Want To Save The Rainforest? How About Buying It?
The newest way to save the rainforests of the world has nothing to do with high-tech satellite images, armed defenders chaining themselves to trees or people who shun modern conveniences to live in treehouses within these natural areas. Instead, some companies are purchasing parcels of rainforest to preserve them instead of cutting down the trees as part of slash-and-burn agriculture.
Preservation Efforts of Two Organizations
Two international organizations are attempting to purchase as much rainforest as possible by targeting certain projects for preservation. Canopy Capital and the Rainforest Trust want to buy huge tracts of pristine forest land to prevent development and human intrusion. These firms go about their conservation efforts in different ways.
Great Britain’s Canopy Capital began in 2008 as a private equity firm designed to turn huge stretches of rainforest into profitable lands, according to Grid. Hylton Murray-Philipson, the director of Canopy Capital, bets that these types of ecosystems can become valuable resources if left in their natural state. For example, a rainforest ecosystem creates natural water drainage channels by funneling rainwater along creeks, streams and rivers that eventually flow to agricultural lands. Owners of this land could sell water rights to agricultural companies with fields downstream of these natural irrigation channels. If the rainforest disappears, the water runoff from heavy rains could erode the ecosystem and create floods that devastate crop land rather than nourish it.
Rainforest Trust, formerly known as the World Land Trust, targets specific areas of land for preservation. The charity has very low overhead, and 95 percent of individual donations go to purchasing land in various countries, notes Mongabay. Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, works with government agencies to find relevant pieces of land to preserve for local communities to enjoy as natural areas and that could draw tourists and researchers. Several million acres of land have been saved over the last 25 years.
Canopy Capital purchased a reserve in Guyana known as Iwokrama. The company funds a $1.2 million research and conservation program in this area that runs continually. Canopy Capital has the sole rights to develop any “environmental services” provided by the reserve. These services include water rights and carbon storage within the trees. Murray-Philipson started with Guyana because the government there needs investment opportunities to spur economic activity, and the president asked for help.
One of the largest projects for the Rainforest Trust revolves around a huge swath of 6 million acres known as Sierra del Divisor. Salaman announced in July 2015 that his organization finalized the establishment of Sierra del Divisor National Park in Peru. The group worked with indigenous groups to preserve the 600-mile stretch of land, but Rainforest Trust still has more land to buy to fulfill Salaman’s dream of community-based conservation projects among 57 native towns. Instead of destructive commercial practices, companies must get permission from tribes to enter the preserve, and native peoples act as natural sentries against intruders.
Several commercial operations take advantage of the rainforest ecosystems in their natural state without any slash-and-burn agriculture, notes Rainforest Alliance. These forests house half of the world’s known plant and animal species. Rainforests provide important food sources, such as bananas, oranges, avocados and coconuts, while medicines derived from rainforest plants alleviate inflammation, diabetes, malaria, skin diseases and arthritis.
Preserving the rainforests saves human lives with important medicines, and these ecosystems keep harmful carbon emissions at bay. Untapped resources within these ecosystems must be preserved to mitigate climate change.
Saving the rainforests makes sense in terms of humanity’s relationship with the natural environment, but conservation could also make dollars for companies that invest in these resources. Ecotours, renewable resources, food crops and medicines await the international firms that spend money preserving and exploring rather than burning and wasting. Learn how you can save the world’s rainforests by visiting The Rainforest Site.