How can deforestation and conservation take place simultaneously?

Cecilia Salinas doctoral thesis explores how politics actually counteract and jeopardize adopted policy.

Burned forest in Argentina.

The tobacco industry is an important factor causing deforestation in Argentina. Photo: Cecilia Salinas

Salinas conducted one year fieldwork in the rainforest and in various cities in northern Argentina to investigate how it was possible that the same forest area was preserved and deforested at the same time.

- Global programs to combat climate change ignore important aspects. Whereas for social scientists it is clear that mitigation and adaptation projects will not succeed without a close understanding of the society in which they will be implemented, the reality is different for policy-makers who design the measures. Policy-makers work with programs limited in time and space. The programs might seem to work well individually, but when you see them as part of a larger whole the picture may be quite different. For social scientists who work holistically, interrelations are very important. We cannot separate one program from another, one project from another, but we have to see how they are interrelated and what effect they have overall, Salinas says.

The tobacco industry leads to deforestation

Interrelations are therefore the core in her study of forest conservation in northern Argentina.
-I specifically tried to understand how it was possible that the same forest area was preserved and deforested at the same time. It was a seemingly great interest both nationally and internationally to preserve the last remnants of a subtropical forest known as Paraná Atlantic Forest, Salinas says.

Local residents.
Salinas conducted one year fieldwork in the rainforest and in various cities in northern Argentina. Photo: Cecilia Salinas

Meanwhile, the global tobacco industry has taken root in this once lush subtropical forest. Today there are only about 35 percent of the forest left and much is degraded.- The tobacco industry is one of the main drivers behind the deforestation in the area. The paradox is that it is both a strong political stance (policy) to protect the forest as well as strong political measures that incentive the tobacco industry. And the global tobacco industry contribute to CO₂ emissions, loss of forests and biodiversity, to environmental degradation, malnutrition, child labor, poor working conditions and diseases from production to consumption, Salinas says.

State power is created locally

The starting point for her study was the development of the national strategy for the UN REDD program (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries) where Norway contributes substantially. The end point was a study that examines the development and implementation of various policies with social, cultural, economic and forest conservation objectives over a longer period, and also the role global industries like tobacco play in deforestation.

The result is a broad and multifaceted thesis dealing with discussions on how state power is being created locally through deceptive practices, indigenous livelihoods, natural resource management, the effects of ecotourism, misleading protection of the natural area by UNESCO, local health effects of tobacco cultivation and the local population experience or non-experience of global climate change policy and lived life in an area that is both periphery and border between South America's two most powerful countries.

- What bind these topics together is global and national forest conservation work and political practices, which as in a light and shadow game in frosted glass creates room for misleading interpretations and negative effects on forests and forest-dependent people. The relationship between politics, short-term solutions, profitable agribusiness leading to deforestation, and forest conservation practices that benefits the rich, is clear. But there is an abysmal distance to the politics that can do something about it. Without recognition of the importance of seeing the larger picture, it will be difficult to overcome both deforestation and poverty, Salinas says.

Cecilia Salinas' disputation takes place on January 27th.

Lush rainforest in Argentina.
Today there are only about 35 percent of the rainforest left and much is degraded. Photo: Cecilia Salinas
Published Dec. 21, 2016 11:02 AM - Last modified Dec. 21, 2016 11:02 AM