Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

REDD is definitely not Green

with 4 comments

As promised yesterday, I want to encourage all those that are not familiar with the issues surrounding deforestation, to explore them in more detail.

Given that humanity seems determined to keep burning fossil fuels simply because they are there, it is now more important than ever that we preserve the Earth’s forests because:
1. Trees photosynthesise – turning carbon dioxide into oxygen.
2. Trees are carbon sinks – they use the carbon to grow (biomass).
3. Burning biomass not used for timber adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Deforestation is therefore bad because it reduces the Earth’s capacity to recycle CO2; it reduces biomass; and it adds to atmospheric CO2. It is bad for many other reasons, including the fundamental issue of habitat destruction leading to species extinction: Habitat loss is the primary cause of species extinction; and in destroying rain forests in particular, we are not only reducing the Earth’s vital lung capacity, we are destroying its most biodiverse ecosystem too.

Many commentators have criticised the UNFCCC and REDD/REDD+ for serving the interests of the global North (i.e. perpetuating atmospheric pollution) and working against the interests of the global South. With REDD/REDD+ being variously described as turning forests into commodities to be traded; excluding indigenous communities; and/or encouraging counter-productive activities, the situation is clearly very complex. But what is the solution? Some say the problem is that REDD/REDD+ is seeking to privatise Nature. Some say that the privatisation of Nature will be its salvation. I think the evidence of history clearly shows that the latter is a libertarian myth. Just as with the Earth’s oceans – and all creatures they contain – we cannot divide them up; assign property rights to them; and then punish individuals that mismanage them. However, must everyone who dares to suggest that property rights and the free market are not the solution to our problems be denounced as a Communist? Garrett Hardin was certainly denounced – if not as a Communist then – as a left-wing bourgeoisie academic… and for what? For suggesting that over-exploitation is the inevitable consequence of an unrestrained free market when dealing with finite resources not owned by anyone. You can see where the libertarian myth comes from: The idea that the tragedy of the commons can be avoided by having no commons. However, this is clearly unachievable. Therefore, we must either exercise collective restraint or we will inevitably destroy the very things that support all life on Earth – namely our oceans and our forests.

In researching this subject, I came across another excellent video – this time a bit longer and involving first-hand testimony from those being adversely affected by REDD and REDD+. So, please, don’t take my word for it, listen to what all these people have to say in this video produced by the Global Justice Ecology Project.

As policies and programs to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) and to enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+) are promoted around the world by global and national elites, Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities are raising the alarm that these programs will have serious negative impacts — and will not reduce the cascading threats of the climate crisis. This 28-minute documentary introduces the many concerns about REDD from the perspective of the people who are most impacted, featuring interviews and testimonies from Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda, India, and California.

Somehow we must find a way to make our politicians change course because, if we do not, I think humanity is doomed. And if anyone is looking for an epitaph, I think I found it many years ago (I just did not realise how it can be applied at a global level):

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Happy Hallowe’en!

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Written by Martin Lack

31 October 2012 at 00:02

4 Responses

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  1. It is a big and complex subject and I’m glad you recognise the issue Martin. When I was an environmentalist professional I would run into public concern that we were either clearing woods or felling areas or generally mucking about spoiling nature. The truth was that we did clear for sound long term reasons, sometimes it was to protect a rare environment that was being destroyed by natural forestation sometimes to enhance natural processes.

    I have heard of individual concerns of REDD activity but the extent of their failures may be limited. [I don't know-will research some more]. I believe the key word is sustainability, if the forest is seen as a renewable resource with value added post harvest production then they have a better chance of survival. The idea that we encourage governments to turn them into no-go reserves is considered colonial imperialism and to be avoided.

    REDD is operating in an atmosphere where host governments see forest as resource and the trick is to get them to do it in a positive way.

    julesbollocks

    31 October 2012 at 11:35

    • Thanks Jules. This 28-minute video is a pretty good place for anyone to start their research… I think the fact that indigenous people see REDD as serving the interests of the World’s biggest polluting nations tells you all you need to know…

      Martin Lack

      31 October 2012 at 23:59

      • Well yes and no, at least that’s my opinion. Yes it’s easy for the polluters to offset consumption rather than deal with it, and marginalised people [will get/are getting] screwed. It goes further in that governments will grant licenses for ‘common’ land to grow bio-fuels, or clear forest, or mining permits, or flood it for clean hydro. They will pretty well do it anyway, but with a system that pays them not to do it the forest gets a break.

        If the forests are left intact and money is assigned to pay for the air support and rangers police against illegal operations then there is at least some hope that aspects of local peoples lives continue. But local people also stress the environment: Sure, it is great to highlight Amazon forest people but they are a minority, the bigger threats are the poor natives of less glamourous tribes in the Congo or Mozambique.

        The energy crisis is as much about wood as it is about oil; and I have seen first-hand Mango Swamp hacked back to obtain charcoal for local markets carried out by locals in Central America. When the storms blow in, the swamp is engulfed and land gets eroded. In a perfect world the programs that are created to save this habitat will benefit the local population; and provide work to create sustainable timber.

        It is an imperfect solution to a pressing problem; and I think the real challenge is about good governance.
        I have a weekend course on Saturday to discuss some of these issues and a lot of the material is about projects where the money by-passes the governments.

        julesbollocks

        1 November 2012 at 01:41

        • Sorry for the delayed response once again. Thanks for explaining your views further; I would be very interested to hear feedback from your meeting.

          Martin Lack

          1 November 2012 at 18:24


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