Friday, October 5, 2012

The Mafia is after your Trees

Back when I did High School Debate, there were some topics that I did very well on. One of which was, "When economic development and environmental protection conflict, which one do you prioritize?". In high school debate, you have to go back and forth between both sides - so you end up understanding the issue really well.

The winning argument that I came up with when arguing for economic development:
Rainforests provide an immeasurable benefit to humanity. From climate control, to new medicines, to species diversification, etc. The rain forests are being destroyed in pre-industrialized nations using slash and burn agriculture as a way to provide jobs and income to the people. The best way to protect our rain forests would therefore be through economic development measures that promote industrialization. Thus creating manufacturing jobs and moving away from subsistence agriculture.
Manufacturing is the only proven way for society to raise its income. The Industrial Revolution changed history. The global economy barely grew for over 10,000 years, but then exploded at 3%+ annual growth after the 1850s. Millions of people were raised out of poverty over the last century. Half by democratic capitalists that created rules that encouraged industrialization and the other half  by communist regimes that shoved industrialization down peoples' throats. Because of it, the human species is now more populated, better educated, and more prosperous than any time in world history thanks to industrialization. 
What it comes down to is: Environmental Protection - especially when we are talking about Rainforests - is impossible until people do not need to chop and burn anything and everything in sight in order to survive. 
Now look at that chart at the top again.
Net gain of forest: North America, Europe, Japan, and the East Coast of China.
Net loss of forest: Most of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Russia, etc.

What distinguishes those two groups is wealth. The industrialized "global north" versus the developing "global south". What causes most of those black dots on the Chart? Logging by organized crime organizations. Why do people join organized crime? Poverty.

It is estimated that 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions is caused by illegal deforestation and 90% of that is done by organized crime. Let the implications of that sink in for a moment.

Conclusion: We, as humanity, are going to need to be a whole lot richer before we are able to adequately protect the environment. Otherwise people will do whatever they have to do in order to eat. The fact that we aren't there yet is the main stumbling block for negotiations.

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