Monthly Archives: March 2016

Illegal Wildlife Trade

Illegal wildlife trade is a global issue that has been a hot topic recently.  Many people hear about poachers or the black market for ivory, but they may not know the extent of the issues.  To put things in perspective, “Rhino poaching in South Africa increased from 13 to 1,004 between 2007 and 2013” (World Wildlife Fund). This statistic is very alarming, because that the issue of illegal wildlife trade is exploding and prompts societal action.  Additionally, illegal wildlife trade is not limited to ivory.  Thousands of other species, such as the Green Turtle and the Amur Tiger, are threatened by illegal trade.

As human population continues to grow, the demand for resources does as well.  However, natural wildlife populations can’t always keep up with the increasing demand.  This is an even bigger issue for goods in demand from endangered species.  The demand these goods valuable, creating more incentive for poachers to hunt these endangered species.  An example is that a recent myth in Vietnam saying that rhino horns can cure cancer has caused an extreme spike in the price of rhino horn and poaching.  Poverty in foreign countries can amplify poaching, as it can be seen as an easy source of money.  Since poaching often occurs in less-developed countries,  it can be harder to regulate and enforce from global organizations.  Illegal wildlife trade and poaching can create imbalances in natural populations and ecosystems, promote extinction, and increase illegal activity and crime rates worldwide.

One potential area for improvement on the issue is increasing regulation and enforcement of illegal trade.  Global nations could fight more against illegal black market networks and increase the ramifications for violators.  Reducing corruption and crime in general could also reduce illegal wildlife trade, since poaching is caused by big organized crime networks.  Individual poachers are often poor locals and the only ones that get caught.  However, punishing an individual would not do much in the grand scheme of things, as it would just deter one person.  Individual poachers often work for or sell to larger crime organizations, so targeting the larger networks may be more beneficial.  Fighting the larger crime organizations could affect thousands of poachers as a result.  Another option could be that more nations could comply with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  To increase participation, global organizations could either offer benefits for compliance or penalties for defiance.

An additional approach could be on the consumer end, instead.  Society potentially could look into decreasing demand for illegal products as a whole in order to indirectly undermine illegal hunting.  The demand of illegal goods causes value to increase, which is one of the main reasons of why poaching is so prevalent in the first place.  While easier said than done, this approach suggests societal changes.  The people and societies that purchase these illegal wildlife goods need to learn to not value these goods as much.  The consumers might need more education about the topic, and they need to understand the irreversible environmental consequences from exploiting endangered species.  This knowledge could potentially reduce the demand for the illegal goods as a whole.

Additional effort can be placed into organizations against illegal wildlife trade.   For instance, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are two organizations that certify sustainable wildlife goods.  TRAFFIC is a wildlife trade monitoring network that helps regulate and enforce legislation.  Additionally, antipoaching brigades are groups that fight against illegal hunters.

Illegal wildlife trade is worldwide threat that is increasing at an alarming rate.  A lack of action towards the issue could cause extinction, ecological imbalance, and corruption.  While the issue is very complex, a mix of approaches to the issue could help.  Increased enforcement and regulation, consumer action, increased education, and more organizations could help reduce illegal wildlife trade overall.  Society needs to decide if they should treat illegal wildlife trade as a serious global issue.  If so, the issue needs addressed promptly before it grows even further.

“Illegal Wildlife Trade.” World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Deforestation – The Overexploitation of Trees

In a typical week, a Penn State student may use dozens of paper towels, notebook paper, and products with paper packaging.  These are just some examples of tree products, and humans use trees and wood for all kinds of things such as construction and manufacturing.  It becomes problematic when humans use tree resources faster than the earth can naturally sustain this harvesting.  Forests are important on a global scale for providing vital oxygen to the planet.  However, deforestation can jeopardize this oxygen production, disrupt natural ecosystems, and affect global warming and climate change.  The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states that about 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused from deforestation, and about 50 thousand square miles of forest are lost every year.  These alarming statistics question how society can find a solution to deforestation.  Should humans reduce their dependency on trees and seek a more “paper-free” life?  Or, should society focus on conservation measures, such as creating preserved habitats in foreign forests.  Would things like recycling and increasing public awareness improve the issue?

Many major forests reside in foreign countries.  A problem from this is that illegal logging often occurs without enough regulation.  Loosely regulated forestry laws in foreign nations can be a major issue, because populations have the ability to overexploit the resource.  A better-known example is the deforestation of tropical rainforests because rainforests are known for their immense biodiversity.  Removing rainforests can have major environmental consequences that can damage the diversity of ecosystems.  A potential solution to prevent overharvesting tree products could be to increase legislation and regulations.  The issue could be brought up with international relations groups, such as the United Nations, where more policies are passed.  Countries could be required to better-enforce certain protection and conservation laws for forests.  Similarly, an additional solution would be to provide economic or political incentives for foreign countries to abide by forestry regulations.

An alternative route could be geared towards making the public more aware about the issue and promoting conservation measures and reduced dependency of tree products.  For most people, deforestation might not be an issue they think of on a day to day basis.  However, spreading word of the cause and increasing public awareness could make individuals reduce their use of tree products.  For instance, if people were more actively reminded to save paper and decrease waste, they might be more likely to maybe use a hand dryer instead of a paper towel dryer.  Penn State even reminds its population of this issue by placing little “are you sure?” signs by many trash cans.  Additionally, promoting the cause could also make people recycle more, further helping to reduce our tree-product use.  Another area to spread awareness for deforestation could be in the form of donations.  More funding organizations could be created and promoted to put money into protected reservations of forests around the world.  As a personal anecdote, I remember seeing a little gumball-like machine in a park one time.  Instead of dispensing gumballs, the machine collected quarters that went towards protecting acres of forests in foreign countries.  If there were more things like this, organizations that fight deforestation could be better funded.  This could even take the form of television advertisements similar to animal shelter ads, but instead promoting the reduction of deforestation.  More funds could go towards organizations like the WWF that fight illegal logging and create protected areas.  For instance, the WWF created the Global Forest and Trade Network (GTFN), which links companies and communities among dozens of nations across the world that aim to make the forestry industry more sustainable.  Overall, further promoting the issue and creating more organizations can make the public more inclined to fight the issue.

Deforestation and the overuse of tree products is a modern issue which can be environmentally alarming.  Society is harvesting trees faster than nature can naturally sustain reproduction, which has the potential for irreversible consequences.   A key consequence is that deforestation disrupts oxygen production and the absorption of greenhouse gasses, contributing to global warming and climate change.  Ignoring the issue can affect the planet as a whole, so society has to realize that deforestation is an issue that needs to be addressed.  Global nations could attempt to tackle the issue by improving regulation and increasing legislature with regards to illegal deforestation.  Countries can work together and create international policies and organizations that better fight the issue at a global level.  Additionally, individuals in society could become more informed and aware about the issue and work towards improving conservation efforts.  While there may not be a single direct solution to the problem, society will have to take a mixture of approaches to deforestation, as ignoring the issue could cause environmental disasters around the globe.

“Deforestation.” WorldWildlife. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.