Thursday, November 11, 2010

Discussion Question 10 (Solutions and Review) comments due Nov 23rd

Are poverty and the conservation of biological diversity linked, and if so, how? Should these problems be attacked together or separately?


Megan Ragland said...

I believe that poverty and the conservation of biological diversity are intrinsically linked both at the level of the individual as well as the state level. For example, the amount time, energy and money a person or a country is willing to put into biological conservation is often dependant on the wealth of that person or country. However, the relationship between these two important goals goes much deeper than just that. One of the most widely used methods of conservation has been the establishment of protected areas. However, this method is not always successful in places that are severely impoverished. The creation of protected areas to protect biodiversity reduces the amount of available land for economic uses by the local people. This may cause people to be evicted from their homes or close off the land that they have always depended on for their livelihood. Those people living in chronic states of poverty or in developing nations are more strongly affected because they usually depend more directly on the land than people who do live in these areas. The other issue is that if a protected area is created when the local people still depend on that area for survival, they will most likely not support the conservation plan. There has to be some sort of reimbursement for their loss. Conservation plans cannot increase the effects of poverty or eliminate the livelihoods of the poor. By using tools such as social impact assessments and reimbursements for the loss of opportunity, policy makers promote accordance with the conservation act by creating economic benefits. On the flip side of this, protected areas might indirectly benefit impoverished nations by providing cleaner resources such as water as well as tourism profits. Also, conservation can be a tool for the elimination of poverty in areas where the impoverished people depend on disappearing biodiversity for their livelihood. By alleviating poverty, local people might be less inclined to engage in destructive practices like the poaching of critical species, overharvesting species or farming monocultures on naturally biologically diverse lands. In these instances, lower poverty rates provide incentive for the local people to uphold conservation plans.
In the 20th century, policy makers focused on conservation and poverty as separate issues. They believed that if we focused on economic development first, conservation would follow. Countries would have the money to invest in more sustainable technologies and individuals might not be so dependant directly on the land. This often referred to as an “environmental Kuznets Curve”. However, the global push for the eradication of poverty has allowed conservations goals to slip. It is now widely recognized that plans for environmental development must include aspects of resource and biodiversity conservation. This does not mean that every policy has to equally consider poverty and biodiversity, it simply means that the relationship between the two must be recognized and accounted for. However, there are real obstacles to this. In an ideal world both goals would be equally attainable but the reality is that it often depends on a case-by-case basis and sometimes sacrifices will have to be made in one direction or the other. The eradication of poverty and conservation ideals should be attacked together because only focusing on one goal can make the other goal harder to obtain.

Source: Adams, W. et al. 2004. Biodiversity and the Eradication of Poverty. Science 306: 1146 – 1149.

Lea Rodenburg said...

Poverty and the conservation of biodiversity are definitely linked. As these are both very important issues that governments deal with, decisions must be made about how much time and money is dedicated to each issue. However, these two topics are connected in many more very complicated ways. Sometimes the efforts of conservation can impede on the livelihoods of people living in impoverished areas. Impoverished or otherwise relatively underdeveloped countries are homes to many people who live off the land, and if conservationists decide that land needs to be protected for the sake of biodiversity conservation, then the people who lived there find themselves suffering losses they cannot replace on their own. There are situations in which reimbursement is provided to the people for lost opportunity costs, but some people call for more action. In “Global Biodiversity Conservation and the Alleviation of Poverty” by Turner et. al., it is argued that conservation has the potential to support impoverished areas in more ways than what is being done now. “The aggregate benefits [of conservation efforts] are valued at three times the estimated opportunity costs and exceed $1 per person per day for 331 million of the world's poorest people.” The paper goes on to suggest a win-win strategy to help both biodiversity conservation efforts and alleviate poverty at the same time in a bigger, better way. This is just one of many papers written by people who see that there is a strong link between poverty and conservation and recognize that these two issues need to be dealt with together since they are so interconnected.

Turner, W.R., et al., "Global Biodiversity Conservation and the Alleviation of Poverty". BioScience 62: 85–92.