From: Robin Blackstone, ENN
Published April 21, 2014 02:12 PM

Narcotics + Deforestation = Narco-Deforestation

Narco-Deforestation, a newly coined term for the destruction of sensitive forest ecologies in Central and South America has been identified as a greater threat to the South and Central American forests than other previously identified concerns such as legal logging and development.  The drug traffickers are creating new autoroutes and airplane strips for greater access to and through the forests and jungles of the Central and South America.  These new routes make it easier to transport drugs from Mexico to South America and vice-versa.

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Kendra McSweeney, the co-author of "Drug Policy as Conservation Policy: Narco-Deforestation" explains, "These protected ecological zones have become the hub for South American cocaine."

As an example, the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a Unesco world heritage site in Honduras was destroyed. The narco-deforestation trends were preceded by illegal logging practices in the region. Both now play a large role in the destruction of Central America’s biodiversity. The logging industry makes up "20 percent of the total volume removed from tropical forests, but only a third is exported."  This logging activity is documented and legal; imagine the consequences of illegal logging activities.

The Cockroach Effect

While Mexico serves as a type of nucleus for drug activity, authorities have started cracking down on the illegal activities. These new challenges and crackdowns have pushed the activity down south and resulted in the efecto cucaracha, or the cockroach effect. Similar to a cockroach’s "survival instincts," if it's driven away from one home, it will find another — and that just happens to be Central America. Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras have been particularly targeted by the cockroach effect.

It's not a coincidence. For example, when former Mexican president Felipe Calderón took a more proactive approach to cracking down on drugs in Mexico, Guatemala’s deforestation increased between 5 and 10 percent.

The Costs of Deforestation

What are we losing when the forest is destroyed? Cultural Survival lists some of the costs of deforestation:

— Wood

— Agriculture

— Food

— Medicine

— Genetic diversity

— Climate

— Habitat (human and animal)

— Culture

More Ways Narco-Deforestation Destroys Forests

If you didn't think it could get worse, then think again. Drug traffickers are also taking their illegal profits and investing in cattle ranches and palm oil plants. In addition, narco-deforestation threatens indigenous communities living in the forests.

Read more at ENN affiliate Care2.

Woolly monkey image via Shutterstock.

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