Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
Selling the Earth to Save the Economy - nhpeacenik
Selling the Earth to Save the Economy
I feel terribly disheartened that the Tory/Liberal government in the United Kingdom has set in motion plans to sell off half of England's publicly -owned forest lands (roughly equivalent to US National Forests, land where both commercial forestry, ranching and mining ventures and public recreation and educational activities are allowed) in order to make short-term cuts in the national deficit. An article in the Guardian explains the situation in detail. Caroline Lucas the Green Party MP, calls it an "unforgivable act of environmental vandalism".

Photo: Lady Vale Bridge Cardinham Woods, Cornwall, Terry McKenna [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The US already allows much of its public forest land to be exploited ruthlessly, but at least it retains title and nominal control of the land in the name of conservation and good stewardship. in the 1980's there was a failed attempt, called The SageBrush Rebellion, to turn the land over to county governments, which would be inclined to sell it off to the highest bidder. Pressures of this sort would be powerful once more under a Tea-Party-dominated government. In the US, the results would surely be golf resorts for the rich and wastelands of extractive industrial waste.

In England, the emphasis in public forests has lately been on species diversity and carbon sinks more than on the production of commercial timber or pulp, and that emphasis would be sure to shift if the lands were in the hands of private owners who need to make a profit. The public forests, though started as a domestic reserve of timber for emergencies, have also had the effect of sheltering a few important patches of ancient forest and some historical sites from unchecked development. One can only hope that if half the forests are sold off, they are all bought by well-heeled lords and ladies who will take pride in maintaining them in a natural and accessible state (not very likely).

Economic reasons can sometimes be very powerful arguments for expropriating Nature. In the 1960s, Egyptian leader Abdel Gamel Nasser wanted to jump-start industry and stabilize agriculture in his country by building a huge hydroelectric dam at Aswan on the Nile. The country needed the economic stimulus to decrease the amount of abject poverty that had persisted since ancient times. The project was well underway when conservationists and historians realized that the dam would flood the unique giant statues and temple at Abu Simbel. The UN agency UNESCO started a campaign to publicize this, with the help of the weekly news magazine "Life", and raised funds from all over the world to move the entire ancient site upwards by several hundred meters, to a new site above the new lake surface. It is now a UNESCO world Heritage Site  (This multi-perspective photo of it is quite impressive). Still, the statues and temples in their original setting (and the many other unexplored archaeological sites nearby) have been irretrievably lost in many subtle ways, which can be seen by reading Charles Dudley Warner's 1876 account.

At about the same time the Aswan High Dam was being built, a greater tragedy happened when Glen Canyon in Arizona and Utah was flooded. The sheer quantity of natural beauty and archeological evidence that was lost there was much larger than that lost to the Egyptian project, and nobody noticed until it was already doomed., as chronicled in the beautifu photography book "The Place No One Knew" [Eliot Porter (Photographer), Daniel P Beard (Preface), David Brower (Foreword) (Eds., 1997). The Place No One Knew - Glen Canyon on the Colorado Publisher: Gibbs Smith, Publisher; Cmv edition (July 21, 2000). ISBN-13: 978-0879059712.]

Eugene LaRue stereograph of Sentinel_Rock in Glen_Canyon 1922

More thought has been given to the massive tradeoffs involved in the building of China's Three Gorges Dam, but the loss is incalculable and irretrievable just the same.

Privatization of public lands is very much like the flooding of these important places... once capitalist logic gets its grip on such precious resources, it is just as damaging as flood waters and its effects may be just as irreversible. And why are we doing this? As Karl Marx never tired of pointing out, money makes all things equivalent to each other, even though they are "contradictory". Are there some intangibles that are so precious that they should be kept outside the money economy? I think so. Money is a man-made construct, and wouldn't it be much more satisfactory to leave Nature and all the intangibles she shelters alone and construct a conceptual solution to the man-made problem of deficits that does not trade the infinite for the extremely-finite... How about, for instance, The Robin Hood Tax?

Tags: , , , , , ,
Current Location: Greenville, NH, USA
Current Music: Helen Schneyer - Lonesome Robin | Powered by Last.fm

Leave a comment