DEFORESTATION: WHY DO WE CARE?
All species on the planet have a right to exist, and we as humans should not decide what lives take priority. Yet we do it anyways, not realizing the implications these losses cause not only on other species, but on the human population as well. The cycle of extinction, especially of major megafauna begins with the larger animals and cascades down onto smaller species of animals, plants, and other organisms. We as humans depend on some of these smaller species as well as the larger umbrella species. This loss of species, the loss of habitat and the following loss of biota cause a feedback loop, when the species we rely on no longer exist.
If humans are indeed the only species that have a right to exist and all other species are at our dispense, then it is especially important to note that indigenous tribes and peoples throughout the world and Indonesia rely on these larger megafauna such as the Asian elephant for transportation, movement, and food. Consequently, the deforestation of Indonesia and the loss of the elephants could ultimately mean the demise of the indigenous tribes themselves.
Indonesia has 48 million hectares of primary forest. Between 1990 and 2005 approximately 28 million hectares were deforested. Reasons for deforestation included overexploiting the natural resources for human consumption, the slash and burn agriculture, and other agriculture as well for cash crops, and the expansion of Indonesia and it's people.
Overexploitation is another problem associated with the extinction of many of these megafauna. Within the forests themselves, ecotourism is one of Indonesia's main sources of income, but also results in the loss of many of these species, as ecotourism, while good in idea, is dangerous to the fragile forests and their inhabitants. Indigenous tribes also contribute to the problems associated with overexploitation, although not as dramatically as the problems associated with commercial exploitation. Indigenous tribes often overexploit for subsistence, and cannot recover as much as they take. Other recreational activities such as hunting also contribute to the problems associated with overexploitation. Finally, overexploitation for human use and consumption is possibly the easiest to avoid. The demand for exotic products, the rarity of the item increases price and helps drive the cycle of overexploitation.
Many of the products that humans rely on come from different plant species. Medicine and other pharmaceuticals are one example. In 1991, 25% of all pharmaceutical products were derived from tropical plants. With these plants being destroyed, many of our medicinal needs are also being hampered, as synthetic products of certain medications have not, cannot, or are too costly to reproduce.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
It is important to realize that many of these actions we take can be avoided. There are many ways to achieve the results we seek without damaging other things, the only problem is that convenience, and having what we want when we want it has become an expectation of the human race. But we need to think long and hard about what consequences may come of our greed, and hasty decisions, even to the human race itself. There are some things you can do:
1. Retain and restore habitat remnants within a cultivated landscape.
2. Avoid specialization of areas such as cash crops.
3. Intercrop and multiple crop species, create a variety of habitats.
4. Increase productivity of cultivated landscapes.
5. Buy local or in season.
6. Consider long term land effects, utilize effective planning methods of landscapes.
7. Refrain from purchasing items labeled as "exotic," or those that have come from the overexploitation of animals for human consumption.
GENERAL BACKGROUND ON INDONESIA'S SUSCEPTIBILITY
DISTRIBUTIONS OF THE MEGAFAUNA: 1900 VS 2001
STOP THE MADNESS
GEOGRAPHY 361 HOMEPAGE
"Only when the rivers run dry, the trees are all gone and the animals are all dead will humans realize that we can't eat money..." Unknown.