Recently, deforestation has caused a lot of destruction to the natural environment of Guatemala. Logging, forest fires, and agriculture are the main causes of the deforestation, and the issue is difficult because it’s hard to pinpoint any one effective solution. Illegal logging is a major problem, because many of the rural indigenous people live off the land and cut down trees for firewood. People also cut down trees to sell for the quality of the wood, and this occurs on protected land and national parks as well as non protected lands. There have been programs implemented in attempt to reduce this problem, such as educating indigenous people on how to harvest wood sustainably, however the problem remains.
Forest fires are another major cause of deforestation. Drug cartels have been burning large areas of land for landing strips and trails near the borders of Mexico and Belize in order to traffic the products. I was recently in communication with a woman who lives in Guatemala, and she said that gangs often start fires and raid houses for valuables when the surrounding area is evacuated. Not only is this a wicked crime to commit, but it is also detrimental to the natural environment of the area, which leads to much bigger problems.
Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation in Guatemala, as many of the indigenous and rural people are farmers. All forms of deforestation cause a decrease in soil stability in mountainous regions, but agriculture has the greatest impact because it is so widespread and not illegal. Many people farm on steep slopes in the mountain, and the lack of trees to hold the soil together makes the area much more prone to landslides. Guatemala has suffered from multiple tragedies in the past due to the deadly combination of hurricanes and weak, unstable slopes.
While there are many initiatives being taken to mollify the impact of deforestation in Guatemala, the government has neither the will nor the money to put effective strategies into practice to reverse the impact of deforestation. However, awareness is the first step towards taking action to resolve a problem, and educating people on the impacts of their way of life and how it can be made more sustainable is becoming more widespread. Much of the natural environment remains pristine in Guatemala, so there is definitely hope for the future!