FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 07 February 2016

The World's Forests Will Collapse If We Don't Learn To Say 'No'

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Bill Laurance, James Cook University

An alarming new study has shown that the world's forests are not only disappearing rapidly, but that areas of "core forest" - remote interior areas critical for disturbance-sensitive wildlife and ecological processes - are vanishing even faster.

Core forests are disappearing because a tsunami of new roads, dams, power lines, pipelines and other infrastructure is rapidly slicing into the world's last wild places, opening them up like a flayed fish to deforestation, fragmentation, poaching and other destructive activities.

Most vulnerable of all are forests in the tropics. These forests sustain the planet's most biologically rich and environmentally important habitats.

The collapse of the world's forests isn't going to stop until we start to say "no" to environmentally destructive projects.

Damn the dams

Those who criticise new infrastructure projects are often accused of opposing direly needed economic development, or - if they hail from industrial nations - of being hypocrites.

But when one begins to look in detail at the proposed projects, an intriguing pattern appears: Many are either poorly justified or will have far greater costs than benefits.

For example, in a recent essay in the journal Science, Amazon expert Philip Fearnside argues that many of the 330-odd hydroelectric dams planned or under construction in the Amazon will be more trouble than they're worth.

Construction of the São Manoel Dam in the Brazilian Amazon. International Rivers/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Many of these dams will have huge environmental impacts, argues Fearnside, and will dramatically increase forest loss in remote regions.

This happens both because the Amazon is quite flat, requiring large areas of forest to be flooded, and because dams and their power lines require road networks that open up the forest to other human impacts. For instance, the 12 dams planned for Brazil's Tapajós River are expected to increase Amazon deforestation by almost 1 million hectares.

Furthermore, Fearnside argues, much of the electricity the Amazon dams produce will be used for smelting aluminium, which provides relatively little local employment.

Fearnside asserts that mega-dams planned for the Congo Basin and Mekong River will also cause big problems, with limited or questionable benefits.

Roads to ruin

The explosive expansion of roads into the world's last wild places is an even more serious problem. Indeed, Eneas Salati, one of Brazil's most respected scientists, once quipped that "the best thing you could do for the Amazon is to blow up all the roads".

Current projections suggest that by 2050, we'll have nearly 25 million kilometres of additional paved roads - enough to encircle the Earth more than 600 times.

I have led three major studies of planned road expansion, for the entire planet and for the Brazilian Amazon and sub-Saharan Africa. All three show that many planned roads would have massive impacts on biodiversity and vital ecosystem services while providing only sparse socioeconomic benefits.

Logging truck in Malaysian Borneo ©Rhett Butler /

In Africa, for example, our analyses reveal that 33 planned "development corridors" would total over 53,000 kilometers in length while crisscrossing the continent and cutting into many remote, wild areas. Of these, we ranked only six as "promising" whereas the remainder were "inadvisable" or "marginal".

Progress at any price?

There is a very active coalition of pro-growth advocates - including corporate lobbyists, climate-change deniers, and die-hard proponents of "economic growth" - that immediately decry any effort to oppose new developments.

Added to this are those who argue reasonably for economic development to combat poverty and disparity in developing nations. Such advocates often assert that an added bonus of development is greater sustainability, because impoverished people can be highly destructive environmentally. The denuded nation of Haiti is one such example.

Yet the on-the-ground reality is often far more complex. For instance, the heavy exploitation and export of natural resources, such as minerals, fossil fuels or timber, can cause nations to suffer "Dutch Disease" - an economic syndrome characterised by rising currency values, economic inflation and the weakening of other economic sectors, such as tourism, education and manufacturing.

Dutch Disease tends to increase economic disparity, because the poor are impacted most heavily by rising food and living costs. Further, the national economy becomes more vulnerable to economic shocks from fluctuating natural-resource prices or depletion. The Solomon Islands - which relies heavily on timber exports that are collapsing from overexploitation - is a poster-child for Dutch Disease.

The poor suffer most from inflation: Rural woman in the Western Ghats of southern India. William Laurance

On top of this is the toxic odour of corruption that pervades many big infrastructure projects. One would need an abacus just to keep track of the allegations.

To cite just two recent examples: in Malaysia, an independent investigation has concluded that nearly US$4 billion was misappropriated from a state-owned fund set up to attract international property, infrastructure and energy investments. And in Brazil, the granting of contracts for major Amazon dams has been drowning in allegations of corruption.

In both nations, public coffers needed for education, health and other vital services appear to have been hugely defrauded.

Just say 'no'

The bottom line is that many big infrastructure projects are being pushed by powerful corporations, individuals or interests that have much to gain themselves, but often at great cost to the environment and developing societies.

Globally, the path we're currently following isn't just unsustainable. It's leading to an astonishingly rapid loss of forests, wildlife and wilderness. From 2000 to 2012, an area of forest two and half times the size of Texas was destroyed, while a tenth of all core forests vanished.

Red Titi Monkey from the western Amazon ©Pete Oxford/

If we're going to have any wild places left for our children and grandchildren, we simply can't say "yes" to every proposed development project.

For those that will have serious environmental and social consequences, we need to start saying "no" a lot more often.

The ConversationBill Laurance, Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate, James Cook University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
A Short Note on a Connection Between Marginalist Economics and Folk Medicine
Run A High Pressure Economy? Janet Yellen Does Not Understand the Problem
News Blog
Rail Week Ending 22 October 2016 Better Than The Previous Week
What Happens After The Islamic State Loses Mosul
Infographic Of The Day: The History Of Women's Ice Hockey In Canada
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Mixed, Huge Antarctic Marine Park, Can Trump Get To 270?, US Workers Gaining, UK Inflation, France GDP, India Savings Lag And More
Why Amazon Gives So Many Perks To Prime Members
Where Workplace Trust Is Strongest
How A Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Brain - And Personality
How Accurate Are Final US Election Polls
What We Read Today 27 October 2016
A Pony And His Beloved Teddy Bear Reunite After Being Apart For 3 Years
October 2016 Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Remains In Expansion
September 2016 Median Household Income Not Statistically Different Than The Previous Month
September 2016 Pending Home Sales Index Improves
Investing Blog
Technical Thoughts: Looking For The Rebounds
Gold That Pays Dividends
Opinion Blog
Global Debt Investors: The Silence Of The Lambs
A Hard Brexit And Reduced Migration Won't Benefit UK Workers
Precious Metals Blog
Inflation Surging As Platinum Signals Stock Market Decline
Live Markets
27Oct2016 Market Close: Wall Street Closes Fractionally Lower, Interest-Rate Stocks Outweighed Gains In Healthcare, Market Indicators Bearish
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

Crowdfunding ....



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved