Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Amazon Rainforest...con't

So…climbing down off my soapbox; my point being, paying to leave the forests standing is the right thing to do. We shouldn’t try to cloak it with claims of grandiose generosity trying to make it appear that we are doing something out of the norm for these countries. Just as we pay that Canadian farmer for not growing corn (our desire for his land); so should we pay the owners of the rainforest for not cutting it down (again, our desire for their land). We should pay them simply because it’s the right thing to do.

But, back to Latin America and the rainforests.

As we are all excruciatingly aware, the global financial market is not looking too healthy at this moment. The Latin Americans involved in these deals are wondering if the business theorists haven’t double-talked them into a win-lose situation with them holding the losing cards.

"The problems that have been caused by companies with their own rules cannot be solved by the same companies with the same rules," says Ana Filippini, spokesperson for the World Rainforest Movement, a Uruguayan-based conservation group. So incredibly simple, so incredibly true.

Illegal loggers are still harvesting the rainforest illegally despite the millions being spent on sustainable projects in the Amazon. According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, monthly deforestation rates are still rising. In August 2008, the forest lost three times the timber it lost in August of last year.

Unintended consequences have a habit of showing up in the best-laid plans. Remember my buddy Murphy? This is particularly true of business-based schemes. There are so many variables involved, it is impossible to accurately predict the outcome in most of the cases.

A new report, Life as Commerce: the Impact of Market-based Conservation lists some examples of unintended consequences as cited by the Global Forest Coalition.

The Kyoto protocol makes provision for the carbon captured by so-called “carbon sinks” can be sold to buyers in developing countries. What exactly is a carbon sink? A carbon sink is a reservoir of carbon that accumulates and stores carbon for an indefinite period. The main natural sinks are oceans which absorb the carbon dioxide and photosynthesis of the gas by plants and algae.

In order to collect these “carbon credits”, companies across South America have been racing to plant fast-growing plantations for the extremely profitable carbon market. More trees – what could possibly be wrong with this?

The so-called immediate climate change benefits (carbon credits) of monoculture plantations are more than offset by the immense damage they do to local biodiversity – plant, animal, indigenous peoples. There is no way to estimate what might be lost in the area of biodiversity since we have absolutely NO idea of the full range of riches that lie undiscovered in the Amazon Rainforest. We have yet to see if an overwhelming majority of monoculture plantations has an effect on the climate and/or weather patterns in the years to come.

The report Life as Commerce: the Impact of Market-based Conservation also says that by endorsing commercial plantations, timber certification schemes such as the
Forest Stewardship Council are doing more harm than good.

“Market-based schemes fail the residents of Latin America's forests as much as the forests themselves,” says the Global Forest Coalition.

Wow! Riveting stuff. Final installment tomorrow – then off to different subjects. I hope you are all finding this as interesting as I am. If you are, let me know: if you’re not, let me know.

1 comment:

Kathi said...

I find it interesting! And, I love the videos you take the time to find and post. The one called "Global Warming" from BBC - Motion, is great.