Will We Simply Conclude Through Inaction That Madagascar's Natural Heritage is Disposable?


photo: Jeff DelViscio via flickr

Just last week it came out that the civil unrest in Madagascar was having some spill over into the green sphere, with illegal loggers and poachers filling the void. Now, Dot Earth is highlighting the situation by printing a letter from a number of conservation groups highlight the situation in Madagascar. It's worth repeating in full:The Trees Must Not Hide the Forest: The Loss of Malagasy Heritage

During the last 20 years, Madagascar has undertaken significant and exemplary efforts to stop environmental degradation, effectively manage natural resources and preserve its unique biodiversity in the pursuit of sustainable development.

Beyond their inherent value, these natural riches –- which are a source of national pride -– also guarantee the benefits and services that are essential to the daily lives of the rural majority of the population, providing them among other things with water, food and energy. These natural resources also guarantee the development of the agriculture, fisheries and tourism sectors.

We, nongovernmental organizations working to conserve these natural resources for the long term well being of local communities, hereby express our deep concern at the current devastation occurring to the country’s natural resources:

– Open and organized plundering, sometimes using firearms, of precious wood from several natural forests, including national parks such as Marojejy and Masoala, which have been declared World Heritage Sites.

– Intensified smuggling of wild species, especially reptiles such as tortoises, to the national and international markets.

– Proliferation, due to the current impunity, of destructive practices such as illegal mining and slash-and-burn agriculture within protected areas and environmentally sensitive areas.

These deplorable acts will only further impoverish the country and deprive future generations of the Malagasy people from their unique natural heritage.

This situation once again compromises the efforts that have been achieved up until now to help local communities to preserve their resources from individuals attempting to plunder the national heritage for their own short term benefits.

We hereby call upon the competent authorities and all Malagasy citizens to urgently take action to stop and punish such acts so that natural resources are no longer held hostage to political crises and post-cyclone emergencies.

Through this appeal, we confirm our commitment to work for the biodiversity of Madagascar and for the well-being of the local communities, who are the stewards of this natural heritage. We invite each citizen to recognize that the sustainability of the development of the country depends upon its natural resources and we call on every individual to take responsibility.

Antananarivo, March 27, 2009

World Wide Fund for Nature, Madagascar et Océan Indien Occidental

Conservation International – Madagascar et les Îles de l’Océan Indien

Wildlife Conservation Society – Madagascar

Missouri Botanical Garden

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environment

The Peregrine Fund

ONG Fanamby

Madagascar Fauna Group

L’Homme et l’Environnement

Plant Resources for Tropical Africa

Although Andy Revkin asks the following question in the context of the situation in Madagascar, it really applies to every ecosystem on the planet and is, essentially, the great challenge of our time:

The world faces severe challenges at the moment, both immediate (economic) and longer-term (the entwined energy and climate challenges). But, as Edward O. Wilson of Harvard has repeatedly warned, a substantial portion of the planet’s irreplaceable and still largely unstudied biological patrimony is poised to vanish in real time without more attention.

Madagascar’s lemurs and other astounding species might be seen as little more than an endearing oddity — one of nature’s endless chain of experiments, with more to come. But does the current human generation have the right to conclude, consciously or through inaction, that they are disposable?

The only thing I'd add to that is that there are two types of inaction here—Willful inaction (we know the problem is happening but we continue to place our own needs ahead of others, including non-human others) and Non-willful inaction (ignorance of the effects our actions are having in diverse places, which if we knew the full effect we might choose to act to change). Both types can be equally detrimental, though I find willful inaction to be particularly distasteful.

via: New York Times
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Tags: Conservation | Deforestation | Endangered Species