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Wood to wood, continent to continent, in the tropical belt that circles the globe
Death and destruction of all life on our planet
all our fellow species
and soon WE, the people
 
Published on Sunday, February 3, 2008 by the Associated Press the Associated Press
Rain Forests Fall at ‘Alarming’ Rate
In the gloomy shade deep in Africa’s rain forest, the noontime silence was pierced by the whine of a far-off chain saw.
by Edward Harris
Uganda, Africa
ABO EBAM, Nigeria — It was the sound of destruction, echoed from wood to wood, continent to continent, in the tropical belt that circles the globe.
From Brazil to central Africa to once-lush islands in Asia’s archipelagos, human encroachment is shrinking the world’s rain forests.
The alarm was sounded decades ago by environmentalists — and was little heeded.
The picture, meanwhile, has changed: Africa is now a leader in destructiveness.
The numbers have changed: U.N. specialists estimate 60 acres of tropical forest are felled worldwide every minute, up from 50 a generation back.
And the fears have changed.
Experts still warn of extinction of animal and plant life, of the loss of forest peoples’ livelihoods, of soil erosion and other damage.
But scientists today worry urgently about something else: the fateful feedback link of trees and climate.
Global warming is expected to dry up and kill off vast tracts of rain forest, and dying forests will feed global warming.
“If we lose forests, we lose the fight against climate change,” declared more than 300 scientists, conservation groups, religious leaders and others in an appeal for action at December’s climate conference in Bali, Indonesia.
The burning or rotting of trees that comes with deforestation — at the hands of ranchers, farmers, timbermen — sends more heat—trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all the world’s planes, trains, trucks and automobiles.
Forest destruction accounts for about 20 percent of manmade emissions, second only to burning of fossil fuels for electricity and heat.
Conversely, healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon.
“The stakes are so dire that if we don’t start turning this around in the next 10 years, the extinction crisis and the climate crisis will begin to spiral out of control,” said Roman Paul Czebiniak, a forest expert with Greenpeace International.
“It’s a very big deal.”
The December U.N. session in Bali may have been a turning point, endorsing negotiations in which nations may fashion the first global financial plan for compensating developing countries for preserving their forests.
The latest data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped spur delegates to action.
“Deforestation continues at an alarming rate of about 13 million hectares (32 million acres) a year,” the U.N. body said in its latest “State of the World’s Forests” report.
Because northern forests remain essentially stable, that means 50,000 square miles of tropical forest are being cleared every 12 months — equivalent to one Mississippi or more than half a Britain.
The lumber and fuelwood removed in the tropics alone would fill more than 1,000 Empire State Buildings, FAO figures show.
Abo, near Ikom, Nigeria, Africa
Although South America loses slightly more acreage than Africa, the rate of loss is higher here — almost 1 percent of African forests gone each year.
In 2000-2005, the continent lost 10 million acres a year, including big chunks of forest in Sudan, Zambia and Tanzania, up from 9 million a decade earlier, the FAO reports.
Across the tropics the causes can be starkly different.
The Amazon and other South American forests are usually burned for cattle grazing or industrial-scale soybean farming.
In Indonesia and elsewhere in southeast Asia, island forests are being cut or burned to make way for giant plantations of palm, whose oil is used in food processing, cosmetics and other products.
In Africa, by contrast, it’s individuals hacking out plots for small-scale farming.
Here in Nigeria’s southeastern Cross Rivers State, home to one of the largest remaining tropical forests in Africa, people from surrounding villages of huts and cement-block homes go to the forest each day to work their pineapple and cocoa farms.
They see no other way of earning money to feed their families.
“The developed countries want us to keep the forests, since the air we breathe is for all of us, rich countries and poor countries,” said Ogar Assam Effa, 54, a tree plantation director and member of the state conservation board.
“But we breathe the air, and our bellies are empty.   Can air give you protein?   Can air give you carbohydrates?” he asked.   “It would be easy to convince people to stop clearing the forest if there was an alternative.”
The state, which long ago banned industrial logging, is trying to offer alternatives.
Working with communities like Abo Ebam, near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, the Cross Rivers government seeks to help would-be farmers learn other trades, such as beekeeping or raising fist-sized land snails, a regional delicacy.
The state also has imposed a new licensing system.
Anyone who wants to cut down one of the forest’s massive, valuable mahogany trees or other hardwoods must obtain a license and negotiate which tree to fell with the nearby community, which shares in the income.
The logs can’t be taken away whole, but must be cut into planks in the forest, by people like David Anfor.
He’s a 35-year-old father of one who earns the equivalent of 75 U.S. cents per board he cuts with a whizzing chain saw.
“The forest is our natural resource.   We’re trying to conserve,” he said.   “But I’m also working for my daily eating.”
A community benefiting from such small-scale forestry is likely to keep out those engaged in illegal, uncontrolled logging.
But enforcement is difficult in a state with about 3,500 square miles of pristine rain forest — and few forest rangers.
On one recent day deep in the forest, where the luxuriant green canopy allows only rare shards of sunlight to reach the floor, the trilling of a hornbill bird and the distant chain saw were the only sounds heard.
As forestry officials rushed to investigate, the saw operator fled deeper into the forest, sign of an illegal operation.
Environmentalists say such a conservation approach may work for rural, agrarian people in Nigeria, which lost an estimated 15 million acres between 1990 and 2005, or about one-third of its entire forest area, and has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates — more than 3 percent per year.
But lessons learned in one place aren’t necessarily applicable elsewhere, they say.
A global strategy is needed, mobilizing all rain-forest governments.
That’s the goal of the post-Bali talks, looking for ways to integrate forest preservation into the world’s emerging “carbon trading” system.
A government earning carbon credits for “avoided deforestation” could then sell them to a European power plant, for example, to meet its emission-reduction quota.
“These forests are the greatest global public utility,” Britain’s conservationist Prince Charles said in the lead-up to Bali.
“As a matter of urgency we have to find ways to make them more valuable alive than dead.”
Observed the World Wildlife Fund’s Duncan Pollard, “Suddenly you have the whole world looking at deforestation.”
But in many ways rain forests are still a world of unknowns, a place with more scientific questions than answers.
How much carbon dioxide are forests absorbing?   How much carbon is stored there?
How might the death of the Amazon forest affect the climate in, say, the American Midwest?
Hundreds of researchers are putting in thousands of hours of work to try to answer such questions before it is too late.
© 2008 The Associated Press
 
 
AFRICA
In middle Africa, the mighty Congo River making its way to the coast passes through a forest-savanna mosaic.
Framing the river are wide, flat expanses of tableland, separated by canyons that plunge to enormous depths.
Here is some of Earth's most beautiful work, and here the forests of Africa, as the rest of the world's large forests, are diminishing rapidly.
Humankind, for the first time since they began to climb out of the trees, now has the ability to cut down all the world's centers of trees.
The forests in Africa are threatened by agricultural expansion, by drought, by bush fires, by human need, and civil war that wrecks constant havoc.
Large-scale oil exploration and mining is a major cause of deforestation.
Purchases of timber from East Asia, Europe, and North America fuel the widespread destruction and devastation.
In Uganda, forests and woodlands have shrunk from 45% of total land area in 1900, to an estimated 8% and even that 8% is being attached for use.
The relic blocks of forests left at Gola in Sierra Leone, at Sapo in Liberia, at Tai in Côte d'Ivoire, are now of global importance because of their rarity.
These forest fragments are the last remains of a once complex and species-rich expanse that flourished in the upper Guinea area.
Fouta Djallon, Mount Nimba, and Loma, in essence all the watersheds in Western Africa, are increasingly at risk.   Lands that are areas of exceptional biodiversity.'
One fifth of all remaining African trees are now in a single country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.   The forests of this central, bio-diverse nation are slowly being cut, and shifted away.
The flora and fauna of these diminishing worlds — plus the extremely high level of endemism of Madagascar — has placed the countries on a long, always getting longer, list of desperate, environmental priority.
       Global warming choking life out of Lake Tanganyika      
            Kalahari sands stirred by greenhouse gases and heatwaves      
 
Wangari Maathai — Tree Planter
Forests cleared
As I was growing up, I witnessed forests being cleared and replaced by commercial plantations, which destroyed local biodiversity and the capacity of the forests to conserve water.
In 1977, when we started the Green Belt Movement, I was partly responding to needs identified by rural women, namely lack of firewood, clean drinking water, balanced diets, shelter and income.
Throughout Africa, women are the primary caretakers, holding significant responsibility for tilling the land and feeding their families.
As a result, they are often the first to become aware of environmental damage as resources become scarce and incapable of sustaining their families.
The women we worked with recounted that unlike in the past, they were unable to meet their basic needs.
This was due to the degradation of their immediate environment as well as the introduction of commercial farming, which replaced the growing of household food crops.
But international trade controlled the price of the exports from these small-scale farmers and a reasonable and just income could not be guaranteed.
Undermines future generations
I came to understand that when the environment is destroyed, plundered or mismanaged, we undermine our quality of life and that of future generations.
Tree planting became a natural choice to address some of the initial basic needs identified by women.
Also, tree planting is simple, attainable and guarantees quick, successful results within a reasonable amount time.
This sustains interest and commitment.
So, together, we have planted over 30 million trees that provide fuel, food, shelter, and income to support their children's education and household needs.
The activity also creates employment and improves soils and watersheds.
Through their involvement, women gain some degree of power over their lives, especially their social and economic position and relevance in the family.
This work continues.
       Nobel Peace Prize Lecture — Wangari Maathai      
Thursday, 24 January 2008
Brazil sees record deforestation
Aerial view of deforestation in Brazil, picture by Greenpeace

The Amazon has long been known as the 'lungs of the world'
The Amazon has long been known as the "lungs of the world"
The Brazilian government has announced a record rate of deforestation in the Amazon, months after celebrating its success in achieving a reduction.
In the last five months of 2007, 3,000 sq km (1,250 sq miles) were lost.
Gilberto Camara, whose National Institute of Space Research provides satellite imaging of the Amazon, said the figure was unprecedented.
"We've never before detected such a high deforestation rate at this time of year," he said.
His concern, outlined during a press conference in Brasilia on Wednesday, was echoed by Environment Minister Marina Silva.
Soya expensive
Ms Silva said the rise in the price of commodities such as soya could have influenced the rate of forest clearing, as more and more farmers saw the Amazon as a source of cheap land.
"The economic reality of these states indicate that these activities impact, without a shadow of a doubt, on the forest," she said.
The state of Mato Grosso was the worst affected, contributing more than half the total area of forest stripped, or 1,786 sq km (700 sq miles).
President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to attend an emergency meeting on the issue.
The rise in deforestation will be an embarrassment for the Brazilian president, who last year said his government's efforts to control illegal logging and introduce better certification of land ownership had helped reduce forest clearance significantly.
Even as he celebrated the success, though, environmentalists were warning that the rate was rising again.
The situation may also be worse than reported, with the environment ministry saying the preliminary assessment of the amount of forest cleared could double as more detailed satellite images are analysed.
MMVIII
 
Less than three decades
Less than three decades.

Environment pollution of cities and countryside.

Images: http://na.unep.net/

Devastating UN report showing explosive urban sprawl, major deforestation and the sucking dry of inland seas over less than three decades.
The destruction of swathes of mangroves in the Gulf of Fonseca off Honduras to make way for extensive shrimp farms shows up clearly.
The atlas makes the point that not only has it left the estuary bereft of the natural coastal defence provided by the mangroves, but the shrimp themselves have been linked to pollution and widespread damage to the area's eco-system.
"These illustrate some of the changes we have made to our environment," Kaveh Zahedi UN expert.
"Cities pull in huge amounts of resources including water, food, timber, metals and people.   They export large amounts of wastes including household and industrial wastes, wastewater and the gases linked with global warming," UN Environment Programme chief Klaus Toepfer.
"Thus their impacts stretch beyond their physical borders affecting countries, regions and the planet as a whole."
       U.N. Website to download posters      
Typhoon Wipha
Keelung, Taiwan
KENYA — 22 February, 2005
Nearly five years ago, the government imposed a ban on logging in order to curb deforestation and to conserve the country's major water catchment areas.
Despite that the Kenyan government says it remains alarmed at the rate at which the country's forest cover is being depleted.
More than 90% of the original national forest cover has now been lost.
Environment Minister Kalonzo Musyoka bluntly warns: "Unless we rapidly improve our forest cover and our management we will face a national disaster."
Warning to the world

Hurricane Wilma

Photo: CBS/AP
Warning to the world — Hurricane Wilma
Friday, 30 August, 2002
Clock ticking for Indonesian rainforest
Deforested area of Tesso Nilo
Vast tracts of the forest have been destroyed
Richard Galpin
By Richard Galpin
BBC correspondent in Jakarta
The Indonesian island of Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world and once boasted some of the most extensive and richest areas of tropical rainforest anywhere on the planet — but no longer.
It is estimated 60% of the total forest cover has been destroyed over the past 100 years, with the rate of destruction increasing rapidly in the 1970s and 80s under the authoritarian regime of former President Suharto.
His government was particularly keen on dividing up vast areas of the country's forests into concessions given to powerful businessmen to log and convert into rubber and palm-oil plantations.

Every day up to 350 lorries have been travelling along this road. I believe 100 of them contain illegal logs from Tesso Nilo

WWF official
This along with the resettlement of millions of people from over-crowded Java to islands such as Sumatra and Borneo, all of whom needed land to farm, saw deforestation reach unprecedented levels.
Today it is estimated around two million hectares (five million acres) of Indonesian forest are lost every year — an area equivalent to the size of Belgium.
And the majority of the logging is believed to be illegal.
Race against time
In Sumatra environmentalists are now fighting a desperate battle to save the last substantial part of the lowland forest still standing.
Sumatran tiger and cub
Sumatran tigers are under threat
The forest in Riau province is called Tesso Nilo and organisations such as the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) believe it is critical it is turned into a special conservation area.
"This lowland forest is the prime habitat of the Sumatran tiger, elephants and other important species," said Nazir Foead of WWF Indonesia.
"If Tesso Nilo forest goes, then the chances of survival for these endangered species will be very, very slim."
Unparalleled diversity
On top of this, recent research commissioned by WWF discovered that Tesso Nilo has the highest level of biodiversity on earth.
Scientists found more than 200 vascular plant species in just 200 square metres of forest — far more even than in the Amazon.

I will not ask my people to stop the logging. I will tell them to carry on, as long as these companies are getting our wood, then why should we stop?

Village chief Mohammed Hatta
But time is fast running out for the world's richest forest which presently occupies an area of just 1,500 square kilometres (579 square miles).
If the current rate of logging continues, it will have disappeared within the next four years.
Driving into the area it is easy to see why. A major road has been built through the forest making it easy to access the timber.
Every few minutes lorries laden with logs groan along the road belching diesel fumes into the atmosphere.
"Every day up to 350 lorries have been travelling along this road," said one WWF official who has been monitoring the logging here.
"I believe 100 of them contain illegal logs from Tesso Nilo."
Easy money
We drove further into the forest and soon could hear the sound of chainsaws in the distance.
The illegal loggers are a mixture of local villagers and gangs of people who have come from further afield, generally from other provinces in Sumatra.
What they have in common is poverty. The case of Kamarudin, a local villager, is typical. We followed him as he slashed his way deep into the forest, with his chainsaw balanced on his shoulder.
Logging truck
A constant stream of trucks take the trees for pulping
It did not take him long to find what he wanted — a large tropical hardwood tree called Meranti. The tree, which took decades to grow, came crashing to the ground within a couple of minutes.
"Chopping down trees like this hardwood Meranti, I can earn $60 a week," he said. "Much more than the rubber plantation where I used to work where the money wasn't enough to feed my family."
Local anger
We went back to Kamarudin's village in the middle of the forest — a desperately poor area.
More and more villagers have been turning to illegal logging over the last five years since the Asian economic crisis hit Indonesia.
According to the village head, Mohammed Hatta, it will not be long before more than half the families here are involved in chopping down wood.
Mr Hatta is actively encouraging this because he believes his people have the right to do so, as he says the land is theirs.
Such a direct challenge to the authorities would have been unthinkable under the repressive regime of former President Suharto. But since the advent of democracy in 1998 local communities have been asserting themselves much more.
Mr Hatta is angry that over the years the government has given the rights to the whole of Tesso Nilo forest to several logging and plantation companies.
"I will not ask my people to stop the logging," he said, "I will tell them to carry on, as long as these companies are getting our wood, then why should we stop?"
Indonesian logger
The loggers are driven by poverty
Massive operation
The scale of the main forestry industries in the area is breath-taking. We visited the Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper company (RAPP) on the outskirts of the forest, one of two such businesses based in the province.
It is a huge, hi-tech industrial complex housing the world's largest pulp mill. It produces almost two million tons of pulp every year, consuming eight million tons of wood in the process.
It is a non-stop operation. The mill operates 24-hours a day, with a never-ending convoy of trucks arriving at the factory to supply the wood.
Back in 1993 the government gave RAAP a concession of around 3,000 sq km which it could log and then re-plant with acacia trees.
Part of this concession lies within the Tesso Nilo forest itself.
No guarantees
A spokesman for the company told the BBC the forest it was given to convert to acacia plantations was already degraded — in other words had already been substantially logged.
But WWF says this is wrong, "RAPP is chopping down primary rain-forest," said Mr Foead.
The company is trying to promote itself as environment-friendly because it says within six years it will have planted enough acacia trees to provide a sustainable source of wood for the pulp mill.
Ironically it can only do this by first destroying swathes of Sumatran rain-forest.
Environmentalists also believe illegal logs from Tesso Nilo are being sold to RAPP. The capacity of the mill is so huge that around one-fifth of the wood supply is provided by outside contractors.
The company says there are stringent checks on the sources of logs provided by these contractors, but admits it cannot guarantee all the wood is legal.
WWF remains optimistic it can save Tesso Nilo from the loggers by persuading the government to turn it into a national park. But it will be an uphill struggle.
Indonesia's Forestry Minister Mohammad Prakosa told the BBC he could not simply revoke the licences given to the companies which had been given the right to log the area.
And even if Tesso Nilo did become a national park, it would still not be safe from the illegal loggers.
The experience in Indonesia's other national parks has been that illegal logging has continued unabated as law enforcement across the country is so weak, not least because the police and other officials are notoriously corrupt.
Empty water reservoir
Ladakh
Between Kun lun mountain range and the Great Himalayas
Tomsk State University — 11 August, 2005 — researcher Sergei Kirpotin
All happened in the last three or four years
The huge expanse of western Siberia is thawing for the first time since its formation, 11,000 years ago.
This could potentially act as a tipping point, causing global warming to snowball, scientists fear.

More than 90% of the original national forest cover has now been lost.
The situation is an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming," researcher Sergei Kirpotin, of Tomsk State University, Russia, told New Scientist magazine.
The whole western Siberian sub-Arctic region has started to thaw, he added, and this "has all happened in the last three or four years".
       Siberia, Alaska      
       Dramatic permafrost melt — click here      
Friday, 23 August, 2002
Indonesia risks losing rain forests
logs on a trailer
The loss of forest also destroys wildlife habitat
Deforestation across the world is still of grave concern to environmentalists.
They warn that rain forests in countries such as Indonesia and Brazil could disappear within 20 years.
Illegal logging is a particular problem in Indonesia, according to Marco Tacconi, an economist at the Centre for International Forestry Research.
He blamed illegal logging primarily not on poverty, but corruption.
It is estimated that two-thirds of all logging in Indonesia is illegal.
Mr Tacconi maintained that people who lived in the forests did not have the financial resources to carryout such an activity.
Indonesian rainforests
Indonesia has about 10% of the world's remaining tropical forests — second only to Brazil
Forest cover fell from 162m ha (400,300,000 acres) in 1950 to 98m ha (242,200,000 acres) in 2000
Nearly 2m ha (4,942,000 acres) are now being destroyed every year
Sources: World Resources Institute, Global Forest Watch, Indonesia
Laws flouted
There are laws against illegal logging but they have little impact.
While the government has introduced curbs on exports, these are believed to have had little effect because much of the timber illegally collected is used domestically.
Mr Tacconi has never heard of anyone being jailed following the prosecution of people caught transporting or exporting logs.
"Everybody knows that the law enforcement is very weak," he said.
The Indonesian government's senior economic policy adviser, Mahendra Singer, admitted the legal process to prosecute the illegal loggers needed to improve.
"I'm not trying to give an excuse," he told the BBC's World Business Report.
"We have to understand the experience as well as the constraints and limitations that the present legal system can do."
He admitted that the government was only just beginning to pass laws which deterred illegal logging.

SPECIAL REPORT
See also:

Pygmy Elephants and Palm Oil Threat
The only hope for these elephants now is protection of the lowland forest as nature reserves or sustainably managed logging concessions.
Forests are being burned and peat wetlands drained for plantations, causing huge releases of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Land clearances in Indonesia to meet the growing global demand for palm oil pose a serious threat to the environment.
Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.
     Clock ticking for Indonesian rainforest       
     Deforestation illegal logging primarily not because of poverty but corruption     
      Destruction of rainforest Indonesia Riau province     
Extreme drought in Amazon rainforest linked to deforestation and climate change
The trouble has been that while traditional aerial images can show areas that have been completely destroyed, they do not reveal selective logging of valuable trees such as mahogany.
Brazilian officials praised the scientists for highlighting the issue of selective logging, but said the new figures were hard to believe.
     Clock ticking for Indonesian rainforest       
     Deforestation across the world     
       Amazon 'stealth' logging revealed    
Part II
 
For archive purposes, this article is being stored on TheWE.biz website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.