Clearing the Amazon rainforest increases Brazilian communities' wealth and quality of life, but these improvements are short-lived, according to new research published today (12 June) in Science. The study, by an international team including researchers at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, shows that levels of development revert back to well below national average levels when the loggers and land clearers move on.This article shows that greed isn't the problem here but rather short sightedness. That even from a selfish perspective, it is not in anyone's long term interest to cut down the trees. Instead of using an environmental argument to stop those that would cut down the forest, it would be more effective to show how it is not in their selfish long term interest to do so.
Since 2000, 155 thousand square kilometres of rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon have been cut down for timber, burnt, or cleared for agricultural use. Forest clearance rates have averaged more than 1.8 million hectares per year (roughly the area of Kuwait), and the deforestation frontier is advancing into the forest at a rate of more than four football fields every minute.
The researchers' analysis revealed that the quality of local people's lives –measured through levels of income, literacy and longevity, as mentioned above – increases quickly during the early stages of deforestation. This is probably because people capitalise on newly available natural resources, including timber, minerals and land for pasture, and higher incomes and new roads lead to improved access to education and medical care, and all round better living conditions.
However, the new results suggest that these improvements are transitory, and the level of development returns to below the national average once the area's natural resources have been exploited and the deforestation frontier expands to virgin land. Quality of life pre- and post-deforestation was both substantially lower than the Brazilian national average, and was indistinguishable from one another.