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Naveen Yeung 10J

Globalisation: beneficial or harming for the


Amazon Rainforest?
The Amazon rainforest - the largest rainforest in the world. It stretches across 9 countries and covers over
5.5million square kilometers of land. It is estimated that 20% of the oxygen is produced by the rainforest
and that half of fauna and flora species known to men inhabit the rainforest.1 The bad news is, the
rainforest is disappearing. Scientists estimate that more than 20% of the rainforest has been affected by
deforestation in the past 40 years.2 Some argue that globalisation is the reason for this damage, while
others defend globalisation saying that it is the key to the Amazons recovery. But what is really causing
the disappearance of the Amazon?

The cause
Loggers, industrial scale soybean producers, and cattle
ranchers are the ones who can be held responsible for the
disappearance of the Amazon rainforest. To meet rising
demands loggers are cutting increased amounts of trees
and moving to originally untouched areas of the rainforest
causing large amounts of deforestation that can only be
restored after millions of years. Meanwhile, cattle ranchers
and soybean producers are clearing entire fields and
forests for land. Open space where cattle can graze and
crops can be planted. The use of machinery, pesticides,
and chemicals in the process of farming damages the land
and river so severely that it cannot be restored and is
often left barren, deprived of all it's nutrients and
supporting no life.

Illegal activity is also one of the main concerns. Also protection laws and regulations, they are not
enforced. Government agents and officials are oftentimes highly corrupt or under equipped. Companies
and the mafia also completely ignore the laws set, using forged permits, cutting all trees they deemed
valuable even those protected by laws, cutting more than the quota, and so on. A study by a Brazilian
commission in the late 90s showed that 12 out of 13 companies broke laws which were set to protect the
environment.3 These illegal practices are the most damaging to the environment as it leaves large pieces
of land irreversibly damaged.

Is the Economy the Enemy?


The economy booms, the trees vanish, an article from the economist in 2005, analysed the relationship
between the increase in Brazils economy and the deforestation in the Amazon. Statistics in the article
showed that from the late 90s to the early 2000s Brazils economy rose by 5% annually while the rate of
deforestation in the Amazon continued to rise at an alarming rate until it rose by 6% in 2003, 4% more
than what the government predicted4. At that time people started to notice the connection between the

1
http://www.softschools.com/facts/wonders_of_the_world/amazon_rainforest_facts/98/
2
http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/last-of-amazon/
3
http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/amazon/amazon_threats/other_threats/logging_amazon/
4
http://www.economist.com/node/3996152
economy and deforestation, establishing a negative
relationship between the two.

In the last two decades, Brazils exports has shown a


25.5% increase, with soybean, sugar and poultry being
some of the countrys top exports.5 And as their economy
grew so did the scale of their destruction. A study by WWF
shows that Brazil is responsible for more than half of the
deforestation in the amazon. Brazils economy heavily
relies on their exports, therefore industrial scale crop
plantations and cattle herding ranches become the main
causes for the clearance of fields and forests.

As the demands around the globe increase, so did Brazils


production. It is estimated that in the year 2016 111.6
metric tonnes, 34 million hectares of soy was harvested,
this is 0.6 million tonnes and 0.7 million hectares more than that harvested in the previous year.6 As the
soy demand continues to increase around the world, Brazil must produce more to satisfy demands and to
maintain a stable economy, as it is greatly dependant on the soy production. Companies are expanding
their farmland deeper into the rainforest than ever before, causing major deforestation and damage to the
overall environment of the rainforest. These industrial scale farms produce large amounts of chemical
waste and use pesticides which pollutes the environment and harms the local wildlife, in the worst cases
the land crops are grown on are rendered useless as no nutrition is left and chemicals have caused
severe damage to the soil, creating irreversible damage. Therefore, the reality is, as the economy grows,
the rainforest shrinks.

5
http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/bra/
6
https://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/circulars/production.pdf
Globalisation: The Problem? Or the Solution?
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, many argue that the environment is taking a great toll
due to human activity in previously untouched areas of the world. Because of globalisation, multinational
companies have moved to Brazil for the rich raw materials the countrys rainforest holds. These large
companies operate industrial scale crop farms and cattle ranches using heavy machinery and chemical
pesticides which greatly damages damages the environment. To create these large scale farms and
pastures, large areas of forest and fields have to be cleared using slash and burn techniques to clear trees
and bring nutrient to the normally poor soil. This makes the area nutrient rich for a few years where crops
can grow until the nutrients and the land is abandoned, damaged beyond repair. This method causes all
the nutrients from the soil to disappear and the land will not be able to support life.

Increased trade has also encouraged the illegal trade and harvest of timbre as companies work to avoid
the governments protection laws and harvest the most timbre and trade for the highest price on the
market. It is estimated that 80 - 90% of logging in Columbia is illegal, timbre is smuggled to more
developed countries such as Brazil and Peru where they are traded internationally.7 This has caused
irreversible damage to the rainforest as illegal loggers do not use safe logging practices which minimize
the damage to the rainforest. Illegal loggers also greatly contributes to deforestation as they cut down
more trees than the quota set by the government. They also log in restricted areas, destroying protected
habitats, which could threaten local animal species.

Therefore many argue that globalisation and the increase in trade it brings is greatly harmful to the
environment. And as the actions of large foreign companies and the long term consequences they bring
progressively become more and more severe, the number of people speaking against globalisation is

7
http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/amazon/amazon_threats/other_threats/logging_amazon/
increasing. However, some also believe that, although the past cannot be changed, globalisation could be
the key to protecting the future.

Some people believe that globalisation and the way


media is increasingly connecting the world could help
raise awareness of issues and help find the solution
to the problem. They believe that globalisation is the
key to slowing deforestation, protecting the rainforest
and stopping the disappearance of the Amazon.
Doctor Daniel Nepstad believes that cattle farmers
and soy ranchers are Increasingly responsive to
economic signals emanating from around the world.8
As the world is increasingly getting access to more
media and technology, more and more people are
aware of different global issues and are working to
solve these issues. Along with demands around the
world, customer standards have also risen.
Consumers are increasingly conscious regarding the
impact of the goods they purchase and the
reputation of each company they buy from. Teta
Paks latest research showed that two thirds, out of
6000 consumers from 12 different countries,
consciously avoided brands and product that had environmental concerns. And that number is increasing,
the number of conscious consumers has risen by 26% in the last 6 years.9 Companies now must not only
focus on the price and quality of each product, they must also consider the impact it has on the
environment.

The increase in conscious consumers could save the


Amazon rainforest. Brazilian ranchers, loggers and crop
producers have also realised that strong environmental
credentials could increase their access to the ever
expanding international market, making it likely that
these companies will start to be increasingly aware of
their production process, using less pesticides and
chemicals, logging and planting in areas that do not
affect the environment, using safe logging practices,
and even taking part in the restoration of the rainforest.
If this happens the disappearance of the rainforest can
be slowed or even stopped.

Globalisation has also had a political effect. As the


world works to save the environment, increasing pressure from the people and the leading countries of the
world has forced the government of Brazil to take action against illegal logging and farming. Since 2004,
Brazils government has been cracking down on illegal logging and trade and has established over 20

8
https://news.mongabay.com/2007/06/globalization-could-save-the-amazon-rainforest/
9
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-kennell/environmental-concern-emp_b_8105580.html
million hectares of protected areas in the Amazon rainforest, successfully dropping deforestation rates by
more than half.10

In the end, we can see that globalisation, in terms of the increase in trade and MNCs, has caused large
amounts of damage to the Amazon. However as the exchange of media connects the people of the world,
more and more are working to save the environment. Therefore although we cannot change the fact that
globalisation has caused a lot of damage, and is still causing damage to the Amazon rainforest, we also
cannot deny that globalisation has the power to change the situation, helping to slow and stop the
destruction of the rainforest, and maybe one day, even help restore it to its former glory.

Figure 7: A part of the Amazon without any human destruction. What the entire rainforest and river looked
like before human activity, and what it could look like if globalisation helps stop the damage and restore it.

Bibliography

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