Return to WRR41
Forests' Survival Linked to Smaller Populations
As this article points out, the connection between overpopulation and deforestation is undeniable. To focus exclusively on overpopulatin as the cause of deforestation would be misleading, however. Even if the world's population were to stop growing immediately, the concentration of land ownership in the hands of the rich and powerful and commitment to western concepts of development would mean that the destruction of the world's forets would continue at a rapid rate. (For an analysis of the causes of tropical forest decline, go to The Causes of Rainforest Destruction )
According to a study from Population Action International, a declining population growth could be the key to the ultimate survival of forests in poor countries. PAI sees a bit brighter future "with the emerging possibility that world population will peak before the middle of the next century." The growing desire for smaller families is a promising trend. About half of the world's aboriginal forests -- those which covered the Earth after the last ice age -- have disappeared. In the last century, global wood consumption has tripled, and so has the worlds population. Per capita consumption has remained the same. Forest cover per person fell by 50% from 1960 to 1995, from 1.2 hectares to 0.6 hectares. Forty countries, mostly poor, have a per capita forest cover of less than 0.1 hectares, and consequently watershed degradation and flooding, as well as the loss of rare plant and animal species, and scarcities of products like timber, paper and firewood. Greatest at risk are Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Central America. Much of the loss is due to increased need for farmland and commercial logging. US inhabitants use 15 times more lumber and paper as a resident of most developing countries, but most of the wood consumed in the North comes from trees grown there. 3 billion people depend on wood for cooking and heating. Poor women and girls must walk long distances for wood and are often forced to drop out of schools or to forgo micro-enterprise. Poor countries even lack the necessary paper needed for education.
Source: August 10, 1999 Inter Press Service
Return to WRR41