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Is Your Cocaine Use Killing Colombian Rainforests?

cocain use

Well, yes.
Coca cultivation is leading to high rates of rainforest loss in southern Colombia, according to new research.

The new Environmental Science and Technology study has found that coca growing areas are more likely to suffer from rainforest loss. The plant is the raw material cocaine is made from and Colombia is the world’s second largest producer of of it, after Peru.

Colombia is inflicted with a significant deforestation problem. Rainforest cover fell from 82% to 78% between 2002 and 2007 in southern Colombia, a loss of 14,000 km2. That is an area about the size of Connecticut.

If you think coca production can’t be that big of a deal in relation to deforestation, you’d be wrong. The researchers say that it’s as damaging to the forests as “all other factors combined“, including mining, oil drilling, logging, cattle ranching, biofuel production, and food crops.

In addition, the researchers say that armed conflict associated with its production may well have forced coca farmers to move to new areas, adding to new deforestation. Huge profits may also have enticed people into areas where the crop can be grown. Initiatives to destroy coca, such as spraying herbicide, may also have damaged rainforests.

It was found that the plant is often produced in villages at the very edge of undeveloped rainforest areas, so previously pristine rainforest is damaged. Coca production itself is a symptom of poverty and population growth in these areas. Growers try to avoid detection by working in poor, remote areas with little law enforcement.

Some good news is that farmers seem to mostly avoid protected areas such as national parks, although cultivation in these areas does occur. Satellite images were used to quantify the growth in cultivation. The plant’s bright green color stands out against the darker rainforest canopy. Additionally, researchers also studied aerial photos taken in the cultivation areas by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

So, to help protect Colombian rainforests, how about trying to go easier on that Colombian marching powder?

Via Mongabay
Image CC licensed by masochismtango

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