Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Cool Earth -- Frank Field's new idea

The Internet is now littered with articles about Frank Field's brilliant new idea for saving the rainforests. An idea that the World Land Trust has actually been implementing for over 17 years. There is one major difference. We are working entirely by supporting local NGOs, and have a lot of carefully established experience. Unfortunately the massive publicity generated by the Cool Earth and Frank Field has led to a backlash of criticism, claiming that it is a form of green imperialism; I hope and doubt this is true, but only time will tell how effective the organisation is. And this is an issue which we at the WLT have been very aware of, and over the years have made sure that it is a criticism that cannot be levelled at our activities. But our main concern is that bad publicity can often rub off on others.

Over 10 years ago criticisms of Sting's Rainforest Foundation led to a massive decline in donations to our work, despite the fact that our approach was radically different. Criticisms of Tomkins and other multi-millionaire businessmen buying up wilderness have a knock on effect on our work. Fortunately, the World Land Trust is now well enough known to survive most of these problems, but land purchase is always going to be a sensitive issue. It is a vital tool in the bid to save biodiversity, provided it is done with the support of local people at all levels, from the communities to the governments concerned. Finally a major issue is that publicity-seeking high profile projects can often have very negative effects by inflating land prices. This is bad for conservation, and bad for local people. This is an issue we have to grapple with constantly

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