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THE ROLE OF COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATION IN SAVING RAINFORESTS

By Rhett Butler   |  Last updated July 22, 2007
One of the most essential parts of saving the world's rainforests is keeping an open line of communication between all parties. Communication from all parties, including indigenous peoples, local populations, business interests, governments, scientists, and conservationists, is key to understanding how to best approach balancing conservation with development. The information gained from conferences can be used to help devise a plan that will be acceptable to all parties. No group should be excluded or misrepresented and every effort should be made to keep conferences open and non-threatening. Conferences should meet regularly and have some legislative muscle so that decisions can be implemented. So far no such ideal conference has taken place, but in all fairness the whole rainforest conservation issue is relatively recent as a worldwide concept.

The conferences that have met to date have brought up important issues, but their decisions tend to lack power and usually go unimplemented. The largest environmental conference took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and was host to some 100 heads of state, the largest gathering of such officials ever.

Since Rio, there have been countless conferences which have discussed environmental issues. In 1995 the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development (WCFSD) met in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), aiming to raise the level of understanding of rainforests' dual role in preserving natural environment and contributing to sustainable development. The conference recognized the need for policy reform together with renewed efforts to enforce existing regulations to stop deforestation. It promised more local community involvement in forest conservation and management and placed special emphasis on reconciling conflicts between factions with different views on forest use. The conference discussed better definition of land titles for local communities and various financial mechanisms for ensuring more equal distribution of forests' benefits and revenues. This conference serves as an example of what conservation conferences propose and how little things actually change afterwards.

Education

Education is one of the most important ingredients in saving the rainforests. Unfortunately, environmental education is not a high priority in many countries with tropical rainforests.

Education can provide the next generation with lessons not learned in the past: that rainforests are worth saving. With this information, children will be more aware of the problems they may face in the future when they become leaders.

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Pico Bonito, Honduras
Pico Bonito, Honduras. (Photo by R. Butler)



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