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Global Studies Research Guide

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Topics in ESSR

"Humans depend on forests for a wide variety of vital resources, including food, fuel, medicine, clean water, and clean air. Forested areas make up roughly 26 percent of the Earth's land surface, but deforestation, particularly in Brazil, Indonesia, and tropical Africa, is shrinking this area. In some parts of the globe, reforestation is occurring.

Deforestation is caused by complex chains of factors that vary around the world. They include timber logging by private, foreign, or state-run companies, road building allowing new settlement, and agricultural expansion. 

Underlying driving forces of deforestation include economic, technological, political, cultural, and demographic factors. Indigenous people are losing their historic rights to forest areas. Women may be disproportionately affected because their rights are particularly weak and they bear the burden of collecting increasingly scarce food, fuel, and water.

Several case studies have shown that the economic gains associated with deforestation are typically low, and well-designed policy and market incentives can reduce deforestation significantly. To be effective, however, incentives will have to influence both the influential state and private actors, as well as the many millions of farmers whose actions drive land-use changes in the tropical forest margins."

"Deforestation." In Atlas of Global Inequalities, by Ben Crow, and Suresh K. Lodha. University of California Press, 2011.


"Humanity's ability to obtain this most precious of commodities depends on four factors—supply, demand, access, and quality. Water resources are used for a variety of human purposes—agriculture, industry, domestic use, transport, energy generation, and waste removal (for the purposes of this entry, the focus is on the first three of these uses). The lack of sufficient access to water has all kinds of implications for human health, economic prosperity, political stability, social cohesion, international relations, and the environment at large.

Various forces have arisen in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that put water supplies and access in jeopardy, forces that are only likely to intensify in the foreseeable future—population growth, economic development, and environmental degradation and climate change. In response, experts and policymakers have pushed for a number of economic and technological fixes to reduce water demand even as the world's poorer countries continue to invest in the infrastructure that will lead to better access."

Ciment, James. "Water Supply and Access." In Global Social Issues: An Encyclopedia, edited by Christopher G. Bates, and James Ciment. Routledge, 2013.


"Mining is a major business in many countries of both the developed and developing worlds. Although mining produces substantial economic benefits—particularly for the latter group of countries, but also in developed-world economies such as Australia—it nevertheless causes significant problems, among them environmental degradation. Also, mining operations often bring little financial reward to the communities that they disrupt.

In response, since the early 1980s mining legislation has been revised in more than 50 developing countries, many under the watchful eye of international donors. With few exceptions, these revisions have had two objectives: to resuscitate large, industrial-scale mining activity and to formalize artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) activities. Most host governments have heavily prioritized the large-scale activity, offering a series of generous tax breaks in the hope of attracting foreign investment to bolster mineral exploration activity and develop viable mining projects. ...

Efforts to reform mechanized large-scale mining in developing countries, however, have typically overshadowed those to formalize ASM. Specifically, in many cases—as most recently illustrated in Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa—governments have struggled to provide titling and support to prospective ASM licensees in areas now under concession to foreign multinationals. This is proving problematic because the blueprint of large-scale mine development championed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has failed to yield the developmental impact anticipated. Instead of giving rise to an industry that is fully integrated economically, the reforms have spawned industrial-scale enclave-type mining operations that have failed to stimulate downstream industries and generate much employment.

The ASM industry, however, is the very antithesis of this development, and a potential tonic to the burgeoning poverty that now engulfs many corners of the developing world. Impelled by domestic investment, ASM provides direct employment to millions of people worldwide and has spawned the many related service industries that large-scale extraction has had difficulty creating. But the sector, which accomplished this with minimal support from host governments and donors, is under serious threat from a perpetually expanding large-scale mining economy."

Hilson, Gavin M. "Mining Issues." In Global Social Issues: An Encyclopedia, edited by Christopher G. Bates, and James Ciment. Routledge, 2013.