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Debate: Ban on logging

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Should governments prohibit logging?

This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Ranjan K. Agarwal. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.


Background and Context of Debate:

Forests around the world are quickly shrinking. For example, in the Brazilian Amazon, 29,000 square kilometres were deforested in 1995. Though the number decreased in 1996 (18,100 km2), it is still substantial. Deforestation affects developed and developing countries alike: the problem is particularly acute in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia and war-torn countries. For governments, forests represent untapped resources. In addition to the financial gains from commercial logging, forests are safety-valves for overpopulation and landlessness. In Brazil, settlers from the coast were given whatever land they deforested. In Indonesia, deforesting by landless migrants led to large-scale smog pollution in 1997. Logging was used by the Khmer Rouge to fund its civil war in Cambodia. In Africa and South America, wood is used as fuel. Deforestation has substantial side effects: it can endanger species and lead to large-scale fires.Environmentalists argue that governments should outright ban logging. In North America, there have been violent clashes between logging companies and conservationists. In the 1990s, the World Bank stopped lending to logging companies after lobbying by environmental NGOs. Today, the Bank will lend to companies that practice "sustainable harvesting". No more clear-cutting and over-harvesting; the Bank promotes low-impact logging and "sustainable use".

Argument #1


Deforestation has long-term environmental impacts. There is a causal connection between deforestation and climate change and loss of biodiversity. In Brazil, burning trees has made the rainforest drier, leading to more fires. Scientists estimate that tropical rainforests have half of all the world’s species. The Amazon rainforests contain 400 human tribes. Deforestation dramatically affects genetic variation, which can aid in reducing the effect of diseases and famine.


The environmental effects of deforestation are exaggerated and, in any event, are irrelevant to developing countries. Some scientists estimate that deforestation, if continued at its current pace, will only reduce species in tropical forests by 5-10% in the next 30 years. For developing countries, there is the belief that rapid deforestation and rapid development are linked. Indonesia subsidizes its forest industry through export taxes. The revenue from commercial logging is substantial. Further, in Brazil and Indonesia, there are programs promoting migration from heavily populated urban centres to deforested areas. Without this migration, Bali, Java and Brazil’s coastal areas would become unbearably overpopulated.

Argument #2


Deforestation is a tool for politics. Governments use deforestation for political gain, either through increasing revenues from logging companies or in providing land to landless migrants. In Kenya, the government logged 68,000 hectares of the Mau forest. Their objective is to disperse the Ogeik people, an indigenous tribe, to make room for the majority Kalenjin. The World Bank’s plan to fund "sustainable harvesting" is not enough -- its forestry policy will be irrelevant unless it can stop subsidies for agricultural expansion and road-building programs.


Deforestation should not be used for political purposes and there are mechanisms for controlling such actions. Prohibiting logging would go too far. In Kenya, the courts ordered the government to protect the Ogeik. The decision to deforest the Mau forest was clearly illegal. Further, the World Bank’s new program will "crowd out" such unsustainable or illegal practices. Logging companies and governments that need World Bank loans to finance their forestry operations must comply with its rules regarding "sustainable harvesting".

Argument #3


Industry cannot be expected to aid in the conservation of forests. The singular aim of logging companies is to increase shareholder profits. Conservation necessarily costs these companies time and money, and where possible they will negotiate for the widest leverage to log, even in protected forests. In Headwaters, changes to the conservation agreement can be made through a peer-review panel, but the panel is controlled by Pacific Lumber and the government is unlikely to appeal panel decisions.


Regulation can protect forests. In the U.S., the State of California, the federal government and Pacific Lumber Company reached agreement to protect the Headwaters forest. The agreement bans logging in certain areas so as to protect Headwaters’ eco-system. Pacific Lumber can log 425,000 cubic metres in specially-protected buffer zones. This model of forest conservation has been used in Canada, Australia, Britain and the U.S. It encourages good management and cooperation between government, private business and environmentalists.

Argument #4


Governments should find alternatives to logging wilderness forests, including alternative fuel sources and genetically engineered trees. In Africa, poverty is the main source for deforestation. Poor people cannot afford alternatives fuels and must fell trees to make fire. By prohibiting logging, governments will create an incentive for the development of alternative fuel sources. Scientists are developing genetically engineered trees. They either grow faster or have improved quality wood. The biggest obstacle to full-scale development of genetically engineered trees is money. Logging companies and governments have no incentive to invest in research and development of these trees as long a virgin forests remain.


Such alternatives are unfeasible. Cheap alternatives to wood are equally dangerous for the environment and costly for poor people to procure and use. Moreover, there is evidence that people can coexist with forests. Though they may fell them for fuel, in Africa especially, people aid in putting out bushfires, enrich the soil and preserve the trees for timber, food and shelter. By prohibiting logging and creating protected eco-spaces, conservationists might actually be harming the delicate interplay between people and the environment.Genetically modified organisms are untested and there is a huge debate in the EU and America as to whether they should introduced at all. Genetically engineered trees could have untold effect on forest ecosystems. The science is too new to trust in such a case. Further, if trees are genetically engineered, it might actually create a bigger incentive to log, as there is now an endless supply of new forest.



  • This House would save the trees
  • This House would end deforestation
  • This House calls for more protection for forests from destructive exploitation

In legislation, policy, and the real world:

See also on Debatepedia:

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