|Saving What Remains|
International Conservation Organizations
Today international conservation organizations serve as environmental consultants for governments and large corporations interested in reducing pollution, setting aside protected areas, and conserving biodiversity. Organizations like the International Conservation Union (IUCN), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) act as mediators between various development interests, policy makers, local peoples, scientists, and activist groups in promoting conservation. These organizations initiate and support a broad range of conservation-related activities, from arranging international conferences to establishing community-based conservation projects to maintaining parks and reserves. Keeping attuned to economic realities, they work to integrate the latest scientific findings into preservation efforts.
Activist groups, like the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Rainforest Alliance, Amazon Watch, Friends of the Earth (FOE), and the Sierra Club are publicists and sponsors of rainforest preservation. These organizations support and initiate community-based conservation projects that involve locals in conservation. They are watchdogs of development projects that impact the rainforest, and they spread the the word to other organizations, peoples, and governments. They initiate campaigns against large corporations and governments responsible for deforestation and encourage consumers to boycott their products. Pressure against these companies from environmental organizations, coupled with boycotts, will often sway the firm to adopt more ecologically sound methods or abandon plans to clear forest lands for production. While critics argue that successful boycotts in the North only lead to trade diversion to markets that remain open, their campaigns draw public attention to deforestation and increase industry's sensitivity to rainforest issues.
The Rainforest Action Network is one of the world's largest organizations completely committed to saving the world's rainforest. It is based in San Francisco and has countless affiliates throughout the world. The organization has led numerous campaigns, several of which have been successful. RAN uses boycotts as a means to pressure companies responsible for rainforest destruction.
RAN, along with other organizations, has been responsible for pressuring companies into less ecologically damaging practices. The table reflects some of their successes. The first major successful boycott, led by RAN, was a boycott of Burger King and caused the fast-food giant to cancel $35 million in beef contracts with Central American countries. Since then, the demand for cattle products has diminished, and these nations have slowed the clearing of rainforest for pasture land. Recently FOE's "Mahogany is Murder" campaign reduced UK mahogany imports from 31,300 cubic meters in 1992 to 18,900 cubic meters in 1996.
Through the efforts of RAN and other groups, in November 2005 Goldman Sachs became the first global investment bank to adopt a comprehensive environmental policy. The policy acknowledged the scientific consensus on climate change and called for urgent action by public policy makers and federal regulators to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Goldman Sachs's decision followed similar initiatives by J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, and Bank of America.
Today RAN and other groups are encouraging boycotts of Chevron-Texaco, Burmese teak ("Teak is Torture" campaign), mahogany ("mahogany is murder" campaign), and Shell Oil. In the past couple of years several city governments have refused to purchase goods or services from firms that participate in forest destruction. In 1995, the city government of Berkeley, California, prohibited firms that operate in Burma—which has witnessed widespread deforestation and human-rights violations by commercial activities—from selling goods to the city government. The companies affected by the blockade include Pepsico, Texaco, and Unocal. In 1996, in response to the hanging of environmentalist leaders in Nigeria, the Toronto metro council rejected Shell Oil's proposal to fuel city vehicles. In 1997, Berkeley moved to ban companies operating in Nigeria from city government contracts. According to EDF, municipalities that have banned the use of unsustainably produced tropical timber include Baltimore, Bellingham, Harrisburg, Los Angeles, Ottowa, San Francisco, Santa Clarita, and Santa Monica.
Private Funding Organizations
In addition to conservation organizations, private corporations have been responsible for funding projects to help the environment. Recently Motorola allied with the World Wildlife Foundation's conservation effort, by enhancing the organization's communication capabilities when in remote areas. Now WWF has first-class tracking devices and excellent means of communication for their fieldwork.
The Costal Rainforest Coalition
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Continued: Indigenous Peoples' Role in Rainforest Conservation
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