Deforestation Causes and Barriers to Solution

Brief Outline

The loss of forests has led to numerous negative outcomes including climate change, air pollution, and additional challenges to agriculture and other industries. Demographic changes have also contributed to an increase in the rate of deforestation as the need for more resources continues to grow (Lawrence & Vandecar, 2014). Scholars and organizations have acknowledged the negative outcomes of deforestation and are attempting to address the problem. For example, organizations are pursuing various projects to draw attention to the problem. Large companies are publicizing their commitment to sustainability and developing the necessary corresponding standards and guidelines (Gibbs et al., 2015). Supply-chain projects have resulted in a considerable reduction in the rate of deforestation in recent years.

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Large corporations that are trying to maintain or create a favorable image and become corporate citizens are working to avoid deforesting territories where they operate (Gibbs et al., 2015). Moreover, these organizations encourage or even impose requirements on their partners to comply with the standards associated with zero deforestation. Such policies have led to promising results as the rate of forest clearance has decreased in many parts of the world (Lambin et al., 2018). However, these policies, as well as other sustainability projects, are facing various challenges. One major cause of low compliance with sustainable values is a lack of resources. Developing countries where vast territories of forests are located are specifically vulnerable to such issues. Choosing higher profits over a better environment results in considerable deforestation levels. One arguable claim blames scarcity of resources for the lack of opportunity to observe and maintain high environmental standards. Nevertheless, the current situation (climate change, soil degradation, extreme temperatures, shortage of drinking water, and other issues) suggests that quick steps are needed to address the problem.

It is clear that deforestation must be stopped and alternatives to the affected natural resource should be sought, rather than concentrating on short-term goals and choosing economic development over environmental safety. It is highly possible to address the challenges mentioned above if stakeholders were to combine their efforts. International institutions, private-sector companies, NGOs, and local authorities as well as individuals should undertake steps to reduce the rate of forest loss. Moreover, the media should continue to influence public opinion, encouraging the public to be more responsible.

In order to explore the issue, it is important to implement secondary research and examine the causes and effects of deforestation as well as interventions and projects aimed at reducing the level of forest clearance. The barriers to effective implementation of these programs are the central focus of this research in order to provide understanding of the reasons behind slow progress in this area. Effective strategies to overcome these challenges will also be suggested as every idea can contribute to solving the issue. Books and scholarly articles will be reviewed to elicit the necessary data. Only recent sources will be used to ensure the relevance of the information and conclusions.

Introduction

Deforestation represents a serious environmental concern that is gaining momentum. Scholars have explored in detail multiple adverse effects of the loss of forests. For example, the clearance of forests has contributed substantially to climate change, making many regions warmer and dryer (Lawrence & Vandecar, 2014). These changes have a direct effect on people’s lives as agriculture and farming are damaged. Biodiversity loss is another outcome that can lead to fundamental changes in the lifecycles of the planet (Barlow et al., 2016). However, merely identifying the consequences of deforestation is insufficient in itself when discussing how to eliminate their adverse effects. It is pivotal to examine the causes of the problem, existing methods to address it, and the most influential barriers to the effective implementation of these strategies, all of which will be instrumental in creating efficient solutions.

The primary causes of this environmental problem are complex and relate to different spheres of existence. Runyan and D’Odorico (2016) noted that farming and agriculture are primary factors contributing to deforestation. While certain industries (such as mining or paper and furniture production) are additional factors, it is noteworthy that the use of wood is only a part of the problem as the production process is associated with the development of infrastructure, which results in the loss of forests. Overpopulation is also a leading cause of forest clearance in some territories. Unfortunately, various strategies introduced to address the issue remain ineffective. Therefore, it is critical to understand the nature of the causes of deforestation and the barriers to solving this environmental concern.

Description of the Issue

Agriculture, Cattle Farming, and Ranching

Agriculture is one of the most important sectors of the global economy and a pillar of the development of humanity. The production of food is a complex process that requires many resources, including land (Austin, Schwantes, Gu, & Kasibhatla, 2019). The characteristics of the soil in many parts of the world make some areas inappropriate for agriculture, while other regions have fertile lands. Limited availability of fertile soil is contributing to deforestation in the effort to seize any opportunity to develop agriculture. A prime illustration of this point is the production of palm oil as a factor specifically resulting in the loss of forests.

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Palm oil is widely used in food production due to its comparatively low cost. Oil palm trees are fast-growing and bring significant harvests. Such productivity attracts many farmers and farming companies in various regions including Asia, Africa, and South America (Austin et al., 2019). For instance, the demand for this crop in the 2010s accounted for approximately 40% of lost forests in Indonesia (Richards & Friess, 2015). Forest loss is also linked to the production of soybeans and other crops. As another facet of this problem, farming methods are often characterized by the ineffective use of land (Runyan & D’Odorico, 2016). Thus, although farmers may clear forests to produce a specific crop, they degrade the newly claimed soil by failing to make any meaningful attempts to employ more sustainable strategies. When the depleted land becomes inappropriate for farming, the conventional approach is basically to deforest new areas.

Clearly, the demographic situation in many parts of the world and disproportionate distribution of resources make deforestation seem a simple and effective way to promote survival. In many areas that offer limited employment opportunities, farming is the only source of income. Those who claim that short-term benefits are much more relevant for these people tend to pay little attention to the impact on the environment. In other words, the problem of overpopulation seems to outweigh the environmental footprint of the consequences of farming. A complicating factor is the fact that not only are developing countries the most affected by the issue, but these territories hold the largest proportion of forests, which aggravates the problem.

Another considerable threat to the environment is the development of ranching and cattle farming that also require vast territories. In South America, this specific problem is the primary cause of deforestation (Jusys, 2016). Again, cutting down and burning trees is a necessary preface to building farms and creating pasture. As the demand for meat remains high, this sector of the international economy is also developing at an unprecedented pace. In addition, different parts of the world are being affected in diverse ways. For example, Jusys (2016) noted that the cultivation of crops is not the most influential factor associated with the loss of forests in Legal Amazon. Rather, ranching has the most significant negative impact on the environmental situation in the area.

Timber and Paper Production

Deforestation is also a result of certain industries where wood is a primary resource. Paper and furniture production have accounted for a substantial increase in the loss of trees in recent years (Runyan & D’Odorico, 2016). The clearance of forests connected to these industries has ranged between 17% and 21% in different periods (Austin et al., 2019), with the peak of deforestation associated with timber production occurring during the period 2010-2012. Decreasing demand for timber is often a result of global financial constraints and crises when the development of the economies of major players in the international market is slowing. However, large areas are also deforested illegally for different purposes such as heating or unauthorized sale. These activities are relatively widespread in developing countries where governments have been making certain yet largely unsuccessful attempts to address the issue.

Infrastructure and Dwelling

Another cause of deforestation associated with a considerable impact on the environment is the development of infrastructure. Jusys (2016) reported that the construction of official and unofficial roads has resulted in an unprecedented level of clearance of forests in Legal Amazon. Apart from deforesting areas for fields and farms as well as dwellings, people and organizations clear territories to build the infrastructure for these agricultural, industrial, commercial, and household zones. It has also been acknowledged that infrastructure has a direct link with deforestation (Runyan & D’Odorico, 2016). For instance, up to 95% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is occurring in areas with an extensive transportation infrastructure. In simple terms, the construction of roads, especially highways, is likely to lead to increased deforestation. Although the media has acknowledged and properly highlighted the problem, societies continue to prioritize the economic growth of their countries at the expense of environmental sustainability.

Barriers

Climate change as well as air and water pollution and inappropriate waste management have become serious issues to be solved in the near future due to their intense and increasing influence on life. For decades, researchers have explored the relationship between human actions and the lifecycle of the planet, and the footprint of humanity is considerable. A lack of resources and serious health concerns are among the causes of individuals’ careless management of available territories. These adverse effects have caused governments and international institutions to come up with numerous policies and projects aimed at diminishing the negative impact of human activities (Runyan & D’Odorico, 2016). In many areas, environment-related legislation has proved effective and improved the situation (Assunção, Gandour, & Rocha, 2015). However, these efforts remain insufficient, especially when it comes to the developing world and emerging economies that are often territories in possession of a massive amount of diverse resources.

The problem of deforestation has attracted the substantial attention of officials, the media, and the public. The stakeholders have claimed readiness to collaborate with the rest of the world to minimize their environmental footprint, but several barriers to the successful implementation of promising projects and policies have come into play. One primary barrier reflects the struggle for resources. Most cases involve individuals who are trying to make money without bothering about the environment and the damage they may be causing the planet (Gibbs et al., 2015; Rueda, Velez, Moros, & Rodriguez, 2019). Individuals, organizations, or even countries have been failing to follow the principles of sustainable development when it comes to the use of natural resources. Lambin et al. (2018) emphasized that the policies that have been developed have numerous limitations, and—more importantly—it is mainly producers that bear the most substantial costs. These weaknesses of the instruments can be seen as among the primary challenges to be addressed when developing effective standards and regulations.

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Personal Position Statement

Clearly, environmental problems are interrelated, and they are difficult to prioritize, but the loss of forests should be a top priority. Deforestation is clearly one of the most serious and urgent environmental issues to be addressed as it has multiple adverse effects on the planet and every living creature in the world. The loss of trees is a major cause of climate change as it is directly connected to damage to the planet’s regulatory processes. The extinction of various species, while possibly regarded as a less urgent and more debatable issue, still violates chains that have been in existence for millennia. Importantly, the development of farming is also at risk as soils erode and become less fertile. The impending crisis to agriculture alone should draw serious attention to the issue, leading scholars to concentrate on searching for appropriate solutions. Finally, my personal focus on this problem bears a significant emotional load as I do not want to live in a world deprived of its natural beauty. Forests contribute to the uniqueness of the Earth, and people have no right to destroy this marvelous spot in the universe.

Apart from the reasons mentioned above, it is clear that deforestation should be addressed in the nearest future while the problem can be solved. Potent tools are currently available to help decrease the volume of lost forests considerably. Many strategies have been employed and have proved effective, at least in some areas. The development of technology and globalization have created numerous instruments that can and should be utilized. In considering the implications and impact of this problem, no excuses can suffice to tolerate the existing level of deforestation. The clearance of forests should be minimal or even zero. It is important to manage resources (especially land) properly, enabling individuals to solve existing challenges and prevent deforestation. Governments should enact the corresponding laws and regulations, while organizations should also come up with their own codes of conduct. The media must continue an important role in the process of highlighting the introduction of effective tools and identifying and addressing existing barriers to their successful utilization.

Discussion of the Position

For many, the problem of deforestation may seem insolvable due to human nature, the peculiarities of the global economy, and various historical factors. Nevertheless, proper solutions are possible as can been seen in existing projects that have improved the global situation and are safeguarding the environment in many countries and parts of the globe. One illustration of an effective instrument to address this issue is the development of policies toward supply-chain management. Lambin et al. (2018) noted that companies, being committed to becoming corporate citizens, are coming up with certain standards aimed at solving various social and environmental issues. Large corporations are now trying to ensure zero deforestation through their supply-chain management practices, such as requiring their partners to make use of existing infrastructure and avoid any clearing of forest land.

This strategy has demonstrated success in that smaller businesses are being encouraged to follow the standard in order to receive contracts as well as access to larger markets. For instance, Gibbs et al. (2015) reported that the level of deforestation decreased by 50% after the introduction of supply-chain agreements in 2010-2012. In addition, non-governmental organizations contributed considerably to the development and implementation of similar projects. However, numerous violations marred these promising results of the intervention. One such example of inappropriate activities was a partnership with a contractor that used the services of companies that were not compliant with the supply-chain initiatives. In simple terms, some businesses declared their commitment to the principles of sustainability but failed to ensure their partners’ compliance.

In order to ensure that organizations exercise true commitment to established policy, it is essential to impose some restrictions on non-compliant businesses, provide various tax-related or other opportunities for their growth, and come up with clear policies that could make exceptions impossible. For example, it can be beneficial to provide additional access to markets for organizations that have a supply chain where none of their associated partners take part in deforesting territories. The introduction of clearly defined punitive tools can also help encourage businesses to be more compliant with new norms (Gibbs et al., 2015). Such restrictions may mainly involve companies’ access to markets. In some cases, it can be advisable to impose fines on organizations that persistently violate regulations and norms. Lambin et al. (2018) suggested that restricting supplies from the regions with the highest deforestation rates have already proved to be effective.

At the same time, punitive measures by themselves are insufficient in addressing the problem. As mentioned above, one barrier to the successful implementation of effective interventions involves high costs for producers (Lambin et al., 2018). Governments should understand that companies that enforce zero deforestation in their supply chains can negatively impact their competitiveness due to the costs associated with compliance involving sustainability policies. Thus, it appears essential to provide financial aid to such organizations. International funds and institutions can take part in this process, considering that the problem of deforestation is not merely a local phenomenon. Lambin et al. (2018) stressed that producers tend to acknowledge the benefit and positive environmental outcomes of sustainable operations. However, many companies have continued to choose profit over lower levels of deforestation.

The media should be another influential stakeholder in terms of encouraging people to be more responsible. The introduction of supply-chain regulations and other interventions have become possible under the pressure of public opinion (Gibbs et al., 2015). Companies that are managing to become corporate citizens are attracting more customers who, in their turn, are growing ever more environmentally conscious. Modern consumers are prepared to pay more for products associated with environmentally friendly operations. However, such trends are restricted to developed countries and some emerging economies. Residents of developing countries are more likely to have limited potential to pay extra for sustainable products. International institutions and NGOs, as well as local governments and authorities, should develop projects that encourage people to use products manufactured in compliance with sustainability regulations or to choose appropriate substitutes for these products (Rueda et al., 2019). Technology is now developing at an unprecedented pace and is opening numerous opportunities (Runyan & D’Odorico, 2016). While consumers may, for example, be encouraged to use biofuel instead of wood, the involvement of local authorities is necessary. Financial and educational support are necessary to implement such projects.

The media (especially television and social media) can be instrumental in creating the appropriate background for the changes in individuals’ minds and behaviors. It is necessary to describe the damage caused by deforestation with a focus on both short- and long-term outcomes. The negative effects on farming or other activities should also be described in detail. In addition, there is a need to provide education about opportunities that are available and ways that individuals and organizations can contribute to solving the issue.

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Questions That Have Arisen During the Research

This research unveiled many influential factors and promising opportunities regarding deforestation. However, certain questions remain to be answered in order to understand the problem better. Some of the most needed directions for further research involve existing and new interventions, the roles of different stakeholders, and public awareness and attitudes. I would like to learn more about projects being implemented in developing countries where the rate of deforestation is highest.

Several questions to be answered include the following:

  1. What role do international institutions play in the process of minimizing deforestation?
  2. What effective instruments have been introduced by NGOs, privately owned companies, international institutions, and governments?
  3. What is public opinion concerning deforestation in different countries?
  4. How can people and companies be motivated to employ sustainable operations?
  5. Can economies survive without the use of this natural resource (forests)?
  6. What substitutes can be used to minimize the use of timber?

Summary

In conclusion, deforestation is clearly a primary environmental concern needing to be addressed in the nearest future. The clear-cutting of forests is contributing to climate change as well as the loss of biodiversity and is exerting a considerable negative impact on agriculture, farming, and associated industries. Numerous interventions and policies have been developed, and many of these efforts have proved effective, substantially reducing the level of deforestation in many areas. Supply-chain regulations can be regarded as an illustration of efficient measures that lead to a decrease in deforestation rates.

However, implementing these interventions and projects is associated with such barriers as a lack of motivation or awareness of the most relevant facets of the problem on the part of stakeholders. Thus, international institutions that can provide financial and educational aid need to be involved. The media should contribute to the development of the corresponding public opinion, encouraging individuals to pay more attention to environmental issues. Finally, further research is needed to highlight the major characteristics of the problem and ways to solve the issue. Use of timber should also diminish as technological advances have provided a variety of opportunities to minimize the utilization of wood products.

References

Assunção, J., Gandour, C., & Rocha, R. (2015). Deforestation slowdown in the Brazilian Amazon: Prices or policies? Environment and Development Economics, 20(6), 697-722. Web.

Austin, K. G., Schwantes, A., Gu, Y., & Kasibhatla, P. S. (2019). What causes deforestation in Indonesia? Environmental Research Letters, 14(2). Web.

Barlow, J., Lennox, G. D., Ferreira, J., Berenguer, E., Lees, A. C., Nally, R.M., … Gardner, T. A. (2016). Anthropogenic disturbance in tropical forests can double biodiversity loss from deforestation. Nature, 535(7610), 144-147. Web.

Gibbs, H. K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., … Walker, N. F. (2015). Did ranchers and slaughterhouses respond to zero-deforestation agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters, 9(1), 32-42. Web.

Jusys, T. (2016). Fundamental causes and spatial heterogeneity of deforestation in Legal Amazon. Applied Geography, 75, 188-199. Web.

Lambin, E. F., Gibbs, H. K., Heilmayr, R., Carlson, K. M., Fleck, L. C., Garrett, R. D., … Walker, N. F. (2018). The role of supply-chain initiatives in reducing deforestation. Nature Climate Change, 8(2), 109-116. Web.

Lawrence, D., & Vandecar, K. (2014). Effects of tropical deforestation on climate and agriculture. Nature Climate Change, 5(1), 27-36. Web.

Richards, D. R., & Friess, D. A. (2015). Rates and drivers of mangrove deforestation in Southeast Asia, 2000–2012. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(2), 344-349. Web.

Rueda, X., Velez, M. A., Moros, L., & Rodriguez, L. A. (2019). Beyond proximate and distal causes of land-use change: Linking individual motivations to deforestation in rural contexts. Ecology and Society, 24(1). Web.

Runyan, C., & D’Odorico, P. (2016). Global deforestation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, July 11). Deforestation Causes and Barriers to Solution. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/deforestation-causes-and-barriers-to-solution/

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