Escalating global demand for fuel, food and wood fiber will destroy the world's forests. Unless efforts to address climate change and poverty empower the billion-plus forest-dependent poor.
This according to two reports released today by the Rights and Resources Initiative. The first study finds that world will need a minimum 2 million square miles by 2030 to grow food, bioenergy, and wood products.
This is almost twice the amount of land actually available—roughly two-thirds the size of the continental US.
The second study reports that developing-country governments still claim an overwhelming majority of forests. They've made only limited progress in recognizing local land rights. Consequently, great violence lies ahead, as some of the world's poorest peoples struggle to hold on to their only asset—millions of square miles of valuable and vulnerable forestlands.
"Arguably, we are on the verge of a last great global land grab," says Andy White, Coordinator of RRI and co-author of the first report. "Unless steps are taken, traditional forest owners, and the forests themselves, will be the big losers. It will mean more deforestation, more conflict, more carbon emissions, more climate change and less prosperity for everyone."