Sins of Environmentalism

During the opening ceremony of the (Conference of the Parties) COP15 of the Biodiversity Convention taking place in early December 2022,  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a global agreement to protect 30% of the world’s land and water by 2030. This so-called ’30×30′ plan is opposed by a number of groups that promote the rights of indigenous peoples. According to Survival International, an organization campaigning for Indigenous rights, 30 x 30 will be the biggest land grab in history.

Already in many Protected Areas around the world local people, who have called the land home for generations, are no longer allowed to live on and use the natural environment to feed their families, gather medicinal plants or visit sacred sites.

Fortress Conservation’ is one example of a conservation model that excludes Indigenous communities. It began with the formation of Yosemite, the world’s first national park, in North America over 150 years ago.  To preserve the ‘pristine wilderness’ humans needed to be expelled so the native Americans, who had lived in and cared for the region for thousands of years, were evicted.

Only 3 per cent of the world’s land remains ecologically intact, and biodiversity loss continues at an alarming rate.  In 2010, member states of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) committed to placing 17 per cent of the world’s land within protected areas by 2020. Yet during that decade global biodiversity actually declined significantly.

There have also been systemic human rights abuses. Rainforest Foundation UK protects the world’s rainforests by supporting and empowering the Indigenous people and local communities which live in them.  But its research into 34 Protected Areas in the Congo Basin showed that without the presence of Indigenous communities, animal populations dwindled, and extractive activities increased. This was despite large investments having been channeled into them.  It also uncovered widespread disregard for local communities’ rights and livelihoods and conflict between forest peoples and conservationists in this region.

According to Joe Eisen, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation UK, human rights abuses are commonplace in the Congo Basin. “Our research has shown these human rights abuses are not just the isolated actions of rogue park rangers but are rather part of a system in which displacement, torture, gender-based violence and extrajudicial killings are used to control Indigenous peoples and other local communities who live in, and depend on, areas of high conservation value,” he says.

Protected Areas are often managed by major international conservation organizations, who employ armed guards to evict the local population and prevent their return. These actions have long-term consequences and destroy Indigenous livelihoods and cultures.

There are calls for the development of a community-based conservation model, which empowers Indigenous people, rather than removing them from their ancestral lands.

Excerpts from Plans to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 could be ‘devastating’ for Indigenous people, Euronews, Dec. 8, 2022

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