In many countries, advances in medicine and in
nutrition have made for a much lower disease rate
than these countries had 50-70 years ago. However,
this same period is only 2 generations, so the
cultures have changed only a little. The result is
that many more children reach their adult years
than can be accommodated on existing farms and
villages. Needing farmland, they encroach and
clear the wild rainforest as it is the only
unclaimed land. From your point of view, this
damages the environment, but from their point a
view, they need to feed their families and it is
the only life they know.
Another problem is
that many societies in tropical areas survive by
"slash and burn" farming. The soil in the rain
forest is rich, and supports food crops for only a
short while before becomming depleted. After that,
it will not support a intensive farming.
Techniques for replenishing the soil are largely
unknown and the cost of artificial fertilizer is
beyond the reach of these cultures-- so they burn
more virgin forest to get the better soil, leaving
spent soil behind.
People in a given culture
often don't view their actions from a global
context-- can you think of actions in your own
culture that are wasteful or globally damaging?
Hint: Look at fossil fuel usages by country or the
ozone hole issue...
People do destructive things because they value
the benefits that they get more than the damages.
In the United States, many people drive big
polluting trucks even though they could drive
small cars that don't pollute nearly as much.
This is because they like big trucks and think
that having what they like is more valuable than
the harm they cause in pollution. This isn't
because people are bad. It is just because the
harm that they do is spread out among many people
and not just on themselves. So rather than just
one person being harmed a lot, many people are
harmed a little. This is just the same way in the
rainforest, except the people there are mostly
poor and don't have many choices like US citizens.
Most of the rainforest loss is from poorer people
chopping down the trees for firewood or to grow
food. Many people don't have a choice because
there is no other way to get these things. They
value the firewood and food much more than the
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