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Deforestation in Berau, Kalimantan, Indonesia Photo: Mahastra Wibisono, Newsweek
A new study published yesterday in the journal Science Advances found that in Indonesia, a country with bountiful but highly exploited natural resources, a national anti-poverty program also reduced deforestation as a side benefit. The program uses conditional cash transfers (CCTs) to elevate families over the poverty line, an increasingly popular way to provide assistance, conditional on taking specific actions related to education and health. As a result, families did not need to resort to clearing forests to make ends meet or grow more food during difficult times. The researchers compared satellite images of areas where the government made CCTs to those where they did not and found a distinct increase in forest cover in those with cash assistance.
When compared to the costs of climate change, the Indonesia program’s benefit of keeping Indonesian rain forests intact more than justifies it. One of the study authors argued in Science News that the economic benefits of saving the forests “justify the intervention.” It also demonstrates that a healthy environment and strong economy are not at odds with one another — it is possible to have both. One of the authors told Newsweek, “For decades, people have been debating whether alleviating poverty and protecting the environment are at odds with each other. Resolving this debate is important because lots of poor people are found in the same areas where we find the most endangered ecosystems, like the rainforest.”
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