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Classroom Resources: Do Trees Grow on Money?

By Fred Pearce
April-June 2008 / Vol. 9 No. 2

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Discussion Questions

  • What are the goals of “extractive reserves”?  How do they differ from rainforest that is not protected from logging?  What is the primary assumption behind the idea that extractive reserves are a good conservation solution?  What evidence does the author cite to indicate that this assumption is incorrect?
  • The author’s description of the economic value of rainforest suggests that the costs and benefits of conservation are not shared equally by all people involved.  Can you think of other environmental issues for which this may be true?  Could any of the potential solutions discussed in this article by applied to these other issues as well?
  • Contrast the economic strategies of (a) cash payments by donor countries for reducing deforestation with (b) sale of carbon credits by countries that reduce deforestation.  What are the various roles of government and the private sector in making these strategies work?  What are the incentives for actually reducing deforestation?
  • The author states that cutting down rainforests and replacing them with monocultures of cultivated tree species would be “inimical to conservationists.”  Why might that be?  What do you think about the costs and benefits of converting rainforest to tree plantations?
  • The author reports that some conservationists worry that open markets will simply “reward today’s despoilers.”  Can you think of some ways to change the economic incentives or payment structure to avoid that problem?

Websites for Further Information

Deforestation and Climate Change in the News

  • Amazon’s “Forest Peoples” seek a role in striking global climate agreements (New York Times, April 6, 2008):
  • Forest loss in Sumatra becomes a global issue (New York Times, December 6, 2007):

Peer-reviewed Literature

  • Mollicone, D., A. Freibauer, E.D. Schultze, S. Braatz, G. Grassi, and S. Federici.  2007.  Elements for the expected mechanisms on ‘reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation, REDD’ under UNFCCC . Environmental Research Letters 2(4): doc 45024.
  • Potvin, C., B. Guay, and L. Pedroni. 2008. Is reducing emissions from deforestation financially feasible? A Panamanian case study. Climate Policy 8: 23-40.

Key Concepts

  • Tropical rainforest
  • Tropical deforestation
  • Extractive reserves
  • Carbon offsets
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Climate change
  • REDD
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