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Posted on September 9th, 2012, by

Today, the degradation of wetlands becomes a global problem because it leads to the irrevocable change of the environment and accelerates global warming consistently. In fact, the degradation of wetlands affects vitally important regions of the world, such as the Amazon River, South Africa, Australia and South Eastern Asia, i.e. regions which are vitally important for the normal life on the Earth since wetlands contribute to the biological diversity which is the characteristic of wetlands. In such a situation, the efforts of international community are needed to solve the problem of wetlands degradation, which has already become a serious challenge to the entire world. The current efforts of international community, including the Kyoto protocol are apparently insufficient and more actions are needed.

The negative impact of environmental factors and human activities on wetlands

On analyzing the current situation concerning wetlands, it should be said that they are vulnerable to degradation throughout the world from South Africa to the Amazon River and Asia-Pacific region. The analysis of the changes in wetlands (see Table 1) proves the fact that negative trends affecting wetlands grow stronger. In this respect, it is possible to dwell upon the situation in the Amazon river, which is vitally important region for the entire planet due to its wetlands and forests (Davis, 2005). In addition, the situation in other parts of the world with wetlands is similar to the situation in the Amazon River.

Historically, the Amazon River region played a vitally important role in the normal functioning of the entire planet. It is worthy of mention that often this region is symbolically called the Lungs of the Earth. By this symbolic name the major function of this area and its significance to the planet is revealed since the local nature, wildlife, and forests are, to a significant extent, unique and, what is more, extremely important to the normal life and even survival of the entire planet because the local forests are an important source of Oxygen which share in the atmosphere of the planet gradually declines (Clark, 2002). By the way, the latter is consistently related to the current situation in the Amazon River region since this environmentally important region faces a serious threat of the progressive destruction (Williams, 2003). To put it more precisely, in the modern era, the region faces a bunch of environmental problems that threatens to the survival of the local unique nature, wildlife and forests. As a result, nowadays, the problem of deforestation and wildlife extinction is not only the problem of Latin American countries, especially Brazil, but it is the problem of the entire world.

On analyzing the current situation in the Amazon River region, it should be said that the environmental situation in the region is extremely disturbing. In fact, the problem of deforestation is a rapidly progressing challenge the local government should cope with in possibly shorter terms because the forest cuts consistently outweigh the planting of new ones and natural recovery of the area.

At the same time, the problem of deforestation naturally leads to the general deterioration of the environmental situation in the region and other ecological problems among which the problem of wildlife extinction is probably one of the most severe because the Amazon River region has really unique wildlife and any loss here is disastrous because it can hardly be recovered somehow.

In such a situation, it is necessary to underline that both problems, the problem of deforestation and wildlife extinction are closely related and have similar roots. To put it more precisely, the major factor that leads to the deforestation of the region and the extinction of the local wildlife is human activity. In this respect, it is possible to single out several domains where human activities are particularly disastrous in relation to the local nature. First of all, it is the agricultural activities of the local population. It should be said that historically Brazil, as well as other countries of Latin America, was an agricultural country. Moreover, the methods of agriculture used in this country were quite traditional, if not to say primitive since the national agriculture was historically focused on extensive way of the development. In practice, this means that the share of cultivated lands steadily increased and the more the local agriculture progressed the more lands were needed for cultivation. In such a situation, the Amazon River forests became the target land for cultivation and, therefore, forests were cut and, consequently, the wildlife destroyed. It is only in recent years, due to the industrial development of the country and implementation of new technologies and techniques, the local agriculture has acquired intensive features, though extensive way of the development is still relevant, especially in remote areas.

However, the industrialization brought not only new technologies and methods in agriculture but also contributed considerably to the deforestation and the extinction of the wildlife in the region. One of the major reasons for deforestation is the forests cut since timber is exporting to other countries of the world and a part of it is consumed within Brazil (Christianson, 1999). Furthermore, the development of industries leads to the growing need in well-developed infrastructure that implies the building of roads and, therefore, implies deforestation since free areas for infrastructure are needed. Finally, the industrial pollution of the Amazon River region also deteriorates the reproductive potential of the local forests and wildlife.

Naturally, in such a situation, the local government attempts to establish a thorough control over forests cut leading to both deforestation and wildlife extinction. The government attempts to control forests cut by means of special quotas and licenses for deforestation-related activities. However, its efforts are insufficient because of the lack of financial and material resources and huge area that is covered by forests, though the latter problem will be naturally solved if the forests cut and wildlife extinction is not stopped right now.

In this respect, it is possible to refer to the experience of other countries to solve similar problems in order to find new ways to the solution of this problem in Brazil. For instance, in Russia Siberian and Far Eastern regions face the similar problem. Actually, this historical there and in the past the state managed to cope with this problem relatively successfully by means of a total control from the part of a state over forests cut (Fleming, 2000). As a result, the forests cut other but state was simply forbidden in the past that led to relatively low level of deforestation, at least, compared to the modern epoch. The same experience may be applied in Brazil that will considerably solve the problem of unlicensed forests cut.

At the same time, it is also possible to recommend making the punishment for the violation of environmental laws in the region more severe that can make this activity economically unprofitable. Also, it is necessary to develop programs of recovery of the local forests after forests cut which should be more selective (Parry, 2003). What is meant here is the necessity to cut not all but only few trees in order to maintain the natural recovery potential of forests. Finally, it is necessary to plant new trees instead of cut ones.

However, such programs apparently need considerable funding while Brazil is a developing country and it can hardly afford the anti-deforestation programs leading to the prevention of wildlife extinction, independently being left on its own (Andreae, 1996). It is worthy of mention that economical factors are the major causes of the deforestation and wildlife extinction because forests cut occurs basically because of economic factors and attempt to increase profits of the state and national companies. This is why the country will apparently need international financial support in order to prevent and solve the problem of deforestation and wildlife extinction.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the problem of deforestation and wildlife extinction is very serious and should be solved on the international level not only because Brazil cannot solve this problem independently, but also because these problems threatens to the international community and normal functioning of the entire planet.

Wetland protection

The problem of environmental protection has become one of the central problems for people in the 20th century and nowadays the situation is not better. Naturally this problems is not only the concern of public opinion, specialists but also thinkers, philosophers who attempts to reevaluate the processes that take place in the contemporary world and explain human-nature relations from philosophical point of view. One of such philosophers is Holmes Rolston III who has quite a particular view on the problem and in his works he attempts to analyze the values existing in the contemporary world and to a certain extent he tends to respecting eternal laws of mother-nature.

In order to better understand Holmes Rolston views and possibility to apply them in the real life it is necessary to analyze some problem on the basis of his views. In terms of this paper the problem of the protection of wetlands, namely wetlands in South Africa, would be discussed (Rolston, 1996).

Traditionally Africa is treated as environmentally safe continent, it is supposed that environmental and ecological situation in this continent is quite good and cannot be even compared to industrially developed regions of the world. Unfortunately, in actuality the situation is absolutely different (Nielsen, 2005). It even seems that the richer nature the region has the more severely it is exploited by human beings. In fact this is exactly what is observed in South Africa.

This country is considered to be one of the most developed countries of the continents that is a very seldom fact for Africa. But such a reputation of the country is based on the development of industry and agriculture that are particularly crucial for local wetlands. In fact ecological system of the region, as anywhere in the world, is a very complex and multi-integrated system (Alley, 1998). As a result, the decline of wetlands leads to the decline of numerous species, including unique ones, as well as it leads to the natural decline at large and ecological catastrophe in perspective.

Speaking about wetlands in South Africa specifically, it should be pointed out that it is a unique source of fertile soil for the country that is particularly important of one takes into consideration the fact that nowadays the land health is very poor in this region. In fact such a situation is basically the result of human activities and to a great extent it is the result of decline of wetlands. For instance, South African farmers lose twenty tons of topsoil to produce one ton of crops (Rolston, 1996:254). In the situation when water resources of the country are constantly running out it is particularly dangerous and the limited wetlands in an essentially arid nation are exploited for development (Rolston, 1996:256).

It means that wetlands in a long-term perspective could be an effective source of fertile soil for the country but the current exploitation leads to the gradual decline of these lands. The problem is aggravated by the pollution of water by industry.

So, the problem of human intervention in nature is obvious and the solution has to be found as soon as possible. At this respect the ideas of Holmes Rolston are particularly interesting and noteworthy. In fact he stands on the ground that values in nature are objective (Rolston, 1996:259) and he insists on values in nature, which can enrich human experience and culture.

Furthermore, it should be said that he believes that human life is perceived a bit erroneously in the context of nature exploitation. He often underlines that traditionally the primary goal of people was and remains now preserving of human life by any means, including nature exploitation that leads in fact to the nature decline. Holmes Rolston states that such attitude to nature and humans are mistakable because according to him, humans, being a part of the nature, cannot live without it (Rolston, 1996). Moreover, the more people exploit the nature the less productive it is. At the same time the worse the environmental and ecological situation is the worse the life of people will be because people can never be separated from nature (Mccann, 1999). Consequently, it is necessary to realize that nature and people cannot be perceived as two different agents but on the contraries they are participants of one and the same process and they cannot live in separation from each other.

Such reflections may be easily projected to the problem of wetlands in South Africa and on the basis of Holmes Rolston ideas it is possible to say that wetlands is an essential part of nature, consequently, exploiting wetlands people exploit nature at large, while the decline of wetlands means the decline of nature at large and in long-term perspective such decline can spread wider and wider and overwhelm not only neighboring countries but the whole continent, and who knows may be it would influence the world ecology at large (Rolston, 1996).

Logical question that arises is the question concerning alternatives that may be suggested and that could really improve the situation in South Africa. Taking into consideration Holmes Rolston’s ideas and way of thinking, it is possible to say that an alternative would be the creation of a kind of harmony between man and nature, more precisely, in order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered on isolation from it (Coale, 1983:82). It means that the problem has to be solved in a complex, i.e. the development of agriculture or industry in South Africa must be integrally linked to the development of environmental protection measures and programs.

At the same time people obviously cannot refuse from exploitation of wetlands in South Africa completely, they cannot do it physically otherwise they will starve. At this point, the idea of Holmes Rolston that there were always poor and starving people is quite symbolic but it does not necessarily mean that people have to starve or to remain poor (Rolston, 1996). So, the proportional development of human activities and the protection of nature is one of the alternatives, along with either the continuation of exploitation of nature that would have disastrous results for both nature and humans or stopping any activities and preserving nature that would have not less disastrous results for humans and nature maybe (but humans will never know about it).

Naturally, it is finally necessary to take some decision and find some solution of the problem. Obviously, if people followed the alternative suggested above, they would start to undertake steps in the direction to harmonize their relations with nature immediately. What is meant here is the fact that the sooner people start to care not only about their well-being but about their environment as well the sooner the situation will be improved (Andreae, 1996). So, in order to achieve a harmonized development it is necessary to work out programs which would make people to exploit nature more carefully, for instance it may be some limitations in agricultural development in wetlands. On the other hand, if water were continued to be polluted by local industry such a measure would hardly be effective. Consequently the second step should be the restriction of industrial pollution of water by industrial objects, it may be rather improvement of filters and other protecting devices or oven liquidation of the most dangerous polluters. Finally these measures may be supported by development of nature through the creation of special parks, zones, etc. On fulfillment these recommendations, the situation in South Africa may be really improved and nature preserved.

At the same time, it is important to understand that the protection of wetlands should be grounded on mutual efforts of the international community since the degradation of wetlands is the global problem. In fact, the international community has already started to develop regulations and norms which tend to protect wetlands (see Table 2). In addition, the Kyoto Protocol also contributes to the solution of the problem of wetlands degradation. However, the non-participation of such countries as the USA in the Kyoto Protocol decreases its efficiency, while the problem of wetland degradation persists.

Conclusion

Thus, in conclusion, it is important to emphasize the ongoing degradation of wetlands. At the moment, the humankind is unable or, to put it more precisely, unwilling to stop the degradation of wetlands, probably because people are unconscious of negative effects of the degradation of wetlands. In this respect, the solution of this problem is possible only on the condition of mutual efforts and close cooperation of the international community. Otherwise, wetlands will keep degrading as they are doing now in the Amazon River region, South Africa and other parts of the world.

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