Between 1970 and 1980, Mr. Guppy traveled extensively throughout the New World and Far Eastern tropical forest regions, and in other areas of the globe. In 1980 he began writing about the problems of tropical deforestation (in association with the Threshold Foundation). He was consultant and co-author of the Time-Life book The Amazon, and has contributed to learned journals and books upon conservation, ecological and social themes. The author acknowledges with especial gratitude the encouragement and advice of William D. Rogers of Washington, D.C., and of Dr. Timothy C. Whitmore of Oxford University. Copyright (c) 1984, Nicholas Guppy.

Tropical rain forest, today everywhere threatened with accelerating destruction, if conserved could be one of humanity's greatest renewable resources. In 1982 it occupied nearly 12 million (11,610,350) square kilometers of the continuously warm, high-rainfall areas of the globe that lie between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Wherever it remains it forms a three-dimensional carpet, 40 meters or more thick, of intricately interwoven and interdependent individuals of several millions of species (including both plants and animals), and many life-forms-more than are found in any other terrestrial ecosystem. Its preservation is important for many reasons, but perhaps the maintenance of this genetic diversity is ultimately the most important, because it offers endless opportunities for mankind, and because it is irreplaceable.

More obviously, however, rain forest is a source of raw materials: timbers for construction, furniture, plywood, paper, and other uses; fuelwoods, fibers, canes, resins, oils and drugs; fruits and spices; and much else. It is also functionally important. Considered as a solar engine, it absorbs more sunshine than any other living land cover, moderating surface temperatures and reducing heat reflection into the atmosphere. It uses this absorbed energy to combine atmospheric carbon dioxide gas with water to form sugars and starches, oils and fats; and later, adding mineral salts and other substances, to make proteins and innumerable complex materials; as a by-product, it is the largest terrestrial net producer of oxygen. It imbibes rainfall and ground water, and holds water close to the earth's surface, releasing it slowly into aquifers or as runoff into river systems, or transpiring it from its leaves into the atmosphere as water vapor, which later provides rain in other areas (over 50 percent of rainfall in Amazonia comes from such forest transpiration). The roots that anchor the forest to the ground stabilize soils, protect the landscape from wind and water erosion, desiccation and floods, and filter and purify water supplies: successful agriculture in the tropics often depends upon the maintenance of natural forest nearby.

For many years there has been alarm at the rate of rain forest clearance. But until a year ago there were no generally accepted figures for the size of the remaining areas in the 76 or more tropical rain forest countries, or for the rates at which they were being destroyed. Table I, "The Principal Tropical Forest Countries," on the following page, gives these areas and defines the forest types discussed herein as "rain forest." Today accurate, clearly explained figures for the major categories visible in satellite photographs are available as a result of the several years' work of the Tropical Forest Resources Assessment Project of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).1 These results have been summarized by J.P. Lanly, whose global figure for the area being cleared each year is 157,000 square kilometers (about the area of England and Wales combined).2

A world without the myriad plant and animal lives of rain forest, without the wonder and beauty it contains, would be immeasurably poorer. Yet unless we can halt this destruction, straight line projection gives a date 73 years ahead (2057) for the final demise of this currently still vast, irreplaceable sector of our planet. Spiraling population growth, rising consumption of timber and forest products, or demand for new agricultural land, could all bring this date nearer-even to the point where rain forests would be doomed within 20 years. War or pandemic could affect the trend, as could protectionism. Better by far, however, would be cooperative rational action with the aim of ensuring that natural rain forest is safeguarded in perpetuity.



(in square kilometers)

Country National Undisturbed Logged/Managed Unproductive Total Forest % World

Area Forest Forest Forest Area Total

Brazil 8,511,965 2,886,300 120,000 556,500 3,562,800 30.68

Indonesia 1,903,650 389,150 346,600 400,000 1,135,750 9.78

Zaïre 2,345,409 797,400 3,800 255,300 1,056,500 9.09

Peru 1,285,215 373,200 60,000 259,900 693,100 5.97

Colombia 1,138,914 386,000 9,000 69,000 464,000 3.99

India 3,166,828 48,850 334,730 76,860 460,440 3.96

Bolivia 1,098,580 177,600 120,900 141,600 440,100 3.79

Papua New Guinea 475,300 138,150 2,200 196,750 337,100 2.90

Venezuela 912,050 76,000 116,100 126,600 318,700 2.74

Burma 678,030 141,070 90,090 80,770 311,930 2.68

Cumulative Total 5,413,720 1,203,420 2,163,280 8,780,420 75.62

And 63 Other 1,270,430 720,350 838,550 2,829,930 24.39


World Total 6,684,150 1,923,770 3,001,830 11,610,350 100.00

NOTE: Figures are for Broad-Leaved Humid and Dry Forests with closed canopy; Coniferous and Bamboo Forests are excluded. "Unproductive Forests" may be so designated for physical or legal reasons.

After the ten countries listed above, the following 20 countries have the highest areas of tropical rain forest: Mexico, Congo, Malaysia (all), Gabon, Guyana, Cameroon, Surinam, Ecuador, Madagascar, Philippines, French Guiana, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay.

Countries omitted from estimates: Africa-Mali, Niger, Upper Volta; Pacific-Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanua-atu, New Caledonia; Americas-Smaller Caribbean Islands.

SOURCES: Forest types and Areas from Tropical Resources Assessment Project, Rome: FAO, 1981. Country areas from John Paxton, ed., The Statesman's Yearbook, 1983-84, London: Macmillan, 1983.

It is inconceivable that technology or engineering could replace the functions that rain forest performs for us free, without human input of energy, time, money or materials-let alone substitute for the materials that it manufactures. Already loss of rain forest puts a strain on us when we have to repair a watershed, stabilize an eroding hillside, flood-control a river, or purify the atmosphere-all of which are becoming commonplace activities wherever natural self-maintaining systems are locally overloaded. The scale and pressure of human demands on the environment is little appreciated, and it is growing: in 1975 every single man, woman and child in the United States used on average 40,000 pounds of mineral matter alone-of stone and cement, sand, gravel, natural gas, iron and steel, salt, petroleum, non-ferrous metals, coal and clay3 quite apart from huge quantities of other materials-agricultural products, timber, marine life, water, and much else. And all this was used in commonplace ways-just in making buildings, roads, furniture, packaging, hamburgers, automobiles, newspapers, refrigerators, clothing, shampoos . . . things we take for granted. Some of these raw materials derive from renewable production; but the majority represent destruction of the environment somewhere. Per capita demand is much less over most of the world, and so is total demand, often despite higher population densities. Over large areas of the tropics, demand for exports to the United States, Western Europe and Japan is the preponderating factor in rain forest and environmental destruction.

The potential consequences of total rain forest destruction have attracted wide and serious discussion. They include, beside the loss of genetic material previously mentioned (and further discussed in Section V), dire environmental effects: massive erosion and landscape degradation in the wet tropics, causing a decline in agricultural productivity; population collapse, beginning in Southeast Asia around A.D. 2000 through starvation and disease, and spreading elsewhere later; and eventually a rise in sea level, caused by melting of the polar ice-caps due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, which would act as a blanket and trap heat near the earth's surface. Tropical rain forests and their soils contain 20 percent of the world's terrestrial carbon pool of 500 billion metric tonnes, 46 percent of it in the living forest, and most of this is released as carbon dioxide when forest is destroyed.4 Even more CO2 would be released if the vast volumes of the gas dissolved in the oceans were suddenly to come out of solution as sea temperatures rose.5 There have been various estimates of how rapidly this sea-level rise would occur; but eventually it could inundate the world's most populous and industrialized lowlands, and all of its largest cities.

To mention such possibilities, which rank with those of nuclear war, may seem alarmist. Yet disasters of equivalent magnitude have occurred in historical and recent prehistoric times, as the ruined desert cities of North Africa and Asia testify; or the fact that the Bering Straits and the English Channel were dry land only a few thousand years ago. No global model incorporates environmental factors adequately. Yet all predict critical, even catastrophic times ahead as populations grow, and as demand and the ability to exploit resources increase. In the destruction of tropical rain forest a crisispoint may be approaching between human activity and life-support systems. We have modified human behavior sufficiently in the case of nuclear warfare to have achieved a modus vivendi for several years, if not yet the long-term certainty of peace. Rain forest destruction is an even more complex and challenging issue, because it is closely interwoven with so many seemingly intractable problems-social, political and economic.


Discovering the reasons for the sudden dramatic acceleration in rain forest destruction is like slicing into a multilayered cake. On the surface, obvious factors include population growth; the increased need for land for agriculture, stock-raising and settlement; the wish to raise capital for development; and a rapidly growing demand for timber, fuelwood, and other forest products.

Yet when we look carefully we find that these are not necessarily decisive, or even important causes. Underneath are other layers-of social mores, of political expedients, of national and global economics, and of ideological conflict. Indeed today, almost everywhere, destroying rain forest is a means of avoiding tackling real problems by pursuing chimeras: a "license to print money" which yields quick cash at the cost of ultimate catastrophe. Each time we read of floods, landslides, starvation, and loss of life in India, Brazil, the Philippines, Haiti, East Africa, and elsewhere in the tropics, we are reading about problems caused or exacerbated by environmental destruction, often of rain forest.

One of the chimeras pursued by planners is the belief that if land can grow trees it can grow crops. Two thousand years ago most of Europe and China was sparsely inhabited and covered by thick forests. Today, in their place, lush farmlands support huge civilized populations, with only occasional patches of forest remaining. To the ignorant, and to wishful thinkers in less-developed countries, the felling of tropical rain forests marks the end of backwardness and the beginning of a similar process of enrichment. This is an understandable viewpoint. Indonesia, for example, has a total land area of 1.9 million square kilometers of which 60 percent is under dry-land forest, while tidal swamps (largely mangrove forest), heavily eroded hill slopes, and impoverished alang-alang grassland occupy another 30-45 percent, leaving a population of 152 million to live on a mere five to ten percent of her land surface.

At higher altitudes where the climate is cooler; where rainfall is seasonal (so that during part of the year nutrients are drawn up from below by evaporation and capillarity, instead of just being washed away); and in alluvial and volcanic areas of the rain forest zone, are found rich, permanently cultivable soils that are among the most fertile known. In central Java they support 1,500 persons per square kilometer; in the Mekong Delta, 350-the densest agricultural land populations anywhere. Unfortunately nearly all such rich soils have already been known for centuries, cleared of forest, and cultivated. Population maps show exactly where they are: alongside the crowded parts of Java are thinly settled regions; small, teeming Madura is next to vast unpeopled Borneo; the Andes valleys are thickly inhabited, while in the forests of Amazonia, alongside, the population density is about ten persons per square kilometer, or even less (two in adjacent formerly forested savannah areas).

According to the World Bank, less than ten percent of existing rain forests are growing on such rich soils.6 It would be fortunate indeed if we knew their location. Then deliberate deforestation, large-scale settlement, cultivation and ranching could be confined to these approximately 1.16 million square kilometers. On the remaining 90 percent of tropical forest lands, a population of no more than about ten persons per square kilometer (i.e., about 100 million in all, worldwide) can live. They can practice shifting cultivation, together with a little small-scale hunting, logging, charcoal burning, and collecting of forest products. But any greater degree of exploitation, and any conversion to other uses, would cause permanent damage and loss of productivity to these lands-the eroded hill-slopes, the alang-alang grasslands (or their local equivalent), which already occupy huge formerly forested areas in Indonesia where the poor and hopeful have tried the experiment in the past. In a word: impoverishment, local and national, will result. And this is what is being created, accidentally or through misguided policies, as deforestation proceeds in many parts of the tropics.7

The nature of soil weathering under rain forest conditions was first brought home to me sharply some 35 years ago in a gold mine in the interior of Guyana: "We descended 300 feet by lift, and on our way I noticed that weathering of the solid rock had taken place down to 60 feet below the surface in this hot and humid climate, instead of at the most 2 or 3 feet, as in England. At this depth what looked like solid feldspar crystals were soft as butter, the granite itself merely clay containing sand grains."8 Remove the tree cover, and on steep slopes heavy rain would sweep away those 60 feet of soil and perished rock in a few months, leaving gulleyed badlands.

Tropical forests are able to thrive on exceedingly poor soils because their plants have evolved ways of capturing and holding nearly all the nutrients that become available: tree roots are superficial, and sometimes actually rise above ground level to penetrate directly into fallen logs; while the fungi digesting dead leaves exchange nutrients with adjacent trees. Under rain forest conditions, as I saw in my descent down the mine shaft, silica is dissolved preferentially out of the underlying rock, and iron oxide, alumina, magnesia and other minerals accumulate-hence the bright red and yellow colors of tropical "lateritic" soils, which typically have adequate nitrogen but usually little calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. However, huge areas of tropical soils consist of almost pure silica to begin with, being the fossil sands of ancient seas; weathering leaves these white or pale colored, and very low in nitrogen.9 In either case the nutrients are mainly in living or rotting material, and not in soil humus. When the forest is felled, decay is swift and nutrients are rapidly leached away by the torrential rains-as are any fertilizers applied.

In Malaysia, under such conditions, hill rice yields fall from 100 percent in year one, to 47 percent in year three; in Zaïre, from 100 percent to 24 percent in two years. Experimentally, various attempts to achieve continuous cultivation have been tried on forest soils with different degrees of success. For example, a multiple-cropping system which never leaves the surface bare works well in Indonesia, on the comparatively rich red and yellow podzolic soils which cover about 15 percent of the country's area, and which are mostly grassland, formerly forested. But this involves heavy and skillful applications of artificial fertilizers, and can only be used where prices for the crops produced will sustain their purchase.10

In general, on poorer forest soils the best-and indeed only-suitable farming methods are those that have been evolved almost uniformly throughout the tropics by tribal peoples. Typically they clear a patch of forest, cultivate it for two or three years; then move on, fell, clear and plant another area-the system known as slash-and-burn, or shifting cultivation. This might seem destructive, but the small fields are ecologically similar to natural gaps in the forest, which remains all around to recolonize them and restore fertility to the soil.

These natural gaps form part of the development cycle of rain forest, which consists of a mosaic of three phases, each with its own distinctive characteristics and plants.11 If we are to learn how to utilize this ecosystem for our own ends, we must understand how the processes of destruction and re-creation operate in these phases.

In the Gap phase, which occurs when a tree falls, there is negative productivity as the tree decomposes. This is followed by the Building phase, during which productivity is higher, these two phases occupying about ten percent each of any given undisturbed area. Finally, the Mature phase is reached, typically occupying about 80 percent of the total area, in which productivity levels off and remains low for many years until trees die and create new gaps. This Mature phase is what most people envisage as typical rain forest; it occupies most of the area most of the time, and though lower than the Building phase in "biomass" productivity (net dry weight or volume of trunks, branches, roots, leaves, etc. produced), qualitatively it has far more species and materials, and provides the greatest environmental protection.

The overall productivity of rain forest (including all of these phases) has not been convincingly estimated for any large area, but figures as low as 3.5 and up to 28-32 tonnes per hectare per year have been found.12 In Venezuela, Peter Grubb made accurate measurements in several kinds of natural forest growing on rather poor soils, and found a total above-ground biomass productivity per year from 10.5 to more than 16 tonnes per hectare. After clearing, when fertility was greatest, manioc yielded a mere 1.8 tonnes.13 But manioc is directly usable by man, and at present much of forest biomass is not, however valuable it may ultimately prove.

When a natural gap occurs, or a slash-and-burn field is abandoned (or an area clear-felled), the first new plants of the Building phase to appear are herbs, vines, and the seedlings of trees which produce abundant light and often wind-blown seed. Efficient colonizers, these are often regarded as "weeds," and are found only in gaps or at riversides, because typically they are "light-demanders," intolerant of shade (or they would already be thriving under the forest), and very fast growing. Soon the larger species begin to push through this tangle-commonly trees of genera such as Cecropia, Ochroma ("Balsa"), Musanga, Macaranga and Trema in different parts of the tropics-in stands often of a single species. Within 7-15 years they form a pioneer forest with a closed canopy up to 12-16 meters high.

Under this canopy, shade-tolerant slower-growing species with heavier wood begin to appear, usually derived from larger seeds with abundant food reserves. Such seeds and their seedlings have a long life, but are often slowly dispersed-they may only be capable of spreading a few feet every hundred years. In about 50-80 years they consolidate to form high "second growth," perhaps 25 meters tall, containing a much larger mixture of trees with medium or heavy woods.

So long as their seedlings or seeds are present (or arrive), trees of the original Mature-phase rain forest will also begin to appear, as conditions for them become suitable, and eventually these overtop the "second growth" and form a closed canopy 40-55 meters above ground. After 150 years most of the large trees of the regrown area will be those of the Mature phase, but it may take up to 400 years before all the original components have reassembled: the smaller trees of lower layers, the shrubs, herbs, lianes and epiphytes, and the vast and varied fauna of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, mollusks, and other forms of life. The final stages of reassembly are the slowest, because as this complex society develops, fewer and fewer opportunities, or "niches," are left-and there must be Mature-phase forest close by from which they can be recolonized. To retain rain forest, therefore, we must treat it with respect, for each, area of the world has its unique constituents; once lost, they are gone forever; and even if not lost, take hundreds of years to reassemble.

Accurate analysis of these stages, and of their accompanying soil and microclimate changes, and of the roles of the different species in them, is lacking. It should enable us one day to modify this mosaic to our greater advantage, without the current destructiveness, and possibly increase the population that forest areas can carry. Often trees of the Building phase have lighter, more workable wood than those of the Mature-phase forest, and as they grow faster these are the species usually selected for growth in plantations-and sometimes described as "miracle" trees: Gmelina will grow to a size suitable for harvesting in 7-12 years; Caribbean Pine or Eucalyptus in 15-25 years; teak in 60-80 years, once. But fast growth depletes soil nutrients and moisture, and affects soil structure, and growing a second or third crop on the same site becomes agriculture, with fertilizers necessary as yields drop dramatically.14 In converting rain forest to agriculture, tree or shrub crops (such as citrus, bananas, mangoes, coffee, cacao, oil palm, rubber, etc.), tree plantations, ranching, or even the various mixtures of agriculture and forestry known as "agroforestry," we are in effect trying to isolate the Building phase and take advantage of its superior productivity; and this we cannot do sustainably on the poorer soils. And this is only to be expected, for their rain forests have evolved to utilize the natural inputs of these sites through thousands of years of optimization.

If, after felling, there is a "forest fallow" period during which the field or gap is allowed to regrow as natural forest to the Mature phase, no permanent damage is done. But where recultivation is more rapid, and the forest that returns never gets beyond the Building phase, there is immediate loss of soil nutrient status, of diversity and of environmental benefits. Nor is there any guarantee that these can be recovered. And if the frequency of clearing and cultivation is further increased, usually because of population pressure, the forest simplifies yet more, until a scrub of "weed" species or impenetrable tall grass takes over, and soil drying and degeneration are swift. Burnings hasten the process, and desert can be the end result. In Indonesia alone over 15 million hectares are covered with Imperata cylindrica grasslands, while in Java and Bali 40 million hectares are badly eroded, all as a result of deforestation. Throughout the tropics such wastelands are spreading, and they will continue to spread so long as the developmental sequences which bind together soil, landscape and plant life are ignored.


Land hunger is often proposed as a major cause of deforestation. Indeed, over half the world's population lives within the rain forest zone, in areas formerly forested (Table II), and still relies in part upon forest products, most importantly for fuelwood (half of all wood cut; four fifths of that cut in the developing world). The majority are materially very poor by Western standards, but seldom starving or destitute. The 420 million malnourished absolute poor15 live mostly in low rainfall, poor soil, scrub and semi-desert areas of Africa, Asia and South America-areas which in several instances have been forested historically.



Per Capita GNP

Country Population Annual Increase In 2000 (U.S.S)

Brazil 123,030,000 2.3% 187,494,000 1,770

Indonesia 151,891,000 2.3% 198,687,000 370

Zaïre 28,290,000 2.7% 49,982,000 210

Peru 17,780,000 2.7% 30,703,000 850

Colombia 27,520,000 2.3% 37,999,000 1,060

India 683,810,000 2.1% 960,611,000 210

Bolivia 5,600,000 2.6% 9,724,000 550

Papua New Guinea 3,080,000 2.3% 5,179,000 760

Venezuela 13,910,000 3.4% 27,207,000 3,440

Burma 36,170,000 2.2% 55,108,000 150

Total 1,091,081,000 1,562,694,000

Total World

Population 4,735,000,000 6,118,850,000

SOURCES: International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1982, Washington, 1982; United Nations, World Population Problems as Assessed in 1980, New York, 1981; World Bank, Atlas of Gross National Product, Population, and Growth Rates, Washington 1981; Norman Myers, Conversion of Tropical Moist Forests, Washington: National Academy of Sciences, 1980; John Paxton, ed., The Statesman's Yearbook, 1983-84, London: Macmillan, 1983.

Within the rain forest itself live some 696 million people,16 who are dependent upon the forest entirely for their livelihoods. They are not evenly distributed, living mostly round the edges of the main forest areas. In regions with low agricultural populations (less than one person per ten hectares of trees), such as Papua New Guinea, Central Amazonia and the Guianas, central and southern tropical Africa, and the Caribbean Community countries, the forest is least under pressure; in those where agricultural populations average more than one person per two hectares of tree area, such as tropical Asia, Central America, and the savannah fringe areas of West, Central and East Africa, the threat is greatest.

Some of these people belong to forest-dwelling tribes, but the majority are encroaching settlers, and it is commonly said that these are the chief cause of rain forest destruction. But this is not so, for between half and two-thirds of them live in already damaged "Second Growth" or logged forest, because undisturbed rain forest is seldom accessible except where it has been opened up by logging roads. Nonetheless their destructive impact is great, because they shorten the forest-fallow period, and as they advance they convert productive areas to scrub and grassland. These encroachers have a low population growth rate (1.58 percent per annum) compared with the average for their countries (2.6 percent).17 By 2000 they will have increased to some 925 million, while new settlers will raise the overall total yet further-unless government policies in several nations are reversed. If uncontrolled they will occupy half of the total forest area that exists today.

John S. Spears examined this problem and concluded that 200 million of these people (40 million families) could be permanently settled on 1.3 million square kilometers of better forest land (giving about 1.5 hectares per person) at a cost of between $5,000 to $20,000 per family, or about 50 times the average encroacher's annual cash income-his costs being based upon those of actual World Bank agricultural settlement schemes.18 The total cost of Spears' scheme is thus $200 to $800 billion, while a scheme to settle all forest encroachers by A.D. 2000 would cost $700 to $2,790 billion, or between $40 and $165 billion a year. Spears concludes that "dependent on the situation, investment of the same amount of money in improving agricultural productivity outside the forest areas may well benefit more people at lower cost."

It is here that we begin to slice deeper into the multi-layered cake of deforestation causes. For though much forest colonization is spontaneous, more often it proceeds with government encouragement, as it provides a convenient safety valve for land hunger and social discontent. Almost none of it, however, is occasioned by a genuine shortage of new land.19

In Brazil, for example, outside of Amazonia-the area drained by the River Amazon and its tributaries-there is enough good, permanently cultivable land to give 2.3 acres to each individual Brazilian, and ten acres to each family-more such land than is available in the United States. Yet as a result of government policies disadvantageous to small farmers, smallholders are selling up and moving elsewhere (in Paraná state 40 percent of the smallholders of just one municipality left in 1982).20 Fifty percent of farmers today own only three percent of farmland, while 43 percent of farmland is owned by one percent of farmers. Many of the larger holdings of de-peopled high quality farmland, which are mostly in southern Brazil, are today underused, or even unused, being held for investment by corporations and absentee landlords whose main business is elsewhere. And ironically large tracts of this farmland are now being commercially reforested. Brazil thus has a real problem of land hunger in the midst of plenty.

To meet this self-inflicted need, the rain forests of Amazonia in the north of the country were opened to colonization in the 1960s; the vast Amazonian basin, which includes some 40 percent of Brazil's national area, is mostly heavy forest, though there are some areas of relatively thin forest and savannah (prairie). The "New Frontier" was promoted in a fever of nationalist enthusiasm. "E Brasil Gigante" read the t-shirts: Amazonia must be peopled with good Brazilians, not just Indians-to whom, under Brazil's laws, most of the land belongs. Where not deliberately murdered or evicted, measles and other introduced diseases have killed up to 100 percent of the Indians contacted in this process, and time and again Indian reservations and park boundaries have been altered.21 Amazonia must be traversed by roads to provide infrastructure and facilitate settlement, but also "for easier defense against invasion," a general told me in 1972 (as if unbroken forest is not a better defense?), "and against insurgents." Highway construction was started in 1968, and funded in large part by outside agencies: the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and direct U.S. Army aid to the Brazilian Army Corps of Engineers.

Between 1966 and 1975, 11.5 million hectares of forest were cleared. Small parcels of forested land were (and still are) given free to settlers, while larger areas of 2,000 hectares or more of better land could be bought for around five dollars (today, $20 to $35) per hectare. Wave after wave of immigrants arrived, enticed by hopes of a new life on their own property.22 Most failed because of the poor soil (only two percent of Amazonia's soils are permanently cultivable), and many ended up as laborers on the ranches that mushroomed. For at such low land prices it was profitable for larger-scale investors to buy land, often in big blocks, clear-fell, sell the few trees worth the trouble of extracting, and burn the rest; then sow grass and bring in cattle, despite the fact that the land proved able to sustain only about one head per 2.5 hectares on average, and that the average life of each ranch is a mere two to seven years before it has to be abandoned due to weed growth, erosion, and loss of nutrients.23 During the ten years to 1975, peasant colonization over the whole of Amazonia cleared some two million hectares-less than half the amount of forest obliterated by ranching in one state alone in three years. Sixty percent of clearance was done by highway developers (3,075,000 hectares) and cattle ranchers (3,865,271 hectares), and only 17.6 percent by peasants. Today Amazonia still contains only four percent of Brazil's population; there is abundant cheap labor on the surviving ranches, and in retrospect the colonization scheme looks almost like a costly and destructive Machiavellian plot to procure it!

By 1976 failure was apparent in central Amazonia. Government settlement planning then focused on the seasonal forests of Rondônia, in the southwest of the region, where the old pattern is repeating itself in unabated stupidity. Colonists are given 50 hectares each, laid out in grid patterns with no regard for soil quality (much is unfarmable), availability of water, topography, or the legal rights of its Indian and Caboclo (existing forest peasant) inhabitants. By 1983, 70,000 settlers a year were arriving, and 80,000-90,000 are expected this year, lured by the offer of free land, government-guaranteed minimum prices for crops, and title-deeds-granted only after a percentage of land has been cleared of forest.24

Already, as in all other deliberately colonized parts of the Amazon Basin, immense and irreversible environmental damage has been caused, involving a vast reduction in capital resources, and of potential income. Brazil imports two thirds of its rubber, but could be self-sufficient from the forests being felled and burnt (rubbertappers earn as much as the best-paid factory workers); fish which breed in the forests when they are flooded produce more protein per hectare than cattle; and wild produce such as Brazil nuts are more valuable than the settlers' crops. Even more remarkable, Rondônia imports nearly all its fuel, including gas for cooking, while its forests, covering an area the size of West Germany, go up in smoke! Despite all the incentives and the money poured in (estimated at $12,000 per settler), no sustained output adequate to service investment in the region has arisen, and Amazonia produces only two percent of Brazil's gross domestic product.25 Yet deforestation is accelerating, exponentially and unstoppably (unless road-building ceases), at a rate that will clear Rondônia by 1990 and the whole of Amazonia by 2000.26

But why was Amazonia chosen for settlement at all, when there are almost equally huge areas of undeveloped "campo" (prairies) far better suited for colonization, ranching and agriculture? The advantages of campo over rain forest were pointed out early on by many experts, including one of the World Bank's ecologists.27 Did the forest have to be conquered out of machismo, for reasons of "conspicuous consumption"28 or consumerism gone mad, to secure votes (as when Rondonia was created a state, title deeds being "bribes"), because forest represents "backwardness" (instead of an immense asset) in the Brazilian subconscious? Or-in mountaineering terms-simply "because it was there"? All these explanations have been given, and national motivation is certainly hard for outsiders to understand. A very few investors, a few multinationals, and the highway developers made money. Brazil as a whole has lost heavily; and as a result of this and other unfortunate political and financial decisions its external debt today is the largest of any country-$94.9 billion at the end of 1983.

A similar enormous forest colonization program is now under way in Indonesia, where political pressures are even greater than in Brazil. There is a diversity of peoples and religions, and there have been a number of separatist rebellions. In overcrowded Java one percent of farmers own 35 percent of agricultural land, and their large farms are less productive than smallholdings. Half of the smallholders have less than a half-hectare of land each, and half of all rural households own no land at all.29 So millions of land-hungry but politically reliable Javanese are being "transmigrated," mainly to Sumatra, Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), Sulawesi, and West Irian. Four million are being settled in Kalimantan alone, at a cost of over $1,000 per hectare.

Despite the poverty of its soils (less than two percent are believed to be permanently cultivable), Kalimantan's forests are biologically unusually rich in species, and economically exceptionally valuable. Whereas those of Brazil have largely been burned, Kalimantan's are being sold (though correspondents report immense areas felled in advance of extraction, and left rotting). Transmigration and logging come under separate ministries; but the combined plan seems to be to clear these forests completely, using some of the logging profits to finance the Transmigration Program. Roads are laid out so as to penetrate remote areas and improve control over the indigenous inhabitants, lest they be disaffected-as well they may be, for most of the land is already owned under traditional law, largely ignored in the granting of concessions.

Concession agreements are for 20 years only, so the concessionaires, though frequently aware of the importance of conservation, have no option but to cut their lands as rapidly as possible, and no incentives to replant for someone else's benefit. Logging has been proceeding at the rate of over 800,000 hectares a year, while shifting cultivators following behind cut about 200,000 hectares of mostly previously logged and damaged or secondary forest. Extrapolating current clearing rates, there will be no trace of these forests left in 13 years.30 As a result of the denuding of the Barito and Kahayan river catchment areas, floods in 1977 and 1979 destroyed the ricefields of 10,000 farmers, while a further 10,000 people were put out of work through the loss of forests from which they obtained ironwood for shingle making.31 Visiting such areas it is hard to view without emotion the miles of devastated trees, of felled, broken and burned trunks, of branches, mud, and bark crisscrossed with tractor trails-especially when one realizes that in most cases nothing of comparable value will grow again on the area. Such sights are reminiscent of photographs of Hiroshima, and Brazil and Indonesia might be regarded as waging the equivalent of thermonuclear war upon their own territories.

Major concessionaires have included Georgia Pacific and Weyerhauser (1.5 million acres). Weyerhauser (International Timber Corporation of Indonesia) had as its local partner an Indonesian company, owned by a foundation created by President Suharto to maintain the loyalty of 73 generals, who were given money by Weyerhauser with which to buy their shares and who shared 35 percent of the profits.32 Some 80 concessionaires, including Weyerhauser, have reportedly now closed their Indonesian operations because of excessive demands made on them locally, including requirements to set up local timber-processing plants surplus to world market requirements.33 Their place is being taken by local Chinese business interests, who already control over 75 percent of Indonesia's economy, and who will now decide the fate of Indonesia's forests.34

Indonesia's Transmigration Program is larger than Brazil's, and equally destructive of capital, of the environment, and of the societies involved. Despite these facts, because Indonesia has oil wealth and her forests are highly salable, it will continue longer, largely because "Javanization" of the outer islands is desired by the central government (whatever their local inhabitants may feel). Even so, the marks of failure are apparent: foreign debts now total $26.2 billion, and are growing; and the Program, like the lesser schemes of other rain forest countries, could not exist or continue without outside funding.


If population growth and land-hunger form the top layer of the deforestation cake, and social conditions (under which suitable land is not available) form the second layer, then local political motivations and unwillingness to face realities form the third. Beneath this, the fourth layer of the cake is the ready availability of funding.

In 1976 lending to all developing countries totaled $75 billion. Since then the huge flows of money created by OPEC (rising oil prices), the printing of money (inflation), and savings have been lent by commercial banks (U.S. banks alone lent $300 billion) to governments, without adequate safeguards such as collectible collateral or the built-in supervision that characterizes ordinary lending.35 As a result, today eight countries each owe more than $20 billion (including four of the largest rain forest countries), while Brazil ($94.9 billion) and Mexico ($91 billion) each owes more than the world total of a mere seven years ago; and the current world total has risen to around $400 billion.36

The result of this enormous expansion of credit and of investment was at first unprecedented economic growth, operating smoothly within the framework of free trade provided by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. But unfortunately much of this growth has proved artificial. Instead of solving problems, it has worsened them, for reasons that lie not with the concept of aid, but with the method of lending. This is particularly apparent with the rain forest countries, which typically have non-democratic governments that are hard to change, poor or bad civil-rights records,37 low per capita gross national product (GNP), frequently few cashable national assets-and high population growth rates and sometimes high populations (as shown in Table II above). Such countries have proved peculiarly vulnerable when given large sums of money. Even though the loans and investments themselves are "paved with good intentions," a clear sequence of causes and effects has frequently and cumulatively led to most undesired consequences:

-In general, loans have been made to governments, and major investments channelled through them, instead of to individuals, banks and businesses.

-This has strengthened governments, through whom the resulting funds flow.

-This has caused planning to become centralized, bureaucracies to burgeon, and an emphasis on grandiose schemes-power stations, dams, road networks, forest colonization: a disease that might be called "infrastructuritis."

-A wealthy elite is created around the government.

-This elite has little to spend its wealth on in a poor country-except land, which passes increasingly into fewer hands, and imported consumer durables such as cars, and technology. The elite becomes isolated from the rest of the country.

-Corruption grows.

-The import of technology is often tied in with the loan or investment agreements, and the use of this technology creates a second elite of technicians, including the armed forces and those involved in development projects.

-Unemployment grows, as land tenure and traditional rights and forms of employment change.

-To service the loans, or in agreement with their terms, the focus of economic activity moves away from self-sufficiency toward exporting (in 1950 Africa as a whole was self-sufficient in food; in 1978 it imported 12 million tonnes of cereals; in 1990 it will need 45 million tonnes, one third for Nigeria).

-As this happens, widespread long-term benefits for the many are replaced by short-term benefits for the few, while wealth is increasingly transferred from the poor to the rich, the gulf between whom widens.

-Forests are regarded as potential shelter for dissidents, and are cleared for security reasons.

-Due to bad planning (often based on imported models) adequate economic returns fail to materialize.

-Loan interest and repayments fall in arrears, and have to be rescheduled to avoid default.

-Environmental destruction increases, as capital resources such as forests and minerals are cashed in, in an effort to remain solvent.

Finally, if the nation is a democracy it will have changed its government and its policies long before this sequence runs its full course. Otherwise autocracy grows and spending on the armed forces increases. In any event, poverty and discontent grow, and dissidents, in their ignorance, may turn to the Eastern bloc for help.

All of this picture may not be true all of the time, but some of it is true much of the time. Unfortunately, no successful way of changing the sequence from outside has been proved, for withholding aid commonly leads to a threat either of default, or of Eastern bloc aid replacing Western. (If this last happens-officially, or unofficially to dissidents-then civil war of one sort or another is likely to break out.) The most promising steps could be taken by the banks and the International Monetary Fund, through decisions actively to support democratic institutions wherever they exist, and to encourage their development where they do not; and to try to change the form of loaning, so as to lend only against security, and at the broadest accessible level of individuals and small-scale projects, perhaps through specially set-up development banks, leaving the large-scale projects to fund themselves in their own proper time.

This would foster the growth of wealth from below. Until this happens the social causes of rain forest destruction will continue to worsen, and internal opposition to it will be stifled. The power-hunger, fear and greed that exist under repressive military governments are often the major threats to the environment; and internal movements concerned with conservation, reforestation and social issues cannot develop so long as such autocratic regimes are supported by existing funding methods.


Rain forests are the only major asset of several poor tropical countries. How best can they use them to raise their living standards, without falling into the "development sequence" trap detailed above? The short answer is to get the full value, though how to do this may not be immediately apparent.

Ecologists describe Mature-phase rain forest as having several (often ill-defined) "strata," the most obvious being the top layer of tall trees whose crowns form a continuous canopy, usually between 40-55 meters above the ground. Protruding through this are occasionally even taller trees, called emergents; while below it are layers of smaller trees which can tolerate shade, whose crowns pack together at say 25, 15, and 6 meters. Some of these may be saplings waiting to push through to the upper layers; but most are probably true understory trees that never get any taller. A large rain forest may contain as many as 1,800-2,300 species of trees (Sarawak and Brunei)38 as against the mere 7-15 in a temperate forest; there may be as many as 400 larger kinds in a single hectare, many of them only occurring once.

Below them there is sometimes a layer of shrubs, and below that one of herbs, depending upon how much light penetrates downwards. Scrambling through and over all these layers are numerous climbing plants, sometimes hundreds of feet long; while upon the branches of the trees, and even upon their twigs and leaves, sit yet smaller plants-epiphytes and epiphylls: orchids and bromeliads, algae, mosses, liverworts, ferns, horsetails, selaginellas and lycopodiums. Animal life of every kind-multitudes of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, mollusks, worms, spiders, insects and other invertebrate creatures-live in, on and among this vegetation, and are interdependent with it, and this complexity continues below ground level. This huge concatenation of species has evolved together to take advantage of every available input of the environment, to utilize carbon dioxide and catch sunbeams and water, water vapor and minerals at a primitive level; and at increasingly sophisticated levels, by means of an elaboration of chemistry and of behavior that is unmatched anywhere else, to defend and enlarge its roles. Building-phase forest, or plantations of uniform species, have far less complexity, and in consequence less ability to use and control the environment.

It is obvious that we understand and exploit but a microscopic fraction of the potential of all these riches-the treasure trove of genetic material that is irreplaceably lost when rain forest is destroyed, for almost every area has something unique. Several million rain forest species, mainly of invertebrates, have not even been seen or described by scientists. Fewer than 200 species of edible plant are used commercially, while 16 provide 90 percent of the world's food.39 Yet over 80,000 are already known, mostly from rain forests, and none of them yet cultivated. And beside food plants and animals, the forests contain medicinal species, species with varied industrial uses, species used in making clothing, cosmetics, and for hundreds of other purposes. It will be many years, possibly centuries, before we can do justice to all this material-if it survives.40

Meanwhile, what we are selling is not the wealth of the forest, or its environmental benefits, but just timber. Only 15-20 tropical woods are of international market importance, and to extract these it is worth making roads into the forest, or even lifting out by helicopter. Even in the rare cases where we have expert foresters who can recognize in the field all 400 different kinds of large tree, at today's prices it is uneconomic to sort out any but the most valuable into end-use classes. The very plethora of varieties is an embarrassment when demand in the timber trade is for standard raw materials with which to make uniform products at the cheapest possible price. Clearly, natural rain forests are intrinsically not well suited for industrial use-for sawmilling, plywood, paper and pulp production, or making woodbased panels; trees grown in monocultural (single species) plantations are far better, being uniform in size and quality. Approximate uniformity is sometimes achieved by chipping all the trees of the forest, and compressing with adhesives to make artificial board. Mostly it is cheaper to ignore the majority, even though many are excellent woods used locally, and have potential for development and export. In a few years' time, as supplies of tropical timbers fall below demand, their monetary value will rise, and they will be harvested and processed with care; currently they are too cheap often even to leave growing when the forest is logged.

Frequently 90-98 percent of trees are left unused when an area of rain forest is logged. If exploited non-mechanically, a logged forest may appear scarcely affected, but with mechanization felling is more destructive, and tractor extraction packs and disturbs the soil so that natural regeneration is reduced. Where ten percent of the trees are extracted, around 55 percent are usually irreparably damaged, and 35 percent left standing.41 Of a total rain forest standing volume of 200-350 cubic meters of timber per hectare (up to 500 is known) only between 5-30 cubic meters are generally used in the lumber industry, three to six cubic meters for export.

In Southeast Asia extensive forests exist of trees of the family Dipterocarpaceae, which have similar wood, making these forests commercially more valuable than the generally more mixed forests of Africa or Latin America. Because Dipterocarps set seed simultaneously every few years, it is possible to fell such forests at the right time, and they will regrow little harmed. But although this is widely known, in the rush for quick cash it is ignored, and throughout the Philippines, Malaysia, and now Indonesia these forests are being substantially logged out of existence.

During the period 1950-1980 Nigeria became an importer instead of an exporter of timber, and the forests of Ghana, Thailand and several other countries were depleted to the point where they could no longer supply even local demand (today Thailand imports $44 million of wood per annum); in Central America, between 1961 and 1978, 39 percent of the forests were felled and the land converted to cattle ranching.42 In the Philippines, log exports declined after 1976 to one quarter of the previous level, after the almost complete removal of all accessible lowland forests-with resultant annual severe floods, landslides and loss of life. In Brazil, felling for fuel to stoke iron smelters, along with other activity, has reduced the remarkable and once extensive Atlantic rain forests (home of unique primates) to a few tiny patches.43 Along the forest margins of Central and East Africa an exponential decline in firewood yields is forcing the growing populations to eat uncooked food. In Nepal "landslides and catastrophic floods are becoming annual disasters."44

Starting in the 1950s, commercial logging (sponsored by the Indian government) reduced forest cover in the Himalayan foothills by 40 percent and has led to irrigation works in Uttar Pradesh being choked (six billion tonnes of topsoil are washed away each year), while in Bengal and Bangladesh thousands have died from floods, and huge areas of ricefields have been destroyed (in protest, the Chipko movement has arisen, whose members hug trees to prevent them being felled).45 And deforestation is still increasing-both in countries like the above where there is population pressure, and in sparsely peopled nations such as Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Zaïre and Gabon, in all of which large-scale logging contracts have been awarded as a part of export-oriented development programs (only in the Solomons is reforestation on a commensurate scale).


The FAO has summarized the consumption of tropical hardwoods for all uses (including fuel) during the period from 1950 to 1980, and made projections of estimated consumption in 2000, with the results shown below.




(in millions of cubic meters)

Countries 1950 1980 Increase 2000 Increase

Japan 1.5 35 2233% 48 37.1%

United States 0.8 10 1150% 20 100.0%

Europe 1.9 21 1005% 35 66.6%

Other importers 1.0 13 1200% 23 76.9%

Subtotal 5.2 79 1419% 126 59.5%

Producer countries 21.0 66 214% 185 180.0%

Total 26.2 145 453% 311 114.0%

SOURCE: FAO, "Agriculture: Towards 2000," Rome, 1980.

These figures show that during the 30 years between 1950 and 1980, consumption of tropical hardwoods rose far above the increase in living standards of the importing countries. In the industrial nations, consumption was over twice that of all the tropical producer nations combined, despite the producers' far greater populations. The reason was the cheapness of tropical timbers compared with other materials, combined with their ready availability due to the policies of the producers, which often amounted to deliberate (or at best uncontrolled) asset-stripping. Between 1980 and 2000, growth in consumption is still estimated far to exceed economic growth, though to a lesser degree.

If present trends continue, by 2000 world timber stocks per capita will have fallen from 142 cubic meters to 114 cubic meters (i.e., by 28 cubic meters) in developed countries; and from 57 cubic meters to 21 cubic meters (by 36 cubic meters) in less-developed countries. There will be severe shortages of every kind of forest product, prices will be accelerating upward, and the sources of tropical timbers will have changed as present suppliers are depleted. The prospect is shown below:



(in millions of cubic meters)

Source Region 1950 % of Exerts 1980 % of Extorts 2000 % of Exports

Africa 4.7 32% 20 60% 35 29%

Latin America 15.5 5% 32 13% 118 24%

Asia and Pacific 14.3 14% 93 70% 158 80%

Total 34.5 17% 145 47.6% 311 44.3%

SOURCE: FAO, "Agriculture Towards 2000," Rome, 1980.

Globally, the World Bank estimates that an extra 500-600 million cubic meters per annum of industrial woods will be needed in 2000, plus an extra 200-900 million cubic meters of fuel woods. They predict that by then this extra supply will only be obtainable from the remoter parts of Amazonia and Siberia, from the utilization of lower quality North American hardwoods, and from plantations of faster growing tropical trees, if they are created in time. Reforestation for industrial needs will have to be doubled, and for fuel woods increased five times, if essential needs are to be met. The cost of such a program would be between $1.5 to $2.4 billion per annum, of which the World Bank proposed to supply 25-30 percent.46 FAO projections of needs are even more pessimistic, as shown below:



(in millions of cubic meters)

Industrial Wood Fuel Wood Total

User Countries 1980 2000 1980 2000 1980 2000

Developed1 1100 1622 150 <80 1250 1702

Developing2 250 463 1000 12003 1250 1663

(1900 if


Total 1350 2085 1150 1280 2500 3365

(1980) (4065)

Major categories of industrial wood are:

1980 2000

Sawn wood 455-470 570-652

Woodbased panels 109-125 169-351

Paper (millions 180-182 357-445

of tons)

1 30% of world population in 1980.

2 70% of world population in 1980.

3 10-20% for charcoal.

NOTE: Figures include both temperate and tropical products.

SOURCE: FAO, "Agriculture: Towards 2000," Rome, 1980.

FAO concludes that: "Accepting that the figures constitute only a rough conservative estimate of investment needs, their magnitude is striking." To meet the forecast demand, they have calculated that investments of between $1,000 to $1,240 billion will be required to keep the world adequately supplied with forest products (excluding fuelwood) between now and 2000.

Between $340 and $440 billion of this total ($17 to $22 billion per annum) will be needed by the developing countries, mostly tropical. Between $2.3 and $3.8 billion per annum of this will be for expanding capital industrial plant, and $1.7 billion per annum for replacing existing plant, while $0.8 to $0.9 billion will be for logging and primary transport equipment. But by far the greater part of the sum for developing countries, $12 to $16 billion, is needed for plantations to replace wood being cut.

In the short run these would reduce pressure on rain forests, and in the longer term they could take their place as the main source of supply for industrial and fuel wood. In 1980, plantations of tropical hardwoods for use as sawwood totaled 43,490 square kilometers, and there were a further 27,180 square kilometers of softwoods for chipping and veneer, as well as 44,440 square kilometers planted to provide fuel. As a first crop of the fastest-growing species may produce up to ten times the usable volume of natural rain forest (20 cubic meters of wood per hectare per annum as against two to six cubic meters), so by 2000 these plantations in theory could produce some 230 million out of the FAO-projected total world demand of 3,365 million cubic meters of tropical timber. To satisfy all of this demand we would need to start increasing the area of plantations by 15 times immediately, to some 1,700,000 square kilometers-nearly 11 times the rain forest area currently being cleared annually. The total cost would be between $170 and $272 billion ($10 to $16 billion a year, over 17 years).

As world demand outstrips supply, forest product prices can be expected to rise steeply, until eventually they reach the cost of replacement. By 1990 there should be strong incentives to invest in fast-growing trees; while after about 2010 even plantations of slower-growing hardwoods should be attractive. Already some planting is being done in anticipation of these forthcoming shortages, the largest scale example being Daniel K. Ludwig's billion-dollar Jari scheme near the mouth of the Amazon, where it was hoped to grow Gmelina arborea and Pinus caribaea trees on very short rotations of 7-15 years.47 The notion that industrial forest plantation methods like those of the United States or Scandinavia can be transferred to the tropics has been disproved again and again, and very expensively, during the last century, and no more so than in this case. Of 15,000 square kilometers purchased, over 1,000 were planted after felling and burning the rain forest. A 500-tonnes-a-day pulp factory was constructed in Japan, and towed to the site; but the trees failed to grow as expected, and today the scheme is bankrupt, its $180 million of debts assumed by the state-controlled Banco do Brasil.

Plantations require heavy investment and skilled management, and are seldom yet commercially viable when shorn of tax advantages-while natural forests appear to be free. Plantations on the largest scale are needed, but the danger is that the magnitude of the sums required to create them will accelerate rain forest destruction-in which case the cure will be worse than the disease. If existing wastelands were reclaimed, however, and existing damaged or cleared forest replanted, adequate lands would be immediately available; and if tree planting was combined with agricultural settlement, costs and labor problems could be reduced. Such agroforestry projects are still in their infancy, but have been successful in several countries.48 At their best they follow closely the models established by tribal peoples, using agriculture and tree plantations as parts of a Building phase that leads on to Mature-phase forest, which occupies at all times a majority of the land used.


One central fact emerges from this survey: that tropical rain forests are considered disposable; that they and their products are cashed in wherever possible, or destroyed and converted for quick profits-whatever the long-term consequences. This situation has arisen historically for a number of reasons:

1. Governments and foresters are largely non-commercial in outlook: they operate their forests as a sort of charity, offering agriculture and ranching with their lands, and providing the multibillion-dollar high-profit-making timber and forest products industries with their raw materials, all at far below replacement costs. Farmers, on the other hand, operating on short rotations, know their costs and price accordingly.

2. As a result of this, the true cost of producing tropical timbers is unknown, except in a very few cases such as plantation teak. The cost of producing rain forests is even less known-they are "grown by God." The value of their environmental benefits can be gauged only by the cost of replacing them, which is enormous; while that of their contained species and materials is unguessable, because we have hardly begun to exploit them.

3. The existence of huge areas of natural rain forest for the whole of past history has meant that the available supply of tropical timbers and forest produce has always greatly exceeded the demand.

4. Because of this historical oversupply, the price of tropical trees in the forest is negligible-heavily forested land can be bought for $25 to $100 per hectare throughout the tropics. Timber prices are based mainly on felling and extraction costs, with a markup dependent on current demand. Wherever supply constraints exist, however, as with certain furniture woods, prices are consistently high.

5. Because they are relatively so cheap-whatever the consumer countries say at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), or timber trade representatives say in the press-world demand for tropical timbers has grown faster than that for any other major raw material.

6. Because of these low prices, waste is on a scale inconceivable in a world whose resources are finite and shrinking-and in some countries it has become advantageous to destroy forest, convert to agriculture or ranching for as little as three to five years, and then abandon the derelict land.

Despite wide awareness of the gravity of this situation, and of the speed and extent of tropical deforestation, no coherent plan for tackling the problem has been adopted. Partly this stems from despair at the seemingly unrealizable sums needed, and partly from the economic weakness and disunity of the rain forest nations. Between 1984 and 2000 some $700 to $2,790 billion for human settlement; another $240 to $320 billion for reforestation and industrial wood plantations; between $96 and $128 billion for industrial plant and equipment, and further unestimated sums for fuelwood plantations, would be needed: sums totaling between $1,200 and $3,500 billion over a 16-year period ($75 to $219 billion per year) at a conservative estimate.

Could we contemplate multiplying today's debt burden by anything up to six or seven times, unsecured, and without clear prospects of adequate returns? Yet without such funding, already dangerous conditions for vast landscapes and huge populations will slide further toward catastrophe; irreparable damage will be done, costs will escalate, and eventual costs will be incomparably greater.

Though both FAO and the World Bank, the two largest international organizations currently involved in reforestation and agricultural settlement, have unrivalled expertise, forestry is very much a junior partner within both organizations-undoubtedly because, both globally and hectare for hectare, the financial returns from agriculture are currently so much greater. In their development planning, agricultural uses are almost always given preference over forestry, where there is a choice between them-despite the often greater long-term benefits of forestry.

Between 1968 and 1980 the World Bank financed 32 major reforestation projects in 27 countries (not all tropical), for a total of $1,154,900. During the same period it spent very much greater sums on projects destructive of forests-roads, hydroelectric schemes, pulp mills, and much else. Since 1980 its lending for forestry has increased from 0.5 percent to six percent of its total agricultural [sic] spending, and it has proposed yet further increases, to be jointly funded by the countries receiving the loans. The bank lends at commercial rates of interest, and the economic rate of return on these 32 projects was 11-22 percent, while the cost per hectare varied from $280 in the Philippines to $3,500 in Liberia.49

Each World Bank project is a model of careful planning and implementation. Yet increasingly there are fears that the availability of its loans (and those from other sources) may actually encourage deforestation in poor countries: that they can gain in the short term twice over, first by selling their forests, and then by getting loans to reforest and repair the environmental damage-to pay for which they cut more forest; while the banks and lending countries acquire interest payments, export orders, and political and economic power. Indeed, everyone gains except the environment, which is ruined at an accelerating pace.

Clearly the sums available to FAO and the World Bank do not total more than a minuscule proportion of what is needed. And it is hard to imagine the immense funding required being made available to either organization by member governments, who are already critical of the size of their budgets and the way they are spent.

Nor do the efforts of the various conservation bodies offer much hope. Despite the financial stringencies that these organizations habitually suffer, they do outstanding work by fielding research groups to list endangered species and study their habitat requirements, and in securing the creation of national parks and forest reserves, and perhaps above all by arousing public awareness-though not much where this is most needed, in the developing countries themselves.

In 1980 the largest of these, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and its sister fundraising organization, the World Wildlife Fund, together with the United Nations Environment Program, launched the "World Conservation Strategy" in an ambitious attempt to provide guidelines for governments.50 This proposed three principal objectives: "Maintenance of essential ecological processes; preservation of genetic diversity; ensuring that the use of species and of ecosystems is sustainable" (an important goal being the preservation inviolate of ten percent of tropical rain forests). Unfortunately they spoiled the clarity of this message by an additional aim-"to deliver conservation-based development where it is most needed, notably the rural areas of developing countries." This has proved to be a piece of "double-think" in the context of actual development practices in the Third World, where, because of the competitive factor and the absence usually of a powerful local conservation lobby, good intentions are frequently overlooked where there is a profit to be made. As a result, even governments who have adopted the Strategy have in practice allowed logging within reserves, and have proved unable to protect reserves when all around is poverty, hunger, overcrowding-or greed.

If this is so today, how much more so will it be in 30 years' time, when around the parks the trees have all gone and the lands are waste? The approach of conservation therefore is but a comforting delusion, which at best buys time, and at worst distracts attention from the real issues by asserting that something is going to be saved. For parks and reserves will not be saved unless the lands around them are saved also; and this will only happen when the economic, social, educational and political circumstances causing environmental destruction are changed.

In 1983 UNCTAD concluded an ICA (International Commodity Agreement) on tropical timbers, to last for five years; though it has yet to be ratified by member governments, who include both producer and consumer countries.51 Work toward it, under the chairmanship of Japan (for which tropical timber imports rank second only after petroleum), has been proceeding since 1976.52 During this period, important work has been done in clarifying detailed aspects of the international timber trade-in categorizing the diversity of tropical trees and other forest products, and in devising information, bargaining, and enforcement procedures.

Eventually it is hoped that funds will be available to members out of a proposed Common Fund, designed to cover all commodities for which there are ICAs (cocoa, coffee, sugar, tin, rubber, wheat, olive oil, and jute). The proposed aggregate capital of this Fund is three billion dollars-one third as paid-up risk capital subscribed by members, two thirds as loans carrying interest charges; and with a further three billion dollars on call from participating governments in the same proportions, backed by the collateral of the relevant commodities. The First Account of this Common Fund is intended to provide buffering finance for members undergoing difficulties (chiefly stock spoilage); while the Second Account is intended to finance tropical timber projects, including reforestation, as well as jute, olive oil, wheat, and natural rubber producers, whose commodity is less subject to spoiling if unsold. So far the United States has withheld support; the direct capital sought has been reduced to $450 million, and $325 million has been pledged.53 In any case, the idea of this Common Fund has now been under discussion for nearly ten years. It is hardly an early possibility; and even if it existed, tropical timber interests could claim but a fraction of its available assets because of the number of competing commodities.

Although the International Tropical Timber Organization established by the 1983 UNCTAD agreement might conceivably develop one day into a "world forum" on forestry, for the present the agreement is severely limited-to cooperation in research and development in three fields: on improving management and reforestation techniques; on a monitoring system "to make the market more responsive to the needs of users"; and on increasing domestic processing by producers. The main purpose of these many years of meetings was to secure an agreement on regulating trade; that so little has been achieved is a mark of the extreme disparity of position of the producers and consumers, as is especially shown in the uncertainty of the tropical timber market, which has been cleverly manipulated by the main buyers (especially Japan) to keep prices low.


If the prospects for effective international action through existing agencies are thus extremely limited, and those for fruitful cooperation between producers and consumers virtually nil, is there some other way to meet the problems of protecting and replenishing the tropical forest environment in general, and of its gene stocks and special habitats in particular, while at the same time permitting the forest countries to earn an adequate and proper return for their products?

In my view the most constructive and workable possibility would be through the formation of an Organization of Timber-Exporting Countries. At the XI Commonwealth Forestry Conference in Trinidad in 1980, and subsequently, I have put forward the idea of such an OTEC. Since then I have received many comments, ranging from strong advocacy to hostile criticism, but all helpful in clarifying the idea.54 The name OTEC has aroused some distaste, especially in the United States and Great Britain, where it stirs negative feelings engendered by OPEC. However, OPEC did succeed in focusing world attention on the problem of renewable and non-renewable resources, and it remains the outstanding example of successful Third World cooperation. A neutral name (such as UTFN-Union of Tropical Forest Nations; or WFO-World Forest Organization) could be given to an actual organization; meanwhile "OTEC" is already widely used for discussion, so I shall continue with it now.

At an early stage UNCTAD considered cartelizing tropical timbers, and rejected the idea by consensus. Members feared that if prices were raised artificially there would be widespread development of substitute materials, and that the whole market would collapse; they assumed that a true live market relationship operates between demand and supply for tropical timbers, and that a cartel would jeopardize this; and they doubted whether cohesion of purpose could be achieved. It is worth considering these fears in detail.

Substitution. All the substitutes for tropical timbers are either other species from other countries (the various "mahoganies," etc.), or highly energy-intensive in production. For construction, steel and concrete are the main substitutes; for furniture, aluminum and plastics-and plastics are largely derived from petroleum, coal or wood, or use wood particles as a filler (as first petroleum and then coal supplies diminish, wood must become their main raw material source, and silvichemistry will replace petrochemistry). Demand for hardwoods is predicted to expand greatly, and supplies are diminishing. Therefore a large enough group of tropical forest nations should be able to exert considerable leverage on the prices and supplies of substitutes as well as on the hardwoods themselves.

Concerning tropical softwoods the position is less certain, for atmospheric pollution is reportedly killing large tracts of temperate softwood forests in the Soviet Union, Canada, Germany and Scandinavia.55 How long such dead or dying trees would remain usable if unharvested is uncertain, and during this period prices for tropical softwoods would have to remain low of necessity. But in the longer term all temperate-zone softwood producing nations would surely wish to take advantage of higher prices created by a primarily hardwood cartel, and might wish to join.

Market Forces. Mature-phase rain forest trees take 80-200 years to develop fully, and rain forests themselves 400 years or more. There can thus be no true live market relationship between the demand and supply for either; and there is a strong legitimate case for removing both of them from the unrestrained action of market forces.56 Some sort of "handicap" system is needed to place natural forests, for which no growing costs have been incurred, economically on a par with alternative uses for their land, especially when these can be shown to be of only short-term advantage-as has been abundantly demonstrated with rain forest. Such a handicap would need to be imposed artificially, through international action by means of a cartel or other structure.

It has been suggested that such action should first develop on a regional cooperative basis, through ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), OAU (Organization of African Unity), or the Amazon Treaty countries. Yet already cooperation within ASEAN has included timber marketing and pricing: nonetheless the forests of Thailand have virtually disappeared, while those of the Philippines, Malaysia (which is deforesting even more drastically than Indonesia, though with less publicity) and Indonesia are following fast. This situation will not change until the major rain forest countries of all three regions simultaneously unite in a single organization.

Lack of Cohesion. Perhaps even more significant than the sums required to solve the world's rain forest problems has been the lack of success of existing forums (such as UNCTAD, ASEAN, OAU) in getting conflicting factions to agree. A body representing both consumers and producers might concur in an ideal world, but is hard to make work in this one, where each country must be expected to pursue the course most to its advantage. But would such conflicts prevail in a purely producers' organization with a single purpose?

It has been said that because of their weak economies and lack of political will, tropical forest countries would be unable to maintain cartel prices in the face of trade retaliation, or sustain agreements on sharing costs and benefits; and that the larger forest countries within the cartel would object to cutting less than their annual hardwood increment. Much the same sort of things were said about OPEC originally. But OPEC survived because the level of benefits it produced were so enormous as to ensure adequate cohesion even in troubled times.

It would be unrealistic to suppose that governments, corporations and individuals would readily give up the "license to print money" that rain forest destruction has become, unless they could obtain greater immediate short-term financial benefits from preserving than from destroying it. A timber cartel would have to achieve these by raising timber prices substantially-at least into line with currently cheaper alternatives, viewed globally. The experience of OPEC suggests that, once prices were raised, though countries outside a timber cartel might accelerate cutting and sell at lower prices, non-cartel prices would lag only slightly behind those of the cartel.

The Reforestation Fund proposed by UNCTAD, and the reforestation projects funded by the World Bank and other agencies, small though they are compared with what is needed, all represent hidden extra payments, above market prices (and mainly out of consumer nations' taxes), for rain forests and their products. But they do not strike at the heart of the problem, which is the low market value of these forests and products compared with other land uses and substitutes (many of whose low prices depend on the cheapness of their forest-derived ingredients). The object of an OTEC would be to redress this imbalance openly by increasing massively the asset worth of tropical forests and of the countries in which they occur, and to realize this enhanced value commercially.

This could be achieved by various forms of taxation, such as a Reforestation Tax,57 or an Export Tax coupled with an Environmental Degradation Tax,58 depending upon each country's internal circumstances and trade agreements. A scheme which preserves the operation of market forces more flexibly than taxation is that of Herman E. Daly.59 With this, "Depletion Quotas" of a resource (in this case giving the right to fell a particular volume or area of timber, whether publicly or privately owned or under concession) are auctioned by governments. Reserve prices can be calculated and set which leave an incentive to buy, and can be raised progressively as the market adjusts upwards. So long as the reserve is not set too close to the market equilibrium point (at which there is no incentive to buy), the government thus captures what economists call the "Price Scarcity Rent" of the resource. Psychologically also, the purchaser of a quota knows what he is buying, whereas the payer of a tax does not.

Requirements of an OTEC would include commitments:

1. To reduce the exploitation of forest lands (especially natural forest) by means of legislation.

2. To increase the price of forest products by means of taxes, or by setting a reserve price on each harvesting quota auctioned.

3. To use the extra revenues thus created in agreed ways, and to pay a portion of these revenues into a common fund, whose main function would be to provide buffering or other finance when needed by members, and which could be used also to exert leverage on members not meeting their obligations.

4. To coordinate these actions in harmony with other members.

5. To agree on a timetable for the above.

Ten countries (Table I) contain 75 percent of all tropical forests; and a somewhat different ten countries export 92 percent by value of all tropical forest produce. Combining these two lists, we find that 17 countries represent over 92 percent of the world export trade in tropical timbers by value, over 92 percent by volume, and over 90 percent of the remaining tropical forests by area. If the decision-makers of these 17 countries could be persuaded to cooperate, an effective OTEC could certainly be created. These countries are (in alphabetical order): Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Cameroon, Colombia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Venezuela, and Zaïre. (For comparison, OPEC consists of 13 nations, of which Gabon, Indonesia and Venezuela are in this list.)

Just what export (and local) price increases should be sought would of course depend on the market situation and the current comparative prices of substitutes for tropical woods. The object should be to generate increased income for the producing countries, to reduce waste and regulate production levels, and at the same time to avoid price levels that would upset the world economy or lead to massive and uneconomic efforts to develop substitutes. And the surplus over present income should be used by the producing countries, at least in part, for systematic reforestation and conservation measures.

For illustrative purposes, as OTEC got under way, export price increases achieved by it could generate revenue surpluses as follows: for member countries a 50-percent increase would generate a surplus of approximately $2.7 billion per annum, with an inflationary push of 0.13 percent on world export prices, and a push of 0.03 percent on world GNP; a 300-percent increase would generate a revenue increase of some $16.3 billion per annum, with an inflationary push to world export prices of 0.8 percent, and a push to world GNP of 0.16 percent (excluding possible multiplier effects in both cases). If a 300-percent increase was accompanied by a 25-percent reduction in harvesting by volume, the surplus export revenue derived would drop to $12.2 billion per annum for member countries; while if the reduction was by area, and waste was diminished substantially, there need be no loss of revenue.

But could the market support such price increases? And would the public tolerate them? Outside the tropical forest countries there would be many beneficiaries from an increased asset value of forests and timber stocks, including non-tropical countries like the United States, which produces both hardwoods and softwoods in great quantity. Timber companies would benefit, so long as the price increases were firmly maintained; because of the multitude of ways in which timber is used, the added costs would be spread more widely and thinly than were oil price rises, and might in part be absorbed. Based upon forecasts of timber consumption (Table III), initially Japan would bear 38 percent of such price rises; Europe, 27 percent; the United States, 16 percent; and all other importers combined, 19 percent-considering export price rises alone. Japan might therefore be expected to oppose an OTEC most strongly, and as it is the main importer of Indonesian oil and of Indonesian timber (90 percent of plywoods used in the United States come from Japan and are made from mainly Indonesian and Malaysian Dipterocarp woods), Japan, if it so wished, would be in a position to exert pressure upon Indonesia not to join. Yet there is no doubt about Japan's genuine concern at the depletion of tropical forests, as is shown by its offer of $100 million through ASEAN for the setting up of a regional forest research center.

Bearing all considerations in mind, the price rises mentioned are small compared with those achieved by OPEC (some 900 percent over nine years)-in the case of OPEC it was the very magnitude of its increases that ensured cohesion and success. OPEC's huge cash surpluses accrued to relatively few nations, mostly with low populations. The tropical forest countries are more numerous, with far greater populations in aggregate, and the resulting benefits would be widespread. As their economies expanded, the percentage of the price rises borne by the developed nations would fall dramatically, as can be seen from Table III, until eventually 60 percent of these revenues would derive from the producer nations themselves. Surely the extra initial costs would be a small price to pay if the surpluses generated were used to solve the current human and economic troubles of these nations, and avert the yet greater and more costly environmental and human problems that today seem inexorably approaching.

Even though the figures mentioned refer only to export prices, and to the first steps in getting tropical forest destruction under control, they greatly exceed all sums at present available through existing organizations. And they would increase as local price rises joined those of exports. As prices rise, we can anticipate that fuller utilization of tropical trees will be made-indeed, theoretically, if waste is eliminated, the area logged can be reduced by 50-90 percent with no loss in volume output. And other similar contractions of scale throughout this toppling edifice of causes and effects can be anticipated, which will rapidly reduce the magnitude, complexity and costliness of rain forest problems to manageable proportions-once revaluation is applied. For while money appears the immediate issue, lack of it has not produced these problems. The deepest layer of the cake is what Oscar Wilde would have called Cynicism-knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. When price and value are not identical, the world loses shape.

The responsibilities of an OTEC would be far greater than those of a conventional cartel. Besides obligations to maintain and enhance the financial value of a major national asset of each member state, and to secure adequate returns from it, it should concern itself with ensuring that member states protect the forest environment in general and gene stocks and special habitats in particular, create plantations to supply industrial and fuel wood, benefit indigenous tribal forest peoples, settle encroachers, and much else. Such tasks are those of governments-indeed of government at its best. But each nation has its own customs and problems, each government its own laws and procedures. A cartel structure, cartel goals, and cartel methods are too simple to take all these into account. What is needed is a Treaty Organization, and initially there would have to be a secretariat to establish a series of agreements (declarations of intent) with individual governments, and coordinate their efforts until the actual OTEC Treaty was signed.

Although OTEC would be self-financing through membership dues, its start would have to be funded, and the availability of outside buffering finance for member countries during its early years might make the difference between its success and failure. And here a crucial point should be noted. There is not much public sympathy for artificially raising prices in the case of a commodity such as tin, silver, or cocoa; but there is grave public concern at the plight of tropical forests, and an organization designed to conserve them through a justifiable revaluation might therefore be supported without criticism by the World Bank, UNCTAD (a more effective use of their reforestation funds?) or other agencies.


The details of such an organization are of course subject to substantial adjustment in the light of national circumstances and many other factors. My point is that, unless coordinated action of this sort is undertaken, the tropical rain forests of the world are doomed, through the uncontrolled operation of the forces described in this article. Their loss will be a calamity for the world as a whole-and of a magnitude and diversity that we are only now beginning to gauge.

To many, the solution I propose will not seem ideal. But clearly it would be in the national interests of the rain forest countries themselves, and in the medium and longer terms equally clearly it will be in the interest of the consuming countries and of the world as a whole. We have only a few years in which to set in motion such an organization. It should be urgently considered by all the countries concerned.

1 "Forest Resources of Tropical Africa"; "Forest Resources of Tropical Asia"; "Los Recursos Forestales de la America Tropical"; Tropical Forest Resources Assessment Project, Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, 1981.

2 Jean-Paul Lanly, "Tropical Forest Resources," FAO Forestry Paper 30, Rome: FAO, 1982.

3 Gerald O. Barney, Ed., The Global 2000 Report to the President: Entering the 21st Century, Vol. 1, London: Penguin Books, 1982, p. 384.

6 John S. Spears, "Small Farmers-Or the Tropical Forest Ecosystem?", paper presented at International Forestry Symposium, Yale, 1980.

7 Robert J. A. Goodland, Amazon Jungle: Green Hell to Red Desert, Oxford: Elsevier Press, 1975.

8 Nicholas Guppy, A Young Man's Journey, London: John Murray & Co., 1973, p. 167.

9 Peter Grubb, lecture to the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 1983; John Proctor, "Mineral Nutrients in Tropical Forests," Progress in Physical Geography, Volume 7, No. 3, 1983; E.C.J. Mohr, F.A. van Baren, and J. van Schuylenborgh, Tropical Soils: A Comprehensive Study of their Genesis, The Hague, Paris, Djakarta: Mouton-Ichtiar Baru-Van Hoeve, 1972.

10 Gordon R. Conway, Ibrahim Manwan and David S. McCauley, "The Development of Marginal Land in the Tropics," Nature, Vol. 304, August 4, 1983, p. 392.

11 T.C. Whitmore, Tropical Rain Forests of the Far East, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975; new edition 1984.

13 Peter Grubb, op. cit.

14 E.D. Chijioke, "Impact on Soils of Fast Growing Species in Lowland Humid Tropics," Technical Paper (Forestry), No. 21, Rome: FAO, 1980.

15 "Agriculture Towards 2000," Rome: FAO, 1979.

17 Lanly, op. cit.

20 Adrian Cowell, "The Decade of Destruction," Central Television, Manchester (U.K.), 1983.

22 George Martine, "Recent Colonisation Experiences in Brazil: Expectations Versus Reality," in Land, People and Planning in Contemporary Amazonia, ed. F. Barbira-Scazzocchio, Cambridge (U.K.), 1980; Samuel Benchimol, "Population Changes in the Brazilian Amazon," contribution to Change in the Amazon Basin, symposium of the 44th International Congress of Americanists, Manchester (U.K.), 1982; Davis, op. cit.

23 Harald Sioli, "The Effects of Deforestation in Amazonia," contribution to Change in the Amazon Basin, op. cit.; Stephen G. Buner, "Forces of Destruction in Amazonia," Environment, Vol. 22, No. 7, September 1980, p. 39.

24 Adrian Cowell, op. cit. footnote 20.

25 Robert Skillings, "Economic Development of the Amazon-Opportunities and Constraints," contribution to Change in the Amazon Basin, op. cit.

27 Goodland, op. cit.

28 Thorstein Veblen, "Theory of the Leisured Class," 1899.

29 Plumwood and Routley, loc. cit. footnote 19.

30 Alan Grainger, Rain forest monitoring, Oxford University, personal communication.

31 George Y. Adicondro, "The Jungles are Awakening," Kogai, No. 22, p. 61, Tokyo, 1979, quoted in Plumwood and Routley, loc. cit. footnote 19.

32 Rachel Grossman and Lenny Siegel, "Weyerhauser in Indonesia," Pacific Research, Vol. 9, No. 7, 1977, p. 5, quoted in Plumwood & Routley, op. cit.

33 Personal communications, 1983.

34 There have been reports of timber royalties being diverted away from tribal landowners, and of other examples of corruption. Over $40 million (in the Sumitomo Bank, Singapore) is currently being claimed by the former employers of Hadji Achmad Thahir, an Indonesian official; and his widow has given "names at the very top of the Suharto Government whom she said were parties to the illegal payments . . . in support of her case that bribery is part of the system in Indonesia and that there was nothing untoward in her husband's dealings." See David Watts, "Indonesian Oil Bribes Case held in Camera," The Times, London, September 20, 1983.

35 See, for example, Anthony Sampson, The Money Lenders-Bankers in a Dangerous World, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1981.

37 See Charles Humana, World Human Rights Guide, London: Hutchinson, 1983.

38 Whitmore, op. cit. footnote 11.

39 S.G. Harrison, G.B. Masefield, and Michael Wallis, The Oxford Book of Food Plants, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

43 John Hatton, University College, London-personal communication, May 1983.

44 Barney, op. cit. footnote 3, p. 321.

45 S.K. Chauhan, "Tree Huggers Save Forests," Development Forum, Volume 6, No. 8, 1978, p. 6.

46 John S. Spears, "The World Bank's Forestry Lending Program," Geneva: U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, 1980.

48 J. Dubois, "Aspects of Agroforestry Systems used in Mayombe and Lower Congo (Zaïre)," and other papers in Workshop Agro-Forestry Systems in Latin America, Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza, Costa Rica, 1979; International Labour Office, "Appropriate Technology in Philippine Forestry," Geneva, 1977.

49 John S. Spears, "Overcoming Constraints to Increased Investment in Forestry," paper presented at Eleventh Commonwealth Forestry Conference, Trinidad, 1980; John S. Spears, "The World Bank's Forestry Lending Program," loc. cit.

50 IUCN, "World Conservation Strategy," Gland, 1980.

51 UNCTAD, "International Tropical Timber Agreement, 1983," TD/Timber/11, Geneva: United Nations, 1983.

52 UNCTAD, "Preparatory Meetings on Tropical Timber," TD/Timber Series, Geneva: United Nations, 1976-1983.

53 Personal communications with UNCTAD and UN staff.

55 Boris Komarov, The Destruction of Nature in the Soviet Union, London: Pluto Press, 1978; Brian Jackman, "Ten Billion Dying Trees," The Sunday Times, London, April 4, 1983.

56 Fast-growing Building phase trees are irrelevant in this discussion, as growing them is a form of agriculture; so are FAO or other official figures of "production" from tropical forests-for they actually refer to harvesting, and from a shrinking supply base (which, against an ascending demand curve, is a classic formula for disaster).

57 Spears, paper cited in footnote 49.

58 Guppy, final article cited in footnote 54.



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  • Nicholas Guppy, now living outside Cambridge, England, has been a close student of tropical rain forests for more than 35 years, with extensive early travels especially in British Guinea and the areas north of the Amazon. He was a research assistant of the New York Botanical Garden for two years; advised Daniel K. Ludwig upon his Venezuelan property, and Life magazine upon "The World We Live In"; edited the Macdonald Nature Encyclopedia with Sir Julian Huxley; and was then head of Granada Television's Natural History Film Unit.
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