Thursday, May 27, 2010

Anarchy is Bad for the Environment

The New York Times is reporting that in Madagascar, the lack of government authority is leading to devistation of the forests.
See, the rare woods that grow in the rural regions have significant economic value, and the people of Madagascar don't earn very much doing regular work, when it's available. So running off to the forest, and cutting down a few hundred trees is a real serious temptation. When lots of people do this, the forest has difficulty recovering. They wouldn't dare steal, but they don't see the forest as belonging to anybody. Short sighted, maybe, but when you're really hungry, trading your future for a banquet now seems like such a good deal.
A stronger government could send out patrols, ban the trade of the wood, or some other measure, or even assert ownership. But government authority is mostly lost due to a series of coups. The money to do anything significant doesn't exist, and worse for the local government, it's unsure of how long it can survive in its current form.
Madagascar has an interesting history. It went unnoticed for centuries, as the local African powers didn't have enough naval power to go find it, and by the time they were aware that it even existed, Africa was crawling with colonial European powers. Madagascar was mostly colonized by Muslim traders from northern Africa, who used it as a trading post. Eventually the French came rolling in, and there was a lot of exchange between their various colonies until independence came in 1960.

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