7 Responses

  1. John A Burton October 22, 2012 at 6:52 am |

    Before criticising the World Land Trust, I suggest the reviewer actually checks what we do. Taking a small part of David Attenborough’s letter (to potential donors) out of context does not reflect reality at all. The last three major land purchases made by the in-country partners of WLT, using funds we have provided, have all involved transferring title to indigenous communities. The WLT is not a promoter of Wilderness as an end in itself, we promote community involvement in all conservation areas. More recently, and not yet published, we have been working with anthropologists to ensure that the aspirations of local communities are taken into account, and are an integral part of the planning process for wildlife conservation.There is plenty of information on our website, and I hope that any potential critics read about what we actually do, before making ill-informed claims. I haven’t read the book in question yet, but I hope the authors have experience of actually doing things. I do get a bit bored by books written by theoreticians and academics — it’s difficult doing anything in some parts of South America, and we believe some of the recent achievements set a new paradigm, and we hope the model can be extended elsewhere Nonetheless, we would still welcome criticism, preferably based on what we and our partner organisation actually do, not what someone THINKS we do.

    John Burton CEO

    1. Ian Angus October 22, 2012 at 8:51 am |

      John, I agree that people should learn what WLT actually does. You might set an example, by responding to what my review actually says, rather than what you fear it says. How you and other preservationist groups treat indigenous people is a very important matter, but that is not the subject of my review or of Nature’s Matrix.

      I used the quote from David Attenborough (which doesn’t mention indigenous people) simply to illustrate the approach followed by hundreds upon hundreds of organizations like yours. I could replace it with many other quotes that say exactly the same thing. For example, from the WLT’s “About” page:

      “What is the World Land Trust? The World Land Trust (WLT) is an international conservation charity, which protects the world’s most biologically important and threatened habitats acre by acre.”

      Nature’s Matrix calls that a “doomed strategy” — trying to protect biodiversity by creating protected habitats. That approach doesn’t stop extinctions within the reserves, it fails to address the important areas of biodiversity, and it ignores the social movements that “hold the key to real biodiversity conservation.”

      I hope you will read Nature’s Matrix. it’s an important book written by experts with extensive hands-on experience, and it challenges sincere conservationists (and I include WLT in that) to adopt a new approach that can actually achieve your stated goals.

    2. John A Burton October 22, 2012 at 9:51 am |

      Your review states “Most conservation groups follow that approach: they try to protect biodiversity and limit species extinctions by creating wilderness reserves where human activity is limited or banned. Often they literally erect fences and pay armed guards to prevent intrusions, even by people whose ancestors lived on the land for millennia. What happens outside the reserves is only relevant if it threatens to impinge on the pristine environment where nature is protected from people.”

      The WLT does not do that, nor does it fund its partner organisation to do it. I would also like to have a list of the hundreds of organisations like ours. I have worked in conservation and wildlife field, for half a century, and one of the reasons I helped found the WLT was that few other organisations were doing what we now do, and none were totally dedicated to the process we adopt.

      My point really is that is seems strange to to pick on one of the relatively few organisations that are actually trying to change the conventional paradigm. As I wrote, constructive criticism of what we are actually doing is certainly welcome. Bearing in mind that very few organisations are actually DOING anything, and there is far to much research, lobbying and campaigning with reams of publications, but with virtually nothing achieved. What have we done, to deserve being grouped with those who “try to protect biodiversity and limit species extinctions by creating wilderness reserves where human activity is limited or banned?” What we and our partners have achieved is very little indeed in the big scheme, but at least it is something. I agree it will not save a huge amount of biodiversity. But is will help some. Biodiversity corridors, and not the only answer, but they are a good start, that’s why we are concentrating efforts in many areas. And the US -style wilderness concept is certainly not an answer for most of the world. But there are some places where it is viable.

      Let me know what we are doing wrong, and I will see if we disagree. But please do not suggest or imply we “erect fences and pay armed guards to prevent intrusions”. Yes, when illegal loggers enter lands owned and protected by a local community and steal timber, we expect our partner organisations to help defend those rights (unarmed) and as a result their HQ was fire-bombed last week by almost certainly by illegal loggers.

      I hope to get round to reading the book, but from what little I have gleaned so far, it strongly suggests that we are working very much along the lines they advocate. But that is based on an unread guess.

      1. Ian Angus October 22, 2012 at 11:16 am |

        You are so eager to defend your organization’s method of creating and protecting nature preserves that you miss the substantive argument — that nature preserves, no matter how they are managed, are a “doomed strategy” that does not protect diversity and detracts from activities that do.

        1. John A Burton October 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

          May be they are a doomed strategy, as you suggest. But at least we are doing something, and in the short-term this may supply a bridge until someone comes up with a better strategy, that can actually be implemented. I am not concerned about the political arguments, I believe that action is what is needed. And quite how creating reserves (whether or not extractive or protective) actually detracts from biodiversity conservation is difficult for me to understand. And of course I am going to defend what we do, I have been developing and implementing these methods for many years, and until someone demonstrates a better way that can actually be implemented, it’s a tool that should be used. I certainly don’t believe that any one method of conserving biodiversity is right, like diversity itself, the more varied the ways, the better chance of success. But while we continue to have an over-exploitive growth-based economy, fuelled by greed, habitats are being destroyed at such an alarming rate (over 1000 acres a day in Paraguay alone), any action to slow the destruction down must in some way help conserve biodiversity.

  2. Jamil Jonna October 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm |

    Great review, Ian. I know Perfecto and Vandermeer from my time at UO and they are excellent scholar/activists. I look forward to reading this new book. Others might be interested in an earlier book of theirs, Breakfast of Biodiversity: The Political Ecology of Rain Forest Destruction

  3. Rory Short October 18, 2012 at 11:01 am |

    We humans  are an expression of Nature. Starting at least 10,000 years ago with the agricultural revolution we started, with our annual grain crops, behaving in a way that unconsciously exploited our source, Nature, rather than working in harmony with it, and that continues to this day. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot work in total harmony with Nature if we set our minds to  it. Wes Jackson in his book ‘Consulting the Genius of the Place’ give some pointers as to how we might do this beginning with agriculture.

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