Conservation ain’t what it used to be (WE NEED TO BE BIGGER)

Posted by on April 21st, 2013 in anthropocene era, bright green environmentalism, economics, gardening, nextnature, rewilding, we have to get bigger

Avengers #3 (2013)

Attention Conservation Notice: long quotes designed to break open your Green mind

Developers can build on nature reserves – if they ‘offset’ the damage elsewhere, says Government review:

A “priority recommendation” from the Government’s Ecosystems Markets Task Force is for a new “biodiversity offset system” to let large developers would be given a right to build on one nature reserve or protected area, if they build one somewhere else.

The taskforce’s Government report said this was not “a license to trash nature” – although campaigners have warned that that is exactly what it is.

It said: “We need a system in which unavoidable net impacts on biodiversity of new development are more than compensated by restored and created habitats elsewhere through an efficient market.”

It is about better regulation, developing a well-defined market which delivers ‘net gain’ for nature which the current planning system has generally failed to do.”

In April 2012, six two year pilot projects were launched in Devon, Doncaster, Essex, Norwich, Nottinghamshire, and Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull.

The review said that it would “revolutionise conservation in England by delivering restoration, creation and long-term management of in excess of 300,000 hectares of habitat over 20 years” and “incentivise location of development at sites of lower nature value”.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson suggested that he would decide on whether to expand the scheme when the trials’ results come back next year.

He said: “We shouldn’t to choose between either improving the environment or growing the economy. We should aim to have both which is why I’m keen to see the results of these trials.”

But Neil Sinden, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said offsetting failed “to recognise the complex way in which wildlife systems are sustained and thrive”.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “You can’t wipe out wildlife habitats and expect to be able to create on that can achieve the richness and diversity of wildlife sites that have evolved over decades and centuries.

Now, our well-cultivated, knee-jerk Green reaction is to immediately cry “NATURE IS NOT A SUBSET OF ECONOMICS”.

The thing is, it’s actually far, far worse than that, as we forcibly free ourselves from the gravity of the Green Mythology.

In his looooong read Quarterly Essay Tim Flannery takes aim at the failings of “conservation”…:

Such is the depth of public ignorance about Australia’s extinction crisis that most people are unaware that is is occurring, while those who do know of it commonly believe that our national parks and reserves are safe places for threatened species. In fact the second extinction wave is now in full swing, and it’s emptying our national parks and wildlife reserves as ruthlessly as other landscapes. This is disturbing: national parks exist explicitly to conserve biodiversity, and their failure to do so is a failure both of government policy and of our collective will to protect our natural heritage. Paradoxically, biodiversity is sometimes flourishing more vibrantly on private land than in national parks, despite hundreds of millions of dollars being spent annually by our governments on reserved lands.

The problem lies not with the parks’ staff, who are often dedicated and skilled at their work. Nor does it lie solely with budgets, although more funding rather than more cuts would always be welcome. Instead, the difficulties are at least threefold. First and foremost, the problem stems from the delusion that the simple act of proclaiming a national park or nature reserve will result in the protection of biodiversity. Parks must be proclaimed and effectively managed if biodiversity is to be protected. Secondly, the various government agencies responsible for biodiversity protection have allowed their scientific capacity to erode to the point where it’s hard to be sure how many individuals of most endangered species survive; and thirdly, the attempt to save endangered species involves risks that bureaucracies are increasingly unwilling to take. The first duty of the bureaucrat these days seems to be to protect their minister from criticism: thus it often seems preferable to let a species die out quietly, seemingly a victim of natural change, than to institute a recovery program that carries a risk of failure, however small.

 

I’m increasingly resistant to the notion of Sustainability… because what are we sustaining but the slow motion death of the life on Earth that has supported us? WE NEED TO ACCELERATE FORWARDS INTO THE FUTURE, DRAGGING ALL OF HISTORY AND ITS LESSONS WITH US.

Okay, that’s a tad hyperbolic… but there are a lot of legacy civilizational myths that need to be exploded. For starters, the crux of the Environmental Mythology, that the Amazon is some untouched Gaian Paradise, when the evidence points to it being a pre-Columbian garden that’s since ReWilded:

Unlike Europeans, who planted mainly annual crops, the Indians, he says, centered their agriculture on the Amazon’s unbelievably diverse assortment of trees: fruits, nuts, and palms. “It’s tremendously difficult to clear fields with stone tools,” Clement says. “If you can plant trees, you get twenty years of productivity out of your work instead of two or three.”

Planting their orchards, the first Amazonians transformed large swaths of the river basin into something more pleasing to human beings. In a widely cited article from 1989, William Balée, the Tulane anthropologist, cautiously estimated that about 12 percent of the nonflooded Amazon forest was of anthropogenic origin—directly or indirectly created by human beings. In some circles this is now seen as a conservative position. “I basically think it’s all human-created,” Clement told me in Brazil. He argues that Indians changed the assortment and density of species throughout the region. So does Clark Erickson, the University of Pennsylvania archaeologist, who told me in Bolivia that the lowland tropical forests of South America are among the finest works of art on the planet. “Some of my colleagues would say that’s pretty radical,” he said, smiling mischievously. According to Peter Stahl, an anthropologist at the State University of New York at Binghamton, “lots” of botanists believe that “what the eco-imagery would like to picture as a pristine, untouched Urwelt [primeval world] in fact has been managed by people for millennia.” The phrase “built environment,” Erickson says, “applies to most, if not all, Neotropical landscapes.”

“Landscape” in this case is meant exactly—Amazonian Indians literally created the ground beneath their feet. According to William I. Woods, a soil geographer at Southern Illinois University, ecologists’ claims about terrible Amazonian land were based on very little data. In the late 1990s Woods and others began careful measurements in the lower Amazon. They indeed found lots of inhospitable terrain. But they also discovered swaths of terra preta—rich, fertile “black earth” that anthropologists increasingly believe was created by human beings.

Terra preta, Woods guesses, covers at least 10 percent of Amazonia, an area the size of France. It has amazing properties, he says. Tropical rain doesn’t leach nutrients from terra preta fields; instead the soil, so to speak, fights back. Not far from Painted Rock Cave is a 300-acre area with a two-foot layer of terra preta quarried by locals for potting soil. The bottom third of the layer is never removed, workers there explain, because over time it will re-create the original soil layer in its initial thickness. The reason, scientists suspect, is that terra preta is generated by a special suite of microorganisms that resists depletion. “Apparently,” Woods and the Wisconsin geographer Joseph M. McCann argued in a presentation last summer, “at some threshold level … dark earth attains the capacity to perpetuate—even regenerate itself—thus behaving more like a living ‘super’-organism than an inert material.”

In as yet unpublished research the archaeologists Eduardo Neves, of the University of São Paulo; Michael Heckenberger, of the University of Florida; and their colleagues examined terra preta in the upper Xingu, a huge southern tributary of the Amazon. Not all Xingu cultures left behind this living earth, they discovered. But the ones that did generated it rapidly—suggesting to Woods that terra preta was created deliberately. In a process reminiscent of dropping microorganism-rich starter into plain dough to create sourdough bread, Amazonian peoples, he believes, inoculated bad soil with a transforming bacterial charge. Not every group of Indians there did this, but quite a few did, and over an extended period of time.

When Woods told me this, I was so amazed that I almost dropped the phone. I ceased to be articulate for a moment and said things like “wow” and “gosh.” Woods chuckled at my reaction, probably because he understood what was passing through my mind. Faced with an ecological problem, I was thinking, the Indians fixed it. They were in the process of terraforming the Amazon when Columbus showed up and ruined everything.

A clue lies inside Bruce Sterling’s book Distraction:

“We could integrate the natural world right into the substance of our cities. If we knew how to use our power properly, we could guide herds of American bison right through our own streets. We could live in an Eden at peace with packs of wolves. All it would take is enough sense and vision to know who we are, and what we want.” “That sounds wonderful, Senator. Why don’t you do it?” “Because we’re a pack of thieves! We went straight from wilder-ness to decadence, without ever creating an authentic American civilization.”

 

This shit is complicated and hard, and an app isn’t going to solve it, let alone any other form of Solutionism by itself.

Instead, we need to grow the fuck up. WE NEED TO BE BIGGER. To acknowledge what is broken, take stock and rebuild… towards rebirth.

Hands up who wants to construct a reality worth being near-immortal in?

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