Thursday, 17 February 2005

More about real rainforests vs. imitations

In 1996 the World Land Trust was donated an indoor rainforest in Berkshire - Wyld Court Rainforest - as a visitor centre. The World Land Trust managed the centre until 2000, when the trustees decided to dispose of it; it has since become an independent charity and now known as the Living Rainforest.

One of the main reasons the Trustees of the WLT decided to relinquish the rainforest in Berkshire was that it was a huge drain on WLT resources - the income from visitors did not cover the running costs, and although the original donor had made a generous donation to subsidise the operations, these were running out. The only real benefit to the WLT was that raising funds to subsidise operations was relatively easy - a lottery grant of over £100,000 was just one of several. But the World Land Trust was established to conserve real rainforests, and eventually the difficult decision was taken, and the ownership handed over to a new board of directors.

Five years on the Living rainforest is flourishing, and in terms of education this is clearly a good thing, but from a conservation perspective it is also rather depressing. The national lottery has just given it nearly £1 million. To create an imitation rainforest of less than one acre. Meanwhile the World Land Trust is trying to raise a mere $8 million to buy over 150,000 acres of real rainforest. But neither the lottery, nor any other government agency will support such a purchase.

It reminds me of the old foreign aid trap: in the past most foreign aid was given to projects that mostly benefited the donor country - money to buy equipment only available from them, that needed expensive ongoing maintenance from the donor country. Now the lottery can claim to be helping rainforests, by developing education resources. But in reality it is only helping the economy of the countries doing the damage; if it spent the same amount on real rainforest it could save endangered species as well as thousands of acres.

No comments:

Post a Comment