Thursday, 9 December 2004

Another two and a half million acres of rainforest lost

I was invited recently to go to the World Conservation Congress being held in Bangkok. I was invited to give a presentation on my work on the archives relating to conservation (an interest I regard as quite distinct from actual conservation -- a sort of armchair pursuit for the long winter evenings) I declined, mostly because I thought it would be an inappropriate use of conservation funds). And also my understanding was there would be about 3,500 people there, so the chances of meeting up with the right ones was fairly small. Imagine my horror when I was told there were nearer 6000 people present. How all these people justify traveling to a conservation congress is hard to imagine.

Back in 1975 I went to my first IUCN conference, held in Zaire, and there must have been about 700 people present, and at that one I recall several of us sitting in the bar one evening trying to cost the conference -- numbers of days, cost of airfares etc, plus the environmental impact of flying all the delegates around the world.

I would suggest that we can take the average cost of a delegate attending a conference as being $10,000. This is almost certainly on the low side, particularly if the opportunity costs are taken into account, bearing in mind that there are numerous consulants and senior governmental representatives earning well in excess of $100,000 a year. So even on such conservative estimates, and without the costs to the host country such a congress costs $60million. And with $60million, it would be very easy to buy at least 2.5 million acres (over 1million ha) of wilderness in some of the most threatened areas of the world. And that does not take into account the environmental impact of thousands of airmiles...

It's not as simple as all the above sounds. No doubt important things will emerge from the Congress. But I still cannot help feeling that there was a lot of hot air in all respects, and several thousand of the delegates would have done more good to the environment if they had stayed at home.

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