Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Population and HIV

My friend (but unrelated) Bob Burton sent a comment to one of my blogs, which I think deserves much more careful inspection -- and shouldn't be buried among the responses to past blogs. He wrote:

A recent news report on the G8 meeting said that HIV/AIDS is the top of the agenda. Population control did not appear.

It's odd that the problem was at being discussed 30 years ago. Now that the world population is so much greater and the problems so much more obvious, it has disappeared from debate.

It really is quite bizarre how the population problem has fallen off the edge of the conference table. Many of the problems confronting the environment, and ultimately the survival of the human species, are anthropogenic. And the more humans there are, the bigger the problems become. Mosre wilderness is cleared, more forests are felled, more pollution is created, more CO2 is emmitted, more water is used etc.etc.etc And the greater the risks of pandemics and epidemics. So dealing with HIV/AIDS in isolation from population growth is potentially like pouring petrol on the fuse of the time bomb that has already been lit.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

Why the WLT does not own land

I am often asked why the WLT does not own the land itself, and I think the following news item, goes a long way towards explaining why:

BUENOS AIRES (EFE). A project to expropriate land in the north east of Argentina, which was acquired by a magnate from the United States, Douglas Tompkins, and the Chilean firm Forestal Andina yesterday triggered controversy between those driving and those affected by the plan.

The idea was created by the argentine sub-secretary of Land for Social Habitat, Luis D'Elía, who proposed to expropriate 296,000 hectares in the Esteros de Iberá, a region of marshland in the Corrientes Province, in order to create a national park.

Local people from the area have resorted to the justice system against the decision of Tompkins and Andina to fence off large extensions of land leaving several neighbours with small and practically isolated properties.

A week ago, D'Elía lead a protest made by the affected neighbours, mostly farmers, and broke into the ranch, "El Tránsito", owned by Tompkins.

"If I see again another social route or path wired off by a foreign millionaire who ignores the Argentine laws and who holds in contempt the judgments of the Argentine courts, like Mr Tompkins, we will return to cut wires", D'Elía said yesterday in a declaration given to Radio América de Buenos Aires.

The idea of the official was translated into a project of expropriation that was presented to the Argentine Parliament by Araceli Méndez de Ferreyra, with the endorsement of forty other members of parliament. Sofía Heinonen, environmental adviser of Tompkins projects, said yesterday that "to expropriate is not the way to create a national park" and that it "should be negotiated with the owners" of the land.

"We draw attention to the speed with which this happened, without consultation of the Corrientes Province which is the landlord of these natural resources and who must first cede jurisdiction", she said.

The Esteros de Iberá, one of the principal aquatic reserves in the world, covers an area of 1.3 million hectares of which 700,000 are in private hands.

Tompkins, previously a textiles businessman from New York, has dedicated his time for years to the purchase of large extensions of land for conversion into natural conservation areas through his foundation Land Trust.

In contrast to Tomkins (and other wealthy owners) the WLT simply funds the acquistion, always through a locally controlled and managed NGO. We strongly believe that foreign ownership of such areas is usually counterproductive to the long-term and sustainable conservation objectives. The actual title deeds are vested in the local NGO and all the day to day management is vested in them. The WLT will provide technical support (if asked) and will also encourage international tourism and scientific research when appropriate. We also ensure that we work with local NGOs that will encourage community participation.

This extract was translated in office from an article that can be found at yahoo brazil

Endangered Jaguars

The IUCN Red List continues to list the Jaguar as simply "Near Threatened". Not Vulnerable, not Endangered, simply "Near Threatened". To my mind this makes a mockery of the whole classification of degrees of threat. The species is completely extinct in many countries within its range, and even in those countries where it still exists, it is almost always listed as Endangered or Vulnerable. While there is little statistical data, there is ample anecdotal information, almost all of which points to ongoing declines. So why are conservationists so "conservative"?

Back in the early 1980s I suggested that the African Lion ought to be considered for inclusion in the Red Lists, but was laughed at. In 2004, it was included as Vulnerable. All big cats are incompatible with human populations, which are expanding everywhere. So how can the Jaguar, considered Vulnerable and continuing to decline throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s now be considered only Low Risk/Near Threatened?

To quote the IUCN Red List itself: "Its stronghold is in the rainforest of the Amazon Basin , but it is declining in most other habitats. The Jaguar has been virtually eliminated from much of the drier northern parts of its range, as well as the pampas scrub grasslands of Argentina and throughout Uruguay. The most urgent conservation problem for the Jaguar throughout much of its range is the current intolerance of ranchers. The vulnerability of the Jaguar to persecution is demonstrated by its disappearance in the mid-1900s from the southwestern US and northern Mexico".

If its stronghold, the Amazon basin was not disappearing at an alarming rate there might be some justification for IUCN's assessment, but it and the Jaguar are disappearing. By not highlighting the threatened nature of Jaguars, we are fiddling while the Amazon burns.