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Congo forests sold for $100 worth of sugar
April 11, 2007 9:20 PM   Subscribe

The world's second largest forest and one of the oldest on Earth, was traded for bars of soap and bottles of beer: Logging companies negotiate with local chiefs, walk away rich
posted by growabrain (30 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
This stuff is so horrible it's hard to read I just would rather not know because the problem is so difficult. These kinds of forests don't just "grow back", gone forever along with everything they entail. It's like people in Russia selling a kidney for $1000 - short term gain for long term deprivation. Same problem in the Amazon and south Asia, the other two big rain forests, which contain the majority of the worlds plant and animal diversity. When people say we are in an extinction crises as great as that as the dinosaurs this is what they mean.
posted by stbalbach at 9:36 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I.... do not possess the words to accurately describe how sad and angry this makes me.

If there is real, true evil in the world, it is in the hearts of the men who made this deal.
posted by Parannoyed at 9:42 PM on April 11, 2007


This sucks for sure. I get more angry when I see idiotic developers with no real oversight since they're on land outside city limits clear cut old pine forests to make more banal cookie cutter neighborhoods. Deforestation is going on everywhere.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:00 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's the Greenpece report.
posted by homunculus at 10:15 PM on April 11, 2007


If there is real, true evil in the world, it is in the hearts of the men who made this deal.

I don't know... maybe after having entire villages have their hands chopped off because they couldn't make rubber quotas, maybe the locals felt having trees chopped down instead was a better deal?
posted by yeloson at 10:42 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Both are examples of the Outside Context Problem, to be honest.
posted by Artw at 10:45 PM on April 11, 2007


That's a lot of sugar.
posted by lostburner at 12:33 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


If there is another great dying, humans will be among the first to go. Rightly.
posted by pracowity at 2:05 AM on April 12, 2007


Well if the DRC market is such that there is

1. complete lack of oversight
2. total asymmetry of information
3. barely any enforcement of regulatory powers
4. utter disregard for local population rights

Such a market is so far off the model of perfect competition it makes the baby economist cry.

I think they need some competition , unfortunately in the form of violent thuggery and blackmailing. After all

a. the logging company are now immensely rich
b. they certainly could use protection against wild "animals"
c. expecially the dreaded "forest niggah" which happens to be an hairy, white colored monster with long assault weapons reading SOF
d. they don't have any kind of protection , the backing of lobbies isn't that useful in a forest
e. have I mentioned they are filthy rich and still subject to lead poisoning ?

I guess in some countries this is called "local communist rebels" but some would call it "spontaneously formed police against thieves"...just need to spin it "it is for freedom and democracy of DRC from the communist forces hidden in loggin companies" and it's all said and done.
posted by elpapacito at 2:50 AM on April 12, 2007


at least they got some sugar.
posted by mr_book at 5:30 AM on April 12, 2007


re-read the article, mr_book -- seems the f**kers who made the deals aren't even paying out their pathetic consideration.
posted by I, Credulous at 6:10 AM on April 12, 2007


Everything in the Bambuti life is centered on the forest because that is what sustains them and they believe that it is a sacred place. They sometimes call the forest “mother” or “father.”

Like the other groups of African Pygmies (BaKola, Aka, BaBongo, BaMbuti, BaTwa, etc.), Baka Pygmies are traditionally nomadic, even though they are undergoing a process of sedentariness under the influence of multiple factors. The first of these factors is massive deforestation, which deprives the Pygmies of the natural and symbolic resources essential for their biological and cultural survival...

This is fucking weak. This will decimate a number of amazing civilizations that European/American anthropologists and art historians have just begun to tell us about. A part of the human race whose art, music, and philosophy could teach us so much--about ourselves as much as about others and new ways of living in the world. You fucking assholes.

To balance, some Baka (one of the groups affected by the logging of Congo forests), have as much issue with conservationists as they do with loggers:
In fact, they say, they are more angry with the rainforest conservationists, who stop their community hunting antelope, elephant and monkeys. The only member of the band who has travelled extensively outside the rainforest, Pelembir, was recently badly beaten by conservation guards for violating hunting regulations.
posted by ibeji at 6:10 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not one for governments stepping in and simply declaring deals or contracts invalid, but surely if there ever was a case for a government to step in and do just that, this is it.

Obviously this contract can't be seen as legal since the tribe can not be considered as a "Competent, Adult (Sui Juris) Party". Minor children, mentally disabled individuals, and even animals simply do not have the capacity to form a contract. I think in some sense such tribes, that have no understanding of the outer larger world, should be fitted in there somehow. Contracts made with minors, mentally disabled individuals, and animals are immediately considered void. The same should be the case with such tribes.

Of course, this leads to the question: if they are not capable of managing estates of such huge value ecologically and economically, then who will? And when do they shed their minor status and "become of age"?
posted by umop-apisdn at 7:09 AM on April 12, 2007


omg, Such a grotesque outrage. I wonder if there is anything constructive any of us can do about this to help?

Looks like one of the evil companies, creating more misery in the world is Safbois, connected with the Blattner brothers:
posted by nickyskye at 7:13 AM on April 12, 2007


I have a dumb question - why doesn't greenpeace scour the earth and strike similar deals? It's obviously not about the money, and this forest is going cheap. There's no reason that greenpeace can't secure logging rights, pay some paltry sum, and not cut down any trees.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:49 AM on April 12, 2007


Your dumb question intrigues me also. Greenpeace has money for an oceangoing vessel, advertising, and general rabble rousing but they don't bother with trying to snap up cheap logging land to preserve it. You can get old growth pine forests in Texas (in remote areas with no utilities of course) for a ridiculously cheap price. Probably because Greenpeace is full of dumb anarchists who don't see the forest for the trees and can't make logical leaps like what you suggest and would rather push off their values on everyone on high profile issues rather than make practical gains. I'm of course speculating and know nothing about how they think.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:42 AM on April 12, 2007


Terrible.

I'm also intrigued by the dumb question. Or maybe Greenpeace only found out about the deal after it was done?
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:03 AM on April 12, 2007


Do you seriously think a group of activists can out-buy logging companies? The free market is not a level playing field, and governmental action is required here.
posted by phrontist at 9:28 AM on April 12, 2007


General rabble rousing does not cost anywhere near that amount that purchasing and managing (forever) a huge swath of land does. The US Goverment can barely manage it's own public lands; what on earth makes you think Greenpeace is in a position to take on this huge, not-for-profit, no tax revenue job across multiple parts of the Globe? Dumb question, indeed.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:29 AM on April 12, 2007


I'm sorry, oneirodynia & phrontist: what?

Who says Greenpeace HAS to do anything to "manage" the land after they own it? Can't it just keep on keepin' on...as it's been doing for millennia...without management or oversight?

Call it "defensive conservational land speculation" (DCLS -- I just made that up. You like it? Use it!))
Is that the same as "Pollution Shares" or whatever they're being called now?
.
posted by I, Credulous at 9:56 AM on April 12, 2007


sorry, ignore your inclusion phrontist. small boo-boo.
posted by I, Credulous at 10:21 AM on April 12, 2007


Do you seriously think a group of activists can out-buy logging companies? The free market is not a level playing field, and governmental action is required here.
posted by phrontist at 12:28 PM on April 12


If the going price is a few bars of soap, I'm guessing that yes, they can probably compete. A situation like this isn't an auction with back and forth bidding. It's opportunistic. Show up one day and offer to buy the forest for a lifetime supply of tylenol or whatever.

Furthermore, the forest doesn't need any management, just leave it alone.

I agree that the government should step in, by I have a sneaky suspicion that the government may be corrupt.

In fact, there's no reason that a group like greenpeace couldn't compete with the logging company on a market by taking people's donations as shares in a company that would own it. This way greenpeace could leverage its contributor's money, and contributors would get something in return (shares in a company that owns a valuable asset).

Even if greenpeace fails to outbid the logging company, it has forced a market price that is considerably higher than what they are paying now, which reduces the incentive for logging companies to target these kinds of people for opportunistic bargains.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:45 AM on April 12, 2007


The minimal requirement is protecting the land from poachers, including, but not limited to, loggers, miners, and hunters. (Nevermind officially sanctioned government resource plunderers). That requires border patrols in remote areas; workers then need food, housing, vehicles, weapons, &c. &c. Then imagine all the wrangling that goes on with industries dumping toxins or municipalities dumping raw sewage into rivers that flow through these areas. Every piece of land is a resource that has to be protected, otherwise no one would be suggesting that "somebody" buy it for conservation purposes.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:47 AM on April 12, 2007


I failed to mention all the people living around these areas who are affected by burgeoning animal populations or natural disasters like forest fires. At some point, responsibility has to be taken for what happens in these protected areas; chances are it would be the owners of the property in question.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:51 AM on April 12, 2007


oneirodynia -- I see your point, thanks for explaining further.
I like pastabagel's model, too.
posted by I, Credulous at 11:37 AM on April 12, 2007


i echo all the other sentiments. this sucks and the logging companies are acting like the oil companies.

greed is the greatest of all evils and society at a global level has a big greed problem
posted by hpsell at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2007


.
posted by triolus at 2:12 PM on April 12, 2007


Not only is this tragic in many ways, I understand Happy Loman missed out on the deal.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2007


"Predictions for future deforestation estimate that by 2050 activities in the DRC will release roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide as the UK has emitted over the last 60 years"

An honest, but perhaps stupid, question: Why would that co2 be released into the atmosphere unless they use the wood as fuel -- which seems strange due to the exotic kinds of wood we would be talking about here? Post-deforestation, wouldn't the co2 just live in furniture and the like while a new forest grows up soaking up additional co2?
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 2:50 AM on April 13, 2007


Post-deforestation, wouldn't the co2 just live in furniture and the like while a new forest grows up soaking up additional co2?

Er, I'm no expert on this but I think that fully grown trees absorb tons more CO2 due to the increased surface area of their foliage.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:26 AM on April 13, 2007


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