Posts Tagged ‘tradeoffs’

For what dost thou lament?

Traditional livelihoods decline in Borneo forests as communities rely on mining, logging jobs, so say CIFOR:

A new study by the Center for International Forestry Research has found that villages along the Malinau River, an area rich in valuable timber and mineral resources, are relying less on traditional livelihoods — typically a mixture of hunting, fishing, cultivating fruit gardens, collecting eaglewood and bird’s nests.

The study found jobs in mining, agriculture, construction and services accelerated economic growth in the Malinau district from 1.24% in 2004 to 8.96% in 2009. Most of those interviewed said they supported development as beneficial to their quality of life.  Indeed, development projects in the last decade have brought jobs, health and education services and infrastructure improvements. But villagers said they were concerned such growth is threatening traditional livelihoods and comes at the expense of reduced access to their forests and forest resources.

So it sounds like things are actually getting better for the communities! Smile  This is what we call Development. Often it comes with an environmental cost. This is unfortunate, and it is good for environmentalists to point this out, and to devise means to ameliorate that. If “Giving villagers a say in forest management would provide greater protections for forest resources” then great, although I can bet there will be management challenges for the big investors.

However, I do think we need to watch ourselves so that we do not unconsciously project our own views on to those resource-dependent communities we study and/or work with. I do not know Borneo, so I cannot say for sure that CIFOR have not accurately reflected the Malinau communities’ priorities. I also generally have a very high opinion of CIFOR, as a rational, objective research institute who do not get too dewy eyed about the fate of doomed ecosystems, but instead consider practical issues and what might be feasible solutions. That said, I cannot help but suspect that the author of this piece laments the passing of a simpler age when she could expect to have a fulfilling job, and her research subjects could not.

Update 27/02/2012: See response from study author and my reply in the comments.

Conservation and Compromise

Here are some recent posts on blogs I follow which, depending upon your perspective, may count as either good or bad news:

I could write a lot of preachy stuff about each of the above, but I will content myself with this: most conservation is highly political, and politics is famously the art of the possible. I’m mostly glad that there are the likes of Global Witness out there manning the barricades *, but I prefer the messier stuff of working out practicable solutions that take due note of the fact that environmentalism is not the only narrative out there.

The difference is summed up for me with the simple observation that while those who take a strictly moral view of things object to a single elephant being shot (especially if it is in the name of conservation!), experience has shown that one of the best ways to increase elephant numbers is by leveraging lucrative hunting fees to manage habitat to suit elephants and compensate local farmers whose crops are damaged. I’m tickled that Switzerland would even consider mandating legal representation for animals. (It was rejected, but I’m even more intrigued as to where they proposed to draw the line as to what counts as an ‘animal’.) Maybe, in the distant future we will be regarded as barbarous for even suggesting people could ‘keep’ animals (in the same way that we now regard keeping other people as slaves is barbarous), but in the here and now most conservation action will come about through dirty compromise. Time to roll up our sleeves …

* Though sometimes I wish they wouldn’t crowd out the more nuanced discussions.

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