01 March, 2016
Robert Fletcher is an associate professor at the Sociology of Development and Change Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. His most recent book is Romancing the Wild: Cultural Dimensions of Ecotourism (2014).
Edited by Brigid Hains
Edward O Wilson is one of the world’s most revered, reviled and referenced conservation biologists. In his new book (and Aeon essay) Half-Earth, he comes out with all guns blazing, proclaiming the terrible fate of biodiversity, the need for radical conservation, and humanity’s centrality in both. His basic message is simple: desperate times call for desperate measures, ‘only by setting aside half the planet in reserve, or more, can we save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilisation required for our own survival’. Asserting that ‘humanity’ behaves like a destructive juggernaut, Wilson is deeply concerned that the current ‘sixth extinction’ is destroying many species before scientists have even been able to identify them.
Turning half of the Earth into a series of nature parks is a grand utopian vision for conservation, perhaps even a hyperbolic one, yet Wilson seems deadly serious about it. Some environmental thinkers have been arguing the exact opposite, namely that conservation should give up its infatuation with parks and focus on ‘mixing’ people and nature in mutually conducive ways. Wilson defends a traditional view that nature needs more protection, and attacks them for being ‘unconcerned with what the consequences will be if their beliefs are played out’. As social scientists who study the impact of international conservation on peoples around the world, we would argue that it is Wilson himself who has fallen into this trap: the world he imagines in Half-Earth would be a profoundly inhumane one if ever his beliefs were ‘played out’.
The ‘nature needs half’ idea is not entirely new – it is an extreme version of a more widespread ‘land sparing’ conservation strategy. This is not about setting aside half the Earth as a whole but expanding the world’s current network of protected areas to create a patchwork grid encompassing at least half the world’s surface (and the ocean) and hence ‘about 85 per cent’ of remaining biodiversity. The plan is staggering in scale: protected areas, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, currently incorporate around 10-15 per cent of the Earth’s terrain, so would need to more than triple in extent.
Wilson identifies a number of causes of the current ecological crisis, but is particularly concerned by overpopulation. ‘Our population,’ he argues, ‘is too large for safety and comfort… Earth’s more than 7 billion people are collectively ravenous consumers of all the planet’s inadequate bounty.’ But can we talk about the whole of humanity in such generalised terms? In reality, the world is riven by dramatic inequality, and different segments of humanity have vastly different impacts on the world’s environments. The blame for our ecological problems therefore cannot be spread across some notion of a generalised ‘humanity’.
Although Wilson is careful to qualify that it is the combination ofpopulation growth and ‘per-capita consumption’ that causes environmental degradation, he is particularly concerned about places he identifies as the remaining high-fertility problem spots – ‘Patagonia, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, plus all of sub-Saharan Africa exclusive of South Africa’. These are countries with some of the world’s lowest incomes. Paradoxically, then, it is those consuming the least that are considered the greatest problem. ‘Overpopulation’, it seems, is the same racialised bogeyman as ever, and the poor the greatest threat to an environmentally-sound future.
Wilson’s Half-Earth vision is offered as an explicit counterpoint to so-called ‘new’ or ‘Anthropocene’ conservationists, who are loosely organised around the controversial Breakthrough Institute. For Wilson, these ‘Anthropocene ideologists’ have given up on nature altogether. In her book, Rambunctious Garden (2011), Emma Marris characteristically argues that there is no wilderness left on the Earth, which is everywhere completely transformed by the human presence. According to Anthropocene thinking, we are in charge of the Earth and must manage it closely whether we like it or not. Wilson disagrees, insisting that ‘areas of wilderness… are real entities’. He contends that an area need not be ‘pristine’ or uninhabited to be wilderness, and ‘[w]ildernesses have often contained sparse populations of people, especially those indigenous for centuries or millennia, without losing their essential character’.
Research across the globe has shown that many protected areas once contained not merely ‘sparse’ inhabitants but often quite dense populations – clearly incompatible with the US Wilderness Act’s classic definition of wilderness as an area ‘where man himself is a visitor who does not remain’. Most existing ‘wilderness’ parks have required the removal or severe restriction of human beings within their bounds. Indeed, one of Wilson’s models for conservation success – Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique – sidelined local people despite their unified opposition. In his book Conservation Refugees (2009), Mark Dowie estimates that 20-50 million people have been displaced by previous waves of protected-area creation. To extend protected areas to half of the Earth’s surface would require a relocation of human populations on a scale that could dwarf all previous conservation refugee crises.
Would these people include Montana cattle ranchers? Or Australian wheat growers? Or Florida retirees? The answer, most likely, is no, for the burden of conservation has never been shared equitably across the world. Those who both take the blame and pay the greatest cost of environmental degradation are, almost always, those who do not have power to influence either their own governments or international politics. It is the hill tribes of Thailand, the pastoralists of Tanzania, and the forest peoples of Indonesia who are invariably expected to relocate, often at gunpoint, as Dowie and many scholars, including Dan Brockington in his book Fortress Conservation (2002), have demonstrated.
How will human society withstand the shock of removing so much land and ocean from food-growing and other uses? Wilson criticises the Anthropocene worldview’s faith that technological innovation can solve environmental problems or find substitutes for depleted resources, but he simultaneously promotes his own techno-fix in a vision of ‘intensified economic evolution’ in which ‘the free market, and the way it is increasingly shaped by high technology’ will solve the problem seemingly automatically. According to Wilson, ‘products that win competition today… are those that cost less to manufacture and advertise, need less frequent repair and replacement, and give highest performance with a minimum amount of energy’. He thus invokes a biological version of Adam Smith’s invisible hand in maintaining that ‘[j]ust as natural selection drives organic evolution by competition among genes to produce more copies of themselves per unit cost in the next generation, raising benefit-to-cost of production drives the evolution of the economy’ and asserting, without any evidence, that ‘[a]lmost all of the competition in a free market, other than in military technology, raises the average quality of life’.
Remarkably, this utopian optimism about technology and the workings of the free market leads Wilson to converge on a position rather like that of the Anthropocene conservationists he so dislikes, advocating a vision of ‘decoupling economic activity from material and environmental throughputs’ in order to create sustainable livelihoods for a population herded into urban areas to free space for self-willed nature. The Breakthrough Institute has recently promoted its own, quite similar, manifesto for land sparing and decoupling to increase terrain for conservation.
In this vision, science and technology can compensate for some of humanity’s status as the world’s ‘most destructive species’. And at the pinnacle of science stands (conservation) biology, according to Wilson. He argues: ‘If people are to live long and healthy lives in the sustainable Eden of our dreams, and our minds are to break free and dwell in the far more interesting universe of reason triumphant over superstition, it will be through advances in biology.’ How exactly humans are to ‘break free’ is not explained and is, in fact, impossible according to Wilson himself, given ‘the Darwinian propensity in our brain’s machinery to favour short-term decisions over long-range planning’. As far as Wilson is concerned, any worldview that does not favour protected-area expansion as the highest goal is by definition an irrational one. In this way, the world’s poor are blamed not only for overpopulating biodiversity hotspots but also for succumbing to the ‘religious belief and inept philosophical thought’ standing in the way of environmental Enlightenment.
Let us finish by making a broader point, drawing on Wilson’s approving quotation of Alexander von Humboldt, the 19th-century German naturalist who claimed that ‘the most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world’. In viewing the world, we also construct it, and the world Wilson’s offers us in Half-Earth is a truly bizarre one. For all his zeal, (misplaced) righteousness and passion, his vision is disturbing and dangerous, and would have profoundly negative ‘consequences if played out’. It would entail forcibly herding a drastically reduced human population into increasingly crowded urban areas to be managed in oppressively technocratic ways. How such a global programme of conservation Lebensraum would be accomplished is left to the reader’s imagination. We therefore hope readers will not take Wilson’s proposal seriously. Addressing biodiversity loss and other environmental problems must proceed by confronting the world’s obscene inequality, not by blaming the poor and trusting the ‘free market’ to save them.
29 February, 2016
Half of the Earth’s surface and seas must be dedicated to the conservation of nature, or humanity will have no future
The Serengeti National Park. Photo by Medford Taylor/National Geographic
Edited by Pam Weintraub
Unstanched haemorrhaging has only one end in all biological systems: death for an organism, extinction for a species. Researchers who study the trajectory of biodiversity loss are alarmed that, within the century, an exponentially rising extinction rate might easily wipe out most of the species still surviving at the present time.
The crucial factor in the life and death of species is the amount of suitable habitat left to them. When, for example, 90 per cent of the area is removed, the number that can persist sustainably will descend to about a half. Such is the actual condition of many of the most species-rich localities around the world, including Madagascar, the Mediterranean perimeter, parts of continental southwestern Asia, Polynesia, and many of the islands of the Philippines and the West Indies. If 10 per cent of the remaining natural habitat were then also removed – a team of lumbermen might do it in a month – most or all of the surviving resident species would disappear.
Today, every sovereign nation in the world has a protected-area system of some kind. All together the reserves number about 161,000 on land and 6,500 over marine waters. According to the World Database on Protected Areas, a joint project of the United Nations Environmental Program and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, they occupied by 2015 a little less than 15 per cent of Earth’s land area and 2.8 per cent of Earth’s ocean area. The coverage is increasing gradually. This trend is encouraging. To have reached the existing level is a tribute to those who have led and participated in the global conservation effort.
But is the level enough to halt the acceleration of species extinction? Unfortunately, it is in fact nowhere close to enough. The declining world of biodiversity cannot be saved by the piecemeal operations in current use alone. The extinction rate our behaviour is now imposing on the rest of life, and seems destined to continue, is more correctly viewed as the equivalent of a Chicxulub-sized asteroid strike played out over several human generations.
The only hope for the species still living is a human effort commensurate with the magnitude of the problem. The ongoing mass extinction of species, and with it the extinction of genes and ecosystems, ranks with pandemics, world war, and climate change as among the deadliest threats that humanity has imposed on itself. To those who feel content to let the Anthropocene evolve toward whatever destiny it mindlessly drifts, I say please take time to reconsider. To those who are steering the growth of reserves worldwide, let me make an earnest request: don’t stop, just aim a lot higher.
There is a second, psychological argument for protecting half of Earth. The current conservation movement has not been able to go the distance because it is a process. It targets the most endangered habitats and species and works forward from there. Knowing that the conservation window is closing fast, it strives to add increasing amounts of protected space, faster and faster, saving as much as time and opportunity will allow.
The key is the ecological footprint, defined as the amount of space required to meet the needs of an average person
Half-Earth is different. It is a goal. People understand and prefer goals. They need a victory, not just news that progress is being made. It is human nature to yearn for finality, something achieved by which their anxieties and fears are put to rest.
The Half-Earth solution does not mean dividing the planet into hemispheric halves or any other large pieces the size of continents or nation-states. Nor does it require changing ownership of any of the pieces, but instead only the stipulation that they be allowed to exist unharmed. It does, on the other hand, mean setting aside the largest reserves possible for nature, hence for the millions of other species still alive.
The key to saving one-half of the planet is the ecological footprint, defined as the amount of space required to meet all of the needs of an average person. It comprises the land used for habitation, fresh water, food production and delivery, personal transportation, communication, governance, other public functions, medical support, burial, and entertainment. In the same way the ecological footprint is scattered in pieces around the world, so are Earth’s surviving wildlands on the land and in the sea. The pieces range in size from the major desert and forest wildernesses to pockets of restored habitats as small as a few hectares.
But, you may ask, doesn’t a rising population and per-capita consumption doom the Half-Earth prospect? In this aspect of its biology, humanity appears to have won a throw of the demographic dice. Its population growth has begun to decelerate autonomously, without pressure one way or the other from law or custom. In every country where women have gained some degree of social and financial independence, their average fertility has dropped by a corresponding amount through individual personal choice.
There won’t be an immediate drop in the total world population. An overshoot still exists due to the longevity of the more numerous offspring of earlier, more fertile generations. There also remain high-fertility countries, with an average of more than three surviving children born to each woman, thus higher than the 2.1 children per woman that yields zero population growth. Even as it decelerates toward zero growth, population will reach between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion, up from the 7.2 billion existing in 2014. That is a heavy burden for an already overpopulated planet to bear, but unless women worldwide switch back from the negative population trend of fewer than 2.1 children per woman, a turn downward in the early 22nd century is inevitable.
And what of per-capita consumption? The footprint will evolve, not to claim more and more space, as you might at first suppose, but less. The reason lies in the evolution of the free market system, and the way it is increasingly shaped by high technology. The products that win are those that cost less to manufacture and advertise, need less frequent repair and replacement, and give highest performance with a minimum amount of energy. Just as natural selection drives organic evolution by competition among genes to produce more copies of themselves per unit cost in the next generation, raising benefit-to-cost of production drives the evolution of the economy. Teleconferencing, online purchase and trade, ebook personal libraries, access on the Internet to all literature and scientific data, online diagnosis and medical practice, food production per hectare sharply raised by indoor vertical gardens with LED lighting, genetically engineered crops and microorganisms, long-distance business conferences and social visits by life-sized images, and not least the best available education in the world free online to anyone, anytime, and anywhere. All of these amenities will yield more and better results with less per-capita material and energy, and thereby will reduce the size of the ecological footprint.
In viewing the future this way, I wish to suggest a means to achieve almost free enjoyment of the world’s best places in the biosphere that I and my fellow naturalists have identified. The cost-benefit ratio would be extremely small. It requires only a thousand or so high-resolution cameras that broadcast live around the clock from sites within reserves. People would still visit any reserve in the world physically, but they could also travel there virtually and in continuing real time with no more than a few keystrokes in their homes, schools, and lecture halls. Perhaps a Serengeti water hole at dawn? Or a teeming Amazon canopy? There would also be available streaming video of summer daytime on the coast in the shallow offshore waters of Antarctica, and cameras that continuously travel through the great coral triangle of Indonesia and New Guinea. With species identifications and brief expert commentaries unobtrusively added, the adventure would be forever changing, and safe.
The spearhead of this intensive economic evolution, with its hope for biodiversity, is contained in the linkage of biology, nanotechnology, and robotics. Two ongoing enterprises within it, the creation of artificial life and artificial minds, seem destined to preoccupy a large part of science and high technology for the rest of the present century.
The creation of artificial life forms is already a reality. On 20 May 2010, a team of researchers at the J Craig Venter Institute in California announced the second genesis of life, this time by human rather than divine command. They had built live cells from the ground up. With simple chemical reagents off the shelf, they assembled the entire genetic code of a bacterial species, Mycoplasma mycoides, a double helix of 1.08 million DNA base pairs. During the process they modified the code sequence slightly, implanting a statement made by the late theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, ‘What I cannot create, I do not understand,’ in order to detect daughters of the altered mother cells in future tests.
If our minds are to break free and dwell in the far more interesting universe of reason triumphant over superstition, it will be through advances in biology
The textbook example of elementary artificial selection of the past 10 millennia is the transformation of teosinte, a species of wild grass with three races in Mexico and Central America, into maize (corn). The food found in the ancestor was a meagre packet of hard kernels. Over centuries of selective breeding it was altered into its modern form. Today maize, after further selection and widespread hybridisation of inbred strains that display ‘hybrid vigour’ is the principal food of hundreds of millions.
The first decade of the present century thus saw the beginning of the next new major phase of genetic modification beyond hybridisation: artificial selection and even direct substitution in single organisms of one gene for another. If we use the trajectory of progress in molecular biology during the previous half century as a historical guide, it appears inevitable that scientists will begin routinely to build cells of wide variety from the ground up, then induce them to multiply into synthetic tissues, organs, and eventually entire independent organisms of considerable complexity.
If people are to live long and healthy lives in the sustainable Eden of our dreams, and our minds are to break free and dwell in the far more interesting universe of reason triumphant over superstition, it will be through advances in biology. The goal is practicable because scientists, being scientists, live with one uncompromising mandate: press discovery to the limit. There has already emerged a term for the manufacture of organisms and parts of organisms: synthetic biology. Its potential benefits, easily visualised as spreading through medicine and agriculture, are limited only by imagination. Synthetic biology will also bring onto centre stage the microbe-based increase of food and energy.
Each passing year sees advances in artificial intelligence and their multitudinous applications – advances that would have been thought distantly futuristic a decade earlier. Robots roll over the surface of Mars. They travel around boulders and up and down slopes while photographing, measuring minutiae of topography, analysing the chemical composition of soil and rocks, and scrutinising everything for signs of life.
In the early period of the digital revolution, innovators relied on machine design of computers without reference to the human brain, much as the earliest aeronautical engineers used mechanical principles and intuition to design aircraft instead of imitating the flight of birds. But with the swift growth of both fields, one-on-one comparisons are multiplying. The alliance of computer technology and brain science has given birth to whole brain emulation as one of the ultimate goals of science.
From the time of the ancient human-destined line of amphibians, then reptiles, then mammals, the neural pathways of every part of the brain were repeatedly altered by natural selection to adapt the organism to the environment in which it lived. Step-by-step, from the Paleozoic amphibians to the Cenozoic primates, the ancient centres were augmented by newer centres, chiefly in the growing cortex, that added to learning ability. All things being equal, the ability of organisms to function through seasons and across different habitats gave them an edge in the constant struggle to survive and reproduce.
Little wonder, then, that neurobiologists have found the human brain to be densely sprinkled with partially independent centres of unconscious operations, along with all of the operators of rational thought. Located through the cortex in what might look at first like random arrays are the headquarters of process variously for numbers, attention, face-recognition, meanings, reading, sounds, fears, values, and error detection. Decisions tend to be made by the brute force of unconscious choice in these centres prior to conscious comprehension.
Next in evolution came consciousness, a function of the human brain that, among other things, reduces an immense stream of sense data to a small set of carefully selected bite-size symbols. The sampled information can then be routed to another processing stage, allowing us to perform what are fully controlled chains of operations, much like a serial computer. This broadcasting function of consciousness is essential. In humans, it is greatly enhanced by language, which lets us distribute our conscious thoughts across the social network.
What has brain science to do with biodiversity? At first, human nature evolved along a zigzag path as a continually changing ensemble of genetic traits while the biosphere continue to evolve on its own. But the explosive growth of digital technology transformed every aspect of our lives and changed our self-perception, bringing the ‘bnr’ industries (biology, nanotechnology, robotics) to the forefront of the modern economy. These three have the potential either to favour biodiversity or to destroy it.
I believe they will favour it, by moving the economy away from fossil fuels to energy sources that are clean and sustainable, by radically improving agriculture with new crop species and ways to grow them, and by reducing the need or even the desire for distant travel. All are primary goals of the digital revolution. Through them the size of the ecological footprint will also be reduced. The average person can expect to enjoy a longer, healthier life of high quality yet with less energy extraction and raw demand put on the land and sea. If we are lucky (and smart), world population will peak at a little more than 10 billion people by the end of the century followed by the ecological footprint soon thereafter. The reason is that we are thinking organisms trying to understand how the world works. We will come awake.
Silicon Valley dreamers of a digitised humanity have failed to give much thought at all to the biosphere
That process is already under way, albeit still far too slowly – with the end in sight in the 23rd century. We and the rest of life with us are in the middle of a bottleneck of rising population, shrinking resources, and disappearing species. As its stewards we need to think of our species as being in a race to save the living environment. The primary goal is to make it through the bottleneck to a better, less perilous existence while carrying through as much of the rest of life as possible. If global biodiversity is given space and security, most of the large fraction of species now endangered will regain sustainability on their own. Furthermore, advances made in synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, whole brain emulation, and other similar, mathematically based disciplines can be imported to create an authentic, predictive science of ecology. In it, the interrelations of species will be explored as fervently as we now search through our own bodies for health and longevity. It is often said that the human brain is the most complex system known to us in the universe. That is incorrect. The most complex is the individual natural ecosystem, and the collectivity of ecosystems comprising Earth’s species-level biodiversity. Each species of plant, animal, fungus, and microorganism is guided by sophisticated decision devices. Each is intricately programmed in its own way to pass with precision through its respective life cycle. It is instructed on when to grow, when to mate, when to disperse, and when to shy away from enemies. Even the single-celled Escherichia coli, living in the bacterial paradise of our intestines, moves toward food and away from toxins by spinning its tail cilium one way, then the other way, in response to chemosensory molecules within its microscopic body.
How minds and decision-making devices evolve, and how they interact with ecosystems is a vast area of biology that remains mostly uncharted – and still even undreamed by those scientists who devote their lives to it. The analytic techniques coming to bear on neuroscience, on Big Data theory, on simulations with robot avatars, and on other comparable enterprises will find applications in biodiversity studies. They are ecology’s sister disciplines.
It is past time to broaden the discussion of the human future and connect it to the rest of life. The Silicon Valley dreamers of a digitised humanity have not done that, not yet. They have failed to give much thought at all to the biosphere. With the human condition changing so swiftly, we are losing or degrading to uselessness ever more quickly the millions of species that have run the world independently of us and free of cost. If humanity continues its suicidal ways to change the global climate, eliminate ecosystems, and exhaust Earth’s natural resources, our species will very soon find itself forced into making a choice, this time engaging the conscious part of our brain. It is as follows: shall we be existential conservatives, keeping our genetically-based human nature while tapering off the activities inimical to ourselves and the rest of the biosphere? Or shall we use our new technology to accommodate the changes important solely to our own species, while letting the rest of life slip away? We have only a short time to decide.
The beautiful world our species inherited took the biosphere 3.8 billion years to build. The intricacy of its species we know only in part, and the way they work together to create a sustainable balance we have only recently begun to grasp. Like it or not, and prepared or not, we are the mind and stewards of the living world. Our own ultimate future depends upon that understanding. We have come a very long way through the barbaric period in which we still live, and now I believe we’ve learned enough to adopt a transcendent moral precept concerning the rest of life.
Reprinted from ‘Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life’ by Edward O Wilson. Copyright © 2016 by Edward O Wilson. With permission of the publisher, Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.
What becomes of conservation—a field that has long defined itself as protecting nature from humanity—in a time when human impacts reach every corner of the planet?
Many conservationists, it seems, would argue that the defense of natural spaces has never been more urgent than it is now. As Michael Soulé puts it, “The worth of nature is beyond question and our obligation to minimize its gratuitous degradation is no less.” Others, however, are disillusioned with the notion of pristine nature and have instead embraced the idea that we live in a “postnatural” world. “Conservationists,” they argue, “will have to jettison their idealized notions of nature, parks, and wilderness […] and forge a more optimistic, human-friendly vision. […] [We] need to acknowledge that a conservation that is only about fences, limits, and far away places only a few can actually experience is a losing proposition.”
No single factor can account for the emergence of postnatural conservation—resilience theory, postequilibrium ecology, ecosystems services, climate change, and the Anthropocene proposal itself all come readily to mind. But, whatever its causes, the postnatural turn suggests the prospect of new common ground with environmental social scientists, philosophers, and historians for whom nature has always been a problematic category. This is, after all, similar to what we’ve been saying all along.
But is the “new” conservation really what we had in mind? In their new article, “A Manifesto for Abundant Futures,” geographers Collard, Dempsey, and Sundberg raise several important concerns about conservation’s postnatural turn and offer an alternative set of conservation principles. What I’d like to do here is very briefly highlight their concerns before commenting (again briefly) on their proposed alternatives.
Collard and her colleagues’ concerns about postnatural conservation revolve around its close connection to neoliberal managerialism. Postnatural approaches to conservation, they explain, usually propose on the use of economic incentives to promote environmentally sustainable practices. Under this model, human wellbeing is the tide that raises all ecological ships, and economic optimization the standard according to which competing tradeoffs are weighed. Meanwhile, postnatural conservation breaks with traditional conservation by orienting itself toward the future rather than the past. Its focus is not on restoring degraded landscapes to a past condition or addressing the historical roots of contemporary problems, but rather on looking hopefully toward a prosperous, globally integrated future.
This combination of anthropocentrism, instrumentalism, futurism, and globalism make postnatural conservation an excellent fit for neoliberal managerialism, not for critical environmental studies. As a result, “new” conservation may actually reinforce the “old” political-economic system at the root of our global ecological crisis. These concerns strongly resonate with those I have raised in prior posts.
What, then, is the alternative Collard and her colleagues envision? I will not attempt a full summary here—the article itself is a great read! Instead, I will offer a few comments on how their vision of conservation fits into the themes that emerged through our recent Habitation in the Anthropocene project.
History: As a corrective to the ahistorical futurism and market triumphalism of postnatural conservation, the authors center their approach on addressing the accumulated experiences of social and ecological suffering that characterize the Anthropocene. Instead of bracketing ecocide, they propose looking back to past nonhuman abundance as an aspirational benchmark for the future. Likewise, they cite work being done by a host of social and environmental justice movements and call for “political struggle grounded in decolonizing” (p. 326). Not unlike Asa’s post about the “multitemporal” nature of human-environment interactions, the “Manifesto” conditions future habitability on dealing with the complex inheritances of the past.
Future: Like postnatural conservation, Collard and her colleagues seek to foster a sense of hope that the future will be abundant (as per the definition in their abstract). Their hope, however, is not for a future dominated by economic rationality, but for a plurality of futures where less instrumental and anthropocentric standards for good living have a chance to define abundance in new ways. In particular, they highlight Leanne Simpson’s work on the Anishinaabeg concept of mino bimaadiziwin, which denotes “promoting life” or “continuous rebirth” and suggests an “alternative to worlds that are enacted through utilitarianism and extraction” (p. 328). Finally, they do not look to managerial, market-based solutions within the current global system, but instead insist that “creating conditions for abundance necessitates enacting alternatives to imperial capitalism” (p. 323).
Agency: Against the human exceptionalism of postnatural conservation, they make “multispecies entanglements” foundational to their approach. They tie the wellbeing of humans to that of nonhumans and, in so many words, propose a relational ethics for multispecies cohabitation. Although they join postnatural conservation in rejecting the concept of wilderness, they seek to preserve that of wildness so as to recognize “animal autonomy,” meaning “the fullest expression of animal life, including capacity for movement, for social and familial association, and for work and play” (p. 328). Finally, they advocate “acting pluriversally”—an ontological orientation that aims for radical openness to different ways of bringing the world into being. In this way, their vision leaves open possibilities for multiple, self-determined futures in a way that postnatural conservation does not.
Limits: The authors acknowledge the material limits to habitability—and in particular how these have been reached as a result of capitalist imperialism and experienced most acutely by politically marginalized humans and nonhumans. However, as my comments above should make clear, their vision focuses mostly on moral limits to habitability, particularly those involving social justice, animal autonomy, and self-determination.
I hope that “A Manifesto for Abundant Futures” will be read widely. I share with its authors the sense that the Anthropocene is at best “a spark that will light a fire in our imaginaries” (p. 326) and their hope that we can again achieve “a world literally filled to the brim with different creatures” (p. 321).
The Natural Capital Agenda looks like an answer to the environmental crisis. But it’s a delusion.
By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 24th July 2014
This is the transcript of George Monbiot’s SPERI Annual Lecture, hosted by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. The lecture was delivered without notes, and transcribed afterwards, so a few small changes have been made for readability, but it’s more or less as given. You can watch the video here.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing the death of both the theory and the practice of neoliberal capitalism. This is the doctrine which holds that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. It holds that people are best served, and their prosperity is best advanced, by the minimum of intervention and spending by the state. It contends that we can maximise the general social interest through the pursuit of self-interest.
To illustrate the spectacular crashing and burning of that doctrine, let me tell you the sad tale of a man called Matt Ridley. He was a columnist on the Daily Telegraph until he became – and I think this tells us something about the meritocratic pretensions of neoliberalism – the hereditary Chair of Northern Rock: a building society that became a bank. His father had been Chair of Northern Rock before him, which appears to have been his sole qualification.
While he was a columnist on the Telegraph he wrote the following:
The government “is a self-seeking flea on the backs of the more productive people of this world. … governments do not run countries, they parasitize them.”(1) He argued that taxes, bail-outs, regulations, subsidies, interventions of any kind are an unwarranted restraint on market freedom. When he became Chairman of Northern Rock, Mr Ridley was able to put some of these ideas into practice. You can see the results today on your bank statements.
In 2007 Matt Ridley had to go cap in hand to the self-seeking flea and beg it for what became £27 billion. This was rapidly followed by the first run on a British bank since 1878. The government had to guarantee all the deposits of the investors in the bank. Eventually it had to nationalise the bank, being the kind of parasitic self-seeking flea that it is, in order to prevent more or less the complete collapse of the banking system(2).
By comparison to Mr Ridley, the likes of Paul Flowers, our poor old crystal Methodist, were pretty half-hearted. In fact about the only things which distinguish Mr Flowers from the rest of the banking fraternity were that a) he allegedly bought his own cocaine and b) he singularly failed to bring the entire banking system to its knees.
Where’s Mr Ridley now? Oh, we don’t call him Mr Ridley any more. He sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how our system works.
It is not just that neoliberalism has failed spectacularly in that this creed – which was supposed to prevent state spending and persuade us that we didn’t need state spending – has required the greatest and most wasteful state spending in history to bail out the deregulated banks. But also that it has singularly failed to create the great society of innovators and entrepreneurs that we were promised by the originators of this doctrine, by people like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that it would create a society of entrepreneurs.
As Thomas Piketty, a name which is on everybody’s lips at the moment, so adeptly demonstrates in his new book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, what has happened over the past thirty years or so has been a great resurgence of patrimonial capitalism, of a rentier economy, in which you make far more money either by owning capital or by positioning yourself as a true self-serving flea upon the backs of productive people, a member of an executive class whose rewards are out of all kilter with its performance or the value it delivers(3). You make far more money in either of those positions than you possibly can through entrepreneurial activity. If wealth under this system were the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.
So just at this moment, this perfect moment of the total moral and ideological collapse of the neoliberal capitalist system, some environmentalists stumble across it and say, “This is the answer to saving the natural world.” And they devise a series of ideas and theories and mechanisms which are supposed to do what we’ve been unable to do by other means: to protect the world from the despoilation and degradation which have done it so much harm.
I’m talking about the development of what could be called the Natural Capital Agenda: the pricing, valuation, monetisation, financialisation of nature in the name of saving it.
Sorry, did I say nature? We don’t call it that any more. It is now called natural capital. Ecological processes are called ecosystem services because, of course, they exist only to serve us. Hills, forests, rivers: these are terribly out-dated terms. They are now called green infrastructure. Biodiversity and habitats? Not at all à la mode my dear. We now call them asset classes in an ecosystems market. I am not making any of this up. These are the names we now give to the natural world.
Those who support this agenda say, “Look, we are failing spectacularly to protect the natural world – and we are failing because people aren’t valuing it enough. Companies will create a road scheme or a supermarket – or a motorway service station in an ancient woodland on the edge of Sheffield – and they see the value of what is going to be destroyed as effectively zero. They weigh that against the money to be made from the development with which they want to replace it. So if we were to price the natural world, and to point out that it is really worth something because it delivers ecosystems services to us in the form of green infrastructure and asset classes within an ecosystems market (i.e. water, air, soil, pollination and the rest of it), then perhaps we will be able to persuade people who are otherwise unpersuadable that this is really worth preserving.”
They also point out that through this agenda you can raise a lot of money, which isn’t otherwise available for conservation projects. These are plausible and respectable arguments. But I think they are the road to ruin – to an even greater ruin than we have at the moment.
Let me try to explain why with an escalating series of arguments. I say escalating because they rise in significance, starting with the relatively trivial and becoming more serious as we go.
Perhaps the most trivial argument against the Natural Capital Agenda is that, in the majority of cases, efforts to price the natural world are complete and utter gobbledygook. And the reason why they are complete and utter gobbledygook is that they are dealing with values which are non-commensurable.
They are trying to compare things which cannot be directly compared. The result is the kind of nonsense to be found in the Natural Capital Committee’s latest report, published a couple of weeks ago(4). The Natural Capital Committee was set up by this Government, supposedly in pursuit of better means of protecting the natural world.
It claimed, for example, that if fresh water ecosystems in this country were better protected, the additional aesthetic value arising from that protection would be £700 million. That’s the aesthetic value: in other words, what it looks like. We will value the increment in what it looks like at £700 million. It said that if grassland and sites of special scientific interest were better protected, their wildlife value would increase by £40 million. The value of their wildlife – like the chalk hill blues and the dog violets that live on protected grasslands – would be enhanced by £40 million.
These figures, ladies and gentlemen, are marmalade. They are finely shredded, boiled to a pulp, heavily sweetened … and still indigestible. In other words they are total gibberish.
But they are not the worst I’ve come across. Under the last Government, the Department for Transport claimed to have discovered “the real value of time.” Let me read you the surreal sentence in which this bombshell was dropped. “Forecast growth in the real value of time is shown in Table 3.”(5) There it was, the real value of time – rising on a graph.
The Department for Environment, when it launched the National Ecosystem Assessment in 2011, came out with something equally interesting. It said it had established “the true value of nature for the very first time”(6). Unfortunately it wasn’t yet able to give us a figure for “the true value of nature”, but it did manage to provide figures for particular components of that value of nature. Let me give you just one of these. It said that if we looked after our parks and greens well they would enhance our well-being to the tune of £290 per household per year in 2060.
What does it mean? It maintained that the increment in well-being is composed of “recreation, health and solace”; natural spaces in which “our culture finds its roots and sense of place”; “shared social value” arising from developing “a sense of purpose” and being “able to achieve important personal goals and participate in society” enhanced by “supportive personal relationships” and “strong and inclusive communities”(7). So you put solace and sense of place and social value and personal goals and supportive personal relationships and strong and inclusive communities all together into one figure and you come out with £290 per household per year.
All we require now is for the Cabinet Office to give us a price for love and a true value for society and we will have a single figure for the meaning of life.
I know what you’re thinking: it’s 42(8). But Deep Thought failed to anticipate the advent of Strictly Come Dancing, which has depreciated the will to live to the extent that it’s now been downgraded to 41.
It is complete rubbish, and surely anyone can see it’s complete rubbish. Not only is it complete rubbish, it is unimprovable rubbish. It’s just not possible to have meaningful figures for benefits which cannot in any sensible way be measured in financial terms.
Now there are some things that you can do. They are pretty limited, but there are some genuinely commensurable pay-offs that can be assessed. So, for instance, a friend of mine asked me the other day, “What’s the most lucrative investment a land owner can make?”. I didn’t know. “An osprey! Look at Bassenthwaite in the Lake District where there’s a pair of ospreys breeding and the owners of the land have 300,000 people visiting them every year. They charge them for car parking and they probably make a million pounds a year.”
You can look at that and compare it to what you were doing before, such as rearing sheep, which is only viable because of farm subsidies: you actually lose money by keeping sheep on the land. So you can make a direct comparison because you’ve got two land uses which are both generating revenue (or losing revenue) that is already directly costed in pounds. I’ve got no problem with that. You can come out and say there is a powerful economic argument for having ospreys rather than sheep.
There are a few others I can think of. You can, for instance, look at watersheds. There is an insurance company which costed Pumlumon, the highest mountain in the Cambrian mountains, and worked out that it would be cheaper to buy Pumlumon and reforest it in order to slow down the flow of water into the lowlands than to keep paying out every year for carpets in Gloucester.
There were quite a few assumptions in there, as we don’t yet have all the hydrological data we need, but in principle you can unearth some directly commensurable values – the cost of insurance pay-outs, in pounds, versus the cost of buying the land, in pounds – and produce a rough ballpark comparison. But in the majority of cases you are not looking at anything remotely resembling financial commensurability.
So that is Problem One, and that is the most trivial of the problems.
Problem Two is that you are effectively pushing the natural world even further into the system that is eating it alive. Dieter Helm, the Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee, said the following in the same report I quoted from just a moment ago. “The environment is part of the economy and needs to be properly integrated into it so that growth opportunities will not be missed.”(9)
There, ladies and gentlemen, you have what seems to me the Government’s real agenda. This is not to protect the natural world from the depredations of the economy. It is to harness the natural world to the economic growth that has been destroying it. All the things which have been so damaging to the living planet are now being sold to us as its salvation; commodification, economic growth, financialisation, abstraction. Now, we are told, these devastating processes will protect it.
(Sorry, did I say the living planet? I keep getting confused about this. I meant asset classes within an ecosystem market.)
It gets worse still when you look at the way in which this is being done. Look at the government’s Ecosystems Markets Task Force, which was another of these exotic vehicles for chopping up nature and turning it into money. From the beginning it was pushing nature towards financialisation. It talked of “harnessing City financial expertise to assess the ways that these blended revenue streams and securitisations enhance the return on investment of an environmental bond.”(10) That gives you an idea of what the agenda is – as well as the amount of gobbledygook it is already generating.
What we are talking about is giving the natural world to the City of London, the financial centre, to look after. What could possibly go wrong? Here we have a sector whose wealth is built on the creation of debt. That’s how it works, on stacking up future liabilities. Shafting the future in order to serve the present: that is the model. And then that debt is sliced up into collateralised debt obligations and all the other marvellous devices that worked so well last time round.
Now nature is to be captured and placed in the care of the financial sector, as that quote suggests. In order for the City to extract any value from it, the same Task Force says we need to “unbundle” ecosystem services so they can be individually traded(11).
That’s the only way in which it can work – this financialisation and securitisation and bond issuing and everything else they are talking about. Nature has to be unbundled. If there is one thing we know about ecosystems, and we know it more the more we discover about them, it’s that you cannot safely disaggregate their functions without destroying the whole thing. Ecosystems function as coherent holistic systems, in which the different elements depend upon each other. The moment you start to unbundle them and to trade them separately you create a formula for disaster.
Problem Three involves what appears to be a very rude word, because hardly anyone uses it, certainly not in polite society. It begins with a ‘p’ and it’s five letters long and most people seem unable to utter it. It is, of course, power.
Power is the issue which seems to get left out of the Natural Capital Agenda. And because it gets left out, because it it is, I think, deliberately overlooked, what we are effectively seeing is the invocation of money as a kind of fairy dust, that you sprinkle over all the unresolved problems of power in the hope that they will magically resolve themselves. But because they are unresolved, because they are unaddressed, because they aren’t even acknowledged; the natural capital agenda cannot possibly work.
Let me give you an example of a system which doesn’t work because of this problem, despite high commensurability, simple and straightforward outputs and a simple and straightforward monitoring system. That is the European Emissions Trading System, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions by creating a carbon price.
I am not inherently opposed to it. I can see it is potentially as good a mechanism as any other for trying gradually to decarbonise society. But it has failed. An effective price for carbon begins at about £30 a ton. That is the point at which you begin to see serious industrial change and the disinvestment in fossil fuels we so desperately need to see.
Almost throughout the history of the European Emissions Trading System, the price of carbon has hovered around five Euros. That is where it is today. The reason is an old-fashioned one. The heavily polluting industries, the carbon-intensive industries, which were being asked to change their practices, lobbied the European Union to ensure that they received an over-allocation of carbon permits. Far too many permits were issued. When the European Parliament started talking about withdrawing some of those permits, it too was lobbied and it caved in and failed to withdraw them. So the price has stayed very low.
What we see here is the age-old problem of power. Governments and the Commission are failing to assert political will. They are failing to stand up for themselves and say, “This is how the market is going to function. It is not going to function without a dirigiste and interventionist approach.” Without that dirigiste and interventionist approach we end up with something which is almost entirely useless. In fact worse than useless because I don’t think there has been a single coal-burning power station, motorway or airport in the European Union approved since the ETS came along, which has not been justified with reference to the market created by the trading system.
You haven’t changed anything by sprinkling money over the problem, you have merely called it something new. You have called it a market as opposed to a political system. But you still need the regulatory involvement of the state to make that market work. Because we persuade ourselves that we don’t need it any more because we have a shiny new market mechanism, we end up fudging the issue of power and not addressing those underlying problems.
Let me give you another example: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project, overseen by Pavan Sukhdev from Deutsche Bank. This huge exercise came up with plenty of figures, most of which I see as nonsense. But one or two appeared to be more more plausible. Among the most famous of these was its valuation of mangrove forests. It maintained that if a businessman or businesswoman cuts down a mangrove forest and replaces it with a shrimp farm, that will be worth around $1,200 per hectare per year to that person. If we leave the mangrove forest standing, because it protects the communities who live on the coastline and because it is a wonderful breeding ground for fish and crustaceans, it will be worth $12,000 per hectare per year(12). So when people see the figures they will conclude that it makes sense to save the mangrove forests, and hey presto, we have solved the problem. My left foot!
People have known for centuries the tremendous benefits that mangrove forests deliver. But has that protected them from being turned into shrimp farms or beach resorts? No, it hasn’t. And the reason it hasn’t is that it might be worth $12,000 to the local impoverished community of fisher folk, but if it’s worth $1,200 to a powerful local politician who wants to turn it into shrimp farms, that counts for far more. Putting a price on the forest doesn’t in any way change that relationship.
You do not solve the problem this way. You do not solve the problem without confronting power. But what we are doing here is reinforcing power, is strengthening the power of the people with the money, the power of the economic system as a whole against the power of nature.
Let me give you one or two examples of that. Let’s start on the outskirts of Sheffield with Smithy Wood. This is an ancient woodland, which eight hundred years ago was recorded as providing charcoal for the monks who were making iron there. It is an important part of Sheffield’s history and culture. It is full of stories and a sense of place and a sense of being able to lose yourself in something different. Someone wants to turn centre of Smithy Wood into a motorway service station(13).
This might have been unthinkable until recently. But it is thinkable now because the government is introducing something called biodiversity offsets. If you trash a piece of land here you can replace its value by creating some habitat elsewhere. This is another outcome of the idea that nature is fungible and tradeable, that it can be turned into something else: swapped either for money or for another place, which is said to have similar value.
What they’ve said is, “We’re going to plant 60,000 saplings, with rabbit guards around them, in some other place, and this will make up for trashing Smithy Wood.” It seems to me unlikely that anyone would have proposed trashing this ancient woodland to build a service station in the middle of it, were it not for the possibility of biodiversity offsets. Something the Government has tried to sell to us as protecting nature greatly threatens nature.
Let me give you another example. Say we decide that we’re going to value nature in terms of pounds or dollars or euros and that this is going to be our primary metric for deciding what should be saved and what should not be saved. This, we are told, is an empowering tool to protect the natural world from destruction and degradation. Well you go to the public enquiry and you find that, miraculously, while the wood you are trying to save has been valued at £x, the road, which they want to build through the wood, has been valued at £x+1. And let me tell you, it will always be valued at £x+1 because cost benefit analyses for such issues are always rigged.
The barrister will then be able to say, “Well there you are, it is x+1 for the road and x for the wood. End of argument.” All those knotty issues to do with values and love and desire and wonder and delight and enchantment, all the issues which are actually at the centre of democratic politics, are suddenly ruled out. They are outside the box, they are outside the envelope of discussion, they no longer count. We’ve been totally disempowered by that process.
So that was Problem Three. But the real problem, and this comes to the nub of the argument for me, is over the issues which I will describe as values and framing. Am I allowed to mention Sheffield Hallam? Too late. In response to an article I wrote that was vaguely about this issue last week, Professor Lynn Crowe from Sheffield Hallam University wrote what I thought was a very thoughtful piece(14). She asked this question: “How else can we address the challenge of convincing those who do not share the same values as ourselves of our case?”.
In other words, we are trying to make a case to people who just don’t care about the natural world. How do we convince them, when they don’t share those values, to change their minds? To me the answer is simple. We don’t.
We never have and we never will. That is not how politics works. Picture a situation where Ed Miliband stands up in the House of Commons and makes such a persuasive speech that David Cameron says, “You know, you’ve completely won me over. I’m crossing the floor and joining the Labour benches.”
That’s not how it works. That is not how politics has ever proceeded, except in one or two extremely rare cases. You do not win your opponents over. What you do to be effective in politics is first, to empower and mobilise people on your own side and secondly, to win over the undecided people in the middle. You are not going to win over the hard core of your opponents who are fiercely opposed to your values.
This is the horrendous mistake that New Labour here and the Democratic Party in the United States have made. “We’ve got to win the next election so we’ve got to appease people who don’t share our values, so we’re going to become like them. Instead of trying to assert our own values, we are going to go over to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not really red; we’re not scary at all. We are actually conservatives.’” That was Tony Blair’s message. That was Bill Clinton’s message. That, I’m afraid, is Barack Obama’s message.
Triangulation possibly won elections – though in 1997 a bucket on a stick would have won – but it greatly eroded the Labour vote across the intervening years. We’ve ended up with a situation where there are effectively no political alternatives to the neoliberalism being advanced by the coalition government. In which the opposition is, in almost every case, failing to oppose. It is in this position because it has progressively neutralised itself by trying to appease people who do not share its values.
As George Lakoff, the cognitive linguist who has done so much to explain why progressive parties keep losing the elections that they should win and keep losing support even in the midst of a multiple crisis caused by their political opponents, points out, you can never win by adopting the values of your opponents(15).
You have to leave them where they are and project your own values to people who might be persuaded to come over to your side. That is what conservatives have done on both sides of the Atlantic. They have been extremely good at it, especially in the United States, where they have basically crossed their arms and said, “We’re over here and we don’t give a damn about where you are. We don’t care about what you stand for, you hippies on the Left. This is what we stand for and we are going to project it, project it, project it, until the electoral arithmetic our stance creates means that you have to come to us.”
So what we’ve got there is a Democratic Party that is indistinguishable from where the Republicans were ten years ago. It has gone so far to the right that it has lost its core values. I think you could say the same about the Labour Party in this country.
This, in effect, is what we are being asked to do through the natural capital agenda. We are saying “because our opponents don’t share our values and they are the people wrecking the environment, we have to go over to them and insist that we’re really in their camp. All we care about is money. We don’t really care about nature for its own sake. We don’t really believe in any of this intrinsic stuff. We don’t believe in wonder and delight and enchantment. We just want to show that it’s going to make money.”
In doing so, we destroy our own moral authority and legitimacy. In a recent interview George Lakoff singled out what he considered to be the perfect example of the utter incompetence of progressives hoping to defend the issues they care about. What was it? The Natural Capital Agenda(16).
As Lakoff has pointed out, these people are trying to do the right thing but they are completely failing to apply a frames analysis. A frame is a mental structure through which you understand an issue. Instead of framing the issue with our own values and describing and projecting our values – which is the only thing in the medium- to long-term that ever works – we are abandoning them and adopting instead the values of the people who are wrecking the environment. How could there be any long-term outcome other than more destruction?
There’s another way of looking at this, which says the same thing in a different ways. All of us are somewhere along a spectrum between intrinsic values and extrinsic values. Extrinsic values are about reputation and image and money. They’re about driving down the street in your Ferrari and showing it to everyone. They are about requiring other people’s approbation for your own sense of well-being.
Intrinsic values are about being more comfortable with yourself and who you are. About being embedded in your family, your community, among your friends, and not needing to display to other people in order to demonstrate to yourself that you are worth something(17).
Research in seventy countries produces remarkably consistent results: these values are highly clustered(18). So, for instance, people who greatly value financial success tend to have much lower empathy than those with a strong sense of intrinsic values. They have much less concern about the natural world, they have a stronger attraction towards hierarchy and authority. These associations are very strongly clustered.
But we are not born with these values. They are mostly the product of our social and political environment. What the research also shows is that if you change that environment, people’s values shift en masse with that change. For instance, if you have a good, functioning public health system where no one is left untreated, that embeds and imbues among the population a strong set of intrinsic values. The subliminal message is “I live in a society where everyone is looked after. That must be a good thing because that is the society I live in.” You absorb and internalise those values.
If on the other hand you live in a devil-take-the-hindmost society where people, as they do in the United States, die of treatable conditions because they cannot afford medical care, that will reinforce extrinsic values and push you further towards that end of the spectrum. The more that spectrum shifts, the more people’s values shift with it.
People on the right understand this very well. Mrs Thatcher famously said, “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”(19) She understood the political need to change people’s values – something the left has seldom grasped.
If we surrender to the financial agenda and say, “This market-led neoliberalism thing is the way forward,” then we shift social values. Environmentalists are among the last lines of defence against the gradual societal shift towards extrinsic values. If we don’t stand up and say, “We do not share those values, our values are intrinsic values. We care about people. We care about the natural world. We are embedded in our communities and the people around us and we want to protect them, not just ourselves. We are not going to be selfish. This isn’t about money”, who else is going to do it?
So you say to me, “Well what do we do instead? You produce these arguments against trying to save nature by pricing it, by financialisation, by monetisation. What do you do instead?”
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is no mystery. It is the same answer that it has always been. The same answer that it always will be. The one thing we just cannot be bothered to get off our bottoms to do, which is the only thing that works. Mobilisation.
It is the only thing that has worked, the only thing that can work. Everything else is a fudge and a substitute and an excuse for not doing that thing that works. And that applies to attempts to monetise and financialise nature as much as it does to all the other issues we are failing to tackle. Thank you.”
1. Matt Ridley, 22nd July 1996. Power to the people: we can’t do any worse than government. The Daily Telegraph.
15. George Lakoff, 2004. Don’t think of an elephant!: know your values and frame the debate. Chelsea Green, White River Junction, VT, USA.
16/7/2014 – 12h07
por Redação do Greenpeace
A demora do Congresso Nacional em votar a ratificação do Protocolo de Nagoya, assinado pelo País em 2010, pode custar a cadeira brasileira na mesa de discussões da COP-12
O Brasil foi um dos primeiros países a assinar o Protocolo de Nagoya, proposto na 10ª Conferência das Partes da Convenção das Nações Unidas sobre Biodiversidade (COP-10), em 2010, como alternativa para regulamentação do uso de recursos da biodiversidade do planeta.
Depois de quatro anos, no entanto, o País acaba de perder a chance de participar ativamente da discussão sobre o assunto. As propostas contidas no protocolo não foram ratificadas pelo Congresso Nacional. Para entrar em vigor, 50 dos 92 signatários da Convenção sobre a Diversidade Biológica (CDB) precisavam confirmar sua validade, incorporando-o a legislação, até junho deste ano. O que aconteceu nesta segunda-feira 11, sem a participação do Brasil.
“O Brasil perdeu uma grande chance deixando de votar este projeto, uma vez que o País foi protagonista da proposta, junto com o próprio Japão. Mas se em casa a gente não consegue aprovar o que sugerimos internacionalmente, isso mostra que fomos muito bons de papo e pouco eficientes na ação”, avalia Marcio Astrini, coordenador da Campanha da Amazônia do Greenpeace Brasil. “De certa maneira isso é um reflexo da visão ambiental do atual governo, que ao invés de ver no Meio Ambiente uma oportunidade, vê nele um empecilho”, completa Astrini.
Parado desde 2012 no Congresso Nacional, o projeto foi designado para uma comissão especial, que nunca foi criada. O assunto sofre forte resistência por parte da bancada ruralista, que acredita que a ratificação da proposta poderia aumentar os custos do agronegócio no Brasil.
Um dos pontos mais polêmicos refere-se ao pagamento de royalties a países pela repartição de benefícios aos detentores de conhecimentos tradicionais associado ao uso de recursos genéticos oriundos da biodiversidade, como povos indígenas e comunidades tradicionais. “O objetivo central do protocolo é aumentar a proteção sobre as reservas naturais do planeta e, para isso, deve criar uma série de regras para controlar a utilização dos recursos, estabelecendo, inclusive regras econômicas. Isso vai no caminho do que precisa ser feito no mundo todo e precisamos participar desta discussão”, observa Astrini.
O Brasil concentra aproximadamente 20% de toda a biodiversidade do planeta. A regulação contribuiria para o combate a biopirataria, com ganhos no campo da ciência e também para as populações tradicionais, que teriam seus saberes reconhecidos e valorizados.
Outro ponto importante do protocolo é o plano estratégico de preservação, que aumenta as áreas terrestres e marítimas a serem protegidas no planeta. As regiões terrestres protegidas passariam de 10% para 17% e as zonas marítimas de proteção ambiental passaria de 1% para 10% de seu total. O próximo encontro dos signatários da CDB será na 12ª Conferência das Partes (COP-12) da CDB, em Pyeongchang, República da Coréia, de 6 a 17 de outubro deste ano.
* Publicado originalmente no site Greenpeace.
Por Karina Toledo
Agência FAPESP – Entender como a crescente ocupação da floresta tropical pelo homem poderá impactar a biodiversidade, os serviços ecossistêmicos e o clima local e global é o principal objetivo do Projeto Temático “ECOFOR: Biodiversidade e funcionamento de ecossistemas em áreas alteradas pelo homem nas Florestas Amazônica e Atlântica”, que reúne mais de 40 pesquisadores brasileiros e britânicos.
A pesquisa é realizada no âmbito do programa de pesquisa colaborativa “Human Modified Tropical Forests (Florestas Tropicais Modificadas pelo Homem)”, lançado em 2012 pela FAPESP e pelo Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), um dos Conselhos de Pesquisa do Reino Unido (RCUK, na sigla em inglês).
A equipe, formada por 16 pesquisadores sêniores, seis pós-doutorandos, 12 colaboradores e nove estudantes, esteve reunida pela primeira vez entre os dias 26 e 29 de março na cidade de São Luiz do Paraitinga, no Vale do Paraíba (SP).
“Nessa primeira reunião, definimos detalhadamente os protocolos de trabalho. A ideia é que todos os dados sejam gerados com a mesma metodologia, de forma que seja possível integrá-los em um modelo do impacto da fragmentação sobre a biodiversidade e os serviços ecossistêmicos. Foi o grande pontapé inicial do projeto”, contou Carlos Alfredo Joly, professor da Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp) e coordenador do Programa de Pesquisas em Caracterização, Conservação, Restauração e Uso Sustentável da Biodiversidade (BIOTA-FAPESP).
De acordo com Joly, toda a coleta de dados será realizada no Brasil. A equipe brasileira estará concentrada principalmente em regiões de Mata Atlântica situadas na Serra do Mar e na Serra da Mantiqueira, enquanto a equipe britânica centrará seu foco na Floresta Amazônica. Já a análise e a interpretação dos dados serão feitas de forma compartilhada tanto no Brasil como no Reino Unido.
“A ideia é ampliar significativamente a participação de estudantes brasileiros na pesquisa, que abre um leque de opções para trabalhos de mestrado e doutorado com alta possibilidade de realização de estágios no Reino Unido”, avaliou.
Segundo Jos Barlow, pesquisador da Lancaster University (Reino Unido) e coordenador do projeto ao lado de Joly, alguns estudantes britânicos também planejam fazer pós-doutorado em instituições paulistas.
“Os alunos e pós-doutorandos do Reino Unido vão precisar passar bastante tempo no Brasil, onde será feita toda a coleta de dados. Ou então focar seu trabalho na análise de dados de sensoriamento remoto e sistemas de informações geográficas (SIG). E, claro, os resultados serão publicados em conjunto, com a liderança vinda de ambos os países”, disse.
O trabalho de investigação na Floresta Amazônica e na Mata Atlântica correrá em paralelo a outro projeto financiado pelo NERC desde 2009 em Bornéu, na Malásia. Nesse caso, o objetivo é estudar e comparar áreas de floresta primária (bem conservadas), áreas com exploração seletiva de madeira e regiões que sofreram profunda fragmentação.
“Dentro do possível, os dados gerados aqui no Brasil deverão ser comparáveis aos dados gerados na Malásia. Para assegurar essa integração foi estabelecido um comitê que reúne pesquisadores dos dois projetos”, contou Joly.
“Não seguiremos exatamente o mesmo desenho da pesquisa desenvolvida na Malásia, pois aqui temos situações diferentes. Mas os dois projetos visam estudar como as mudanças no uso da terra, que inclui extração de madeira, queimadas e fragmentação do habitat, alteram o funcionamento da floresta tropical, principalmente no que se refere à ciclagem de matéria orgânica e de nutrientes. Também queremos avaliar como essas alterações estão relacionadas com os processos biofísicos, a biodiversidade e o clima”, explicou Simone Aparecida Vieira, pesquisadora do Núcleo de Estudos e Pesquisas Ambientais (Nepam) da Unicamp.
De acordo com Vieira, a equipe brasileira adotou o Parque Estadual da Serra do Mar como uma espécie de “área controle” da pesquisa e os dados lá coletados pelo Projeto Temático Biota Gradiente Funcional serão comparados com as informações oriundas dos fragmentos e das florestas secundárias existentes na região que vai de São Luiz do Paraitinga até a cidade de Extrema, em Minas Gerais.
“Na Amazônia, temos um grande conjunto de áreas em estudo. Um dos focos é a região de Paragominas, que tem um histórico de extração madeireira. E inclui também Santarém, onde vem avançando a agricultura, principalmente a soja”, contou Vieira.
Os pesquisadores farão inventários florestais, coletando dados como quantidade de biomassa viva acima do solo, densidade da madeira, diâmetro e altura das árvores, quantidade de serapilheira (camada formada por matéria orgânica morta em diferentes estágios de decomposição) e diversidade de espécies vegetais e animais.
“Um dos objetivos é investigar o estoque de carbono nessas áreas e de que forma ele é alterado com os diferentes usos. Depois vamos relacionar esse dado com a mudança em relação à diversidade de espécies que ocorrem nessas áreas, trabalhando principalmente com um levantamento de espécies de árvores e de aves”, explicou Vieira.
A coleta de dados deve seguir pelos próximos quatro anos. Na avaliação de Vieira, está sendo criada uma estrutura que poderá ser mantida após o término do projeto, se houver novo financiamento. “O ideal é acompanhar os processos de mudança no longo prazo para entender de fato como essas áreas estão se comportando diante das pressões humanas e das mudanças climáticas”, disse.
Joly concorda. “O projeto vai estabelecer uma rede intensiva de monitoramento de áreas que vão desde florestas intactas até florestas altamente fragmentadas e alteradas pelo homem. Isso permitirá avaliar as correlações entre biodiversidade e funcionamento de ecossistemas, tanto na escala local como regional e global – quando estiverem integrados os dados da Mata Atlântica, da Floresta Amazônica e da Malásia”, disse.
Os resultados obtidos, acrescentou Joly, permitirão também o aperfeiçoamento de políticas públicas para promover o pagamento de serviços ambientais, como os de proteção a recursos hídricos e de estoques de carbono.
Entre as instituições envolvidas na pesquisa estão Lancaster University, University of Oxford, University of Leeds, Imperial College London, University of Edinburgh, Unicamp, Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Instituto Agronômico de Campinas (IAC), Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa), Universidade de Taubaté e a Fundação Florestal da Secretaria do Meio Ambiente do Estado de São Paulo.
JC e-mail 4895, de 14 de fevereiro de 2014
Segundo as alegações, não há pessoal suficiente para exercer uma fiscalização contínua na região
Levantamento feito pela pesquisadora Sannie Muniz Brum com 35 comunidades de pescadores em área de reserva de desenvolvimento sustentável, na região do Baixo Rio Purus, no Amazonas, constatou que botos-vermelhos, conhecidos também como botos-cor-de-rosa, estão sendo mortos e usados como isca para a pesca do peixe piracatinga (Callophysusmacropterus).
Sannie é pesquisadora do Instituto Piagaçu (IPI) e colaboradora da Associação Amigos do Peixe-Boi (Ampa). O projeto teve apoio da Fundação Boticário de Proteção à Natureza. Sannie alerta que, no longo prazo, essa prática pode acabar levando à extinção do “golfinho da Amazônia”. “As medidas têm que ser tomadas agora. Se não, é extinção”, disse Sannie hoje (13) à Agência Brasil.
A coordenadora adjunta do Centro Nacional de Pesquisa e Conservação de Mamíferos Aquáticos (CMA) do Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), Carla Marques, disse que, em comitês internacionais, o governo brasileiro tem sido cobrado sobre a preservação dos botos da Amazônia.
O problema, disse, é que não há pessoal suficiente para exercer uma fiscalização contínua na região. O ICMBio fiscaliza as áreas dentro das unidades de conservação e o Instituto Nacional do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama) se encarrega de fiscalizar fora dessas unidades. “Dentro do instituto tem uma política de tentar evitar que ocorram essas práticas, mas o ICMBio não tem o poder de polícia”.
Carla Marques informou que têm sido feitas campanhas pelo governo em conjunto com o Centro de Estudo e Pesquisa da Amazônia (Cepam). O órgão do Ministério do Meio Ambiente tem conhecimento da utilização do golfinho como isca para pesca, o que é ilegal, e está articulando ações para coibir a prática em parceria com o Ibama e o próprio ministério. “A gente tem feito algumas ações de fiscalização em conjunto com o Ibama, mas as ações são pontuais. A Amazônia é um mundo inteiro. A gente não consegue coibir tudo”.
Carla admitiu que esse é um problema de difícil solução e que ocorre em outros países. Ela acredita que para resolver o problema, só com fiscalização. “Está todo mundo pensando em tentar mitigar esse problema, mas é de difícil solução pela falta de pessoal que se tem. Os dois órgãos têm pouco contingente para atender a uma região como a Amazônia”. Ela relatou, inclusive, que algumas ações ocorrem em parceria com a Polícia Federal e as polícias locais. “Mas são pontuais. A gente não consegue estar presente o tempo todo. E a pesca continua”.
Além de uma fiscalização mais rigorosa e permanente, a pesquisadora Sannie Brum defendeu a necessidade de se levar às comunidades que habitam em áreas protegidas informações para que saibam que é crime e ilegal usar botos-vermelhos como isca para a pesca. “É preciso que haja uma conscientização. Eles [pescadores] sabem que é proibido, que não podem fazer”. É preciso que haja uma coibição efetiva para que decidam parar essa prática. “Educar e trazer informações são medidas para a conscientização dos pescadores”.
Segundo a pesquisadora, a mortalidade do golfinhos é elevada na região do Baixo Purus devido à atividade de pesca da piracatinga. Considerando 15 toneladas pescadas somente na região, de acordo com relato dos próprios pescadores, a estimativa é que até 144 botos-cor-de-rosa sejam mortos por ano para virar isca. “É um absurdo”.
A situação se agrava considerando que os golfinhos têm uma reprodução lenta. As fêmeas têm uma gestação de cerca de dez meses e, após o nascimento, podem cuidar dos filhotes por até quatro anos. Com isso, a inserção de novos botos na natureza é demorada. Sannie diz que a morte de um grande número desses animais pode inviabilizar a manutenção da espécie.
Para a pesquisadora, a fiscalização é importante, mas constitui o primeiro passo. “Ela tem que ser mais efetiva e aberta à discussão”. Ela reiterou a necessidade de uma grande campanha de educação ambiental nas comunidades, para que os moradores entendam a importância que o boto tem para o meio ambiente e para ele mesmo. Hoje, disse, o pescador vê o boto como um concorrente para suas atividades de pesca. “A gente precisa mudar isso. E só muda com educação”.
Sannie Brum pretende começar uma nova pesquisa para descobrir o que pode ser usado como alternativa de isca para a pesca da piracatinga. A coordenadora adjunta do CMA, Carla Marques, informou que esse é um tipo de peixe que se alimenta de carne morta ou em putrefação. Por isso, é rejeitado como alimento pelos próprios pescadores.
Sannie Brum explicou que apesar disso, eles vendem o produto para mercados de São Paulo, do Paraná e do Nordeste e, inclusive, para outros países, como a Colômbia. Para isso, usam o nome fantasia de “douradinha”. Como é vendido sob a forma de filé, a piracatinga acaba sendo comprada pelos consumidores que o confundem com um peixe nobre, a dourada (Brachyplathystomaflavicans).
(Alana Gandra /Agência Brasil)
8 February 2014 10:45 am
Wikimedia/USFWS. Canis lupus
The ongoing battle over a proposal to lift U.S. government protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) across the lower 48 states isn’t likely to end quickly. An independent, peer-review panel yesterday gave a thumbs-down to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS’s) plan to delist the wolf. Although not required to reach a consensus, the four researchers on the panel were unanimous in their opinion that the proposal “does not currently represent the ‘best available science.’ ”
“It’s stunning to see a pronouncement like this—that the proposal is not scientifically sound,” says Michael Nelson, an ecologist at Oregon State University, Corvallis, who was not one of the reviewers. Many commentators regard it as a major setback for USFWS, which stumbled last year in a previous attempt to get the science behind its proposal reviewed.
USFWS first released its plan for removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list in June 2013. The plan also called for adding the Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies that inhabits the southwest, to the protected list. At the time, there were approximately 6000 wolves in some Western and upper midwestern states; federal protections were removed from the gray wolf in six of those states in 2011. More than 1 million people have commented on the plan. But regulations also require that the agency invite researchers outside of the agency to assess the proposal’s scientific merit.
At its core, the USFWS proposal relies on a monograph written by its own scientists. They asserted that a different (and controversial) species, the eastern wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) and not the gray wolf, had inhabited the Midwest and Northeast. If correct, then the agency would not need to restore the gray wolf population in 22 eastern states, where gray wolves are no longer found.
But the four reviewers, which included specialists on wolf genetics, disagreed with USFWS’s idea of a separate eastern wolf, stating that the notion “was not universally accepted and that the issue was ‘not settled’ ”—an opinion shared by other researchers. “The designation of an ‘eastern wolf’ is not well-supported,” says Carlos Carroll, a conservation biologist at the Klamath Center for Conservation Research in Orleans, California, who was not a member of the review panel.
Overall, the agency’s “driving goal seemed to be to identify the eastern wolf as a separate species, and to use that taxonomic revision to delist the gray wolf,” says Robert Wayne, a conservationist geneticist at the University of California (UC), Los Angeles, and one of the reviewers. If that were to happen, he says, it would be the first time that a species was removed from the federal endangered species list via taxonomy. “It should happen when a species is fully recovered,” Wayne says, “and the gray wolf is not. It’s not in any of those 22 eastern states—that’s why it’s endangered there.”
The panel’s statements will make it difficult, outside observers say, for USFWS to move forward with its proposal. The Endangered Species Act requires that decisions to remove a species from federal protection be based on the “best available science.” And because the reviewers have concluded this is not the case, “you’ve got to think that the [service] must go back to the drawing board,” says Andrew Wetzler, director of land and wildlife programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago, Illinois, an organization that advocates for continued federal protections for the wolf.
Gray wolves were exterminated across most of the lower 48 states in the last century. They were placed on the endangered species list in 1975, and successfully reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in 1995. Gray wolves also made a comeback in the Great Lakes region, where they now can be legally hunted. Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana also have wolf hunting and trapping seasons. Smaller gray wolf populations that aren’t legally hunted are found in Washington and Oregon.
The agency’s reaction to the peer-review comments has been somewhat muted. In a press statement, it thanked the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at UC Santa Barbara for conducting the review. USFWS Director Dan Ashe noted that “[p]eer review is an important step in our efforts to assure that the final decision on our proposal to delist the wolf is based on the best available scientific and technical information,” and that the panel’s comments will be incorporated in the ongoing process of reaching a decision on the fate of the gray wolves.
The peer-review report is now available online. USFWS will reopen the public comment period on its delisting proporal on 10 February, and will accept comments through 27 March.
Date: January 31, 2014
Source: American Society for Horticultural Science
Summary: Researchers studied the effectiveness of workshops designed to focus on residential water conservation using a sample of irrigation water use data for 57 workshop participants and 43 nonparticipants. Results indicated that the 2-hour workshops were effective in reducing attendees’ irrigation water use; however, the effect was short lived. Results also showed that effects of workshop attendance depended on the household sample, and found that water use increased for some low-use workshop participants.
In Florida, where population growth, drought, and saltwater intrusion are affecting finite water sources, researchers are looking for effective ways to educate consumers about household water use habits. Despite an average annual rainfall of 55 inches, Florida was included on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s list of states with the greatest risk of water shortages in the coming years; the daily total state domestic water use in Florida is the fourth highest in the United States. A large proportion of Florida’s water is not used for human consumption, but is used for irrigating residential landscapes. In fact, a recent South Florida Water Management District study reported that outdoor water use in their area constitutes up to 50% of total household water consumption, and that up to 50% of the water applied to lawns is wasted through evaporation or overwatering.
Universities and municipalities are addressing this critical environmental concern through outreach and extension programs designed to educate the public about water conversation. But are these workshops effective in actually helping participants reduce their water use? Tatiana Borisova and Pilar Useche from the University of Florida conducted a study published in HortTechnology to determine the effectiveness of free, 2-hour irrigation management workshops conducted by the Florida Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with a local water provider in order to find out if there were short- and long-term impacts of workshop participation. “Landscape management outreach programs have been implemented by regional and local agencies, Cooperative Extension Services, and other organizations to encourage more efficient irrigation water use and residential water conservation,” explained lead author Borisova. “However, limited information exists about the effectiveness of such programs.”
The team studied actual water use data for 12 months before and after workshops, and then compared water use data from workshop participants with the water use of households that did not participate in the workshop. They found “statistically significant reduction in water use” only in the month of the workshop. “Although the workshop has an impact on water use, this impact is very short-lived,” noted Borisova. “For workshop participants and nonparticipants, water use returns to the base level immediately in the months following the workshop.” The authors added that reinforcement of the educational message received during the workshop is probably required to sustain water-use reductions over time.
The team also found that the effect of workshop attendance depended on the sample of the households considered. For example, in the subsample of the low water-use households, water use tended to increase following the workshop. “The overall objective of the workshop was to improve the irrigation efficiency by reducing water wastes. However, households with low average water use may already be technically efficient, and workshop attendance cannot reduce their irrigation water use further without negatively affecting the yard aesthetics and plant health,” explained Borisova.
Borisova and Useche recommend development of a comprehensive evaluation approach for water use programs that includes evaluation of actual water use reductions in order to more accurately quantify program impact, design more effective educational programs, and better target the programs to consumers.
The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site: http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/23/5/668.abstract
- Tatiana Borisova and Pilar Useche. Exploring the Effects of Extension Workshops on Household Water-use Behavior. HortTechnology, October 2013
01/10/2013 – 11h51
por Fabiano Ávila, do CarbonoBrasil
ONG afirma que mecanismo está ameaçado pelo grande desequilíbrio entre oferta e demanda; enquanto mais de 22 milhões de créditos podem ser gerados anualmente, apenas 6,8 milhões teriam compradores.
A demora para criar instrumentos que estimulem, ou obriguem, países e empresas a comprar créditos florestais de carbono e a falta de vontade política para incluir o REDD+ (clique aqui e saiba mais sobre o conceito de REDD+) em mercados já estabelecidos, como o EU ETS, estão resultando no excesso de créditos no mercado voluntário, causando a queda dos preços e diminuindo o interesse para o desenvolvimento de projetos de conservação florestal.
Essa é a mensagem central que a Conservação Internacional (CI) tenta passar com o relatório “REDD+ Market: Sending Out an SOS” (algo como Mercado de REDD+: pedindo socorro).
De acordo com a ONG, apenas considerando a certificação Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), até 22 milhões de créditos podem ser gerados anualmente, porém, a demanda do mercado voluntário atualmente não passaria de 6,8 milhões. Desde 2010, a procura por esse tipo de crédito teria caído 65%.
Esse desequilíbrio entre oferta e demanda fez com que o preço médio dos créditos do REDD+ passasse de US$ 12 em 2011 para US$ 6 no ano passado.
A CI aponta que o REDD+ já ajudou a proteger mais de 14 milhões de hectares de florestas. Além disso, trouxe ganhos para mais de 70 mil pessoas em comunidades locais, evitou as emissões de quatro milhões de toneladas de CO2 equivalente desde 2009 e protegeu 139 espécies que estão ameaçadas de extinção.
“A falta de recompensas financeiras para esses casos de sucesso envia um sinal forte e preocupante para todos os países desenvolvendo esforços para reduzir o desmatamento. Suas ações não têm recebido apoio, mas indiferença e incertezas. Esse sinal não gera a motivação necessária para promover as reformas políticas complexas que o REDD+ tanto precisa”, afirma o relatório.
Como podem apenas ser negociados no mercado voluntário, os créditos do REDD+ são muito dependentes de doadores e de ferramentas internacionais que ainda não possuem a abrangência para estimular novos projetos de forma sustentável.
O relatório cita a Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s do Banco Mundial (FCPF), o fundo de ação antecipada de REDD+ da Alemanha e o futuro Fundo Climático Verde como exemplos de mecanismos que têm buscado aumentar a demanda por créditos, mas que, no entanto, ainda são muito limitados em termos de disponibilização de financiamentos, de escopo geográfico e de velocidade de implementação.
Uma das soluções óbvias citadas pela CI passa por garantir um preço justo para os créditos de REDD+.
Isso poderia ser conseguido de diversas formas: maior interesse dos fundos climáticos pelo REDD+, expansão dos programas de compensação voluntária do setor privado e a criação de compromissos para países doadores.
“Essas ações ajudariam a catalisar novos investimentos assim como estabilizariam a situação dos atuais projetos para os próximos anos, reduzindo a vulnerabilidade das comunidades devido à queda dos preços do REDD+”, afirma o relatório.
Outro ponto que precisa receber atenção seria o reconhecimento dos benefícios múltiplos dos projetos de REDD+.
Segundo a CI, as iniciativas de conservação florestal melhoram a vida de povos nativos, protegem a biodiversidade e garantem os serviços ecossistêmicos.
Assim, programas governamentais que tenham objetivos semelhantes aos que são alcançados pelo REDD+ deveriam considerar o financiamento desse tipo de projeto. Dessa forma, o mecanismo seria encarado não apenas como uma ferramenta para “compensar emissões”, mas também como um modelo de desenvolvimento inteligente.
O relatório destaca que muitos projetos já começam a ser desenvolvidos pelos próprios povos nativos, como é o caso do Projeto de Carbono Florestal Suruí, da Terra Indígena Sete de Setembro do povo Paiter Suruí, localizado nos estados de Rondônia e Mato Grosso.
Inclusive, no mês passado, o projeto Suruí vendeu seus primeiros créditos de REDD+; foram 120 mil unidades compradas pela Natura.
A CI conclui que a importância de manter o REDD+ funcionando em um alto nível de qualidade não pode ser subestimada. Não apenas para lidar com o desmatamento e com as emissões de gases do efeito estufa, mas também para evitar os impactos negativos que projetos mal elaborados podem produzir.
“Para alcançar os resultados esperados, está claro que o REDD+ deve melhorar em escala, mas também em questões como legislação (…) Isso deve ser feito para evitar que estímulos perversos sejam criados”, explica o relatório.
A ONG está neste caso se referindo aos riscos muitas vezes associados ao REDD+, como a exploração dos povos nativos e os conflitos por terras.
“Estabelecer estruturas institucionais é necessário para implementar a gestão local que facilitará o desenvolvimento de mecanismos de REDD+ nacionais e internacionais”, conclui a CI.
* Publicado originalmente no site CarbonoBrasil.
O que é e como surgiu o REDD? (ipam.org.br)
Florestas tropicais representam hoje 15% da superfície terrestre (FAO, 2006 apud GCP, 2008) e contém cerca de 25% de todo o carbono contido na biosfera terrestre (BONAN, 2008 apud GCP, 2008). Além disso, 90% dos cerca de 1,2 bilhões de pessoas que vivem abaixo da linha da pobreza dependem dos recursos florestais para sobreviverem (GCP, 2008).
Segundo a FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), das Nações Unidas (2006), aproximadamente 13 milhões de hectares de florestas tropicais são desmatados todos os anos (uma área equivalente ao Peru).
Preservar florestas, além da redução nas emissões de gases do efeito estufa, tem o potencial de gerar co-benefícios substanciais, como impactos positivos sobre a biodiversidade e sobre a conservação de recursos hídricos. A floresta em pé também auxilia na estabilização do regime de chuvas e, conseqüentemente, do clima (Angelsen, 2008).
O relatório do IPCC publicado em 2007 (IPCC, 2007) estimou as emissões por desmatamento nos anos 1990 como sendo de aproximadamente 20% do total, fazendo da “mudança no uso da terra” a segunda atividade que mais contribui para o aquecimento global (GCP, 2008).
Conceito e desenvolvimento
O conceito de REDD (Redução das Emissões por Desmatamento e Degradação florestal), basicamente, parte da idéia de incluir na contabilidade das emissões de gases de efeito estufa aquelas que são evitadas pela redução do desmatamento e a degradação florestal. Nasceu de uma parceria entre pesquisadores brasileiros e americanos, que originou uma proposta conhecida como “Redução Compensada de Emissões” (Santilli et al, 2000), que foi apresentada durante a COP-9, em Milão, Itália (2003), por IPAM e parceiros. Segundo este conceito, os países em desenvolvimento detentores de florestas tropicais, que conseguissem promover reduções das suas emissões nacionais oriundas de desmatamento receberiam compensação financeira internacional correspondente às emissões evitadas. O conceito de redução compensada tornou-se a base da discussão de REDD nos anos seguintes.
Em seguida, durante a COP-11, em Montreal, Canadá (2005) a chamada “Coalition of Rainforest Nations” ou “Coalizão de Nações Tropicais”, liderados por Papua Nova Guiné e Costa Rica, apresentou uma proposta similar que tem por objetivo discutir formas de incentivar economicamente a redução do desmatamento nos países em desenvolvimento, detentores de florestas tropicais (Pinto et al, 2009).
O argumento colocado é que os países tropicais são responsáveis por estabilizar o clima por meio de suas florestas e, assim, os custos para mantê-las em pé devem ser divididos por todos. Esta iniciativa fez com que, oficialmente, o assunto REDD fosse incluído na pauta de negociações internacionais.
Um ano depois, na COP-12, em Nairobi, Nigéria (2006), o governo brasileiro anunciou publicamente uma proposta para tratar da questão do desmatamento, também muito parecida com as anteriores, só que sem considerar o mecanismo de mercado de créditos de carbono e sim as doações voluntárias.
A COP-13, realizada em Bali, Indonésia, em 2007, culminou com a Decisão 1/ CP 13, conhecida como “Mapa do Caminho de Bali”, para discutir como inserir o tema REDD num mecanismo que será estruturado para iniciar em 2012, ano em que chega ao fim o primeiro período de compromisso do Protocolo de Quioto.
É imprescindível notar que este mecanismo foi inicialmente concebido para os países em desenvolvimento que detêm florestas tropicais, permitindo-os participar efetivamente dos esforços globais de redução de emissões de gases de efeito estufa.
Necessário também salientar que a discussão sobre o desmatamento evitado evoluiu de um mecanismo que tinha foco somente no desmatamento evitado (COP 11, 2005), para ser ampliado e incluir a degradação de florestas (COP 13, 2007),
Hoje o conceito foi ampliado e é conhecido como REDD+, se refere à construção de um mecanismo, ou uma política, que deverá contemplar formas de prover incentivos positivos aos países em desenvolvimento que tomarem uma ou mais das seguintes ações para a mitigação das mudanças climáticas:
1. Redução das emissões derivadas de desmatamento e degradação das florestas;
2. Aumento das reservas florestais de carbono;
3. Gestão sustentável das florestas;
4. Conservação florestal. (Pinto et al, 2009).
ANGELSEN, Arild. (org.). Moving Ahead with REDD: Issues, Options and Implications. CIFOR. Poznan, Polônia. 2008.
GLOBAL CANOPY PROGRAM. The Little REDD Book: A guide to Governmental and non-governmental proposals for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. 2008. Disponível em: http://www.the littleREDDbook.org
INTERNATIONAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC). Climate Change Synthesis Report. Summary for Policymakers. Switzerland. 2007.
PINTO, Erika; MOUTINHO, Paulo; RODRIGUES, Liana; OYO FRANÇA, Flavia Gabriela; MOREIRA, Paula Franco; DIETZSCH, Laura. Cartilha: Perguntas e Respostas Sobre Aquecimento Global. 4a edição. Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia. Belém. 2009.
SANTILLI, Márcio; MOUTINHO, Paulo; SCHWARTZMAN, Stephan; NEPSTAD, Daniel; CURRAN, Lisa; NOBRE, Carlos. Tropical deforestation and the Kyoto Protocol: an editorial essay. Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia. 2000.
Contribuição de conteúdo por Ricardo Rettmann (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Acesse publicação REDD no Brasil: um enfoque amazônico
O livro apresenta e discute as condições favoráveis do Brasil à implementação de um regime nacional de REDD+ e propõe dois modelos de estrutura institucional para a repartição de benefícios: um baseado na distribuição por estados e outra por cate-gorias fundiárias. REDD+ é aqui discutido como um elemento importante na transição do modelo de desenvolvimento da Amazônia para um de baixas emissões de carbono, com distribuição de renda e justiça social. A alteração mais importante desta 3a edição foi a utilização da metodologia de cálculo do desmatamento evitado proposta pelo Comitê Técnico do Fundo Amazônia, juntamente com parâmetros fixados pelo Decreto 7.390/2010, que regulamenta a Política Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima. Esta alteração nos cálculos não altera a mensagem central do livro, porém pode ser percebida em algumas figuras chaves que demonstram o valor total do desmatamento evitado no Brasil.
Artigo de brasileiro e uruguaio será publicado como editorial no periódico Marine Pollution Bulletin(Wikipedia)
Por José Tadeu Arantes
Agência FAPESP – Estima-se que 41% dos mares e oceanos do planeta se encontrem fortemente impactados pela ação humana, segundo estudos. Trata-se de um problema grave que não tem recebido a merecida atenção. Um exemplo está no ritmo de implementação da diretriz relativa à proteção marinha definida pela Convenção sobre Diversidade Biológica (CDB), da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU).
Aprovada por 193 países mais a União Europeia durante a 10ª Conferência das Partes da CDB, realizada em Nagoya, Japão, em outubro de 2010, essa diretriz estabeleceu que, até 2020, pelo menos 10% das áreas costeiras e marinhas, especialmente aquelas importantes por sua biodiversidade, deveriam estar protegidas.
Decorrido quase um terço do prazo, porém, as chamadas Áreas de Proteção Marinha (APMs) não cobrem mais do que 1,17% da superfície dos mares e oceanos do planeta. Dos 151 países com linha de costa, apenas 12 excederam os 10%. E a maior potência do mundo, os Estados Unidos, dotada de extensos litorais tanto no Atlântico como no Pacífico, não aderiu ao protocolo.
As informações, que configuram um alerta urgente, estão no artigo Politics should walk with Science towards protection of the oceans (“A política deve caminhar com a ciência na proteção dos oceanos”), assinado pelo brasileiro Antonio Carlos Marques, professor associado do Instituto de Biociências da Universidade de São Paulo, e pelo uruguaio Alvar Carranza, pesquisador do Museu Nacional de História Natural, do Uruguai. Enviado ao Marine Pollution Bulletin, o texto, que será publicado como editorial da versão impressa do periódico, está disponível on-line em www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X13004530.
O artigo também destaca que, com uma das mais extensas costas do mundo – de 9.200 quilômetros, se forem consideradas as saliências e reentrâncias –, o Brasil possui apenas 1,5% de seu litoral protegido por APMs. Além disso, 9% das áreas consideradas prioritárias para conservação já foram concedidas a companhias petroleiras para exploração. As costas altamente povoadas dos Estados de São Paulo e Rio de Janeiro concentram a maioria das reservas de petróleo do país.
Os dados publicados são derivados de dois projetos apoiados pela FAPESP e coordenados por Marques: um projeto de Auxílio à Pesquisa – Regular, que apoia a Rede Nacional de Pesquisa em Biodiversidade Marinha (Sisbiota Mar), e um Projeto Temático para pesquisar fatores que geram e regulam a evolução e diversidade marinhas.
“Como um expediente para cumprir a meta, alguns governos têm criado Áreas de Proteção Marinha gigantescas, mas em torno de ilhas ou arquipélagos praticamente desabitados, muito distantes do próprio país”, disse Marques à Agência FAPESP.
“A maior APM do mundo, situada no arquipélago de Chagos, tem mais de meio milhão de quilômetros quadrados. É uma área enorme, que cumpre, com sobra, a meta do Reino Unido”, disse. O arquipélago faz parte do Território Britânico do Oceano Índico.
“Porém a população dessa área se resume ao contingente rotativo de uma base britânica. A ninguém mais. Além disso, as características da área, situada no meio do Oceano Índico, em nada correspondem à biodiversidade do Reino Unido”, prosseguiu.
Embora reconheça o valor de uma APM como essa, Marques argumenta que sua criação não é necessariamente efetiva em termos de preservação ambiental. Segundo ele, cumpre-se o aspecto quantitativo, mas não o qualitativo, ou seja, não oferece proteção efetiva ao litoral do país onde está a maior parte de sua população. E o que é mais grave, segundo Marques, é que o mesmo expediente foi adotado em todas as outras grandes APMs criadas recentemente.
“Verificamos, e divulgamos em nosso artigo, que a população média das 10 maiores APMs do mundo, computada em raios de 10 quilômetros em torno das mesmas, é de apenas 5.038 pessoas”, informou Marques. E essa média é puxada para cima por apenas duas APMs, a Reserva Marinha de Galápagos (Equador) e o Parque Nacional da Grande Barreira de Corais (Austrália), ambas com pouco mais de 25 mil habitantes. A população total das demais APMs não chega a 4 mil indivíduos, sendo nula em três delas.
“Para os governos, é uma medida muito cômoda criar áreas de proteção ambiental em regiões como essas, porque o desgaste socioeconômico de tal implementação é baixíssimo. Exceto por uma ou outra indústria pesqueira, ninguém vai reclamar muito. É uma situação muito diferente da que ocorreria se as APMs fossem criadas nos litorais dos respectivos países”, disse Marques.
O pesquisador ressalta que essas áreas remotas são úteis, como nas APMs de Galápagos e da Barreira de Corais, pela especialidade dos ecossistemas protegidos. Mas as APMs não seriam representativas da gama de ambientes dos países.
Fracassos e sucessos
“Nossa principal intenção ao escrever o artigo foi destacar que existe uma necessidade de proteção, que pode ser parcialmente atendida pela meta de 10%, mas essa proteção tem que respeitar os ambientes reais dos países. Não basta alcançar o número sem que haja uma correspondência entre quantidade e qualidade”, disse Marques.
O pesquisador conta que, ao enviar o artigo para o Marine Pollution Bulletin, um de seus objetivos foi estabelecer uma interlocução com o editor do periódico, Charles Sheppard, da University of Warwick, no Reino Unido. Sheppard é considerado uma das maiores autoridades em conservação marinha do mundo e foi um dos mentores da APM britânica do arquipélago de Chagos.
“A resposta do professor Sheppard foi a mais positiva que eu poderia esperar, tanto que ele decidiu publicar nosso artigo como editorial do Marine Pollution Bulletin.
De acordo com Marques, os dados básicos e as análises gerados pelos cientistas são vitais para o melhor uso dos recursos, ao estabelecer áreas de preservação.
“É necessário entender se a área é a ideal para ser protegida do ponto de vista evolutivo, genético, biogeográfico, ecológico etc. Há exemplos de sucesso em que isso foi observado e exemplos de fracassos em que foi ignorado. O melhor cenário possível é aquele em que cientistas, técnicos e políticos participam francamente do processo”, disse.
Great White Sharks Are Back
By Amy Crawford|Posted Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at 4:05 PM
Today, a great white shark sighting is more likely to elicit curiosity than fear. Cape Cod sharks even have their own advocacy group. Photo by Steven Benjamin/iStockphoto/Thinkstock
When a tourist from Colorado was bitten by a great white shark last summer while swimming off Cape Cod, an excited media made predictable comparisons to the 1975 blockbuster Jaws. The 50-year-old man, who was fortunate to survive with bites to his legs but with all his limbs still attached, was the first human to be attacked by a shark in Massachusetts waters since 1936. As more sighting reports poured in, 2012 became Cape Cod’s “Summer of the Shark.”
We all love a good shark scare, but in this case the coverage wasn’t completely exaggerated. In 1974, when Jaws was filmed just off the cape on Martha’s Vineyard, great white sharks—known to marine biologists simply as white sharks—were rare, with one or two spotted in New England waters each year. In 2012, there were more than 20 confirmed sightings at Cape Cod beaches, and so far this summer two beaches have been closed temporarily after the sharks’ telltale dorsal fins were seen just offshore. Scientists have now tagged 34 great whites off of Cape Cod, and the data show the minivan-size fish sticking to a clear migration pattern—down south or out to sea in the winter and, like the Kennedys, back to the cape every summer.
Jaws aside, these sharks are not hunting unsuspecting vacationers. They’re after seals, which have soared in population in recent years thanks to a national conservation effort that has proven enormously successful—some might say too successful. The shark resurgence comes down to simple food chain economics, but it also shows how wildlife conservation can sometimes have weird and unpredictable consequences.
Seals have a tendency to hang around boats and snatch fish from nets, and for centuries people fishing off New England would kill any seal they saw. Between the late 19thcentury and the early 1960s, the state of Massachusetts offered a bounty of up to $5 for every pinniped slaughtered. By 1972, harbor seals, once common on Cape Cod, were becoming rarer, and gray seals were all but wiped out. But that year Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a law that forbids the killing, capture, or harassment of whales, dolphins, polar bears, manatees, seals, and similar animals—creatures that commercial hunting and other human activity had taken, in some cases, to the brink of extinction.
The act has been a tremendous success. In March 2011, a one-day count of gray seals in Massachusetts waters found 15,756 of them, compared to 5,611 in 1999. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that the gray seal population in the Western Atlantic grew annually between 6 and 9 percent during the past three decades. Today, seals haul out and lounge on some beaches in enormous numbers, and it’s common to see them swimming alone or in pairs up and down the Atlantic side of Cape Cod. That’s a lot of shark bait. One recent afternoon at Nauset Light Beach, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, I stood on the sand with a group of beachgoers watching a sleek brown head bobbing just past the breakers. Having been warned by prominent signs not to swim near seals, none of us were going near the water. “Does this mean there are sharks out there?” one woman asked, in a tone that revealed both anxiety and fascination.
Seals are taking the blame for luring sharks, and at the same time the old resentment is flaring up among some fishermen, who say seals are harming the cape’s struggling fishing industry. Gordon Waring, a seal specialist at the NOAA, cautions that marine biologists don’t actually know how seals interact with fisheries, and so far there is no sign that they are eating more than their habitat can support. But it is clear that seals are attracted to fishing boats and piers, and fishermen who watch seals stealing fish from their nets justifiably resent the greedy creatures, which the Marine Mammal Protection Act says can’t even be shooed away (that would be “harassment”). Fish stocks, particularly of cod, are down, and while that’s mostly due to other factors such as decades of overfishing, seals are a visible target for blame. There has even been talk of a seal cull, and a Nantucket-based group calling itself the Seal Abatement Coalition is lobbying Congress to remove gray seals from the list of species covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Seal culls are already a regular occurrence in Canada, which has historically had much larger seal populations.
That might all sound like we’re headed for a return to the era when seals were shot on sight and sharks stalked and killed to protect swimmers, but in truth there are heartening signs that humans’ relationship with ocean life off Cape Cod will be better this time around. While a horror movie starring an animatronic shark could once keep people out of the water all summer, today, a great white sighting is more likely to elicit curiosity than fear. Cape Cod sharks even have their own advocacy group.
“As tragic as a shark attack is, it would be more tragic not to have sharks in our oceans,” says Cynthia Wigren, who last summer helped found the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, a Cape Cod group (with an adorable smiling shark logo) that raises money for education and research. Greg Skomal, a shark biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, has been leading an effort to tag great whites and study their migration patterns. He sees the sharks’ return as an indication that the marine ecosystem off New England is returning to normal, with sharks playing a crucial role as apex predators. That’s great news, ecologically speaking. But as he points out, “That does not take into consideration the negative impacts that can occur with the restoration of a natural ecosystem.”
Sharks are not the brightest animals in the sea. Humans are not a preferred prey animal, but sharks looking for seals sometimes get confused. Given that their primary way of interacting with the world is to use their mouths (in a way, maybe they are the “mindless eating machines” of the Jaws trailer), a shark may give a human swimmer a good “gumming,” Skomal says, before realizing it hasn’t found a seal. “If sharks wanted to eat humans, we’d have a hell of a lot more shark attacks,” Skomal says. “These are instinctive wild animals, and they make mistakes every now and then. It’s extremely rare, but nonetheless they make mistakes.”
While a great white shark’s honest mistake can still be terrifying—just ask that tourist who got bitten last summer—sharks’ public image seems to be evolving as conservationists educate people about the need to protect vulnerable species and as our understanding of nature becomes more sophisticated. We may be learning to adapt to nature, rather than forcing it to adapt to us.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in Chatham, a 300-year-old fishing village on the elbow of Cape Cod that has found itself at the epicenter of the wildlife resurgence. InJaws, small town leaders tried to cover up shark attacks, fearing they would be bad for business. But Lisa Franz, director of Chatham’s Chamber of Commerce, says the opposite has been true—at least so long as no one has been seriously hurt. While the local fishing industry is struggling, other businesses are capitalizing on people’s curiosity about sharks and the seals they feast on. Shark T-shirts and stuffed toys are flying off gift shop shelves, and there’s talk of making Chatham an ecotourism destination.
“When the first shark hits the newspapers, we get busier earlier,” says Keith Lincoln, who runs a Chatham cruise business that specializes in seal tours. His “office,” parked recently in a lot at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, is a Honda Odyssey with an inflatable shark strapped to the roof—“a hit with the tourists,” he says. But while passengers might say they want to see sharks, Lincoln is not sure they know what they’re getting into. He has seen great whites swimming near the beach, their huge forms casting dark shadows on the sand below. “We usually don’t tell people,” he says. “They leave here all brave, but when they see a fish that’s as big as the boat, they’re not so brave.”
Then again, he might just need a bigger boat.
Watch Discovery Channel’s joking take on the shark frenzy for seals here.
April 30, 2013
“Rural dwellers are not passive respondents to external conservation agents but are active proponents and executers of their own conservation initiatives.”—Noga Shanee, Projects Director forNeotropical Primate Conservation (NPC), in an interview with mongabay.com.
When we think of conservation areas, many of us think of iconic National Parks overseen by uniformed government employees or wilderness areas purchased and run from afar by big-donor organizations like The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, or Conservation International. But what happens to ecosystems and wildlife in areas where there’s a total lack of government presence and no money coming in for its protection? This is the story of one rural Peruvian community that took conservation matters into their own hands, with a little help from a dedicated pair of primate researchers, in order to protect a high biodiversity cloud forest.
On the 22nd of November, 2012, the Peruvian Andes village of Líbano celebrated the launch of the Hocicón Reserve, formed under an innovative conservation model in accordance with federal law which allows for local administration of lands by community organizations (in this case the Rondas Campesinas). The new reserve protects an area of tropical Andean cloud forest in one of the most diverse biomes on earth, home to many endangered and unique species including the endemic Andean night monkey (Aotus miconax), the Endangered white-bellied spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth), jaguars, tapirs and many more. Hocicón, a 505.9 hectare protected area, is on the border of the Amazonas and San Martin regions—two of the most densely populated rural regions in Peru with some of the highest deforestation rates in the country. The rural population in these regions—Campesinos or ‘peasant farmers’—are predominantly of mixed indigenous and European origin and, like the native wildlife, are also endangered, by land insecurity and degraded natural resources.
Noga and Sam Shanee have helped provide technical assistance to the creation of the Hocicón reserve. Ronda leader, Marcos Díaz Delgado, was instrumental in the reserve’s creation. Photo courtesy of NPC.
Noga Shanee and her husband Sam, of the organizationNeotropical Primate Conservation (NPC), work primarily in Peru to support the connection between communities and conservation. They live most of each year not far from the Hocicón reserve they helped to create. “We created NPC as a result of our experience as conservation practitioners and the need we felt to finding efficient solutions to the grave situation in which we found the yellow tailed woolly monkey and its habitat,” Noga told mongabay.com.
The Shanees’ work in primate conservation brought them in close contact with local residents, where it became clear that protection of nature might best be achieved by supporting grassroots community efforts. In the last few years, they have administratively assisted in registering seven conservation areas with the local and national governments before helping to establish the Hocicón reserve under the Ronda Campesina group in Libano. Through NPC they offer Libano residents technical support (GPS equipment, GIS mapping, basic biological assessment and the writing of a basic report), advice on quantifying the ecological importance of the area, and help with legal matters.
Such assistance is necessary because according to governmental demands for conservation projects “local initiators have to execute plans of economic activities and reserve maintenance involving factors which many rural campesinos don’t have the capacity and/or resources to undertake,” writes Noga Shanee in a forthcoming article, which details their fieldwork and the many obstacles that prohibit local community groups from establishing official protected areas. “The main restrictions found to Campesino conservation initiatives was a lack of access to support from governmental and non-governmental institutions and a lack of access to economic resources for the extended bureaucratic processes of registering these protected areas.”
The Andean night monkey (Aotus miconax) is endemic to Peruvian forests which are being protected not by the government or big NGOs, but local communities. Photo by: Andrew Walmsley/NPC.
Noga Shanee says that the bigger problem is disconnect between the state’s expressed desire for conservation and the overly restrictive process of providing for it.
“The Peruvian state presents itself as an enthusiastic promoter of conservation and public participation in environmental issues, taking pride in legislation that allows private and community conservation,” she notes. “However, our experience shows us that the process of legally registering privately run conservation areas is extremely complicated, expensive and slow, requiring teams of specialists and cost on average $20,000 US dollars, just up to the initial registration of the area. After completing this arduous process, the government does not provide any support for the conservation initiators; on the contrary, they require additional reports and economic investments. Therefore, this process is inaccessible to most of the rural population creating inequality and losing opportunities for local participation and conservation efficiency…most local people are unable to create their own reserves and need the help of NGOs. The creation of these reserves including the elaboration of the proposal and waiting for registration takes from 1.5 to 5 years. During this time the land is not legally protected and other land uses are possible which in some cases has led to conflicts.”
One effect of this long, and expensive process is the exclusion of non-experts, small groups, and those lacking connections to government officials or influential NGOs in the process of establishing reserves.
“Although it is perceived locally that broad inter-institutional cooperation would be the best way towards effective regional conservation, cooperation is rare, mainly due to competitiveness related to economic pressures,” Shanee writes.
Launching community reserves from the ground up has proven to be a great way to overcome these bureaucratic obstacles while combating a myriad of threats to both animals and local people.
Ronderos voting to create Hocicón Reserve. Photo by: Noga Shanee.
“The area suffers from high levels of deforestation fueled by immigration, road construction, extractive industries, hydroelectric dams, cattle ranching and lately a boom of palm oil plantations. The Ronda Campesina [community group, which launched the reserve,] has been protesting for many years against this development model (aggressively promoted by the government) which is so destructive to natural habitats and to rural societies,” Noga Shanee, told mongabay.com.
Such threats are caused by a number of actors, according to Shanee, including the federal government, international corporations, and even the rural campesinos [farmers] themselves.
“Severe economic and social pressures are found to force campesinos into unsustainable practices,” writes Noga Shanee, in a recently submitted paper.
Clown tree frog (Dendropsophus sarayacuensis) in the region. Nestor Allgas Marchena/NPC.
In her PhD Thesis on the subject written for Kent University in the UK, Noga Shanee summarized that “current conservation efforts are far from sufficient to offset the mounting threats they face,” adding “an amalgam of contradicting agendas, power struggles, superficial-spectacular solutions, and prejudices towards rural populations hinder the efficiency of conservation interventions” as “the immense pressures impacting human populations transforms directly into environmentally degrading processes.”
The Hocicón conservation model is not your typical conservation solution to these problems. In contrast to uniformed park officials greeting visitors or teams of well-paid foreign biologists in the field monitoring wildlife populations, these reserves are organic extensions of the community—policed and patrolled by the local residents themselves; such projects bring, according to Shanee, “a sense of pride and inclusion to the rural people who implement them.”
The Rondas enjoy distinctive legal rights within Peruvian society because of long-standing traditional land claims by indigenous peoples in combination with large areas of territory devoid of governmental or NGO supervision.
“The areas we are working and living in (departments of Amazonas and San Martin in Northern Peru) are almost completely abandoned by the government and would be in complete anarchy if it wasn’t for the Rondas…The Ronda Campesina (Peasant Patrol) is a network of autonomous, civil organizations, aimed at self-protection,” Shanee explains. “They practice vigilance and civil justice in the rural Peruvian countryside where state control is insufficient.”
The royal sunangel (Heliangelus regalis) is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: Sachar Alterman/NPC.
Ronda bases can be organized by any population (community, town, or village). Nationally, the Ronda has more than half a million active members, in more than 5,000 bases, mainly, but not only, in Northern Peru and solves about 180,000 civil justice cases per year. Rondas also protest against external environmental hazards, such as polluting mining operations. According to Noga Shanee’s thesis, “by criticism and setting examples, the Rondas pressure both the government and NGOs to act more efficiently and morally towards conservation.”
Sam Shanee, also of NPC, says Ronda self-government is purely for protective purposes. “The ronda is basically a neighborhood watch group in most villages (I myself am a ‘rondero’ in the village where we live). All that this new approach entails in its most basic form is a group of villagers (or the entire village) getting together a deciding to protect an area of forest or other natural habitat near where they live… there has been no use of force for the creation of this first ARCA and the Ronda is not really a militia organization except when necessary, for example in the face of terrorism, drug cartels, illegal mining/logging etc.”
White-bellied spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth). Photo by: Shachar Alterman.
In the absence of top-down support or supervision, the Rondas offer their own path to conservation. The Ronda-run Conservation Areas, known as ARCAs, are quick, extremely low-cost, and are uniquely tailored to the Ronda social structure, allowing for participation of local people in conservation efforts, according to the Shanees.
Marcos Díaz Delgado, a national Ronda leader, told mongabay.com that “The [Ronda-run Conservation Areas (ARCAs)] are an alternative to the state’s legal conservation system which is extremely slow, expensive and fails to reach many remote, rural parts of our country. As a special jurisdiction we don’t only defend our safety and our human rights, but we also defend the natural world inside our territories. We invite the state authorities and all social organizations to join us for the collective defense of our natural resources.”
The ARCAs were designed to streamline the process of establishing protected areas: because of the Rondas special legal status, they only necessitate the minimal process (mapping and basic biological info), and cost almost nothing. Therefore “the Ronda Campesina’s conservation initiatives are an honest and efficient answer to habitat and species loss in Peru as well as to the deficiencies of mainstream, non participative conservation,” Noga Shanee says, adding that while this project is a collaboration between NPC and the Ronda, “we are hoping that they will become more and more self sufficient with time…our help is trying to organize, augment and formalize this initiative”. Orin Starn, Chair and Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, and author of the book Night Watch, the Politics of Protest in the Andes, told mongabay.com that, “the Rondas are the largest, most influential grassroots movement in Peru’s northern mountains. Environmentalism is a relatively new development to this area, and it’ll be very interesting to see the directions that this new collaboration between an old peasant movement and the new NGO-driven green activism may take.”
Noga Shanee (in pink) with community members. Photo courtesy of NPC.
The Shanees’ work in the Amazon continues to illustrate the close biocultural connection between nature and community. Noga sees this connection as a positive force for change when strengthened. In her thesis she writes that destructive pressures on local communities and forests “also create positive consequences by creating new conservation opportunities.” By turning local environmental and social crisis into opportunity, new collaborations and conservation without supervision, born of necessity, can emerge, offering real hope for biocultural diversity.
“All over the world there are small groups of local farmers and indigenous people that organize themselves in order to protect their neighboring forests,” Noga Shanee says. “These initiatives are rarely heard about as these people often lack resources and expertise to promote their successes through academic or popular publications.” But she adds that she hopes the Hocicón model will become increasingly common in Peru and even spread abroad.
“This initiative can inspire other grassroots organizations to organize themselves to administer conservation, which could benefit many different species and habitats around the world. “
She believes that community-run conservation will prosper, saying, “we might be naïve and of course this project can fail, but our work in Peru has shown us that local communities put huge efforts in conserving their forests, usually with no help from mainstream conservationists and sometimes even despite them. We believe that they deserve the chance.”
Cloud forest in Northeastern Peru. Photo by: Andrew Walmsley/NPC.
Noga in front in purple with community leaders. Photo courtesy of NPC.
White-fronted spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth). Photo by: Shachar Alterman.
Shanee N (2012) The Dynamics of Threats and Conservation Efforts for the Tropical Andes Hotspot in Amazonas and San Martin, Peru. PhD Thesis (Kent University, Canterbury). Supervised by Prof. Stuart R. Harrop.
Shanee, Noga, Sam Shanee, and Robert H. Horwich (2012 in revision). “Locally run conservation initiatives in northeastern Peru and their effectiveness as conservation methods,” shared by permission of the authors
Starn O (1999) Nightwatch: the politics of protest in the Andes (Duke Univ Pr, Los Angeles) p 329.
Chapin, M. (2004) A Challenge to Conservationists. World Watch, 17, 17-31
Sobrevila, Claudia. (2008) “The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation; The Natural but Often Forgotten Partners” World Bank Report.