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Effects of Deforestation

The United Nations Confrence on Enviroment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 defines
deforestion as "land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and sub-humid areas resulting from variuos factors
including climatic variations and human activites." The effects of deforestation can be catagorized in
three ways. They are: enviromental effects, local social effects, and global social effects. Many of the
enviromental effects contribute to the severity of the social problems. That is why it is important to
understand the enviromental effects of deforestation and how they contribute to the social effects of
deforestation.
Enviromental Effects
• Effects on Biodiversity
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) defines biodiversity as "the wealth of life on Earth, the
millions of plants, animals, and micro-organisms, the gens they contain and the intricate
ecosystems they build into the living enviroment." Rainforest are one of the most biologically
diverse regions of the world. Over a millions species of plants and animals are known to live
in the forests and millions more are not classified. The unique enviroment of the rainforest
allows for such biodiversity to exist.
The process of deforestation in various geographical regions is destroying this unique
enviroment. Consequently, many animals and plants that live in the rainforests face the specter
of extinction. The extinction of the plants and animals leads to diminished gene pool. The lack
of biodiversity and a reduced planetary gene pool could have many unforeseen ramifications,
some of which could be fatal to the future of humanity. In addition, there are ethical, aesthetic
and philosophical question regarding mankind's responsibility for other life. This issue
concerns more industrialized countries in the North more than it concerns lesser developed
countries in the South. This is especially true in developing countries such as Brazil. I will
elaborate on that later.
Another isssue that probably concerns the North more that the South is the advancement of
humanity. As the planetary gene pool continues to diminish, there are less oppertunities for
advancements in many fields. In particular, medicine may benefit from the cultivation of
certain plants that grow only in rainforests. The medicines that come from them could cure
cancer, AIDS, or other terminal deseases. Of course, that claim can easily be dismissed as
speculative, given that there is little or no evidence to support it. However, it is too early to
dismiss the possibility. Furthermore, if the rainforests are completely destroyed, the
oppertunity to explore that possibility would be lost forever. The effect that would have on
future generations is incalculable. Preserving the rainforest would leave many oppertunities in
medicine and many other fields open for future generations to explore and further advance
humanity.
There is at least on issue that would concern both North and South equally. That is
preservation and is compatibility with forest use and management. Different people have
different uses of rainforests. Indigenous people who live in the forests, as well as the non-
indigenous people who live in the forests, the forest is their home, source of food, shelter,
nourishment, recreation, culture, and livelihood. The forest provides the materials for thier
homes, wood for their fires, the fish, the edible plants, and many more neccessities as well as
amenities. Some of the non-indigenous people sell some of the forest resources for money.
They do not exploit the forest because they sell commodities in limited numbers to preserve
the forest resources for the future. This ensures that they can continue to make thier
livelihoods by selling products from the forest.