So how do we address such conservation vacuums? In my view, we have two options.
will almost always choose better living conditions, more opportunity,
education and higher income levels over subsistence living. And rightly
So the first option
dictates that we provide these millions of people with another
development alternative to breaking their backs over the land for
decades to come—one that allows progress in place, rather than migration to the city.
and health have to go the village, likely in novel forms. Opportunities
and amenities have to go to the village. The full right to govern has
to go to the village. Only by finding serious ways for all aspects of
wealth to accrue in these communities will their people remain in place
as active earth stewards.
In the second option, we stop these kinds of engagements, given their likely short-lived returns, and deal with what comes next.
know this act of the play well. If rural communities move off the land
and into cities, the land left behind seldom just sits there as a
thriving haven for nature. Most often, the space will be filled with
large-scale corporate resource exploration and extraction, or
subdivision and urban or residential development.
success in establishing protected areas on some of these lands will
leave small remnants of the remaining large landscapes at play. If we
choose this option, we need to move much more quickly and boldly to
embrace large corporate and government actors and find novel and
compelling ways to align their activities with conservation.
Either path is a hard sell—not nearly so nice as the romantic notion of rural people as eternal earth stewards.
in the developing world, the market economy hasn’t given these people a
viable path to live comfortably off the land, and conservation hasn’t
Which path will we choose?