remember, tuesday is soylent green day
Nobody talks about all the population-displacement that Soylent Green causes! Because it's made of people!
It's one of the most fashionable ideas to save the planet from global warming: buying up tropical rainforest to save it from destruction. Gordon Brown has even appointed the millionaire founder of one such charity, Johan Eliasch, as his special adviser on deforestation.
But like all big ideas it is controversial, and this week a leading Amazonian campaigner will visit Britain to protest that this latest trend is linked to a health and social crisis among indigenous people, including sickness, depression, suicide, obesity and drug addiction.
Davi Kopenawa, a shaman of the Yanomami tribe, will help launch a report that, says Survival International, the charity behind it, claims separation from the land is directly linked to the 'physical and mental breakdown' of indigenous communities, whose lifestyle and culture is already under threat from mining, logging and resettlement away from traditional lands.
In a statement issued through the group, Kopenawa said: 'You napepe (whites) talk about what you call development and tell us to become the same as you. But we know that this brings only disease and death. Now you want to buy pieces of rainforest, or to plant biofuels. These are useless. The forest cannot be bought; it is our life and we have always protected it. Without the forest, there is only sickness.'
Survival International, which announced Kopenawa's visit, said that destruction of the rainforest had been blamed for the release of 18-25 per cent of human carbon dioxide emissions, the biggest greenhouse gas blamed for climate change.
Charities such as Cool Earth, the organisation set up by Eliasch and former Labour minister Frank Field, could buy a tiny fraction of the rainforest, but their popularity 'diverts attention' from the more urgent need to return rainforest to indigenous people, claims Stephen Corry, Survival International's director.
'It's like a bucket of water in the North Sea: the amount of land that's being bought by outsiders is infinitesimally small, and if you look at [the land bought by Cool Earth] there's 15,000 times more land protected because it's under indigenous control in the Amazon,' said Corry. 'We're not saying it's imperialistic, we're not even saying there's anything wrong with it: what's wrong is the claims being put forward in its name, that this is a permanent solution.'
This is a shabbily written article: it's not clear at all how these so-called trendy non-profits are engineering these land purchases, and from what I can see, the Survival International report doesn't finger conservation efforts as a problem. Of course, just because I haven't seen anyplace that international conservation companies are using an IMF/World Bank-style development model when they broker their purchases, with forced removal and the like, doesn't mean it isn't happening.
The model I am aware of is the one similar to what South Africa has pulled off in the last ten years or so, preserving natural landscapes and native lands in the center of the country by drawing up a kind of internationally-recognized park and ceding the territory to indigenous inhabitants to care for, with the government and NGOs providing some techinical support. Last month's Harper's and Christain Parenti in last week's Nation cover story also looked at the need, both regionally and globally, for no-go rainforests stewarded by indigenous inhabitants.
Again, though, this is where a strong enviro justice perspective can not only help salvage native cultures in the face of globalization, but also preserve the planet's "lungs" (many rainforests act as carbon sinks, sucking up all that shit we stink up the atmosphere with and breathing out good oxygen). Yay for my enviro-political-model! Yay for me!