"Ladies and gentlemen, the world's forests need to be seen for what they are—giant global utilities, providing essential public services to humanity on a vast scale." -- Prince Charles on Deforestation
Many development institutions and politicians regard population pressure as the major factor causing rainforest destruction. Nobody can deny the serious global problem of population growth. However, the belief that this is the main cause of rainforest loss is used by many governments and businesses to imply that there is little or nothing they can do about the problem of rainforest destruction.
An examination of forest destruction on a regional basis reveals that this is not so. In fact it is large companies and the inequities of international trade which are the root causes of rainforest destruction. For instance, millions of hectares of primary rainforests are being destroyed in South East Asia by logging, and the driving force in this industry is not the local population but international demand for timber. Because landless people will follow logging roads into primary rainforest areas, it is the logging industry which is the main immediate factor responsible for colonisation of rainforest.
In Central America, 40% of all the rainforests have been cleared or burned down in the last 40 years, mostly for cattle pasture to feed the export market (often for US beefburgers). This industry in particular, and the continuing consolidation of land ownership in general, force the poor into rainforest in their search for land. Latin American environment groups have cited skewed land distribution as the most important factor frustrating the conservation and sustainable use of rainforest areas. Throughout South East Asia there are the people who have the same desperate need for land. Land reform would not only provide for the needs of the poorest people in these countries, but would also halt conversion of new areas of primary rainforest into unsustainable agricultural lands. In spite of this, the problem of wealth and resource distribution is still a taboo topic in the context of official discussions on development cooperation. A critical study of the reasons for the over-exploitation of tropical ecosystems by populations without land or employment reveals many links with the economic interests of the industrial countries. The economic exploitation of poorer countries by the world's industrialised nations underlines much of the over-exploitation of tropical ecosystems by populations without land or employment. This insight must become the foundation for the reform of bilateral and multilateral aid policies and relevant world trade practices if the tropical rainforests are to be saved. This will mean among other things, dealing with the problem of Third World Debt.
Commercial logging is the major cause of primary rainforest destruction in South East Asia and Africa. Worldwide, it is responsible for the destruction of 5 million ha. a year. Logging...