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John Vidal on 'the great green land grab'
Throughout the world, conservation groups and wealthy environmentalists are buying up tracts of forest, field, and mountain land with the intent of protecting these areas from development, commercial exploitation, and deterioration. As John Vidal reports for The Guardian, private ownership has become the conservationists’ strategy du jour for safeguarding vast swaths of the world’s most vulnerable lands. One charity, the Britain-based Cool Earth, has purchased some 32,000 acres of Amazonian rainforest in a single year alone.
Yet while private ownership of land for the sake of conservation is largely embraced in developed countries like the United States and Britain, those in the developing countries are questioning the practice and its implications for their own sovereignty. "First colonialists took control of countries and communities in order to expropriate their resources, then the conservationists came and did exactly the same thing - this time, in the name of saving the environment," Vidal writes. Moreover the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks has often come at the expense of indigenous peoples, who have been evicted from ancestral lands and prohibited access to the natural resources on which they depend to make way for protected environmental areas.
What’s more, the role of forestland in coping with climate change only complicates the issue of private ownership of forests. As Vidal writes,
"The big new climate change idea, now snowballing around the world, is for rich countries to pay poor ones not to cut down trees in return for carbon credits. One plan is to give communities or countries cash; another is for a global system of carbon trading where poor countries sell the carbon locked up in their trees to allow rich countries to continue polluting as usual."
Although the arrangement may sound enticing to some environmentalists and human rights advocates, such an approach raises more questions than it answers. "Once you get big carbon money going to the world's forests you get questions about who actually owns the trees," says Dr. Tom Griffiths, who works with Forest Peoples Programme. "Is it the people who give the money to save them, or the communities?" The implications of how one responds to this question are many and profound, and necessitate an extremely cautious approach to conservation and land management, according to Vidal.
Read the full article in The Guardian here.
Posted By Colby Clabaugh at 1:26pm on February 15, 2008
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