Deforestation and Poverty
Deforestation throughout the world has been increasing over the past decades. Forests contribute to 90 percent of the livelihood of those that live in extreme poverty. Once people cut down and remove these resources, it takes years to replace them, which puts people deeper into poverty. Deforestation and poverty connect because of what the forest can provide for people living in poverty.

Reasons for Deforestation

There are several reasons that deforestation is so much a part of developing nations. One of the most prominent reasons is logging or cutting down trees for processing. While logging does provide temporary relief from poverty once loggers cut down the trees, it takes years for them to grow back.

Indonesia has the worst problem with illegal logging with 80 percent of its logging exports being illegal. Agriculture is necessary for a country to become self-sufficient and rely on itself to feed its people. Hence, to clear land for crops, farmers cut down large sections of forests. Indonesia also has the worst problem with clearing forest for agriculture; the country states that it is necessary to make way for the trees for palm oil, one of its major exports, in order to reduce poverty.

In Brazil, clearing forests to make way for grazing livestock is the reason for deforestation. Brazil is a top beef exporter having exported over $5 billion worth of beef in 2018 and beef is a significant contributor to its economy.

The Benefits and Harm of Deforestation

The three countries that have the most deforestation are Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. These countries all have access to the Amazon rainforest and they use its resources to help alleviate the strain of poverty. Deforestation has devastated all three of these countries, as each has cut down millions of acres of rainforest.

Since 1978, Brazilian loggers, cattle rangers and farmers have cut down 289,000 square miles of rainforest. One of Brazil’s top crops is soybeans that farmers use to feed its growing cattle population. Massive sections of forest require cutting to make way for both soybean production and cattle and this impacts the indigenous people of Brazil the most. Their entire livelihood is dependent on the forest and when the trees disappear, they suffer extreme poverty.

Peru has recently increased its efforts to control deforestation due to mining. Gold is a large part of the economy of Peru along with logging. These efforts have worked for the people of Peru who were able to cut their poverty rate from 48.5 percent to 25.8 percent in less than 10 years. However, experts believe that this relief, while significant, could only be temporary because the rate of deforestation will have a profound impact on climate change that will, in turn, harm the forests and economy of the country.

The GDP per capita of Bolivia is currently at $2559.51. This makes it one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. To help the poor people of the country, the government has doubled the amount of deforestation that occurs in the country to make way for cattle, agriculture and infrastructure.

With the increase of deforestation, the benefits can seem like relief for those that are deeply immersed in poverty. While these countries’ removal of whole forests can help those living in poor conditions, the help is only temporary and in the long run can harm their well being as much as help. Deforestation and poverty are linked and to save the forests, it is essential to help those living in and around the forests.

Samuel Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities are Donating
The Amazon rainforest fires of late 2019 are some of the worst to occur since 2010 with an increase in deforestation rates as a primary cause. Celebrities are donating to the Amazon, pledging money to organizations like the Rainforest Alliance, Amazon Watch and Rainforest trust. Many celebrities are donating to help the Amazon so that the indigenous peoples that live there can continue to do so. Other celebrities are raising awareness about the role politics is playing in the Amazon fires.

The Situation

The Amazon rainforest covers much of northwestern Brazil and extends into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries. It is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is notable for its extensive biodiversity. It is also home to nearly one million indigenous peoples consisting of over 400 tribes, each with their own language, culture and territory. These people rely on their land for everything, from food to shelter to medicine, which is why the fires are so devastating to them.

 The anti-indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro is a root cause of the fires. Bolsonaro normalizes, incites and empowers violence against the environment of the Amazon rainforest and against the tribes who live there. Bolsonaro pledged to increase agricultural activity in the Amazon by opening it to logging, industrial-scale agriculture, ranching and mining.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron tweeted “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!” Along with urging other world leaders to help on social media, Macron threatened to scrap a huge trade deal between the European Union and South America, putting pressure on Bolsonaro to take action.

Alongside the destruction and devastation, celebrities have begun to raise funds and awareness to help put a stop to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Celebrities Donating to the Amazon

Many celebrities are donating monetarily to provide aid. Vanessa Hudgens donated to the Amazon Conservation Team to try to proactively help and Violette Beane gave to multiple organizations while urging her fans to donate if they could and share information if they could not.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental initiative, Earth Alliance, pledged $5 million to Amazon relief. People widely know DiCaprio for his work as an actor, but also for his work to end climate change. Earth Alliance created an emergency fund specifically for the preservation of the Amazon. The money pledged will be going to five local organizations.

In addition to donating, many celebrities are then nominating other celebrities to do the same. Lana Condor of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” donated and then nominated co-stars Janel Parris and Noah Centineo to do so as well. Zoey Deutch donated to the Rainforest Alliance and called on Camila Mendes to do the same. After donating, Mendes nominated “Riverdale” co-star, Charles Melton to give.

“Umbrella Academy” star, Robert Sheehan, went one step further with his donation to the Rainforest Alliance by making it a monthly donation. He also plans to follow the Rainforest Alliance’s 30-day sustainability challenge.

One does not have to be a celebrity to provide aid to the Amazon fires, though. Donating is something anyone can do. The Rainforest Alliance is redirecting 100 percent of its donations to the frontline organizations in Brazil that work to protect the indigenous people. Rainforest Action Network works in Brazil’s Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory supporting the Munduruku people’s campaign to create a recognized territory and monitor the area for illegal logging and mining activity. Other organizations include, but are not limited to Rainforest Foundation U.S., Amazon Watch, Earth Alliance, Amazon Conservation Team and World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

– Darci Flatley
Photo: Flickr

Self-Determination in Ecuador

For indigenous people in the Americas, one of the greatest struggles has been for the right to their land and autonomy. Historically, this has been an uphill battle, but a recent legal victory by the Waorani tribe in the Amazon rainforest set an important legal precedent for indigenous people’s self-determination in Ecuador.

The Waorani Tribe’s Legal Victory

In the past few years, the Ecuadorian government has been dividing much of its rainforest land, including Waorani territory, into blocks to be leased out for mineral and oil rights through international auctions. The lawsuit contends that the tribe was not properly consulted about the auction. According to Amazon Frontlines, a non-governmental organization that worked with the tribe on the lawsuit, the consultation process by the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Resources had numerous failings in design and implementation.

Some issues cited in the lawsuit were “bad faith and false reporting of compliance, unintelligible communications, grossly insufficient time allocation, unaddressed complexities of translation, and poorly crafted informatic materials.” On April 26, 2019, a panel of three judges ruled that the Ecuadorian government had failed to properly inform the Waorani tribe or receive its consent for its land to be auctioned off. They ruled that the free, prior and informed consent process must be repeated.

A Victory for All Amazon Tribes and the Land

This ruling was not only a victory for the Waorani tribe but an overall win for indigenous people’s self-determination in Ecuador because the Waorani people’s territory was not the only indigenous land up for auction. According to Maria Espinosa, one of the Waorani’s lawyers, the ruling means that, because the land of the other tribes was dealt with under the “same flawed and unconstitutional process” as that of the Waorani, “the State cannot auction off the territories.” This is a huge victory for indigenous people in Ecuador.

This victory has also set a precedent for the rights of the rainforest itself. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to recognize the rights of nature to exist and act out its processes. Ecuador has some of the most diverse varieties of species on the planet. Globally, it has the highest number of species per area, including at least “1,500 species of birds, more than 840 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 300 species of mammals.” In Yasuni National Park alone, there is more flora variety than any other place on the planet with more than 20,000 species.

Alternatives to Oil

The Ecuadorian government has appealed the verdict. The South American country is currently the fourth-smallest producer of oil, but it is looking to attract investors in the fossil fuel industry. In 2018, President Lenín Moreno argued that the public-private partnerships in infrastructure, oil, energy and telecoms could bring in $7 billion dollars in investments by 2021.

However, Ecuador has shown success in producing clean energy, and a more sustainable solution to boosting the economy could be found in tourism. With its natural beauty and biodiversity, the Ecuador tourism industry grew by 44 percent from 2017 through 2018, bringing in an estimated 1.3 billion dollars. Through building these sectors, Ecuador could find an alternative to auctioning off its oil rights.

It’s unclear how the courts will rule on the appeal. At the moment, it is a victory for the protection of the rainforest and indigenous people’s self-determination in Ecuador. Even if they lose on the appeal, the Waorani people are not giving up. Nemonte Nenquimo, president of the Waorani Pastaza Organization said, “We have shown the government to respect us, and other indigenous people of the world, that we are the guardians of the jungle, and we’re never going to sell our territory.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr