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Democratic elections may be a catalyst for deforestation, according to new research. A study that examined deforestation rates during election years found that competitive elections are associated with higher rates of deforestation. The reason? Politicians are trading trees for votes, according to the researchers.
In the new study, researchers examined satellite images of forest cover and data on the national elections of every country in the world between 1970 and 2005. They found that rates of forest cover loss are substantially higher during election years, especially when the outcome of the election is uncertain.
Study - Month - American - Geophysical - Union
The study, which was presented last month at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in New Orleans, suggests politicians often grant their constituents access to forested lands in exchange for electoral support. The results provide evidence that democratization doesn't always improve conservation, according to the researchers.
Protecting forested lands provides local communities with many long-term benefits including flood protection, carbon sequestration, and job creation. Their destruction however, only provides one short-term benefit: the acquisition of commercially valuable resources, according to the study author.
Lot - Situations - Politicians - Diffuse - Benefits
"I think that in a lot of situations, politicians might prefer long-term diffuse benefits because they make everybody better off," said Luke Sanford, a political science researcher at the University of California San Diego who presented the new research. "But when somebody is faced with a short-term challenge, they might prefer these targeted short-term benefits."
Sanford found that election years are associated with 50 percent higher rates of deforestation than non-election years, especially in countries that have unstable governments and nationally owned rainforests, like Brazil and Kenya. "In Kenya, there's been over 50 percent forest cover lost since 1990 and the majority of that happened during the election years,"...
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I find it extremely funny when people keep voting and expecting the government to change!