New Internationalist

The Disappearing Forest

January 1980

Ecological arguments are usually put forward to preserve an environment that is pleasant to live in. But there is also a strong economic case for conservation. Dr. Norman Myers in a new book ‘The Sinking Ark’ (Pergamon Press) argues that this is particularly the case for tropical moist forests which he believes could be destroyed by the end of the century.

Much of this destruction comes from transnational timber corporations rushing to meet the growing demands from Western nations for tropical hardwoods.

If the forests are destroyed, instead of carefully cut down, the developing world is going to lose an important - and renewable - foreign exchange earner. But their disappearance will also have a critical effect on food production. Forty per cent of developing world farmers live in valley lands and depend heavily on the ‘sponge effect’ of surrounding forests. Without the sponges the rainy season water is suddenly released in a flood which is followed by a months-long drought - and both phenomena destroy harvests.

When forest trees disappear millions of other species also disappear with them. Of the five to ten million species that are believed to exist on earth, up to half of them are believed to be in moist tropical forests.

In Indonesia alone some 4,000 plant species are thought to have been used by native peoples as food yet less than one tenth of these have come into wide use.

But as well as being the genetic source of food, the tropical moist forests are also the main repository of drug-yielding plants. At least 70 per cent of the 3,000 species of plants that are known to possess anti-cancer properties are found in the tropics - mainly in the forests.

This column was published in the January 1980 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on The Disappearing Forest

Leave your comment







 

  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews

Multimedia

Videos from visionOntv's globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Currents

All Currents

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 083

New Internationalist Magazine issue 083
Issue 083

More articles from this issue

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.

Subscribe