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This document is composed of seven parts:

  1. A Short Guide to Tropical Rainforest Issues
  2. Logging
  3. The Struggle for Land and the Fate of the Forests
  4. Conserving the Other Rainforest
  5. Tropical Forests and Climatic Stability
  6. Political Obstacles to Policy Reform
  7. Seven Point Forest Plan

A Short Guide to Tropical Rainforest Issues

Noah Madlin

Tropical rainforests are the most abundant ecosystems on Earth. They provide homes to more than 10 million species of life. Rainforests are essential to the survival of humanity.

Forests create and maintain soil, water, and a healthful climate. Forests act as watersheds, absorbing rainfall and slowly releasing it into rivers and streams, preventing both floods and droughts as they moderate and regulate water flows. Soil erosion takes place when forests are cleared, damaging waterways, coral reefs, and fish.

In rainforests, almost 90% of fertility is found in the vegetation itself. When farmers clear the rainforest they usually find poor soil. Poor soil forces farmers to leave after two or three years. They destroy more forests elsewhere, a repeating process of devastation. Often the rainforests do not grow back at all, leaving many of the original species destroyed.

Many agricultural crops, such as bananas, depend on their wild relatives in the rainforests for genetic diversity to protect them against insects and diseases. Many medicines are made from plants found in rainforests. The destruction of rainforests may result in one third of the world's carbon dioxide production, believed to be causing global climate change (change in weather patterns).

Yet, rainforests are being destroyed at the rate of 42 million acres per year. Large scale resource development projects (logging, mining, oil and gas drilling, cattle ranching, hydroelectric dams, export agriculture, highways etc.) financed by multinational corporations, multilateral development banks (the World Bank etc.) and government agencies destroy millions of acres of rainforest every year. The industrial world's efforts to promote monoculture systems of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and animal husbandry have created much poverty and ecological destruction by destroying diverse, ecologically sound methods of land use.

One of the main sources of financing for projects which destroy rainforests has been the World Bank. It promotes development in the less developed countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia through lending money for large scale economic projects such as cattle ranching, mining, hydroelectric dams, oil and gas drilling, export agriculture and road building. These projects have destroyed vast areas of forests, devastated indigenous people, and put the economies of most tropical countries into great foreign debt. Many countries increase their exports of natural resources (including forests) to pay off this debt.

The promotion of modern monocultural agriculture puts control of the vast majority of land and resources in the hands of a small number of wealthy people and corporations. The resulting lack of land and resources of poor villagers has led them to live in ways that destroy forests because they have no choice if they are to feed their families. The severe conflict in the less developed nations between people attempting to feed their families from the land (subsistence) and governments and corporations seeking the rapid exploitation of natural resources drives much of the rainforest destruction.

Rainforests are destroyed by the overconsumption of resources by people in rich countries (particularly the US) the drive of poor people to feed themselves on the continually shrinking amount of land available to them. Poor people have less land to feed themselves due to social and economic injustice. To save rainforests, we must reduce excess consumption in the rich countries and support poor people in tropical countries in their efforts to gain enough land and resources to feed themselves in an ecologically sound way.

Noah Madlin, Robin Vol. X, No. 3


The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) released a report last December which shows that the international timber trade is now the major cause of global forest destruction.

For many years, the timber trade has claimed that it plays a negligible role in forest loss, and that most deforestation is caused by agricultural clearance or fuelwood collection. Population growth, rather than industrial exploitation has been blamed as the underlying problem. Research by WWF leads to the opposite conclusion. Taking the survival of biodiversity as a major criterion, WWF concludes that the timber trade is currently the most important cause of loss and forest degradation in the world. This judgement is based on several factors as examined below.

There is no accident in the overlap between biologically rich forests and forests with large-scale timber operations. Areas of high biodiversity tend to contain the oldest, and thus in many cases the largest and most commercially valuable, trees. Natural forests are often virtually unclaimed, under the stewardship of politically weak indigenous groups, or nominally under state control. Forests with high biodiversity are, by their very nature, likely to draw the attention of the global timber trade and are easily exploited.

The timber industry is also responsible for a major reduction in the quality of many forests. From the perspective of biodiversity, there is often little to choose between replacing a natural forest with a tree plantation or losing it altogether. In either case, the vast majority of the original native wildlife species do not survive. Even if the total number of species remains constant, the rarer natural species are often replaced by exotics and weed species. Loss of forest quality has already occurred over most of Europe, North America and Australasia. It is becoming significant in several southern countries as well. Analysis of the timber trade’s impact should consider more than just the loss of area under trees. It should also consider the biological quality of the forest that remains.

The main findings of the WWF report, entitled Bad Harvest? include:

  • an estimated 500,000 hectares of forest are cleared or degraded each week,
  • half of the world’s 233 most important sites for plant diversity are threatened by commercial logging,
  • most commercial logging takes place in forests that are the richest in biodiversity.

The research reveals that the international timber trade is now the primary cause of loss in those forests. This conclusion is based on a number of important findings resulting from:

  • correlating logging sites with species-rich forests; looking at forest quality as well as quantity;
  • extending the assessment to all forests, rather than just rainforests;
  • including an assessment of illegal logging.

Illegal logging operations

Assessments from the industry tend to draw on official studies of the legal timber trade. In fact, in some countries undergoing severe deforestation, the timber recorded by the Ministry of Forests is only a small proportion of the actual fellings and/or exports. Much illegal timber enters the international trade, with or without the knowledge of importers. Often, illegality is tacitly accepted by the buyer. Countries where illegal logging is having an important and largely unquantified impact on natural forests include: Kenya, Zaire, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Russian Federation. Until recently, 50% of the mahogany leaving Brazil was exported illegally.

Two Targets

WWF has responded to the problems by setting the world two important and challenging targets:

  1. Establishing an ecologically representative network of protected areas covering at least 10 percent of the world’s forests by the year 2000, demonstrating a range of socially and environmentally appropriate models.
  2. Ensuring the independent certification, under the auspices of the Forest Stewardship Council, of 10 million hectares of sustainably managed forest by 1998.

The Bad Harvest? report, released by WWF UK, is part of a world-wide forest conservation effort. Commenting on the release of the report, WWF Australia CEO David Butcher said "this report has immediate relevance to the forest controversy raging in Australia and demonstrates the international importance of achieving an ecologically sustainable forest management system in Australia."

"There are two prerequisites essential to restore confidence in Australia’s forest management - a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system, and a credible, independently certified forest management system," Mr Butcher concluded. The actions of the national and international timber trade are now critical to the survival of most of the world’s biologically rich forest ecosystems and therefore to the majority of species.

Source: WWF Australia/World Rainforest Report 33, February 1996 (abridged).


Marcus Colchester and Larry Lohmann (editors)

This is one of the most important books in recent times on land tenure problems in developing nations; on the permanent fight of peasants to keep their land; to recover or expand their plots so as to obtain a dignified standard of living; and to be able to conserve such a valuable resource. Throughout, the link is established by the continuing efforts by legal, economic and technological means, or simply sheer force, to deprive peasants of different ethnic and cultural groups of their land and the accelerated destruction of rainforests worldwide.

As a result of extensive research sponsored by IDRC (Canada) and OXFAM (UK), Colchester and Lohmann, together with a number of other researchers, are able to offer in this book an astonishing amount of information that shows how and why tropical forests in Africa, Asia and Latin America are being rapidly destroyed. While FAO estimated that in 1980 overall world losses were around 114 thousand square kilometres, in 1990 this figure, according to the same source, had reached 170 thousand square kilometres: a 60% increase in only ten years! The total disappearance of world rainforests, with catastrophic environmental effects, is therefore a distinct possibility in the not-too-distant future, unless human societies and their organisations take appropriate action.

Marcus Colchester deals with colonisation of rainforests and underlying causes of deforestation, in particular forced or induced colonisation, the vulnerability of forests and of the peoples who inhabit them, particularly when facing the unrelenting pressure of urban forces and livestock raisers, often encouraged by official policies. Larry Lohmann writes about myths, in particular the myth which points to demographic growth as the fundamental cause of forest destruction. The real culprits, however, are among the distant urban elites, with an uncontrollable appetite for consuming forest products. Roger Plant gives a detailed synthesis of the main characteristics of agrarian reform processes that have occurred in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The book presents case studies on Guatemala, Brazil, Zaire, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. These show how, with different characteristics and mechanisms, the processes of peasant expulsion, their flight to the cities where living conditions have continued to worsen in favelas, bidonvilles - or whatever the local name given to marginal neighbourhoods - and their subsequent escape back to the jungle and the inescapable destruction of the forest. The article on Brazil by Monbiot on land property and the flight towards the Amazon describes such a process very well.

Colchester deals with the international answer to the problem and discusses options for the future. This book provides essential elements that contribute to understanding the real causes of forest destruction. Needless to say, this is only the first step towards stopping and reversing such a process.

English edition co-published by Zed Books and World Rainforest Movement 1993.


The Worldwatch Institute has produced Vital Signs 1994: the Trends that are Shaping Up our Future. It presents some good news, much bad news, and some surprises about the health of the planet. "Conserving the Other Rainforest", reproduced below, is one of 44 indicators that track the rapid changes to the environment.

Although efforts to save the world's tropical rainforests have received widespread attention, another type of rain forest is perhaps even more threatened. Now estimated to cover less than half their original area, coastal temperate rainforests are an exceptionally productive and biologically diverse ecosystem. They include some of the oldest and most massive tree species in the world, and constitute some of the largest remaining pristine landscapes in the temperate zone.

Forest ecologists have found that three physical features are common to all coastal temperate rainforests:

  • proximity to the ocean,
  • the presence of mountains,
  • and (as a result of atmospheric interaction between the two) high rainfall throughout the year.

Thus these forests are distinguished by complex interactions between terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems - especially through the cycling of water.

Coastal temperate rainforests once covered 30-40 million hectares, an area roughly the size of Germany, or less than 0.3 percent of the Earth's land area. Since temperate forests now encompass about 2 billion hectares, the coastal rainforest type has always been rare. It existed originally on the western margins of North America, New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile, Argentina, the Black Sea coast of Turkey and Georgia, Norway, Scotland, Ireland and Iceland.

A preliminary study by Ecotrust and Conservation International estimates that at least 55 percent of the world's coastal temperate rainforest has been logged or cleared for other uses. The remaining area spans about 14 million hectares, smaller than the [US] state of Wisconsin.

North America harbours the largest contiguous zone of this type of forest, stretching about 3000km from the Alaska Peninsula south through British Columbia and Washington state to Oregon's Siuslaw River. In the southern hemisphere, Chile holds the largest zone, extending from Arauco south into Magellanes province. On Tasmania, broad-leaved temperate rainforest has provided refuge for some of the oldest flora in Australia. New Zealand's South Island also hosts a sizeable area. In Europe, more than 99 percent of this forest has been cleared or converted into managed forests.

University of Montana forest ecologist Paul Alaback has used the type, amount, and annual distribution of precipitation as well as a critical maximum summer temperature to classify three temperate rainforest types: seasonal, perhumid, and subpolar. He defines temperate rainforests as ecologically distinguished by year-round precipitation that keeps them wet, such that the plant organisms are not adapted to drought and do not naturally burn. Together, the absence of drought, rareness of fire, and cool summers generally distinguish temperate rainforests from all other temperate forests.

Because of the climatic influence, overabundant precipitation falls virtually year-round - often in the form of fog, drizzle and light rain. Thus temperate rainforests have little variation in temperature, adding to the fertile growing conditions. The heavy rainfall and low temperatures also combine to produce some of the highest runoff rates in the temperate zone, leading to rapid rock weathering and soil formation, as well as frequent landslides and other forms of erosion. Complex riparian networks add to the structural diversity of the rainforest. Together with frequent coastal winds, these processes make temperate rainforests one of the most dynamic and productive ecosystems on Earth.

No other terrestrial ecosystem produces as much living matter (biomass) per unit of area - as much as 500-2000 tons per hectare, compared with about 100 in tropical rainforests. Not surprisingly, coastal temperate rainforests host some of the oldest, largest trees in the world - such as an ancient Sitka spruce more than 93 metres tall and 3 metres thick at the base in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Indices for the biological diversity of lichen and bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) in these forests may be comparable with those of tropical rainforests. Providing a steady supply of dissolved nutrients, particulate organic matter, and large woody debris, these forests also help sustain some of the world's most productive shellfish beds and spawning grounds for commercially valued fish species.

The global demand for the wood products of these forests has been the primary force driving their loss. Among the most valuable timber species are South America's alerce and monkey-puzzle and North America's Sitka spruce, yellow cypress (cedar), and Douglas Fir. Temperate rainforests have evolved and adapted to small-scale disturbances like erosion, landslides and windthrows (a few trees blown over at a time). But large clear-cuts - virtually the only logging method used in North America - dramatically impair the ecological integrity of these complex, ancient forests.


The continuing and increasing destruction of primary forests worldwide is the cause of the gravest concern for the continuance of life on Earth. No region is under greater threat than South America, and no country has greater responsibilities than Brazil. Noeline Gannaway has prepared the following article based on research and analysis published originally in the Ecologist between 1985 and 1991 - by Peter Bunyard (Vol.15 No.3 1985), Luiz Carlos B. Melion (Vol.19 No.6 1989), and Risto Isomeki (Vol.21 No.1 1991).


The interaction of the rainforest with its environment has consequences that extend far beyond the narrow belt where the forest is found. The earth's hydrological cycle, the transfer of heat from the tropics towards the poles, the chemistry of the atmosphere, and global climate are all influenced by the tropical forest: deforestation is bound to cause changes. Just what those changes are likely to be, cannot as yet be predicted with certainty. What we do know is that the tropical forest is a complete biological system in which every component, from the soil upwards through the canopy to the outer atmosphere, plays its part. A change in one component is therefore likely to ripple through the system. For instance, the compaction of soil, brought about through clearing the forest with heavy machinery, alters run off, destroys the relationship between soil organisms and disturbs the energy balances of the system with ultimate effects on climate. The scale of these effects depends on the extent of rainforest destruction.

Amazonia and Climate Stability.

Along the equatorial belt there are three regions of ascending air motion: the `Maritime Continent' (Indonesia and the North of Australia), the Congo River Basin, and the Amazon River Basin.

The forests of Amazonia play a critical role in regulating climate at both regional and global levels. The forests act to pump heat into the atmosphere, cooling the tropics and distributing heat to temperate zones. At the local level, deforestation may increase temperatures, decrease rainfall and disrupt hydrological cycles. Moreover, massive quantities of carbon are locked up in the forest biomass, which, if released, would add considerably to global warming.

To find out what happens over the undisturbed rainforest, a joint Anglo-Brazilian team of scientists conducted experiments which showed that 70 percent of the radiation from the sun goes into evaporating water, leaving just 30 percent to heat the air and general surroundings. They found that 17 percent of precipitation is intercepted by the canopy and evaporates before reaching the ground, while more than 30 percent of rainfall is drawn back into the atmosphere through plant transpiration. The remaining 50 percent runs off. The forest thus feeds the atmosphere which, in the turbulent conditions over the forest, forms cumulus clouds, and so the rain is returned again.

Enormous energies are involved in evapo-transpiration of water over the Amazon Basin - the lifting of 6.5 million million tonnes of water over the year is equivalent to the explosion of 5 million atomic bombs every day. Conversely, when rain precipitates from clouds, latent heat is released and becomes available for heating the atmosphere. Latent heat release through precipitation is more important as a factor in warming the air column than direct, sensible heat radiation from the sun, which is available to heat the air column by less than 2 degrees C per day.

The sun is the most important source of energy sustaining life. The bulk of solar energy reaching Earth's surface is spent in the evaporation of water (generating latent heat) and in heating the air (producing sensible heat). Research shows that, in Central Amazonia, about 80 percent of solar energy is used in evapotranspiration (evaporation plus plant transpiration), while the rest warms the air. Over upland forest which is never flooded, most of the water vapour in the air comes either from the transpiration of plants (60 percent) or from rainfall intercepted by the forest canopy and litter layer (40 percent). In Amazonia, half of the rainfall comes from local evaporation and the other half from the Atlantic Ocean. By comparison, in temperate latitudes, local evaporation constitutes about 10 percent of precipitation.

Climatologists have long recognised the importance of latent heat as a means by which solar energy received in the tropics can be distributed over the higher latitudes, thus evening out the surface temperature of the earth.

Moisture-laden air rising from the tropics is pulled towards the north-east in the northern hemisphere, and like a mirror image to the south-east in the southern hemisphere. The winds generated by this movement of air are known as the westerlies. They are counteracted, to their north and south respectively, according to hemisphere, by the easterly trade winds, which by their movement towards the tropics complete the circulation. The entire system of air currents from the equator up to higher latitudes and back again constitutes what has come to be called the Hadley Cell Circulation, after the eighteenth century scientist. Clearly, a change in the total quantities of water carried in this circulating system, as might result from deforestation of the tropics, will affect the transfer of heat from the equator polewards. It might also have some bearing on the expansion of deserts in the sub-tropics of both hemispheres.

Amazonia and the Chemical Composition of the Atmosphere.

Among earth's atmospheric gases are a group known as the greenhouse gases which allow solar energy to pass down through the atmosphere but absorb heat radiated from the earth's surface. The main absorbers of this infrared radiation are water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), ozone (O3), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). While the role that tropical forests play in the carbon cycle is well known, and there can be no doubt that deforestation is contributing significantly to global warming, our understanding of the full contribution of tropical forests to the chemical composition of the atmosphere is limited.

Evidence suggests that man's agricultural activities over the past 150 years have contributed an amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere comparable to the total emissions for fossil fuel combustion. The accelerated deforestation of the tropical rainforest is having a marked effect on atmospheric CO2 levels.

Deforestation of Amazonia contributes to the enhancement of the greenhouse effect both by biomass burning and by destroying the trees which fix carbon through photosynthesis. The Amazon has a storage of biomass equivalent to 50 billion metric tonnes of carbon which, if burned, would release about 11 billion tonnes of carbon and would increase the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by 3 to 5 parts per million.

Local Climatic Effects.

Forested regions have a lower albedo (surface reflectivity) than regions with less vegetation, and therefore absorb more solar radiation and have more energy to be apportioned between latent and sensible heat. Deforestation modifies this division of energy with the result that the amount of energy available for heating the air increases, and the amount that goes into evapo-transpiration is reduced. This leads to an increase in the range of temperatures, with maximum temperatures increasing and minimum temperatures decreasing. Paradoxically, with the reduction in rainfall, water runoff may increase, with higher flood peaks. The main causes of increased runoff after deforestation are soil compaction (by animals and machines), which reduces infiltration, and the increased amount of rainfall that reaches the soil, in the absence of the forest canopy.

Moreover, when large areas are deforested, regeneration to the original state may take as long as 300 or even 1000 years, especially when heavy erosion has taken place.

If deforestation were to continue at exponential rates, the entire Brazilian Amazon would be deforested in less than 15 years. The climatic consequences alone make it imperative that sustainable forms of land use are found for the region which will allow the forest cover to remain intact.

Unsustainable Forestry in Finland.

Deforestation in the tropics may pose the greatest threat to climate stability, but unsustainable forestry at higher latitudes is contributing significantly to global warming. In Finland, the draining of vast areas of peatlands for forestry has resulted in huge increases in carbon dioxide emissions.

During the last few decades, one half of the 10.5 million hectares of peatland in Finland have been drained, mostly for tree plantations. Drained mires now cover more than a fifth of the country's land area, and it is predicted that by the year 2000 about 15 percent of Finland's wood production will come from drained mires. despite the adverse effects of this process on waterways and wildlife, environmentalists have so far (1991) been unsuccessful in trying to stop the draining of wetlands. Increased international concern about global warming may, however, change the situation.

Over thousands of years, a massive amount of carbon has gradually been accumulated in mires and swamps. In Finland, forests contain on average about 10 times, and peatlands about 100 times, more carbon than the atmosphere above them. The draining of mires may already be causing more annual carbon dioxide emissions in Finland than the national consumption of fossil fuels.

Global warming is expected to be most extreme near polar regions. This could dramatically accelerate the decomposition of peat in the drained mires.

Swamp soils tend to produce methane when waterlogged, but consume it when dry. As methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, it has been argued that methane reduction would at least partly compensate for increases in carbon dioxide emissions. But it appears that only some types of mires produce methane, and the majority of mires drained in Finland have been the type unlikely to produce much methane.

Only if Finland's timber harvests are reduced will it be possible to reverse the destruction of peatlands, preserve the country's remaining wilderness areas and maintain or increase the carbon stored in its forests.


US Senator Mark O. Hatfield is one of the world's most powerful men. In 1995, he ascended to the chairmanship of the US Senate's Appropriations Committee, which, along with its counterpart in the House of Representatives, holds the purse strings of the US government. As a senior member of the committee and as a representative of the timber-rich state of Oregon, he has long, and successfully, pushed the Forest Servicee to sell more timber than independent scientists and the agency itself have recommended. Two of Hatfield's most important constituencies are the loggers and mill workers who depend on public timber for their living, and the timber companies, which gave more money to him than any other member of Congress between 1989 and 1994. The high logging rates may have served his constituents in the short term, but they have also forced more below-cost timber sales nationwide, endangering species such as the spotted owl and exhausting the very resource on which the industry depends.

As Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak and its Minister of Forests, Tin Sri Datuk Patinggi Abdul Taib bin Mahmud is another of the world's most powerful men. He and his uncle, the former Chief Minister, hold half the state's timber concessions, and his political allies hold others. In his dual role as regulator and timber magnate, Taib has permitted and benefited from logging at a pace that will exhaust the state's commercial wood supplies within a decade.

Hatfield and Taib are living proof that when it comes to subsidies, policy and politics are tightly intertwined. Whatever its purpose, a subsidy calls into being a well-defined, self-aware group of beneficiaries. The subsidised and the subsidisers come naturally to support one another, in a resilient feedback loop. Policymakers use the force of law to hold up their end of the political bargain; recipients use the power of votes, campaign contributions, family connections, or even bribes to deliver on theirs. Sometimes, as in Sarawak, the two groups are the same.

Some of the best studied instances of the symbiosis between subsidies and one form of influence-peddling - corruption - are occurring in the Asia-Pacific region, the world's major supplier of tropical timber, a resource most inviting of political manipulation. Two characteristic features stand out in such examples. First, the recipients of the cheap extraction rights are few. In Indonesia, for example, there are 584 logging concessions, owned by roughly 50 conglomerates, which appear in turn to be controlled by as few as 15 business figures, including several billionaires.

Second, relations between politicians, military officers, and logging tycoons seem complex and close. According to local environmentalists, three key figures are engineering much of the logging of the Philippine island of Palawan in the 1990s: the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who represents part of the province; the principal shareholder in the province's two biggest logging firms; and the director of the Palawan Philippines National Police. Local environmentalists have reported seeing military escorts for trucks carrying illegally cut logs; the Speaker, meanwhile, is widely understood to be "involved in everything" that happens in Palawan. Though the exact relationships between these figures are not public, they are known to be friends, and it seems likely that all share in the profits from cheap and poorly enforced timber concessions.Logging-related irregularities are on the rise in other parts of the world as well. In a textbook case of cowboy economics, as Asian companies exhaust timber supplies at home, they are spreading to new countries throughout the tropics, bringing along their old ways of doing business. Allegations of bribery have dogged Indonesian and especially Malaysian companies as they pressed for entry into timber-rich Brazil, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Suriname on terms that are favourable to themselves but potentially catastrophic for the forest's traditional owners.



Rainforest Action Network

Wild native forests are an essential component of the biosphere's life support system. Aside from providing innumerable services to human society, forests fulfil the vital functions of preserving wildlife habitat, stabilising the Earth's climate, watershed protection, and soil productivity. They are home to most of the world's vast array of life forms. Forests are not nature's smorgasbords. They must be viewed as dynamic, diverse, and integrated systems as articulated in the emerging science of conservation biology. They must be both protected and restored.

If local rights to utilise and control the commons had been clearly established and an understanding of the actual ecological and social costs had been reflected in price mechanisms and cutting practices over the last 500 years, the action below would not be necessary. Such rights of internalising of external costs have not been and are still not in place. Tragically, subsidised destruction is in place in many countries. The desperate situation requires a surgical cut from industrial society's dependence on wood fibre from natural forests.

Until such time as the rights, local control, and an ecological understanding are in place, the positions outlined below are necessary to reverse the tragic tide of deforestation and its consequences. What remains is to make these positions politically feasible while assuring that they are economically and socially just.

1.Institute an immediate moratorium on all commercial export logging in remaining primary forests worldwide on public or private land. Domestic use bans should follow shortly thereafter.

  • Low impact traditional use can and should continue.
  • Communities that protect forest systems are rendering an essential service to the rest of the world. Provide incentives for people and local communities in the country with a 10% or more original primary forests cover who agree to protect remaining primary forests from logging and other forms of deforestation. Communities should be compensated accordingly for protecting these forests by all of us who ultimately benefit from their protection.
  • Countries that have reaped financial benefits from massive deforestation should provide the compensation to the countries that suffered from deforestation as a way to help offset the loss of ecosystem services, deforested countries no longer provide to the bio-shere.
  • A global compensation fund should be established and governed by an authorised international body, that includes citizen (NGOs) groups.

2. Institute the dedicated gradual reduction of wood and paper use of 7.5% yearly for the next 10 years (totalling 75%). This process alone will create a more sustainable economy and generate new jobs in developing alternative resources. The general sectors of industrial wood use are:

  • Paper and packaging
  • Construction
  • Pallets and other shipping uses
  • Finished wood products such as furniture

Categories of activity to reduce wood use in the above sectors are:

  • Decreased per capita consumption
  • Increased re-use
  • Increased recycling
  • Increased efficiency in processing
  • Increased use of alternative materials
  • Product durability and design improvements

3. Secondary forests should be encouraged to mature. Using the principles of conservation biology, efforts must be made towards restoring primary forest functions and values. Local people and current landowners should be trained and employed in this process.

4. Natural selection ecoforestry practices should be used whenever commercial logging is carried on in secondary forests. Independent certification should be mandatory using the Forest Stewardship Council model.

5. Revert existing plantations to Commercial Restoration Plantation Forests (CRPF), utilising a transparent, public participation process.

  • Local community values and rights of approval must be incorporated into this process.
  • Independent certification for CRPFs should be mandatory, using the Forest Stewardship Council model
  • Society should plan on CRPFs for the primary wood product supplies for the next 30 years.

6. Convert appropriate marginal or unused agricultural land to CRPFs where socially, ecologically, and economically acceptable. This will help build needed carbon sinks.

7. In about 100 years, start a 300-400 years process to manage an appropriate percentage of commercially logged secondary forests and CRPFs for a return to late successional primary forest values. This should be done in areas adjacent to primary forests' core areas to create buffer zones and provide corridors for wildlife.

No set of universal principles can adequately address the political and economic reality of every local community. Local communities - informed of all the potential ecological and social costs - should have an increasing level of power to decide such issues. Exceptions to the above approach will need to be made on a case by case basis. However, adherence to this seven point approach will orchestrate an environmental "U-turn", stabilise existing primary and secondary forests, and provide for society's needs. Over time, this approach will increase the quantity and quality of forest ecosystems and the vital services they provide for all inhabitants of the earth.

Along with our practical day to day work, we in the ecology movement need first and foremost to speak the truth about what must be done. Additionally, we need to orchestrate ecological policy shifts in a manner that achieves social equity within and between nations. Nature - with her ecological systems and myriad life forms - cannot speak for herself in our government chambers or corporate board rooms. It is our responsibility to speak on her behalf as best we can. We cannot ask too much, we had better not ask for too little. We must demand what is needed to support all life on Earth.

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