Global Crisis as Rainforest Loss Soars
New Thinking Needed on Rainforest Conservation
Amazon rainforest loss increased some six percent in 2004 to near record levels – as ranchers, soybean farmers and loggers burned and cut down a near-record area of 10,088 square miles of ancient rainforest ecosystems. Rainforest deforestation and diminishment is spiraling out of control wherever the World's last ecologically and evolutionarily rich rainforests are found – and particularly in the world's last large rainforest wildernesses found in Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo and Papua New Guinea.
New thinking is desperately needed on rainforest conservation. I concur with the assessment by the Rainforest Foundation (below) that “international discussions about forest destruction have achieved virtually nothing in the last 13 years.” It is becoming abundantly clear that the forces of destruction marshaled against rainforests – loggers, agriculturalists, oil and mining – will not be defeated through status quo policy responses. The World Bank funds soya production, and along with WWF sponsors efforts to reform commercial logging. These approaches have failed and made rainforest loss worse – largely because they have not understood that empowering indigenous peoples is the best way to meaningfully ensure rainforests are sustained.
The only way that large and contiguous rainforests will continue driving Planetary ecological functions into the next century is to pay their inhabitants to protect their habitats while maintaining their rights to low impact traditional uses. Forests.org has long advocated such an approach, and now no other than the Papua New Guinea delegation to the current climate talks has suggested that developing nations should be paid to preserve tropical rainforests, in order to both slow deforestation and global warming.
Rainforest protection payments would offset foregone opportunity costs of NOT industrially harvesting their rainforest assets. At least 20% of carbon released into the atmosphere is as a result of land clearance – much of it ancient rainforests liquidated for a pittance of their true value, and at great cost to global ecological sustainability. Rapidly escalating carbon trading must urgently implement measures to include protection of intact rainforests – and the foregone release of relatively stable carbon stores – as being eligible for carbon offset payments. This can not wait – as the rainforests and global climate, as well as the well-being of rainforest dwellers and all the world's peoples – are at stake.
Title: New figures show devastation of the Amazon rainforest, as United Nations meet to
discuss global deforestation
Source: Rainforest Foundation Press Release
Date: May 19, 2005
For immediate release
The rampant destruction of the Amazon rainforests revealed today by the Brazilian government is an alarming wake-up call for the governments meeting this week in New York for the UN Forum on Forests . Record levels of Brazilian deforestation — 26,000 square kilometres of forest in the 12 months prior to August 2004 — is the strongest indicator yet that international discussions about forest destruction have achieved virtually nothing in the last 13 years, according to the Rainforest Foundation UK .
“Some of the agencies that have been entrusted by the international community to safeguard the rainforests have instead been contributing to their destruction,” said Rainforest Foundation UK director Simon Counsell. He cited the World Bank's role in promoting and funding the expansion of the soya industry in Brazil as a factor in deforestation there.
Rainforest Foundation trustee, Prof. Sir Ghillean Prance  dismissed claims that logging, mining and farming in rainforests contributes to improved economic development. “Actually they are evicting the poor from their habitat, so it is having the opposite effect,” he said. “It's not just having a local impact, deforestation effects the entire planet. The world should help Brazil to defend its rainforests.”
The devastating statistics illustrate the importance of indigenous peoples in protecting their environment. Satellite images show that the areas of forest that are best surviving the wave of destruction in Amazonia are those that have been legally designated as Indian territories. “Protecting the rights of indigenous people has been proven to be the best way of protecting rainforests in Brazil” said Simon Counsell.
Simon Counsell, Rainforest Foundation
Mobile: (0)7941 899 579
Rosemary Brown, Rainforest Foundation
Phone: 020 7251 6345
 The United Nations Forum on Forests is the main international discussion body set up by governments to tackle global deforestation. It is the latest in a series of UN initiatives which started in 1992. The Forum is holding its 5th meeting from May 17th-29th at the UN headquarters in New York.
 The Rainforest Foundation UK supports indigenous people and traditional populations of the world rainforests in their efforts to protect their environment and fulfil their rights. This is done both by providing financial and technical assistance to projects that assist forest people directly, and by campaigning in the UK. To date, the Foundation has assisted thousands of indigenous people to gain acknowledgement of their rights and an improved quality of life. The Rainforest Foundation was set up by the musician Sting, and Trudie Styler in 1989.
 Sir Ghillean Prance is former director of The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and current Scientific Director of the Eden Project in Cornwall. He has spent eight years in the field in Brazil and has a worldwide interest in sustainable development of rainforest ecosystems.