Demand for rubber ‘threatens forests’

According to a report, protected forests in Southeast Asia are being threatened due to increasing worldwide demand for rubber tyres.
As swathes of tropical forests make way for rubber plantations, UK researchers say animal life, which is already, endangered, such as birds, bats and primates are at risk. According to Conservation Letters, it is estimated that by 2024, up to 8.5 million hectares of new rubber plantations will have to be created to meet demand. With the destruction of habitats, breeding grounds and food supplies, the impact on wildlife is potentially catastrophic.

Should we care?

The already endangered white-shouldered ibis, yellow-cheeked crested gibbon and clouded leopard are species, particularly under threat, report the team led by Eleanor Warren-Thomas, from the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
Can we do anything?

Dr Matthew Struebig, from the University of Kent, declared: “There’s a lot we can do …to make rubber production more wildlife-friendly.” She suggested incentives like agro-forestry – mixing rubber with other trees – to retaining patches of natural vegetation along rivers or in small conservation areas, as in organic farming in Europe. She went on to say: “The tyre industry consumes 70% of all natural rubber grown, and rising demand for vehicle and aeroplane tyres is behind the recent expansion of plantations. But the impact of this is a loss of tropical biodiversity.” 8.5 million hectares is roughly the size of Austria. Surely there’s a legitimate biodiversity concern here? Conservationists believe so. They are concerned that switching use of land to rubber cultivation can harm soil, water and biodiversity. As rubber is the most rapidly expanding tree crop in the Southeast Asia mainland, shouldn’t we take them seriously and halt this intrusion now? The first review of the effects on biodiversity and endangered species of this forest destruction could be compared to the problem that arose with palm oil; it is now linked to the growing tyre market.

The Philippines : The study reported that numbers of bird, bat and beetle species can decline by up to 75% in forests that have been converted to rubber.

Is developing more efficient sustainability initiatives the solution?

The researchers, from UEA and the University of Sheffield, are asking tyre manufacturers to support certification scheme initiatives.

This must surely be key to protecting our forests and wildlife, whilst fulfilling demand, by creating a standard endorsed by the public, and scientists, to manage rubber crops in a more environmentally friendly way?

Climate change: an urgent need to act

Climate change has become a global issue and residents of countries across the world are beginning to stand up and voice their opinions on perceived lack of action. The constant back and forth between world superpowers over the issue turned it in to a problem that many governments are too willing to place far down their list of priorities.

The problem
Global warming is happening because carbon dioxide and other gases produced by humans are collecting in the atmosphere, causing the world to slowly heat up. The effects of the problem are already beginning to show, with world temperatures rising in the past 50 years at the quickest rates ever recorded. Issues caused by the problem are likely to affect our water resources, agricultural capabilities, energy supplies, transportation and ecosystems.

On the 21st of September 2014, in over 200 locations worldwide, thousands of people came out to protest at lack of global action, with a 310,000 strong rally in New York attended by UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon. These demonstrations wanted countries to cut carbon emissions, but the question is did any world leaders take notice? Will they make a change?

World leaders
Next year the United Nations will meet in Paris to discuss a plan for a global agreement on climate change. For the first time in 20 years it is expected that countries, including the worst offenders for carbon emissions, will make a binding legal agreement on how to make a change.

The problem that is expected to happen at the conference is that superpowers such as the USA, India and Russia will make unreasonable demands for emissions allowances. In preparation for this, Mr Moon tried to organise an informal discussion on the 26 September 2014, but many world leaders failed to attend. Are countries not taking the issue seriously enough? What are the best solutions to the problem? Will the Paris conference make a difference?

Taking action
In the end, it is in the hands of the people of the world to make sure their governments are taking it seriously. For instance, in the UK, voters must make sure that a dedication to climate change is in the winning party’s manifesto at the 2015 general election.

Climate change is not an impossible problem, there are technologies being developed all the time which will harness natural resources to create energy. Wind farming, solar power and hydroelectricity are underused; it is a global dedication to change which is needed to move away from fossil fuels.

Whether or not the Paris conference has a positive outcome, or leaves the worst culprits of carbon emission in a position to continue poisoning the earth remains to be seen.