|Saving What Remains|
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 Janerio in 1992 and was host to some 100 heads of state, the largest gathering of such officials ever.
Since Rio, there have been countless small conferences which have discussed environmental issues. In June of 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 is one of the most important ingredients in saving the rainforests. Unfortunately, education is not a high priority in many countries with tropical rainforests. When there are schools, conservation subjects are rarely taught.
Education can teach the next generation 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.
What the individual can do
Support sustainably harvested forest products like nuts and natural dyes and the organizations that provide these goods. Without consumer demand, these products will not be supplied.
Always try to reduce power and water usage. Americans use more resources per capita than any other group of people on earth. Much of the electricity we use is fueled by the combustion of fossil fuels which add to global warming. Recycle and reuse as many materials as possible.
Many conservation and consumer groups maintain that lack of information is one of the greatest hindrances to eco-friendly consumption. Stay informed and be aware of newly threatened areas and new developments in conservation methods, along with campaigns against forest destroyers. Numerous resources exist on the internet and in print.
If you have the ability to travel abroad, practice eco-tourism and support only environmentally friendly travel in areas that are environmentally sensitive. Just because a tour is advertised as "eco-tourism" it does not mean that it is environmentally sound. Ask around and try to find those operators who are legitimate. When traveling, try to be a responsible tourist and respect local customs.
Discourage the killing of endangered animals and rainforest species by refusing to buy products made up of or containing such parts. Gently remind locals that it is illegal to kill such animals and say that you would rather see the colorful macaws flying in the sky than having their feathers on your souvenir.
Write to your government representatives and let them know how your feel about environmental issues. Express your concern for the future of tropical rainforests.
Join a biodiversity conservation group or rainforest organization and support campaigns and boycotts against companies responsible for reckless deforestation. If you resolve never to purchase goods from one of these firms, the company loses tens of thousands of dollars of potential revenue over the course of a life time.
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Copyright Rhett Butler 1994-2005