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The Three Aims of Economic Development

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To what extent can the three aims of economic development, protection of biodiversity and sustainability be achieved in a fragile tropical ecosystem?

The tropical rainforests are a prime example of a fragile tropical ecosystem; its fragility is exemplified by the past decades of destruction with annual loss of rainforest worldwide estimated at 40 million hectares. There are varying aims which are trying to be achieved with different interest groups wanting certain aims. For example, the global economy would prefer ruthless economic development. Whereas environmentalists would like to see the protection of biodiversity and sustainability (i.e. meeting the needs of today without impacting the need of future generations). In the tropical equatorial rainforest of Amazonia there is evidence of these three aims, however these practices can be seen to conflict and economic development is often over-prioritised.

Typical economic development within tropical rainforests often occur from economic activities utilising the vast amount of natural resources which the rainforests have to offer. This can be significantly damaging for the environment, thus impacting biodiversity and sustainability. These activities include logging for hardwood and land being cleared for the cultivation of cash crops, for example soya. As a result of these activities, much of the forest is cut down, up to 30,000 hectares per a day. This affects biodiversity because habitation levels become smaller and due to the high amount of plant variation often plant species can become endangered. This is why it is estimated that 27,000 species are lost each year due to habitat destruction. This also affects sustainability because if plant species becomes extinct, they are lost forever, therefore affecting the future of the rainforests. The unfortunate thing is that current economic development is carried out by large TNCs which carry out unsustainable practises, such as land clearing resulting in the nutrient cycle becoming broken, as shown in the diagram below, where deforestation destroys the biomass. Although ash does provide a temporary addition of nutrients, after this the amount of biomass is insufficient. This shows that economic development can hamper the other aims of biodiversity and sustainability.

This has been exacerbated by governments, such as the Brazilian government, which continue to side-line the smaller growers who are more likely to live in harmony with the rainforest, instead, offering more attractive subsidies to large commercial operations. This is why large TNCs such as agribusiness company Cargill have such a foothold on the Amazon rainforest; this foothold is often unsustainable for example Cargill destroyed 28,000 hectares in 2004 in the region of Santarem, an increase from 15,000 in 2002. Ironically, in the 1970s these small growers practised primitive slash and burn farming; this had limited impacts on the forest. Although they were rarely awarded ownership of the land this does show that a compromise can be met between economic development and the other aims. However to achieve this multi-beneficiary environment, governments such as Brazil's and the global economy has to change its outlook on the profitability of



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