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The Deforestation of the Amazon

A Case Study in Understanding Ecosystems and Their Value



Author:

Philip Camill
Department of Biology
Bowdoin College
pcamill@bowdoin.edu

Abstract:

In this case study, students examine tropical deforestation in the Amazon from the perspective of three dominant stakeholders in the region: a peasant farmer, logger, and environmentalist. As part of the exercise, students perform a cost-benefit analysis of clearing a plot of tropical forest in the Amazon from the perspective of one of these stakeholder groups. Developed for a course in global change biology, this case could also be used in courses in general ecology, environmental science, environmental ethics, environmental policy, and environmental/ecological economics.

Objectives:
  • Understand the political, cultural, and economic history leading to tropical deforestation in Amazonia. Understand issues facing the major stakeholders in the Amazon.
  • Understand the concern for such a large loss in biodiversity.
  • Understand the concepts of market and non-market valuation of ecosystems, benefit-cost analysis, and opportunity cost.
  • Perform a cost-benefit analysis of clearing a plot of tropical forest in the Amazon, from the perspective of a peasant farmer, logger, and environmentalist.
  • Critically evaluate economic vs. ethical valuation of ecosystems.
  • Appreciate the political, social, economic, and ecological complexity of tropical deforestation.
  • Appreciate how difficult decisions must me made in the face of limited or nonexistent data.
Keywords: Deforestation; Amazon; tropical forest; rainforest; ecosystem; biodiversity; bioprospecting; ecotourism; ecological economics; cost-benefit analysis; tropics; developing world; South America
Topical Area: Ethics, Policy issues, Social issues, Social justice issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Environmental Science   Ecology   Economics   Business / Management Science   Forestry   Botany / Plant Science   Agriculture  
Date Posted: 12/15/99
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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