Are Conservationists opposed to development?

Professor Bill Laurance said:

We live in an age of vanishing rainforests. Half of the world’s tropical forests have disappeared since World War II and roughly another 10 million hectares are being felled each year — the equivalent of 40 football fields every minute.


Then in the comments a Phd student quotes David Brower (1912-2000, founder of the Earth Island Institute & John Muir Institute for Environmental Studies).

“We’re not blindly opposed to progress, we’re opposed to blind progress.”

I got a bit carried away — imagine that!? 😉 — and wrote the following comment to the Bill Laurance article above. (I’ve added a few further comments in brackets). It got me thinking about how to solve this while meeting the needs of the world’s poor?

***

1. Lock up all the Old Growth.
I suggest that the global forestry industry needs to be LOCKED OUT of old growth forests and regions that were ‘recently’ old growth forests (degraded forests). Then more scientists like Bill should be put in charge of restoring them.

What about local peasant employment and farms? I’m sorry, but if they are only recent farms or logging areas that occurred in the last 10 to 15 years, then the global ecological crisis means they are simply … a mistake. These farmers and loggers should not have been allowed to move there. It is not their fault they were forced into logging these vital areas.

2. Shrink the cities
When governments capture the vision of attractive New Urban Ecocities, they can easily create jobs as the city both shrinks back in on itself (providing dense and diverse town planning in the core) while restoring the surrounding countryside to local agriculture. Cities should be shrinking away from these vital ecosystems, not expanding into them! These cities could then make money from the primal beauty of these fantastic ecosystems through eco-tourism, not logging and degrading them!

3. Poor peasants into satisfied and secure urban dwellers
When subsistence farmers are integrated into a more secure financial position in a meaningful community, they have less children. Kerala India demonstrates this. It’s called the Demographic Transition and — ultimately — is our only hope. The global population hits 7 billion in October this year. That’s the real reason our forests are vanishing.

4. Materials
“But we need wood to build those Eco-cities!” I hear someone cry? Yes, but New Urbanism is more efficient in all materials, not just wood, than western suburbia or sprawling peasant farms. (This depends on what you classify as a peasant farm. Of course some peasants are doing it so rough that their tiny shacks could not possibly compete with New Urbanism).

There are other ways of growing food, fuel, and fibre. First, let’s re-brand forestry. Foresters can convert badlands into woodlands.

American Tropical Hardwoods have converted a 14 000 acre cattle ranch in Costa Rica into tropical forest. Watch the video on the home page, or just check these 2 photos.

Before:

After:

Why even risk degrading old growth forest when degraded farms and badlands can be turned into new forests like this one, complete with vibrant biodiversity?

Now that’s sustainable forestry! That’s the only kind of forestry we should be encouraging. The extinction levels are simply that bad. Someone needs to say it.

There are other ways to meet our growing needs for fuel and fibre and food than cutting down trees in old growth forests! We should lock up vast tracks of the Amazon and other threatened areas, and even reverse this trend and restore these precious areas that are so important for biodiversity, waste processing, storing carbon, and pumping oxygen into our atmosphere.

Biochar can restore many degraded marginal soils, and alternative crops like Hemp (the low THC variety that does not get you high) can yield enormous volumes of both food and fibre. Hemp fibres can be turned into cabinets and furniture with modern glues, and the glues can come from ordinary household waste thrown into a modern plasma burner. In other words, our ordinary house hold waste including dirty diapers, asbestos, pizza boxes and old toothbrushes are blown apart at the molecular level and converted into new toothbrushes and building materials and glues that can help build New Urbanism.

I’m optimistic that we can both provide economic security for the poor while saving our old growth forests and restoring areas cleared in the last 15 years; while also solving the primary cause of it all, population growth. It just takes vision and guts. It takes new legislative approaches and town planning practices, and a culture willing to think about what is possible with our wonderful new agricultural and waste processing technologies.

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