Seaweed farms have the capacity to grow huge amounts of nutrient-rich food, and oysters can act as an efficient carbon and nitrogen sink.
When the Community Protects the Rainforest
Deforestation is responsible for some 20% of world's greenhouse gas emissions. Stopping rainforest destruction is vital to our planet, but it's also problematic: how can you preserve what's there without holding back the people living in (or near) the rainforests? Land that's been stripped of its trees is of more obvious value than a primeval forest: after all--one can use the denuded area for farm animals, producing palm oil, or development. A rainforest, as magnificent as it may be, doesn't seem to produce anything at all.
And then too, there is the hypocrisy: how can developed countries justify preserving the tropical rainforests, when they have cut down (and continue to cut down) the forests in their own countries? Why must a country such as Brazil make up for our own irresponsibility?
These problems aren't new, but how we solve them can be. The traditional method for protecting an area of rainforest is for the government or an NGO to fence-off the protected land from loggers, poachers, and various encroachers. This top-down method of preservation sounds like a workable system--but only at first. And it seems at best quixotic when one realizes how many people are required to protect the rainforests. In Indonesia, for example, there are 17,000 people in the field protecting the rainforests--a large number perhaps, until one realizes: that number only translates into about one field staff member for every 8,000 hectares of public forest.
A new report suggests a better tact: that the communities in and around the rainforests be allowed to make up their own rules for protecting the land. When the community decides what can (and cannot be) taken from the rainforest, it comes to see the value in what it is protecting. And when communities control their own land, they are also not under the thumb of seemingly uncaring government agencies or paternalistic NGOs.
Communities are often (justifiably) concerned with economic advancement, not preservation. Their poverty can seem insurmountable. When trust is built up however, and the communities come to find value in the land, everyone benefits. The land is better protected: according to GreenConduct.com, traditionally protected areas lose an average of 1.47% of forest cover per year, while community-managed forests lose just 0.24% per year.
Another way to protect the land is to simply map it: in Africa they are only just now mapping out where the various forest communities are. And only now are they figuring out part of the rainforest is being used, and what part of it needs to be protected. Efforts such as this are vital--a new report says there is gathering evidence that we are losing the battle to protect the African rainforests.
Affected communities are better suited to protecting the rainforests, but there is evidence they need to be brought into the decision-making process. A shared effort should also minimize accusations of neo-colonialism. The land can then be preserved for everyone--including those who live thousands of miles away, but who benefit by the presence of these forests.