›Climate change is expected to produce winners and losers – for example, melting ice-caps may open up new economic opportunities for Greenland at the same time as sea-level rise threatens Asia’s bourgeoning coastal mega-cities. The same can be said about plans to address climate change, from both the mitigation and adaptation perspectives. A special issue of Global Environmental Change, “Adding Insult to Injury: Climate Change, Social Stratification, and the Inequalities of Intervention,” takes on this topic, with two case studies providing particularly compelling evidence.
The REDD Menace: Resurgent Protectionism in Tanzania’s Mangrove Forests,” that efforts to ensure REDD readiness in Tanzania have placed local communities at risk of forced evictions, shattered livelihoods, and persecution by both the state and conservation community. Contrary to dominant narratives that “portray local resources users, the Warufiji, in negative terms as recent migrants who are destroying the mangrove forests,” the authors say that they in fact depend upon “allow[ing] the mangroves to regenerate naturally while preparing new rice fields.” “To carbon traders, however, an uninhabited forest greatly simplifies the logistical tasks of monitoring and paying for ecosystem services,” assert the authors. This has resulted in declaration of local communities as squatters, illegally invading the forest. Government officials have repeatedly voiced threats of eviction. As well as increasing the potential for social tension, the study concludes that, “it is difficult to reconcile Tanzania REDD’s participatory and benefit sharing goals with the rhetoric, practices, and plans of the Tanzanian state.”
Accessing Adaptation: Multiple Stressors on Livelihoods in the Bolivian Highlands Under a Changing Climate,” Julia McDowell and Jeremy Hess present evidence about how specifically-tailored adaptations to climate change risk increasing vulnerability to a complex web of other, less obvious stressors. The study draws evidence from the livelihoods of historically marginalized indigenous farmers in highland Bolivia. The authors, who see “adaptation as part of ongoing livelihoods strategies,” use the case to “explore the tradeoffs that households make when adjustments to one stressor compromise the ability to adjust to another.” For instance, socio-economic stressors have forced many farmers to more closely couple their livelihoods with the market economy by growing more cash crops, intensifying land use, participating in off-farm laboring, and relying on irrigated agriculture. However, the shift to more market-orientated livelihoods has also increased their sensitivity to climatic stress. “As stressors compounded, the ability to mobilize assets became constrained, making adaptation choices highly interdependent, and sometimes contradictory,” the authors write. Avoiding these sorts of lose-lose situations, requires “ensuring sustained access to assets, rather than designing interventions solely to protect against a specific stressor.”
Geoff Dabelko on Finding Common Ground Among Conservation, Development, and Security at the 2011 WWF Fuller Symposium›Bridging the divide between the conservation and security communities “requires that we check some stereotypes at the door,” said ECSP’s Geoff Dabelko at the World Wildlife Fund’s Conservation Forward: Ideas That Work and How Science Can Effect Change symposium. Changes in global climate, as well as environmental threats more local in origin, require us to “find ways to minimize threats [and] maximize opportunities…from the dialogue between these different communities – and get out of our silos to do that,” said Dabelko.
However, this dialogue faces real challenges and concrete trade-offs. “There are big imbalances in terms of the resources that these different communities have,” and this often cuts the conversation short, he said. The conservation and security communities are also orientated towards some very different objectives and toolsets. But “given the levels of stress that our natural systems are under, given the level of dysfunction that are political systems are exhibiting, to me, it suggests that it’s a call for all hands on deck,” asserted Dabelko.
“The relationship between environment, natural resources, and violent conflict” is not the “only part of the story,” he said. Conservation goals can be achieved by preserving biodiversity on military sites and demilitarized zones, and through the Department of Defense’s new focus on reducing energy consumption. In the past, Russian-Norwegian-U.S. cooperation around de-commissioning Soviet-era nuclear submarines protected fragile Arctic habitats, prevented potentially dangerous technology from reaching world markets, and built confidence between recent adversaries. The dual potentials of “peace parks” in fragile and insecure borders across the Middle East have also garnered attention.
“Too often…natural resources are viewed as luxury items – what you worry about once you get rich, democratic, and peaceful,” yet, the environment is an “essential ingredient” for peace, Dabelko said. It is often “key to restoring livelihoods and jump-starting the economy” in conflict affected countries.
“Under a rubric or umbrella that we’re calling ‘environmental peacebuilding’ we have systematic efforts to…break those links with conflict,” he said. The future “concern is that because of environmental change, growth in population, growth in consumption,” and rampant inequities, climate change will act as a “threat multiplier.” “A risk analysis frame” is required to think through not only the risk of failing to act but also the risk of acting in ways that have the potential to create conflict if done poorly.
“We’re talking about changing access to resources and introducing money into uncertain political contexts – who gets it for what. That can be done well and that can be done poorly, and if you are talking to the folks in the conflict community, that’s often an inflection point for when conflict is a potential,” Dabelko said. In the context of potentially troublesome adaptations such as biofuel production, hydropower projects, and REDD+, this means taking seriously the well-worn, but apt, mantra of “do no harm” and working to maximize the “triple bottom line” of development, peace, and climate stability.
A question and answer period, moderated by USAID’s Cynthia Gill, followed the presentation with fellow speakers Anne Salomon of Fraser University, Michael Jenkins of Forest Trends, and Martin Palmer from the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (available below).
›December 6, 2011 // By ECSP StaffThe original version of this article, by Susanna Murley, appeared on The Huffington Post.
In Durban this week delegates from around the world are examining the options to mitigate carbon emissions. What looks like the best chance for progress? REDD+ (for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, plus co-benefits – like conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks). REDD+ has been seen as a potentially powerful solution to solve both poverty and deforestation – in one fell swoop.
How does it work? Essentially, these programs would be funded by developed nations to help pay for community forestry projects in developing countries, if the communities can demonstrate – with verifiable data – that their efforts are saving forests that would have been destroyed or if they are planting trees that would permanently sequester carbon.
Will this work? Many other systems have tried and failed to reduce deforestation. In Indonesia, where an area of forest about the size of Nevada has been destroyed since 1990, activists have participated in demonstrations, legal actions, blockades and destruction of property to protest timber production. Many international NGOs have joined them in their campaigns against the forestry practices in Indonesia, releasing report after report on the “State of the Forest.” The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have attempted to regulate forestry as conditions of their loans. None of it worked, and Indonesia continues to see massive amounts of illegal logging and deforestation.
Continue reading on The Huffington Post.
Sources: Center for International Forestry Research, Gellert (2010), MongaBay.com
Photo Credit: “Oil palm plantation,” courtesy of flickr user CIFOR (Ryan Woo).
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