Term Paper: Globalization of Madagascar Deforestation

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Globalization Madagascar

Deforestation is having a devastating effect on Madagascar, which has one of the world's most biologically rich and diverse ecosystems (Harper, Steininger, Tucker, Juhnand Hawkins). The reason for Madagascar's uniqueness is that it has "been in approximately the same position for around 120 million years," evolving a distinct flora and fauna from Africa or India, both of which used to share land barriers with the country (Sussman, Green, and Sussman 333). Defined as "the degradation of entire forest ecosystems involving wildlife species, gene pools, climate and biomass stocks," deforestation is a direct result of globalization because globalization entails access to natural resources regardless of geo-political boundaries ("Deforestation of Madagascar"). The commodification of natural resources without any restriction or limitation leads to long-term devastating effects, as can be witnessed in Madagascar. Between the 1950s and 2000, an estimated 40% of all of the country's forest cover had been decimated (Harper et al.). An almost total (80%) reduction in "core forest," that is forest located more than one kilometer from the edge, has been destroyed (Harper, et al.). The corporate interests that drive deforestation, and the local governments that allow their lands to be exploited, are potentially causing the extinction of thousands of species in Madagascar. More than 90% of Madagascar's unique and endemic species live in its forests, making it critical to pay attention to them and reverse the impact of globalization (Harper, et al.). Madagascar has been called one of the world's highest priority areas for intervention with regards to reversing deforestation, because of the importance of its species biodiversity and ecological integrity (Harper et al.).

Political and social issues are adversely impacting Madagascar's environment and forests. Recent government instabilities, including a 2009 coup, has rendered protected areas and national parks insecure. As a result of weakened government and poor infrastructure, exploitation and deforestation can happen at a rapid pace. There are both domestic and global issues at play regarding deforestation in Madagascar. Globalization is in fact the key to understanding the phenomenon now, just as colonization was the key to understanding the issue prior to the country's independence in 1940. The primary cause for the acceleration of deforestation "rests in Madagascar's colonial period," ("Deforestation in Madagascar: A political crisis and the lingering effects of colonialism"). Three-quarters of Madagascar's primary forest was cleared during the colonial era, which boasted a near complete lack of regulation on resource exploitation and business enterprise ("Deforestation in Madagascar: A political crisis and the lingering effects of colonialism").

China is currently a primary consumer of Madagascar natural resources, such as "scarce species of rosewood trees," ("Deforestation in Madagascar: A political crisis and the lingering effects of colonialism"). The practice has been steadily increasing, as "Malagasy timber barons are illegally cutting down scarce species of rosewood trees in poorly protected national parks and exporting most of this valuable timber to China.," ("Deforestation in Madagascar: A political crisis and the lingering effects of colonialism").

As Butler points out, deforestation is already having a devastating effect on the daily lives of Malagasy people. This is because the rainforests are critical for maintaining gland integrity. "The forest acts as a sort of sponge, soaking up rainfall brought by tropical storms while anchoring soils and releasing water at regular intervals," (Butler). Deforestation is a primary cause of flooding because the forest is no longer there to soak up excess water. The reverse is also true, as deforestation can cause the dry seasons to become even drier.

Deforestation is clearly a facet of globalization, starting with colonial era and continuing steadily since then, culminating in current exploitation on the part of unethical buyers like China. If current trends in land use continue, the people of Madagascar will suffer dire consequences. Their country could come to resemble Haiti, with its serious land use issues causing devastating effects in terms of erosion and lack of arable land. Deforestation causes localized and possibly global climate change, as "When the forests are cut down, less moisture is evapotranspired into the atmosphere resulting in the formation of fewer rain clouds," (Butler). The impacts on population migration are significant, as local villages could be wiped out due to either drought or flooding, creating burdens to other already populated areas. Fifty years from now, Madagascar might be unrecognizable if current deforestation trends continue.

Poverty and rapid population growth are factors directly linked with both the problems of deforestation and globalization. Income in Madagascar has dropped steadily over the past several years, while population has steadily increased (Sussman, Green and Sussman). As Sussman, Green, and Sussman point out, "widespread poverty, increasing population, and the absence of resources and techniques to improve the productivity of agricultural and pasture lands have led to massive deforestation" (334). As population increases, so too does demand for food and arable land, leading to the chopping down of primary rainforest for use in agriculture (Sussman, Green, and Sussman). This phenomenon is especially true in Eastern Madagascar, where "small-scale shifting agriculture" is responsible for deforestation even more so than logging (Sussman, Green, and Sussman 334). Butler adds that fire practices and agricultural mismanagement is also to blame. Currently, large swathes of Madagascar are described as a "red, treeless desert" due to "generations of forest clearing with fire," which is unrelated to commercial logging (Butler). Kull, on the other hand, claims that fire has been "unnecessarily demonized" and that it has been the "principle tool of landscape change and pasture maintenance," (423). The red lands of Madagascar are endemic, natural, and not related to deforestation as Kull suggests. However, no rosy picture can be painted of the island nation. Even if red desert lands are natural parts of the Madagascar ecosystem, it is without a doubt that globalization has caused rampant, rapid, and potentially irreversible deforestation. It is also without a doubt that deforestation that is due to globalization has caused humanitarian problems and will continue to do so.

Therefore, a multifaceted approach is necessary to mitigate the impact of globalization on Madagascar. The multifaceted approach includes the education of the Malagasy people with regards to land use and more importantly, policy that ensures food security will be the most important factors to ensure the future of the country's people and ecosystem. Kull, however, warns that the Malagasy people not be blamed for deforestation. Indeed, poverty is not the most important issue at stake with regards to the impact of globalization on deforestation in Madagascar. It is the global corporate interests and their lack of fetters on business practices in Madagascar (due to a corrupt and unstable government) that is causing the problem. The local people do need to understand the extent of the problem, and do whatever is possible to mitigate the ill effects of poor decisions made on their behalf by a corrupt government. Empowerment of the Malagasy people is the key, but such political empowerment is at the moment a pipe dream given the instability of the government and the fact that most Malagasy people are poor and under-educated. Education leads to empowerment, which can lead to more community-driven initiatives that are designed to protect the local ecosystem and its people. Therefore, education goes hand in hand with political empowerment.

Another important solution is to diversify the economy of Madagascar. Relying solely on rare resources like the rosewood the Chinese are coveting, or mining, is creating more problems than it is solving. Ordinary Malagasy people are not reaping the rewards of the financial relationships the government is forming with outside parties like the Chinese. Therefore, the Malagasy people need to come up with alternative means of developing their economies that do not impact the local ecosystem. Ecotourism is one method, but so are other service-oriented businesses ranging from information technologies to banking.

In addition to the education of the Malagasy people, there… [END OF PREVIEW]

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