Developing countries are blessed with some of the world’s most precious natural resources. But that blessing can also be a curse – and not just for oil-rich countries, with their distorted economies and politics.
Latin American countries in the Amazon region, for example, are home to what can rightly be considered the world’s storehouse of biodiversity. Yet, when it comes to protecting this global treasure, these countries are expected to shoulder the burden by themselves.
Even with good intentions, these countries on their own are unlikely to ensure that the benefits of conserving the Amazon are realized, because private interests in deforestation – both legal and illegal – remain very strong. The prospect of quick gains from occupying publicly owned forestland induces private individuals to grab and clear as much of these areas as quickly as possible, without regard for the environmental and social impact of their behavior.
The need to supply fuel and open land during rapid economic development had a devastating effect on European and American forests. Brazil, too, has in recent decades depleted much of its forestland, only at faster rates.