June 15, 2004


A plan for conservation on a continental scale (Eugene Linden, Thomas Lovejoy and J. Daniel Phillips, International Herald Tribune, June 14, 2004)

Consider a huge forest like the Congo Basin or the Amazon, spanning several countries and shrinking steadily in the face of timber operations, agricultural conversion, urbanization, illegal cutting, land invasion and out-of-control burning seasons. What is urgently needed is a plan comprehensive enough to provide coverage of an entire rainforest system; simple enough to be rolled out quickly, bypassing the usual rounds of endless study and negotiation; and bold enough to draw in new kinds of donors to areas currently starved of funds.

We propose a continental-scale, market-like conservation plan that would minimize the possibility for negotiation while attracting major new donors and funneling resources into every part of a forest system. Our plan would be to divide the forest into 100 blocks, and then solicit commitments from international environmental groups, development institutions, corporations and other credible donors. The blocks might be allocated by simple lottery or a more complicated bidding process, but the key would be to find an entity that would take responsibility for maintaining forest cover and forest health in each block of the entire forest system. A secretariat would oversee the bidding and monitor progress, but it would be up to each group to decide where to focus efforts. Those who won a block would have no supervisory authority but would have to win over local authorities and groups already working in the area. A nongovernment organization might want to pour resources into existing projects, while an American utility or corporation might want to buy carbon credits and thus provide an economic incentive for preserving the rainforest.

Imagine scholars from the third world proposing that North America be divided into blocks, with each block assigned to an international NGO responsible for maintaining its pristine qualities and working with “local authorities”. Yet progressives see this as a perfectly noble and reasonable plan for Africa. What is notable about this scheme (proposed by luminaries from the Heinz Foundation) is the compete absence of any sense that there are a few hundred million people and numerous sovereign states in the region. Thus does the international aid community reveal its fundamentally racist paternalism and institutional self-interests by relegating Africans to perpetual dependance on aid and foreign direction, and absolving them of any responsibility for their futures.

Posted by Peter Burnet at June 15, 2004 6:34 AM

But this is entirely different. This time we're only interfering to bring the advantages of civilization and the Truth of Environmentalism to the natives. We mean well.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 15, 2004 7:42 AM

What never gets mentioned in these plans is how the "secretariat" and various other "international environmental groups, development institutions, corporations and other credible donors" won't be working for free. On the contrary, they are all going to have nice comfy lives with somebody else pickup up the tab. Instead of a "market-like conservation plans" whose purpose is to enrich these parasites, why not just institute real markets?

This whole scheme seems to be based on the notion that the natives don't actually own the resources involved, and should have no say in how they are ultimately managed. If that's the case, why not apply the same principal to oil producing areas?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 15, 2004 9:24 AM


Exactly right. When I subscribed (briefly) to The Economist, I was struck by the fact that virtually all the classifieds were for governmental, academic and NGO positions.

Posted by: Rick T. at June 15, 2004 9:51 AM

Gee,and just last year they were singing the praises of happy natives living traditional lifestyles.

Posted by: at June 15, 2004 10:01 AM

Liberate South Africa and Zimbabwe and let
the rest burn. There is no hope for Central
Africa. These people simply do not possess the
genetic capacity to rise above the state of
degradation in which they find themselves.

No flames unless you have evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: J.H. at June 15, 2004 10:01 AM

Yeah. That's where the burden of proof lies.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 15, 2004 10:03 AM


Genetic capacity? If you want to post racist crap do it elsewhere, not here.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 11:29 AM

This is such a nice example of how Darwinism can slide right into eugenics that you all must suspect that OJ is posting as JH.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 15, 2004 12:11 PM

And the NGO's have what army?

Their only hope is through control of the treaty process to convince rich nations to withhold aid to force these countries to comply.

But again, without troops on the ground, how will they insure the treaties are complied with?

It's ironic. A new colonialism is coming one way or another (we can't have failed states around that allow terrorists havens, can we?), and for the exact same reason. Not sure the specific forms it will take.

At least Asia will escape it this time.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at June 15, 2004 2:35 PM

>Gee,and just last year they were singing the
>praises of happy natives living traditional

Starving quaintly in their picturesque mud huts...

Africa's been Earth's hard-luck continent as far back as you can go. Deadly diseases, dangerous wildlife, harsh conditions, lotsa resources (tempting target for outside colonial powers) that are there but require high-tech to get to (unavailable for the low-tech you need to bootstrap the high-tech), and extreme bloodthirsty tribalism (never able to manage a multi-tribe civilization for long; if plague didn't get them, infighting would).

To top it off, post-Colonial Africans became obsessed with showing how African (i.e. not European) they are that they rejected all the outsiders' ideas of civilization and glory in acting as "uncivilized" as possible -- slavery, massacre, cannibalism -- to show they're Not Those Colonials. (Northern Europeans made the same mistake 1500+ years ago; Romans could read and write and bathed, therefore We Have To Show We're Not Roman by staying illiterate and filthy.)

Posted by: Ken at June 15, 2004 4:28 PM

You don't have to imagine it. Go to the Website of the Wilderness Project (recipient of $100K of Ted Turner's ill-gotten gains, according to Bjorn Lomborg).

There's already a similar proposal for No. America.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 15, 2004 7:54 PM

I await with considerable interest the deliberations of the Second Congress of Berlin...

Posted by: Joe at June 15, 2004 8:02 PM

It has long been my contention that enviromentalism is merely the last socially aceptable form of racism.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 16, 2004 12:06 AM

J.H. Y'know, proof is sometimes useful when making arguments like that.

Posted by: Chris at June 16, 2004 9:14 AM

This has got to be the stupidest thing I've seen since the last Adam Sandler movie. The saving grace (for us) from the environmental/ngo movement is that they make plans that haven't the proverbial snowball's chance of succeeding. They are so enamored with their powers of persuasion that they can forego any enforcement authority.

The only way to save the environment of Africa is to divide up the land and sell it all to private owners. Enforce property rights and enable a free market for land and real estate. Only private owners are incented to provide stewardhip for the land. Eliminate the commons.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 16, 2004 3:35 PM