– Tropical rain forests cover only 7 percent of the earth’s surface yet harbor at least 50 percent of the world’s plant and animal species (the earth’s biodiversity); they are the lungs of the world, eating away at the excessive carbon dioxide we have excreted from our industrial metabolism – pg. 3
1. Slicing up the rain forest on your breakfast cereal
– Dibromochloropropane (DBCP) and the Banana Crisis:
- During the early 1970s thousands of banana workers were rendered sterile by this poison. In 1993 they filed a class action suit against Standard Fruit in a Texas court. The companies agreed, in 1997, to pay US$41.5 million to workers who could demonstrate they had been rendered sterile, but thus far they have used a variety of legal maneuvers to avoid any payments…Banana companies have not accepted responsibility for the health and safety of their workers, the community, or the environment.
- There is a correlation between log workers and banana workers. They both need to use the same roads to get to and from work, and because of this we see deforestation.
– Real Problem?
- Birth rate: Solution = birth control. It further implies that this is a sufficient solution, that it is useless to do anything other than promote birth control, and that as long as population densities remain as they are, the pattern of deforestation will continue.
- Hungry for profits: Banana companies are cutting down rain forests because they are hungry for profits. They will stop at nothing to satisfy their need to accumulate ever greater quantities of capital, and the forests will continue to disappear as long as the banana companies are allowed to continue their greed operations
2. The rain forest is neither fragile nor stable
– The lowland humid tropics, site of the world’s rain forests, account for less than one-third of the tropical lands – deserts, savannahs, and mountains. Tropical rain forests are evergreen or partially evergreen forests in areas that receive no less than 50 centimeters a year of rainfall, and have a mean annual temperature of more than 24 degrees centigrade with no frost. Tropical rainforests are found in three general regions around the world – pg. 16
- High Biodiversity
- Seed Dispersal
- Light Gap Dynamics
3. Farming on rain forests soils
-Slash and Burn Agriculture
-The most common form of traditional agriculture, and one still practiced in many places in the world today, involves the use of fire and a reliance on the ecological process of succession
-Represents the easiest solution to two ecological problems:
- Plant Competition (WEEDS): By burning the cleared patch before scattering the seeds, the farmer forces the undesirable species to at least begin at the same level as the crops.
- Nutrient Cycling: Nutrients in the rain forest are recycled very rapidly. As dead leaves decompose, they release their nutrients into the soil, where they are then picked up by the roots of living plants and reused. -pg. 42
4: The political economy of agriculture in rain forest areas
– The Origin and Intensification of Agriculture:
- Slash and burn agriculture represents the first significant human activity that can be thought of as “deforestation”
- When fallow time is shortened, it is known as “intensification” of agriculture.
- Population will increase, requiring more land to be put into production and therefore more labor to work the extra land; a continual cycle. -pg. 52
– Banana Plantations
– Technical Side of Modern Agriculture
- The many men (and very few women) looking to establish homesteads provided a ready source of cheap harvest labor. With all that cheap labor available, it made no sense to invest a large amount of money in an automatic harvester.
- McCormick’s reaper was ignored for two decades due to rational economic calculations. Adopted with the outbreak of the civil war when labor grew short.
- The internal combustion engine made automated devices even more efficient. The introduction of the internal combustion engine, effectively the introduction of fossil fuel-based traction power, completed the first major transformation of farming to agriculture. -pg. 62
5. The multiple faces of agriculture in the modern world system
- The independent farmer has become, in a sense, a worker in the metaphorical food factory that is modern agriculture. -pg. 71
- Cutting logs out of a tropical forest does not necessarily represent deforestation in and of itself. However, in the context of a disarticulated economy in the Global South, when logs are cut from a forest, landless peasants are nearly always waiting to follow the logging roads and take advantage of land that has been at least partially cleared of trees. -pg. 79
- Lack of land and thus lack of food security is the driving force of deforestation. pg. 79