Thesis: Environmental Crime

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Environmental Crime

Economic globalization and the demanding competition it often creates in economies that were previously mostly local can potentially have devastating environmental effects. Additionally, it is also not uncommon to see these new globalized economies in places where resources are abundant, places where the last vestiges of resources exist that have not yet been depleted by human use or urban sprawl. Yet, economic globalization has the potential to change that, as individuals and groups seek to sell off or use resources to compete on a scale never before seen in their area. Because, according to the laws of supply and demand raw materials are rewarded less than finished goods, and many of these places are rich in raw goods, and land which is used to expand agricultural and/or mining pursuits at the whim of the global market. What then ensues is often deforestation, pollution and a whole ensuing environmental degradation. The environmental challenge of deforestation is not a new phenomenon, though it has significantly increased in speed and intensity over the last half a century. (Williams, 2001, p. 30) Deforestation is a foundational environmental problem, which can depending on its severity bring many more environmental problems in its wake. The natural resource of trees has consistently been associated with the progress of the human race, as the wood provides a resource that is diverse and almost entirely free of waste, to help humans develop, build houses, plant crops, make paper and so forth. The problem then becomes how to balance the amount of wood and/or land needed with the degradation created by removing it. In the name of human progress and greed for example, the forests of Central and South America are being completely destroyed and in so doing causing countless other environmental problems. (Williams, 2001, p. 30)

These are the harsh facts: the tropical forests are being leveled for commercial purposes at the rate of 150,000 square kilometers a year, an area the size of England and Wales combined. At this rate, the world's tropical forests could be entirely destroyed within seventy-three years. Already as much as a fifth or a quarter of the huge Amazon forest, which constitutes a third of the world's total rain forest, has been cut, and the rate of destruction is accelerating. (Skinner, 1985, p.25)

In Central and South America there are examples of rainforests that have sustained entire diverse ecosystems, filtering water, providing oxygen to other living things, sheltering diverse flora and fauna and providing a shelter for the soil, from heat and rain for millions of years. Without the trees as cover the climate change can be intense, as the soil washes into streams, rivers and then the ocean, changing the pattern of natural filtration, the sun beats down on newly uncovered plants and soil and leaves many animals with little or no shelter from the elements and likely little to eat. The economic market dictates how much instant return an individual or group can gain from clearing land, which only rarely has the ability to recover, without much more costly intervention. When trees are cut down in a sustainable manner or when undergrowth is burned by fire in a regenerative manner the system can recover, and in fact usually does rather quickly, but when extreme deforestation occurs, by the slash and burn plan the system cannot adequately absorb the changes. "The scale of such operations is a far cry from the traditional slash-and-burn practiced by native jungle groups, which is done on a scale small enough so that the forest can successfully reclaim the farmed areas." (Skinner, 1985, p.25)

The tactics being utilized to clear forests, to claim lumber and clear land for beef production, mining, large scale agriculture is usually an additional burden on the ecosystem which can cause additional damage and often involves toxic chemicals that render the land sterile, leading to extreme and instantaneous soil degradation, water pollution and clear contamination that renders native plants completely helpless and the soil incapable of being regenerated by sustainable planting. (Skinner, 1985, p.25) in such places where economic globalization create progress and economic growth people live longer and healthier lives, which would normally be a good thing, but is a mark of overpopulation, which further stresses the global environment of necessary resources. Regional environments can often not sustain the level of population growth that is occurring, and so the population spreads to met new demands, further taxing the environment. This can be a problem in developing nations as well as more developed nations as in developing nations

Williams discusses the fact that another environmental problem, overpopulation is the biggest source of concern, as it is the increased numbers of people, resulting from a healthy trend and a temperate climate, can not be sustained by the regional environment and all those seeking to sustain larger families, through traditional means are likely to fail, which will result in a humanitarian catastrophe already hinted at by sociologists. One issue that furthers deforestation, and its wake is overpopulation creating urban and unsustainable rural sprawl, and in developed nations this means fuel, often wood, while in urban areas it means more fossil fuels. (Williams, 2001, p. 30) Water pollution, soil depletion and other issues are all tied in to this phenomena as is global mining and drilling for elements and fossil fuels. Another issue associated with deforestation and water pollution is mining, which is very active in the Amazon basin and accounts for one more example of human progress taking place without real practical concern for the environment. (Andersen, Granger, Reis, Weinhold & Wunder, 2002, p. 85)

Mitigating these concerns is a human problem, not just a problem that should be left to developing nations to solve. Corporate social responsibility, as well as regional education, with regard to the problems associated with stripping the earth's resources, in the name of a global economy is essential. Rapid prevention is really the only possible way to change the situation, as current practices are so extreme that recovery is rarely possible and whole ecosystems and possibly the entire world are being openly destroyed to allow a growing population to survive today, which may make it impossible for their children and grandchildren to survive in the future. Laws are in place in some areas, such as where there is a legal sanction of removal for squatting and cutting down trees or for poaching but often the laws are sanctions, after the fact rather than prevention methods before it. This is why prevention education and coalitions are the only real sustainable method for containment of the problems.

Works Cited

Andersen, Lykke E., et al. The Dynamics of Deforestation and Economic Growth in the Brazilian Amazon. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Skinner, Joseph K. "Big Mac and the Tropical Forests." Monthly Review Dec. 1985: 25.

Williams, Michael. "The History of Deforestation." History Today July 2001: 30.

Genetic modification of food organisms takes place for a number of reasons, the most common of which is to develop a food source that is resilient to issues of production and distribution, that can then be grown in large quantities. The ability to grow large quantities of filling food is the answer, in some cases to international poverty and hunger, as well as a way to reduce the use of resources or pollutants to grow food. Yet the reasons for genetic modification of food organisms can also and often do take the shape of agricultural growth for profit, as those who dominate the financial incentive for expanded food growth are less likely to be the altruistic non-governmental organizations who wish to feed the world, but the corporate seed or agricultural distributor/grower who wishes to corner and expand their market and therefore their profit.

The strongest winds directing their policy are the obvious ones: profit, supply, demand and legislation. In some countries, this does not create any particular problem as far as GM is concerned. The U.S.A. And Canada have a plentiful supply of GM crops, no widespread public opposition to them, and no requirement for labels to specify GM ingredients. Consequently, GM food retail has been both profitable and unproblematic. Opposition to GM has been marginal and ineffective, emerging too late, after GM produce was already widespread. Thus, despite their general show of sensitivity to consumer opinion, and their extensive statements on matters of public concern, the web pages of the big U.S. And Canadian supermarkets do not usually carry policy statements on GM. (Cook 62)

Some examples of GM would be modifying a plant to be resistant to one of its common predators, or to grow in soil or a climate could not previously support it. This might be done for the purpose of making so less or no pesticides and herbicides need to be used to grow it, or simply so it can be grown and distributed more easily in a profitable manner. The purpose is then twofold, to reduce the possible degradation to the earth that is caused by pesticide and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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