Nonfiction in response to Life On Land
March 2019

Balancing Economic and Environmental Interests

By Amrita Bhasin

In some parts of the world, deforestation is an integral part of the economy, particularly for rural development. For example, in Uganda, according to Popular Science, you “can cut down three trees for $30 and pay school fees for the year, or leave the trees where they are and deny your children an education.” Likewise, in Brazil, many landowners rely on the profits made from deforestation for their livelihood. “Over the past three decades, surging global demand for commodities like beef, sugar, soy, palm oil and coffee have led to spikes in deforestation” ( In Guatemala, an approach called “community forestry” has been taken where “nine local communities have been given the right by the government of Guatemala to make a living from the forest, as long as they do so sustainably” (Rainforest Alliance). Because these communities make their living from the forests, they have an incentive to act sustainably.

9% of the forests in the Amazon are currently gone. The problem is “that once 30 percent of the region’s original forest cover is gone, it will trigger irreversible changes in the local climate that will jeopardize crop yields, threaten freshwater supplies and disrupt social stability” ( It is a difficult balance to strike when the economy relies heavily on exporting products like soy, but the demand for these products is destroying the economy.

Another issue that must be taken into consideration is “leakage” which is the idea that if we curb deforestation in the Amazon, this must not cause deforestation to increase in another part of the world. Ecosystems depend on each other, and any action taken in one area can have an effect on another. Thus, it is imperative that when we consider deforestation, we look at the issue holistically and consider how we must find a solution that includes economic interests and environmental preservation efforts.