1. Selling forests: loss of biodiversity and recreational opportunities in England . . . but

An un-named Guardian columnist reflects that the English Minister Secretary of State for the Environment, Caroline Spelman, has united left and rightwing, young and old against the proposals to sell off forests in England.  

Another article by John Vidal gives the apparent good news that Washington-based non-government groups have released a report showing that indigenous peoples and forest communities have done a much better job at conservation than governments.  

However as this was written by Rights and Resources, whose sponsors include DFID, Ford Foundation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Finland, The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency [Sida] and the Swiss Agency of Development, one feels that it relates to the political move in England – the Scots and Welsh having more sense. 

Precedents show that, once sold, there is a double loss: public access can be denied and there can be non-indigenous plantings: a loss of biodiversity and recreational opportunities.  

. . . loss of a self-reliant and environmentally sustainable way of life in India 

After visiting the Centre for Holistic Studies in Bandra, Richard Douthwaite – then a young economist – wrote: 

“The nation got a nasty shock in 1984 when satellite photographs showed that large areas shown on maps as `state forest’ had no trees at all and that 1.3 million hectares of woodland were disappearing each year, with the result that the area of the country under trees had dropped from 16.9 per cent to 14.1 per cent in just ten years. 

“Several groups share the blame for this. What normally happens is that corrupt politicians connive with senior forest officers to sell off the best trees in an area to paper-mills or saw-mills, and once these are gone, the deforestation process is completed by firewood gatherers and by herdsmen with cattle and goats. 

“In some cases, however, commercial enterprises are directly involved in the destruction. In Karnataka, for example, virgin forest was felled so that eucalyptus could be planted to provide a rayon factory with its cellulose supply, while the prosperous apple growers in the foothills of the Himalayas clear thousands of acres of forest each year because it takes the yearly growth of ten acres of forest to make the boxes to pack the annual output of one acre of fruit. 

“Tobacco – a big business in India, which is the third largest producer of flue-cured leaf in the world and a major exporter – is another insidious destroyer. In the main producing state, Andhra Pradesh, roughly 5% of the forests are felled each year to fuel the curing kilns.   

Extract from “THE MAHATMA’S MESSAGE”: Chapter 13 of THE GROWTH ILLUSION, by Richard Douthwaite, Council Oak Books USA, Green Books UK, 1992, 1993, 1999, Council Oak Books USA, Green Books UK, 1992, 1993, 1999

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