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August 07, 1987 - Image 7

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly Summer Weekly, 1987-08-07

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PERSPECTIVES

The Michigan Daily

Friday, August 7, 1987

Page 7

Wreaking ruin in the rainforests

By Lisa Jordan
Would you trade an acre of forest
for a year's supply of canned beef?
How about for a year's supply of
hamburger from your favorite
burger joint? Pet food... a year's
supply of pet food... is it a deal?
Every day United States consumers
determine the value of the most
critical portion of our ecosystem,
the rainforests. Currently, we have
placed the value somewhere within
the realm of a pound of very bad
hamburg.
Rainforests all over the world are
slashed and burned at the rate of 50
acres per minute. That is the
equivalent of annually razing
Virginia. Rainforests are natural air
conditioners, incubators and
laboratories. Life forms in the
forests are so numerous that we
have not had the time to record even
half of them. Rainforests provide us
with the necessary drugs and
chemicals to cure anything from the
flu to cancer. Rainforests absorb
carbon dioxide and provide us with
oxygen. Without them life as we
know it will change for the worst.
At the present rate of deforestation,
rainforests will be extinct within 75
years.
What is happening to the
rainforests? Who is destroying them
and why? I will answer these
questions strictly in context to the

Central American rainforests as this
is the area where we have the
greatest impact. The literature that
is available on this subject places
responsibility for deforestation on
multiple parties. The peasants of
Central America are often blamed,
the governments of said area take
the heat almost as often and
sometimes American companies are
accused. The chain of destruction is
fairly easy to follow.
The first stage of deforestation
occurs when logging companies,
seeking hardwoods such as
mahogany and cedar, browse
through the forests with their
bulldozers. They take what they
want and leave behind roads and
other inlets to the deep
forests,which make way for the
second stage of destruction.
Down the roads march homeless
peasants searching for arable land.
Some of these peasants are hired
hands who clear land in order to
plant pasture grasses. Some are
independent agents who clear the
land and then sell it to ranchers for
$40 an acre. However, in most
areas, the peasants clear the forests
in order to grow subsistence and
cash crops. The peasants are called
"colonizers" and technically they are
"improving" the land. It is the
colonizers who practice the slash
and burn techniques. They then
plant beans, corn, cotton, etc.
There are more hidden factors

than not in this portion of the
story. For example, the banks
which provide the loan's for
"improving" the land are
international organizations, such as,
the World Bank and the Inter-
American Development Bank. The
equipment to "improve" the land is
purchased by generous government
loans. Loans for "improving" lands
for pasture are easy to come by.
But, loans for growing food are not.
93% of the arable land in Central
America is owned by 7% of the
population. Almost all of this land
is used to grow cash crops for
export, leaving very little land for
growing food. Food and arable land
is hard to come by for 93% of the
population. Therefore, in many
cases, it is hunger that drives the
colonizers into the forests. It is
estimated that 2/3rds of the
alteration is caused by peasants.
The third stage occurs after the
third or fourth year of colonization
when the land changes hands to
individuals or companies who
produce export agricultural
products. Those colonizers who
planted crops almost always end up
selling their land after a few years
because the soil is nutrient-poor and
cannot sustain crops for any more
than three years. By the fourth year
of producing crops the land
becomes useless for anything but
grasses. This is where large ranch
owners come in and offer to buy up

the "useless" land. They then use
the land for grazing. The primary
export product from these lands is
beef. 90% of the beef produced in
Central America is exported to the
United States. That's 330 million
pounds annually. This meat is not
100% USDA pure grain-fed beef. It
does not end up on supermarket
shelves as steaks, roasts or even
hamburg. It is used in dog food, cat
food, canned beef and fast food
restaurants.
Furthermore, the levels of
toxins in this meat is often way
above the legal levels. DDT and
other pesticides are not illegal in
Central America. During stage two,
pesticides are sprayed abundantly
and then, in stage three, cattle graze
on the land. Beef that is presented at
the border has to be tested. The
amount that has been turned back at
the border has doubled in the last
few years.
Cattle graze on this land for 7 to
10 years. By the tenth year,
torrential rains and intensive
grazing has washed away or
destroyed any nutrients that
survived stage two. As a result,
what once sustained, literally,
millions of life forms becomes
wasteland within 15 years. And
this decrescendo only continues to
get worse when the wasteland
begins the process of
desertification. This process is
repeated over and over again.

Experts say that without United
States support in the form of
agricultural technology, pesticides,
drugs that keep hoof and mouth
disease away, etc. the cattle industry
would not be profitable for Central
Americans. This translates into,
without US help the rainforests
would not be transferred into
pasture lands. Our ecosystem would
remain intact. Without the U.S.
market for cheap beef products the
whole process would not occur in
the first place.
We can do something about it.
The solutions are relatively simple.
Beef imports from Central America
could be added to the list of
restricted items, thereby cutting off
the market for beef. Less drastic
measures are available also. Loans
could be redirected to encourage
intensive agricultural methods, as
opposed to extensive, wasteful
practices. Agricultural technological
methods that are ecologically sound
could be employed. Forestlands that
have already been destroyed could be
replenished with nutrients and then
left to recuperate. Unfortunately,
there is no way to replace the
forestlands. They were thousands
of millennia old. It is impossible to
reconstruct what we have already
destroyed. It is not impossible to
stop the senseless destruction that
will eventually effect all of us.
Now, what will you trade?
Jordan is Opinion Co-editor.

LETTERS:
To the Daily:
(A letter to Senator Jack Kemp)
A situation has arisen here in
Michigan which requires your
personal attention.
We are nominees and elected
officials for county and state office
and are only a small number of
1200 colleagues who are being dis-
enfranchised by your campaign. It
has been recently brought to our
attention that the leadership of your
campaign here in Michigan is at-
tempting to lock the party officials
and nominees, like ourselves, out
of the presidential selection process.
While that is being done in your
name it is inconceivable that it is
being done with your knowledge
and approval.
Prior to the April meeting of the
Republican State Committee, rep-
resentatives of the presidential
campaigns met, along with State
* Party Chairman Spencer Abraham,
to finalize rules for the 1988 con-
ventions, Agreement was reached
on all but oate critical issue-who

is eligible to participate at the
county conventions. This was the
only issue remaining. As Mr.
Abraham reported at the meeting of
the State Committee, it remained
open to resolve one question-how
to verify which delegates have been
seated to fill vacancies on a perm-
anent basis. The rules were adopted
with the understanding that this one
unresolved issue would be nego-
tiated by the next meeting of the
State Committee.
When the negotiators reconvened,
your campaign leadership said that
the only delegates eligible to par-
ticipate are those elected last- Au-
gust and those appointed to fill va-
cancies permanently.
Clearly, you must recognize the
incongruity of your campaign's
position that the only group of
individuals who will not participate
in the presidential selection process
are the Republican Party officials
and nominees.
The position of your campaign
threatens the very fabric of the
Michigan Republican Party. The
people who have been the backbone
of the party and who have carried
the banner ,of. Republicanism are

now being systematically excluded
from participating in the process.
Our concern is not presidential
politics. Our concern is the future
of the Republican Party in Mich-
igan. As nominees and elected of-
ficials itsis our goal to build a
strong party from the Courthouse
to Congress. It is inconceivable
that a seeker of the Presidential
nomination would play a role in
weakening our party.
Therefore, we ask you to
recognize the absurdity of this
position and override your state
leadership.
We ask for a timely response and
anxiously await your actions.
- Paul L. Maloney
Berrien County Prosecutor
et al
July 17
To the Daily:
Now that WE, citizens of the
United States, have irreverently for
the two hundred twelfth time got
the Eighteenth Century British
Tyrants off of our backs have WE
the coprgge to get the Twentieth

Century Industrial Tyrants off of
our backs? During the past two
hundred years, ownership of and
control over the wealth of the
Nation has become concentrated
into the hands of a few Rich and
Super-Rich as James Madison,
coauthor of the Constitution,
predicted would occur.
We, the Working Majority of
Society, must recognize that it has
been our knowledge and our skills
which have created the wealth
which the Rich and the Super-Rich
have expropriated from us.
Therefore, WE, the Productive
Majority of Society, have the right
and the duty to organize, as a class,
to take and to hold that which has
been taken away from us. The
Constitution of the United States
enables us to exercise that right.
UNITED WE STAND-DIVIDED
WE FALL. We must get rid of the
internal strife between us which has
been generated by Job-Trust
unions. We must organize as a
class to get back that which the
Rich and the Super-Rich have
stolen from us. Our knowledge and
our skills which the exploited class
has used to its advantage can be

used by us to administer the
processes of production and
distribution more effectively and
more safely to produce and to
distribute an abundance of material
and cultural goods of which w e
have previously been deprived by
our exploiters.
The Declaration of Independence
from British Tyranny also declared
that "whenever form of
Government (or people) become
destructive of Life, Liberty and
Happiness, itsis the right of the
People, itsis their duty, to alter or
to abolish it and to constitute new
Government laying its foundation
and organizing its powers in such
form as to the People shall be most
likely to effect their safety and their
happiness". Widespread distribution
and enjoyments of the benefits of
the Industrial Revolution by all
members of society requires social
ownership and control of the
instruments and processes of
production and distribution-the
establishment of the Industrial
Republic of Labor.
- Ralph Muncy
July 8

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