Imagine sitting around the dinner table with your family. You are laughing, and sharing the day’s events. You help yourself to a serving of mashed potatoes. You descend back into a comfortable sitting position and pick up your fork. Just as the cold steel of the fork touches your mouth, the door slams open and a wave of armed men enter the dining room. Their presence alone is startling, and has frightened you and the rest of your family into a position of powerlessness. They tell you your living room is now the site for a cattle-farm and that although, one day you may resume the meal together, today is not that day.

This scenario is not my first choice for a daydream, but parallel circumstances have been a harsh reality for people, all over the world.

Years of abuse and overproduction of the Earth’s resources has contributed to global climate change, the displacement of indigenous people and wildlife, and has triggered a humanitarian panic to amend our industrial indiscretions.

The Amazon Rainforest often referred to as “the lungs of our planet,” has graciously provided the vital service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen, among other things, and has demanded nothing in return.

We are civilized people. No well-mannered men would accept a gift of such generous implications without the returned expression of appreciation. As a token of our humble thanks, this is what we offered the Rainforest:

Since 1970, we have destroyed over 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon Rainforest and displaced or killed countless amounts of indigenous wildlife and people in the process.

Why?

Cheeseburgers, furniture, oil, and pharmaceuticals.

And now, in the wake of the new climate change resolution trend, it seem our destruction of billions of acres of rainforest is no longer a sufficient offering. In this new era of environmental responsibility, action has just begun for the reconciliation of our misdeeds. Unfortunately, many of the resolutions in effect come with the same cost for the indigenous life.

Deforestation contributes nearly 20% of the total global carbon emissions. We have been taught to equate carbon emissions with global warming, and global warming with a man-caused process that must be stopped, for the sake of our planet.

In a nutshell: by clearing out billions of acres of rainforest for the timber industries, cattle farming, oil, soybean, and paper industries, we have caused irreparable damage to the planet and the life indigenous to the rainforest. Now it is a race to right the wrongs of the human race, and where there is a demand, there is possibility for economic gain. Ironically and tragically, the indigenous people and wildlife who have forcibly suffered in the name of economic gain are once again being made to bare the burden, only this time it is under the guise of going green.

REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is a United Nations collaborative program. According to their website:

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.”

This simply means that governments, companies or forest owners in the South would be paid for keeping forests standing instead of cutting them down. The main system of finance behind REDD is the carbon-market system. According the Indigenous Environmental Network:

Carbon Markets buy and sell permits to pollute called ‘allowances’ and ‘carbon credits.’ Carbon markets have two parts: emissions trading (also called ‘cap and trade’) and offsets. They are false solutions to climate change because they do not bring about the changes needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They claim to solve the climate crisis but really allow polluters to buy their way out of reducing their emissions. These multi-billion dollar trading mechanisms privatize and commodify the earth’s ability to keep its atmosphere balanced. The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change opposes carbon markets.”

It is no surprise that even the implementation of a socially responsible system is designed for a few key players to make a very large profit. Reuters, an international news agency, reported that an Interpol environmental crime official warned that organized crime syndicates are eyeing the REDD forest carbon credit industry as a potentially lucrative new opportunity for fraud, at a conference in Indonesia. Exploitation was and is inevitable, but what does it mean for the people? Aside from marginalized financial gain, will REDD be a solution to the displacement of indigenous life?

I wish I could say yes.

Previous conservation efforts such as: Dumoga-Bone National Park in Sulawesi, Indonesia and Korup National Park in Cameroon have taught us that the indigenous people often lose more access to their land, and are stripped of their freedoms as governments and corporations implement strict regulations and guidelines, in order to uphold their new systems.

So who do we support?  We are constantly being told to go green and we want to do the right thing. We believe in making a difference in our environment and our world, but at what cost? On the other hand, were told not to trust big corporations; the driving forces behind much of these issues. And why should we?

What should we do?
Who can we believe?

The International Conference on indigenous people’s rights, alternatives and solutions to the climate crisis was held November 4-9 2010. in the Philippines. The conference was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Land is Life, IBON International, Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network and the People’s Movement on Climate Change.

In their declaration of solidarity, this was said:

We believe that the root cause of the enormous problems we face today is the neoliberal global capitalist system, which puts profits before people and the planet. Central to this system is the expropriation and control of resources by multinational corporations, and dispossession and marginalization of small producers, workers, peasants, women and indigenous peoples.

It is true of the indigenous people of the rainforest, and it is true of you and me. Money is more valuable, globally, than human life. By no means am I suggesting that we fight capitalism or take a political stance one way or the other, but what I am promoting is the value of life above all.

Advocate for the indigenous people of the rainforest. If you have the opportunity to buy goods from a small local company that sells environmentally friendly and fair trade products, give them your money instead of circulating it back into the industries that wreak havoc on humanity.

Most importantly, be informed. Know where your financial support ends up, and what you can do to ensure the quality of life for others, that you get to enjoy yourself.

-Jaclyn Bauman

Advertisements