A different dynamic is enveloping Central America. There, wealthy coke barons are land-grabbing—buying up cattle ranches and oil palm plantations to launder their huge profits.
Such profits total more than $100 billion annually, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
In Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, wealthy drug traffickers are estimated to cause 15 to 30 percent of all forest loss—and a shocking 30 to 60 percent of all forest destruction inside parks and protected areas.
And, as the traffickers carve their way into forests, they open them up to further impacts such as slash-and-burn farming and illegal gold mining (see this quick video).
In Guatemala’s Laguna del Tigre National Park, for example, drug traffickers cut a secret airstrip as well as illegal cattle ranches deep inside the park’s boundaries.
In the U.S., marijuana growers are stealing their way into national parks and public lands, clearing native vegetation and spraying toxic pesticides.
War on Drugs?
Clearly, for the environment, illicit drugs and their producers are far from harmless. But what can we do about them?
Some people argue that we must crack down harder on drug producers.
Others, however, say that we need to face a tough reality.