Cause and Effect
People have been deforesting the Earth for thousands of years, primarily to clear land for crops or livestock. Direct causes of deforestation are agricultural expansion, wood extraction; logging or wood harvest for domestic fuel or charcoal, and infrastructure expansion such as road building and urbanization. Rarely is there a single direct cause for deforestation. Usually there are multiple causes working together simultaneously to cause deforestation. The single biggest direct cause of tropical deforestation is conversion to cropland and pasture, mostly for subsistence, which is growing crops or raising livestock to meet daily needs. The conversion to agricultural land usually results from multiple direct factors, as in countries building roads into remote areas to improve overland transportation of goods. The building of roads itself causes a limited amount of deforestation. But these new roads provide access to previously inaccessible and often unclaimed land. Logging, legal and illegal, often follows these new roads. Then the roads and the logged areas attract settlers, farmers, and ranchers who slash and burn the remaining forest for cropland or cattle pasture, completing the deforestation chain that began with road building. Agriculture-driven deforestation, for subsistence, and large-scale commercial activities are playing an increasingly significant role. In the Amazon, industrial-scale cattle ranching and soybean production are increasingly important causes of deforestation, and in Indonesia, the conversion of tropical forest to palm tree plantations to produce bio-fuels for export is a major cause of deforestation on Borneo and Sumatra. Poverty is often said to be an underlying cause of tropical deforestation, analyses of multiple scientific studies indicate that that explanation is an oversimplification. Poverty does drive people to migrate to forest frontiers, where they use slash and burn techniques for...
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