Wallace, 2007).
The agency charged with protecting the rain forest is poorly equipped (Wallace, 2007). Hence, it is an arduous task to rein on the illegal activities that are carried out within the Amazon. For instance, the institute only has few inspectors despite the fact that the forest area stretches a distance in miles. It is also noted that loggers and other perpetrators of destruction conducted a demonstration in 2004 which led to bringing down the institute’s offices. The demonstration was carried out in response to the shutting of illegal sawmills and fining those found guilty of destroying the environment. Despite conducting an inquest into the arson attack on the institute’s office, no single suspect was identified.
When assessing measures to protect the Amazon, looking at other ambitions is advisable. For instance, plans to construct seven dams on Madeira and Xingu Rivers, roads, oil and gas pipelines, power lines and large-scale industrial projects demonstrate the danger the authorities are exposing the environment to (Wallace, 2007). The dams are expected to provide power to aluminum smelters while shipping channels are to facilitate transport to the Chinese markets. The dams would also flood the forest leading to the production of methane and related greenhouse gases which destroy biodiversity. Such developments are likely to force the indigenous communities to vacate their ancestral homelands.
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Forests cover approximately thirty percent of the world’s space (Wallace, 2007). The value of the forests is critical to humanity. For instance, forests play a leading role in environmental viability by producing oxygen and habitation to wildlife. It is apparent that many of the globe’s most endangered species live in forests. Besides roughly 1.6 billion people derive benefits from forests. In particular, people get fresh water, food, traditional medicine, clothing and shelter from forests. With large tracts of forest under increased threat, such benefits are in jeopardy.
The role of forests in mitigating climate change is well documented. Forests soak carbon dioxide which if left in the environment would contribute to the rising global temperatures (Wallace, 2007). Deforestation is detrimental because it undermines the carbon-sinking function of forests. Estimates show that approximately fifteen percent of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to deforestation. The deforestation menace particularly affects tropical rain forests. The case of Amazon demonstrates that the most populated areas around forests are the ones that are most affected.
From 1988, the deforestation rate was 8 000 square miles
However, within 2 years, the levels declined to roughly 4 700 square miles. It is marked that the case of Amazon yields mixed results in terms of the area of forest cover that is lost each year. Nevertheless, it appears that much needs to be done to save the tropical rain forest.
Illegal logging emerges as one of the most notable activities that accelerate deforestation. Often, national laws guide the production and trading of timber within all stages (Margulis, 2004). Hence, possibilities for violation exist on fetching wood from protected regions, and harvesting protected species. The illegal logging surpasses lawful logging as the cases of Amazon, Indonesia, forests in Russia and Congo Basin demonstrate. Adverse effects of logging include depressing timber prices, depriving governments of revenues, and disadvantaging genuine companies. Moreover, local communities become threatened when outsiders join illegal logging.
After illegal logging, fires are the other source that contributes significantly towards the destruction of tropical rain forests. In practice, fires are beneficial when landscaping forests. However, fires become problematic when they occur in wrong places and at wrong frequencies or severity. Every year large forest cover is lost to fires globally (Margulis, 2004). Fires are thought to destroy more than the combined destruction attributable to agriculture and illegal logging. In many instances, fire is used for purposes of clearing land. After clearing forest land, the destroyers put it under other uses such as farming. Fires are not only destructive physically, but also structurally since they alter soil composition besides opening up forests to invasive organisms. Other adverse effects include threatening biological biodiversity, alteration of water cycles, decreasing soil fertility, and destroying livelihoods of those people living around forests.
Harvesting wood for the purposes of fuel is also another contributor to deforestation. Wood remains a popular source of fuel for both cooking and generating heat within homes (Margulis, 2004). It is noted that forests are more than collections of trees since they are ecosystems which provide habitats to a diversity of organisms. As previously mentioned, forests are integral in maintaining the water cycle whose normal functioning is crucial to life.
Reduction in a region’s biodiversity is another consequence of deforestation. In particular, areas that are prone to deforestation are the tropical rainforests which are rich in biodiversity. When species lose their habitats because of forest destruction, they become unable to continue living. In addition, destroyed forests are more accessible to poachers, hunters and grabbers (Margulis, 2004). Activities from such intruders render forests incapable of supporting the lives of certain species. The overall effect is reduction in biodiversity.
Based on the above pie chart, in the Amazon forest, various factors account for deforestation. Large-scale agriculture, logging, cattle pasture, and smallholder agriculture are the main contributors to the destruction of the forest.
A literature review focuses on discussing information relevant to a particular topic or subject. Sometimes, the review is on a given topic but within a specified time. According to Hart (2001), literature reviews often offer summaries of sources of information. However, syntheses are also included in the reviews. A summary presents a recap of the main points although synthesis suggests reorganization of the information. Hence, synthesis goes an extra step to interpret the information, or relies on existing interpretations. Besides, a literature review might track trends in the field with a view to striking a common position (Hart, 2001).
Since the aim of a research paper is to develop and advance an argument, it is common that it contains a literature review to strengthen the position taken. In the current paper the literature is used as a foundation and supporting material to the overall contribution to the topic.
The choice for the use of a literature review, which is a secondary source of information, is based on the acceptance that it provides a guide to a given topic (Hart, 2001). Similarly, time and other constraints to conduct research necessitates that a secondary type of study I carried out as opposed to primary study. In addition, it is noted that literature reviews are useful in collecting informative information on a topic such as the degradation of environments.
Findings and Conclusion
Protecting the world biodiversity is central towards enhancing environmental sustainability. However, as the case of Amazon rain forest reflects, the human race has worked tirelessly towards endangering global ecosystems. It is known that people are so focused on short-term gains as they forget the value played by natural habitats. Despite widespread knowledge about the consequences of deforestation and other aspects of environmental degradation, governmental authorities have not done enough to halt the rate at which natural habitats are being destroyed.
Based on the current paper, deforestation has severe consequences which require urgent and decisive measures to be taken. In particular, destroying forests contributes to global warming. The paper identifies that forests play a major role in improving human life through its regulatory power of water cycles, absorption of carbon dioxide and release of oxygen. In the absence of the forest, the regions around the forest would experience droughts, high temperatures and severe soil erosion. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most contentious concerns that result from deforestation. Consequently, the paper affirms that the destruction of the forest has left the region exposed to negative consequences attributable to deforestation.
Efforts to control deforestation of the Amazon have been going for a long time now
For instance, using data obtained from satellites, government authorities have intensified surveillance at the forest with the aim of identifying and taking action against encroachers of the forest. Critics accuse the government for not doing enough to protect the forest, with specific reference to its role in revising the Forest Code which coincided with an increase in the destruction of the forest. One notable example of governmental inadequacy is demonstrated by allowing the construction of structures in the area. Besides, the extension of amnesty to culprits of deforestation has not gone down well with environmentalists. Despite the acceptance that the government has made efforts, it is held that more should be done to increase the sustainability of the ecosystem owing its value to the society.
Apparently, there are many approaches that the authorities can use in controlling the degradation of the Amazon forest. In such endeavors, the government called on the international community to take charge of the protection efforts by asking for additional funding. Whereas, such a move is positive, it is deficient in the sense that it amounts to abdication of duties on the part of the government.
Illegal logging, wood harvesting, fires, and agricultural activities are the main factors that contribute to environmental degradation. In regards to logging, the high demand for timber is driving the logging activities. In particular, mahogany and hardwood are in high demand. Closely related to the issue is the high demand for soya beans products which has pushed people to invade the forest for agricultural land. People also harvest wood for the purposes of lighting and heating at home. Hence, clearing forests becomes a viable alternative to satisfy humanity’s insatiable appetite for wood and its products. From the above discussion, it is apparent that natural ecosystems are in danger, and only decisive steps can protect them. Failure to protect the Amazon poses serious dangers not only to humanity, but to overall biodiversity.