The tropical forests are vanishing faster than ever. At one international conference after another, politicals and planners wring their hands at the world’s approaching doom. Deforestation, they tell us, is caused by ‘poverty’, ‘over-population’ and ‘under-development’. The solutions are therefore obvious – fewer people and more development. This book challenged these assumptions. Deforestation, it argues, is an expression of structural inequalities within tropical countries in their relations with the industrial North. Throwing air money into the development pot will only accelerate forest loss if these structural issues are not simultaneously addressed. Based on six country studies from Latin America, Asia, and Africa to illustrate the real complexity of the problem and the diversity of situations that exist, this book shows how land concentration, land speculation and landlessness are the main causes of improvident land use. Poor people, denied land and livelihood are being forced into the forests in ever increasing numbers for sheer survival, often encouraged by government and development agency funding. Meanwhile the lands they have been forced to abandon are turned over to agribusiness producing cash crops for export. Agrarian reform must be moved to the top of the global agenda. Without land and food security, rural communities will become increasingly destabilises and impoverished and vulnerable ecosystems will be destroyed. Local people must be allowed to regain control over their land and their economies, and Third World debt cancelled, if the twin problems of poverty and environmental destruction are to be tackled.
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