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The hypocrisy setting the world`s forests ablaze. The Amazon is only the beginning.

Published at: 28-08-2019

Posted on: August 28th, 2019 by RaduC No Comments

The Amazon rainforest is going up in flames. Here is one telling piece of statistics among the plentiful statistical data on the millions of hectares of forest wiped out in the last weeks. According to the New York Times, the rate of Amazon deforestation has increased by 39% this year from the same period last year. This is a number which points out to two extremely serious facts: firstly, the Amazon forest is shrinking each year and secondly, the deforestation rate in 2019 has stepped up beyond what we can imagine.

Surprised? On the contrary, it makes sense and the global deforestation rate cannot possibly be curbed, no matter how much hypocrisy and PR the rich countries use.

The presidents of Bolivia and Brazil ended up being pilloried by the developed world`s leaders as the moral authors of the Amazon disaster as it is generally considered that their policies and messages encouraged farmers in the rural areas to clear land for agriculture. The charges went so far as to suggest that Brazil has a responsibility to maintain the health of the planet by preserving the forest and should live up to this responsibility.

Really? Is this to say that the big polluters of the world bear no responsibility and are not to blame when it comes to the planet`s health? The responsibility belongs only to those “doomed” to produce enough oxygen for the rich to use up in their cars? Such a statement seems to me terribly arrogant as all the rainforest does is clean up some of the polluted air generated by countries otherwise very “concerned” about the planet`s air.

It is clearly unethical to encourage people to set forests on fire and if true, the rhetoric of the two presidents is to be condemned. Let us not forget, however, that there are billions of people on this Earth also ethically adrift when it comes to protecting the planet out of carelessness or by design. With the leader of the free world top of the list…

Hypocrisy may win more votes from the ignorant many, but it will definitely not solve the problems of the planet and the future of their children and grandchildren. World`s large forests will continue to dwindle as long as preserving them brings no financial gain to the developing countries in South America, Africa or Asia which own them. At the end of the day, it all boils down to economics and opportunity cost. Something that the developed countries know all too well, but only strictly apply when they are concerned. Including when they issue CO2 certificates out of thin air.

Should we condemn a country for trying to maximize the economic value of its land in the pursuit of the development and prosperity of its people because that action harms the planet? If yes, maybe the developed part of the world can also take some steps: ban coal power plants and risk higher energy prices, prohibit the manufacturing of high-powered cars  and pay the price of moving slower, force oil exporters to also pay for carbon capture plants and risk their economic balance, make any investment in oxygen-consuming and CO2-generating equipment prohibitive  and risk the disappearance of a whole branch of the economy, and the list can go on.

What are you saying? That this is unsane? That would push up unemployment? Economic stagnation and even recession? A lower standard of living in the developed world? Unrealized economic opportunities? Hey, but isn`t that what we are asking from the underdeveloped tropical and Amazon countries, namely to forgo economic opportunities for the sake of the planet? Look around. What are the opportunities of a similar scale that the rich countries are giving up for the planet`s sake? Actually the picture is quite the opposite. The highest concern is not to have a too massive CO2 reduction effort adversely affect developed economies.

Looking at the contribution of developed countries to planet pollution, do they really have the moral high ground to accuse Brazil of lack of responsibility? Imposing economic sanctions on Brazil for failure to protect the Amazon forest is a misguided, counterproductive approach which shows high-handedness and the use of double standards for developed and underdeveloped countries.

The approach should be the complete opposite. Forest owners should actually be incentivized to keep them through funding based on the forest cover they have. The oxygen they generate should become a commodity to be appropriately paid for by the largest consumers, just as all other commodities come at a price. This would remove the economic opportunities that lie in cutting down forests and make way for a more attractive one, to preserve and expand them.

This is the major paradigm shift which would result in a 180 degree turn in global economic rules. Oxygen is a commodity and “exporting” countries should receive due consideration and incentives to increase production.

There is a series of studies which show the positive effect of massive reforestation on the CO2 amount in the air. The latest research published in the Science magazine reveals that the restoration of trees is the best way to mitigate climate change. The study shows that farming and populated areas aside, there is enough land left for 0.9 billion hectares of new forests on Earth which is a 25% increase on the existing cover. The 500 billion planted trees would lower the amount of CO2 by 25%.

Meanwhile, the behavior of world leaders is all but preposterous. AFTER the rainforest burnt down, the G7 countries offered USD $20 million for its restoration. Why hadn`t they paid the USD $20 million for its preservation?

The moral hazard here stares you in the face. As long as rich countries will only fund forests after they are gone, the message is clear: if you want to make money, do away with your forests. Whereas, remuneration should go the other way: if you want money, keep your forests!  Growing them again would take tens if not hundreds of years and will be incomplete. Many species will be forever gone.

The failure to understand that a new economic model that lists forest-generated oxygen as a commodity to be bought and paid is required, has already taken a devastating toll. And Earth`s forests will continue to disappear at a scaring rate as long as developed countries are not willing to swap grand-standing and hypocritical statements for a transfer of wealth to those home to the “lungs of the planet”.

In the many comments that the previous post “The key to the survival of our planet? A group of countries never seen before.” generated, a Brazilian reader noted that a transfer of wealth from the developed countries to countries agreeing to forest preservation would be a form of colonialism and condemn them to underdevelopment. On the contrary! Imposing economic sanctions on countries cutting down their forest would indeed be a form of colonialism.

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