Deforestation is a continual issue throughout Panama. The depletion of the world’s rainforests is a very real problem with powerful socioeconomic repercussions. For instance, the deforestation of the Darien Jungle would open passage by land from Colombia, and all of South America, through Panama all the way to Alaska via the Pan-American Highway. Presently, the Darien Gap serves as a natural boundary between South and North America, and the elimination of this barrier would allow for the easier passage of disease, drugs, people and anything else.
There are groups within Panama working to combat deforestation, and in an effort to find solutions, several interesting ideas have been proposed. The first great idea is to harvest wood that has been inundated by the formation of Lake Gatun in the Panama Canal. This measure could help meet the international demand for hardwood without destroying more of the rainforest.
Another source for sustainable hardwoods: natural disaster. It’s a similar idea to the natural order present within the food chain – many predators concentrate their hunting efforts on animals that are weak or wounded, that is, they have already been compromised by Mother Nature. Humans could follow this model to acquire hardwoods by gathering materials that are already damaged by Mother Nature, such as the results of Hurricane Felix. In 2007, Felix felled millions of hardwood trees in Nicaragua. They are now being sold into projects dedicated to finding sustainable hardwood sources all over the globe.
The third option won’t be viable for another couple of decades. But it’s promising. This option involves utilizing the already-deforested portion of Panama’s Darien province. As a sustainable contribution, a company rents land long-term from poor farmers to boost their income. They then plant a variety of native and non-native species to be cultivated down the road. The land remains property of the Panamanian owner and the company donates money to sustainable projects within the community. As such, the investors make a profit but the land remains Panamanian and generates profit within the community. It’s called Planting Empowerment. Apt name.
There are several feasible tactics to use in the fight against deforestation, but awareness is the first step. Thanks for reading.