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The Deforestation of the Amazon

A Case Study in Understanding Ecosystems and Their Value


Author(s)

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 Areas

Ethics, Policy issues, Social issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

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

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