We grew up in Dallas, a city that seems to change at a greater rate than much of the US, but perhaps that is just my perception. Our favorite family Thai restaurant got bulldozed for a Super Target, and many of the haunts of our youth are long gone now. Change is inevitable I suppose, and the more we experience change the more accustomed we get to it. But not all change is good.
Deforestation has many causes. Unfortunately, gathering fuel for cooking is one of them. I won’t go into a long diatribe about why deforestation is bad, there are a thousand bit pieces on the interweb about that. I will point out a few outlying aspects of it as they relate to our developing world cooks.
Deforestation can be driven by population growth, clearly more room is needed for more people. Another statistic you won’t be surprised by, the world’s population is growing. But did you know that birthrates are falling? This means that, eventually, the world’s population will begin decreasing (as long as trends hold). This fascinating statistic won’t mean much until around 2070, 65 years in the future. On top of that, projections don’t have the global population level returning to current levels until the next century.
Governments and NGOs have been working on clean cooking projects for decades, and the results are impressive. But the intersection of statistics sometimes surprises. Between 1990 and 2003, global solid fuel use (for cooking) dropped from 58% to 52%, but because of a rising population the number of solid fuel users rose by 170,000. This trend is continuing, and will likely continue well into the future
Latin America continues to be a hotspot for deforestation, and the rising population is putting pressure on forests. Wood has to come from somewhere, and some areas experience very high, unsustainable levels of deforestation. Here’s another strange fact: over 50% of the forest in Central America is privately owned, which makes management for sustainability even harder.
I don’t know if I mentioned it, but old cookstoves are inefficient. Not only do they burn 50% more fuel than modern cookstoves, but they release a far higher percentage of unburned byproduct gasses into the air, such as methane and nitrogen dioxide. The effect these byproducts have on climate change is far higher than carbon dioxide, for science reasons. I won’t bore you with more climate change talk either, but I will leave you with this interesting article about a lake in Bolivia.
Clean cookstoves won’t reverse deforestation, but they will help put a dent in it. They will help by relieving the pressure from locals to strip an endangered resource for short term gains. They will help end the poverty cycle, not just by saving cooks fuel and time, but by helping to preserve the forest as a natural resource and helping to keep local environments more intact and available for the long term.
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