A friend said, “but conservation isn’t all bad.” Well, this caveat doesn’t address the larger issue. It has to do with the difference between conservation and environmental justice. Conservatism frequently is deluded. It points to some very good thing we are doing, gets our eyes and minds focused on it so that we miss an extremely threatening larger picture which has to do with extraction. Your government/corporation buys a thousand acres of forest in Africa which gives the fossil fuel industry, carbon credits which it can spend by digging up and burning carbon for power in the field across the tracks where poor people live.
The wood industry also cuts a piece of the carbon pie by buying distant forests. Now it can cut down easily accessible wood everywhere because of the wood they’ve “saved.” Those who know hurl expletives at conservation societies which endorse this practice of an ungodly trade. Conservation rings its hands in pain and comes up with another non-solution. Save a tree or a bunch of trees. A tree sitter saves one redwood tree from cutting by sitting in it for a year while saws sound around her. A community of tree lovers force the politicos who would sell all the trees to create a half-acre park.
All the trees of same species are connected through their roots which travel for miles. Sometimes a forest of trees is actually one mother tree that spreads and raises seemingly new trees from a common root. Ancient forests grow old together. They send nutrients to failing trees as well as warnings of infestation which the younger ones ward off with shared nasty sap. The elders shelter the young and keep them from getting too much light so that their trunks grow dense and strong.
The single trees planted along the road side have a short life. Their roots, often sawed off when endangering water pipes, reach no tree brethren. Cows raised to become burgers in the deforested and grass planted Amazon watch the top soil washed away in the rainy season. City dwellers get their Amazon hamburger and lose the oxygen they need to live.
Naomi Klein speaks of disaster capitalism. A company or a nations’ so-called helping agency swoops down on a flooded country and/or allows the disaster to expand so that after most of the local citizens are dead or moved away they buy it for a song. Right now, Puerto Rico’s public schools are being nixed for charters. Public tax money sucked into the maw of those into education for profit. Creating electric lines that work is ceded by the bought-out PR governor to a US company which does not have tools to do the work, all the while ignoring locals who can do it. And on and on. The foreign agency currently circling to eat its prey, creates a local governing body that will allow it. They put up hotels for the rich along recovered beaches. They scoop up natural resources. They plunder and call it conservation.
Conservation is a flag behind which extractors hide. The little the conservationist saves at the cost of all that is connected tears the web of life. Those who own the fracking companies want to sell fracked oil by telling you that it is harmless as your property explodes in earth quakes and your sink provides water you can light with a match. Coal dealers sell cheap while breathable air vanishes in China (which is way ahead of us now in the solar industry which Trump has severely limited with his 30 percent import tax). The air grey with car exhaust in New Delhi destroys the lungs of the young, frail, and elderly but car dealers say look at the cars available now that more people can afford. It’s like being on a highway to extinction. But we can’t even see the view.
We need to recognize that we are part of the “all.” The living world is our life. Its survival is connected to our own. Enjoy the beauty of a living world. How rich that makes us. Become informed. Don’t be seduced. Don’t succumb to a monster that sings a pretty song.