Deforestation is an ongoing concern, perhaps most notably the degradation of the Amazon rainforests. Yet the inescapable conclusion from research at multiple scales - community, region, and country - is that there is nothing inevitable about deforestation. Elinor Ostrom's research on the commons has shown that self-governing communities are often able to manage forests effectively. Institutionalists such as Gary Libecap and Robert Deacon have shown that secure property rights to forests is perhaps the most significant explanation for improvements in forest governance. Still, political considerations are critical: without local democracy, political decision-makers have few incentives to define and enforce property rights in response to local conditions. Social institutions, such as trust and individualism, are also associated with improvements in forest governance. The central conclusion from Chapter 3 is that appropriately designed institutions overcome any pressure of population growth on forests.
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