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This article takes stock of the many private and public instruments enacted transnationally to tackle the pressing problem of deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and associated human rights violations caused by international demand for and trade in agricultural commodities. The article argues that non-financial due diligence based on no-conversion criteria, and in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, holds considerable potential for ensuring deforestation-free value chains by enrolling and scaling up firm-level supply-chain management systems and private standards. The article introduces the main features of a possible European Union measure that disciplines via non-financial due diligence the placing on the market of commodities and products associated with deforestation, ecosystem conversion, degradation of forests and ecosystems, and associated human rights violations. Such a measure would also have the effect of streamlining initiatives enacted by private authority.
Chapter 2 tracks the early stages of what I call embedded industrialization based on waterpower and increased use of biomass. After mid-century, an increasing number of industries and regions of the country mechanized manufacturing and mining with wood-burning steam engines in addition to waterpower. The state-promoted construction of a vast railroad network in the 1880s further accelerated industrialization. By the late 1880s, embedded industrialization and long-established activities, particularly silver mining, began approaching ecological limits to growth. The most easily accessible forests dwindled at alarming rates and no more rivers could be harnessed for waterpower. Embedded industrialization also faced social constraints: peasant communities clashed with factories and railroads over water and wood. The increased strain on non-fossil energy sources motivated Mexico’s state and economic elites to search for new ways to power industry. Due to its prestige and connection to European and US industrialization, coal became the favored alternative.
The chapter provides a broader comparative view of the League’s environmental concerns. The main aim of the discussion in this chapter it to weave these different initiatives (which are described separately in each chapter) into a coherent and broad regime, ones that has a common ground, continuity, and certain dynamics. As each chapter explains the role played by central theories, ideas, conflicting interests, environmental challenges, and scientific or professional concerns, this chapter puts them together and explain some of the differences and common patterns. Moreover, this analysis also revises the League’s different endeavors from contemporary environmental perspectives, and assesses their relevance to current dilemmas where nature protection conflicts with human needs.
Each of the chapters explores a different dimension of the League’s environmental policy. They focus on the environmental impacts of pollution of the sea by oil, the growing whaling industry and endangered whales, rural hygiene and sanitation problems in the periphery, and timber production and fears of spreading deforestation. There may well be other interwar concerns that also involved environmental perspectives. However, I present a sweeping legal-historical overview of several of the central environmental challenges that the interwar world faced, in order to understand the notions behind the League’s leadership and to explain its shortcomings and achievements.
The chapter uncovers the problem of timber following the Great Depression, and the increasing concerns of spreading deforestation around the world.
The Kingdom of the Forests gained particular attention during the interwar period. International bodies were interested in coordinating the production and supply of different raw materials to the international market, both in regular times and during crises. Immediately after the Great War, the League became interested in timber in particular. When the Great Depression started to affect international commerce, timber production was at stake as well. Accusations against a dumping policy of the Soviet Union have been heard too. This alleged policy applied pressure of its own and put other national timber industries at risk. The League wished to support these industries and encouraged the development of an international regime of mutual cooperation between exporting and importing countries.
With the merging of economic and industrial threads, environmental considerations were woven into the plot, coloring the dilemma with urgent calls to restrict forest harvest in order to stop deforestation from expanding. In the late 1930s, different voices started to advocate for the protection of trees and forests, and encouraged the League to fight back against deforestation.
These dimensions added another layer to the economic incentives and industrial interests surrounding the timber issue.
In the history of how the law has dealt with environmental issues over the last century or so, the 1920s and 30s and the key role of the League of Nations in particular remain underexplored by scholars. By delving into the League's archives, Omer Aloni uncovers the story of how the interwar world expressed similar concerns to those of our own time in relation to nature, environmental challenges and human development, and reveals a missing link in understanding the roots of our ecological crisis. Charting the environmental regime of the League, he sheds new light on its role as a centre of surprising environmental dilemmas, initiatives, and solutions. Through a number of fascinating case studies, the hidden interests, perceptions, motivations, hopes, agendas and concerns of the League are revealed for the first time. Combining legal thought, historical archival research and environmental studies, a fascinating period in legal-environmental history is brought to life.
This last chapter recreates the changes in the landscape inside the two parks and their surrounding area. To do so, it uses a trove of more than 800 aerial images from 1953 to 1980 (as well as government reports, newspaper articles, and legal cases) to reconstruct the landscape before, during, and after the settlement of tens of thousands of settlers at the borderland. The chapter documents the role of logging, as carried out by Brazilian colonization companies with indigenous labor, in permanently transforming the native subtropical Atlantic forest into cropland. It also cast light on road building as one of the factors allowing migration to the region. Inside the park, the chapter argues that what is now seen as pristine nature – the forested landscape of the parks – is the fruit of decades of often contradictory policies and practices.
Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa is regularly threatened by the occurrence of weather shocks. We wonder whether the way farmers respond to shocks can affect land use and induce deforestation. Reviewing the existing literature, we found that this question has only been marginally studied. Drawing from the adaptation and land-use change literatures, we then expose the mechanisms through which weather shocks can push farmers to induce land-use change, or conversely to foster conservation. As farmers cope with shocks, their responses can cause degradations in ecosystems which could, in the long term, encourage deforestation and land-use change. To prepare for the next growing season, or adapt to climate variability and risk in the longer term, farmers also make structural adjustments in their farm and land-use decisions, which may lead to changes in land holding. They also resort to adaptation strategies that can indirectly affect land-use decisions by affecting households’ resources (labor, income).
The monsoon has changed significantly over the past century. In particular, Northwest India and Pakistan have dried in the latter part of the twentieth century along with northern China. The Indian Peninsula and South China have however become wetter. Some of the aridification is the result of increased aerosol concentrations due to industrialization as well as the southward migration of the Westerly Jet in northern China. The Indus basin is particularly susceptible to drying. Changes in atmosphere circulation have pushed typhoons away from the South China Sea and towards eastern China, although rainfall in South China has strengthened due to locally sourced storms. Dry years in South Asia resulted in significant reductions in the food production. Increased agriculture linked to deforestation has reduced soil moisture and has a negative impact on the climate, especially in Northwest India. Times of drought and poor food production push up prices and have resulted in civil disturbances exacerbated by policies introduced during the Green Revolution. Reduction in biodiversity on farms has reduced resilience to future climate change and caused more harm than changes in the environment over the recent past.
Low and highly variable prices plague the coffee market, generating concerns that coffee farmers producing in shade systems under natural forests, as in biodiversity hotspot Oaxaca, Mexico, will abandon production and contribute to deforestation and reduced ecosystem services. Using stakeholder information, we build a setting-informed model to analyze farmers' decisions to abandon shade-grown coffee production and their reactions to policy to reduce abandonment. Exploring price premiums for bird-friendly certified coffee, payments for ecosystem services, and price floors as policies, we find that once a farmer is on the path toward abandonment, it is difficult to reverse. However, implementing policies early that are low cost to farmers – price floors and no-cost certification programs – can stem abandonment. Considering the abandonment that policy avoids per dollar spent, price floors are the most cost-effective policy, yet governments prefer certification programs that push costs onto international coffee consumers who pay the price premium.
The importance of forest conservation in the fight against emissions from deforestation and forest degradation has led to reexamination of the deforestation and economic development relationship. For this purpose, we use the recent method of long-term growth rate developed by Stern et al. (2017) on 85 tropical developing countries over the period 1990–2010. Results show that the EKC is not significant. However, we find a beta convergence across developing countries in terms of deforestation per capita. In other words, these countries converge in terms of policies that prevent deforestation and forest degradation. This implies that, just as with growth effects, beta convergence effects are also important in explaining changes in forest cover in tropical developing countries. The convergence effect in forest cover change may be consistent with the forest transition hypothesis.
Forestry crimes include illegal logging, which is a contributing factor to deforestation across the globe. An estimated 189 to 565 million cubic metres of timber are cut illegally in some form. Forestry crimes are estimated by INTERPOL and the United Nations to be valued at US$51–152 billion annually. Much of this harvest is used for wood fuel and charcoal, and the proceeds from illegal logging are sometimes used to fund terrorist groups. Globally, (excluding illegal logging for wood fuel and charcoal). To date, the only effective interventions have been the efforts by the Brazilian government using targeted law enforcement efforts to combat illegal logging, the result of which was a 76% reduction in deforestation.
A conventional conservation strategy is establishing protected areas to help combat anthropogenic and climate change impacts on tropical ecosystems, but the effectiveness of these measures is often hampered in upland areas by resource conflicts among armed groups, citizens and government institutions. Improved governance and community participation are key to effectively conserving these areas, yet little is known regarding citizen perceptions in such places. Here, a representative protected area in Colombia is used in order to analyse rural and urban citizen perceptions regarding conservation, conflicts with guerrilla groups and nature’s contributions to people (NCPs) around Chingaza National Natural Park. We used on-site, semi-structured in-person surveys, geospatial data and statistics to understand these perceptions and the roles of armed conflict and deforestation. Perceptions on ecosystem degradation were correlated with deforestation and past guerrilla attacks. Age and place of residence were influential pro-conservation factors, while younger respondents were most willing to invest time in conservation activities. Air purification and water supply and quality were the most identified NCPs and citizens differentiated conservation-related recreation activities from natural resource extraction. We suggest that the legacy of past armed conflict still affects conservation strategies and communities living near tropical highland protected areas.
Understorey wildfires harm tropical forests by affecting natural regeneration, but the trajectories of fire-disturbed forests after disturbance are poorly understood. To fill this gap, we conducted experimental burns in a transitional forest between the Amazon forests and the Brazilian Savanna (Cerrado) and investigated their effects on plant community diversity of regeneration. The experiment consisted of three 50-ha plots that between 2004 and 2010 were burned either annually (six times), every three years (thrice) or not at all (Control). To evaluate early post-fire recovery, we recorded grass occurrence and regenerating stems (≤1 cm in diameter at breast height). We noted that high fire-frequency plots had a reduction of species richness (62%) and abundance (84%) and were associated with floristic and structural changes, dominance of few species and increase of grass colonization when compared with low fire-frequency. We observed that resprouts were the main pathway for forest restoration in both burned regimes, particularly in low fire-frequency. However, the forest can recover from fires by means of resprouting, until a threshold in fire frequency is reached, when resprouts and seedlings declined for most of the species, with a few fire-tolerant species becoming dominant.
This commentary examines the challenge of sustainable development in the Amazon, arguing that global efforts to mitigate climate change and current Amazonian policies are clearly inadequate to prevent global warming and deforestation from tipping the forest into a savanna. It analyses the growing climate pressures jeopardising the Amazon's resilience; the erratic Brazilian, Bolivian, Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian governance of the forest; and the failure of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) to establish long-term forest conservation policies in the region. The research demonstrates that the ‘savannisation hypothesis’ is potentially closer to reality than most debates in the social sciences assume and should be considered seriously. The commentary concludes by suggesting possible pathways for preventing the dieback of the Amazon. These are based on three strategic axes: the strengthening of the ACTO, the promotion of a technological revolution in the forest, and a progressive environmental diplomacy by the Amazonian countries.
This article examines the sylvan political ecology of late colonial New Spain and the colonial government's attempt to address deforestation through the Council on Forests, the first body in the kingdom's history dedicated to the conservation of natural resources. Drawing primarily from the corpus of documents produced by and remitted to the council, this article gives a trans-regional perspective on colonial forest use and argues that the Spanish crown's usurpation of indigenous communities’ eminent domain over forests was the first step in a process that over centuries progressively severed the cultural ties that bound communities and forests by converting common-pool resources into open-access commons. The catastrophic mortality of the Spanish invasion was the second step, which rendered conservation measures seemingly unnecessary among both woodcutters and officials. But it was during the eighteenth century that older Habsburg notions of protectionism intersected with economic and political changes associated with Bourbon rule to further compel this cultural severance. While previous works have studied the ecological impacts of mining, ranching, and flood control, this article moves beyond the study of a single industry to suggest some of the larger ecological consequences of Spanish colonialism.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 is centered on three main pillars: industry, infrastructure and innovation. With 8 targets and 12 indicators, SDG 9 will have multiple impacts on forests, forest-based livelihoods and forest-based economies. Drawing on a comprehensive literature review, we conclude that major trade-offs will exist between SDG 9 and SDG 15 (sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems), especially if economic expansion and increasing planetary impacts remain coupled. More specifically, the implementation of Target 9.1 and its corresponding indicators (road, infrastructure and transportation expansion) may lead to irreversible and widespread forest degradation and deforestation. As such, the short- and long-term environmental and social costs of this goal need to be better assessed, especially in light of the fact that other SDG 9 targets (e.g. small-scale industry expansion (Target 9.3); access to information and communications technology (Target 9.c)) may have diverse consequences for forests and livelihoods, depending on how they are applied. We call for reforms of SDG 9 to promote and support alternative socio-economic models that are not based on indefinite economic growth, nor reliant on the ongoing expansion of infrastructure, but, rather, necessitate forests and terrestrial ecosystem services to be essential building blocks of a green and sustainable economy.
SDG 1 seeks to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” specifically by ensuring that the poor are covered by social protection systems; by securing the poor’s rights to economic resources, access to basic services, and property ownership; and by building their resilience to economic, social and environmental shocks. The empirical literature shows that more secure property rights – especially for community land – and social protection in the form of cash transfers can support forest conservation, given the right context and conditionalities. As demonstrated by programs that reforest hillsides and mangroves to prevent natural disasters, policies designed to reduce vulnerability can promote ecosystem-based adaptation, including expansion of forest cover. This is consistent with the evidence that forests are both a mainstay of rural livelihoods and a buffer and source of natural insurance. However, if poverty alleviation and national development strategies continue to be based on infrastructure and agricultural development, they are likely to remain in conflict with the conservation and sustainable management of forests.
The remaining large patches of lowland forest in Tanintharyi, southern Myanmar, are the last global stronghold for the Endangered Gurney's pitta Hydrornis gurneyi. Except for a few individuals, the remaining population is now restricted to this forest, below 150 m altitude, mostly within the Nga Wun, Lenya, and Parchan Reserved Forests. However, as in much of South-east Asia, Tanintharyi has been subjected to extensive deforestation, particularly for oil palm cultivation. The aim of this research was to determine the extent of remaining habitat suitable for Gurney's pitta. During January–October 2016 we revisited 142 locations (of 147) where the species was detected during 2003–2012, and found it in only 41 of those locations (29%); in all other locations the forest had been cleared. We measured the decline of suitable habitat since 1999 by examining all available intact forest in areas with elevations < 150 m and slope < 10 °. In less than 2 decades suitable habitat has declined from 3,225 to 656 km2 (80%). Protection of remaining lowland forest is now critical. Although the expansion of oil palm cultivation has slowed since its peak in the early 2000s, two national parks proposed by the Myanmar government in 2002, which would potentially offer legal protection for most of the remaining Gurney's pitta habitat, remain on hold because of political uncertainties. We recommend an alternative conservation approach for this species, based on an Indigenous Community Conserved Area model, and further research to improve knowledge of the species and to determine how it could be saved from extinction.
Tropical forest regions in equatorial Africa are threatened with degradation, deforestation and biodiversity loss as a result of land-cover change. We investigated historical land-cover dynamics in unprotected forested areas of the Littoral Region in south-western Cameroon during 1975–2017, to detect changes that may influence this important biodiversity and wildlife area. Processed Landsat imagery was used to map and monitor changes in land use and land cover. From 1975 to 2017 the area of high-value forest landscapes decreased by c. 420,000 ha, and increasing forest fragmentation caused a decline of c. 12% in the largest patch index. Conversely, disturbed vegetation, cleared areas and urban areas all expanded in extent, by 32% (c. 400,000 ha), 5.6% (c. 26,800 ha) and 6.6% (c. 78,631 ha), respectively. The greatest increase was in the area converted to oil palm plantations (c. 26,893 ha), followed by logging and land clearing (c. 34,838 ha), all of which were the major factors driving deforestation in the study area. Our findings highlight the increasing threats facing the wider Littoral Region, which includes Mount Nlonako and Ebo Forest, both of which are critical areas for regional conservation and the latter a proposed National Park and the only sizable area of intact forest in the region. Intact forest in the Littoral Region, and in particular at Ebo, merits urgent protection.
This article investigates the production of conservation science at nodes of transnational networks of encounter through an examination of field studies conducted during the mid-1920s in North China's Shanxi province by the American forester and soil conservation expert Walter C. Lowdermilk with his student, colleague, and collaborator Ren Chengtong. Even in the politically fragmented China of the 1920s, their research on deforestation, streamflow, and erosion benefited from alliances with Shanxi's regional powerholder, Yan Xishan, and produced environmental knowledge that furthered the agenda of harnessing natural resources to strengthen the state. By paying attention to two-way interactions between Chinese and foreign actors in the construction and transmission of knowledge about nature, the article speaks to the global context of the early twentieth-century conservation movement and adds to recent scholarship that recasts China's encounter with modern science as one of active appropriation, translation, and innovation rather than passive reception.