Forum > community reserves > Empowering communities-an opinion

Posted by Susan Sharma on August 23, 2006


I found this post in an MSN group and thought that it is worth sharing.

"I, too, have set out in the world determined to help the plight of endangered species. But there is little sense in attempting to save a species if you can not first save the habitat which that species depends on for survival. And you will have no chance of saving the habitat unless you can do something to alleviate the financial pressures of the local peoples who must rely on depleting natural resources in order to survive.

It is quite easy as North American and European arm-chair activists to play the blame-game and point the finger at poachers and subsistance farmers clearing forests. We in the developed world have already wiped out half of our forests and the species that lived there. Now we think we know what's best for the resource management of the rest of these "third-world" nations. And, true, there are so many complex issues facing this problem.

Most of the decline in wildlife populations directly attributed to habitat fragmentation. Most of the rainforest degradation in the world results from the need of local peoples to push further into forests to clear land in order to grow crops. However, this is a direct result of those people being displaced from their lands by large multinational agriculture industries who are focused on growing export crops or grazing cattle. This leaves the people, who once utilized their land much more sustainably and were able to consume the crops they grew, in a state of poverty and malnutrition.

Set aside vast tracts of wilderness as National Parks, and as commendable as that is, it too denies local people the resources they need to survive, leading to illegal deforestation and poaching. Poachers, miners, and slash & burn farmers are not evil people with the intentions of wiping out biodiversity or environmental destruction. They are simply trying to provide the best life possible for their families. How can those of us in the industrialized world, with our air conditioned cars, satelite TV, iPods and white picket fences realistically blame them for striving for more? To those struggling for daily necessities like food, clean water and medicine, wildlife survival and habitat conservation generally takes a backseat.

I believe it is going to take a massive shift in the lifestyles of we in the developed world if there is to even be a hope for a biodiverse, healthy Earth in the future. This will include financially taking responsibility to save these places, as well as a change in our own energy and food consumption habits, and eliminating the market for exotic species. This all starts right at home, with each of us contributing our own small part to a greater whole. The problem is, most people, especially in the USA, have the attitude "If it's not affecting me directly, then I don't really care."

Unfortunately, by the time the problem is big enough to be directly affecting people in places like the USA (as it's already beginning with things like global warming), it may be too late to do anything about it."




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