Earth scientists working throughout the world must be dismayed by the obviously destructive impact of land use practices in virtually all of the less developed countries (LDCs). Their landscapes show the negative imprint of the human hand of both ancient and contemporary civilizations. It is apparent to many that even a short extrapolation of current environmental trends would show that their continuation could take a deadly toll in terms of human misery and in terms of the flora and fauna of the world.
Seeing such problems through the practiced eyes of the geologic observer is relatively simple. Not nearly so easy is understanding the cause of the destructive land use practices of the poorer nations. Although the roots of the causes are cultural and ancient, the recent enormous acceleration of environmental degradation in the LDCs is complexly related to world politics and economics. Thus, although it has long been known that the civilizations of the world are economically and sociologically interrelated, it can also be shown that the world's environments are interdependent and cross-culturally influenced. In a real sense, an attitude in the United States can influence the erosion rate of an area in Bolivia or have an impact on an elephant in Africa.