The forests are coming back. Why? Jobs. The New York Times describes what’s happening in South America. Abandoned farms are reverting to forest.
CHILIBRE, Panama — The land where Marta Ortega de Wing raised hundreds of pigs until 10 years ago is being overtaken by galloping jungle — palms, lizards and ants. Instead of farming, she now shops at the supermarket and her grown children and grandchildren live in places like Panama City and New York.
Here, and in other tropical countries around the world, small holdings like Ms. Ortega de Wing’s — and much larger swaths of farmland — are reverting back to nature, as people abandon their land and move to the cities in search of better livings.
I’ve argued in previous posts that “carbon caps” may actually destroy forests based upon my observation that when jobs become scarce, Third World populations often return to the land, frequently clearing forests with slash-and-burn techniques. By discouraging job creation, so-called environmental policies may inadvertently push people in subsistence economies back onto the land where they must resort to unsustainable, short-term activities to survive. It will be interesting to see whether the current economic downturn will actually cause a significant number of farms to re-open.
But the NYT article is also a reminder of how human civilization is both a fragile and an everlasting thing. If radical environmentalists succeed in convincing humanity to exterminate itself, within a hundred years even the largest cities will have become overtaken by vegetation again. But human extinction is futile. Over the longer haul, in deep time, nature will evolve intelligent and technological life again, until it eventually succeeds in spawning a culture which is humble enough to understand that it is part of a plan and has enough faith and wonder to see what lies over the next hill.
For you are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.