Fighting Poverty Accidentally Stopped Deforestation in Indonesia

June 15, 2020, 9:00 AM

Forest destruction is responsible for 10% of human carbon dioxide emissions, and much of it is the result of extreme poverty. For local communities, selling timber and clearing land for cultivation is an income stream of last resort. Researchers, governments, and non-governmental organizations have debated for years how to rid the world of these twin scourges. But which comes first, alleviating the poverty or saving the trees?

Data from an Indonesian anti-poverty program that began in 2007 provided researchers a natural way to answer that question. The result: Cash payments to people in impoverished areas led to a 30% drop in tree...

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