Imagine the forests of Ecuador, at the center of the Earth: verdant, lush primary forest, wild, pristine rivers, forbidding swamplands, and several thousand species of plants and animals, where the Amazon Basin stretches toward the sky on the slopes of the Andes Mountains and its multiple volcanoes. This territory is known by scientists as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, and has been the home of the Cofán, among the oldest surviving indigenous cultures in the Ecuadorian Amazon, for centuries.
Around 1,000,000 acres of this forest is being protected at this very moment by dedicated Cofan rangers. These Cofan-managed and Cofan-protected territories provide certain key environmental services, including climate change control, carbon sequestration, preservation of water cycles and water purity, and biodiversity conservation, all of which are ESSENTIAL to the health of Ecuador’s various ecosystems.
I have been working for several years now on trying to develop strategies and systems into a consolidated “product” that will appeal to a market in which these environmental services will be funded by corporate and national level initiatives concerned with off-setting the damages they are doing to the environment. However, at this point in time this model continues to be an attractive dream. The distances between the true environmental services providers such as the Cofan and the entities that could (and should) be paying for said services are still far too great, legally, politically, and ideologically, for such agreements to function.
So, in a search for alternatives, we began looking at private interactions, whereby a relatively large block of people put aside a relatively small amount of money per month to cover the recurring costs of conserving a significant amount of forest.
But here’s the catch: what I am after is that this NOT be viewed as a well-meaning charitable contribution to help some poor indigenous group out in the Amazon. What I am trying to give birth to is a new way to deal directly, practically, and effectively with our individual impacts on the environment. Could we perhaps call it a “Conservation Cooperative?”
Here’s the concept: A partnership of 6,000 people- 5,000 donors and 1,000 Cofáns- who are dedicated to taking care of and providing good management for these 1,000,000 acres of rain forests, but also for all the areas of influence in which those six thousand people live, work and enjoy. This partnership’s primary focus will be the 1,000,000 acres, but the key word is “conservation” throughout the group’s range of influence.
This partnership, including as it will young and old, Americans, Ecuadorians, Cofans, and others thoughout the word, will obviously have a variety of levels of participation-
- from the Cofán boy who is learning how to fish correctly;
- to the grade school girl in New Jersey who is doing a report on the Amazon;
- to the business man who has no time to deal with anything outside the office but who gives some money as his contribution to the 1,000,000 acres;
- to the retiree who lends time and effort in order to recruit new members;
- to the college computer whiz who helps out with a eye-catching multimedia report;
- to the Cofán ranger who is facing off with an irate miner;
- to the Ecuadorian politician who is actively, passionately defending the environmental laws;
- and on and on….
The trick of what we are trying to do is create a true, committed community whose efforts are focused on a particular piece of wilderness. If this works, we can offer this same model for the Zona Reservada in Peru, with the Secoyas, Huitotos, and other groups there, plus to others who will buy into those territories as their primary focus.
The bottom line is that, seeing as the big world of rich governments and multinational corporations and the UN and all the rest can’t get their act together to truly deal with the needs and complexities of real life conservation and global climate change amelioration, let’s try to organize at a grass-roots community level to do it. Let’s create virtual communities based on real people dealing with real land areas and real issues and in this way cut through all the layers of bureaucratic garbage and endless discussions and get straight down to real conservation.
And as I say, if we can pull this off, it will be a model which can be replicated widely, with highly tangible impacts. Our particular group’s contribution is focused on our particular one million acres, not by way of excluding other areas, but to maximize the community’s effectiveness. Can you imagine though the effect that would be generated if this model were to be duplicated time and time again on a global scale? The number we are postulating, 6,000, is sufficient enough to cover our needs, but small enough to still be interactive and maintain the personal connection which is so vital to the concept of community.
So that’s the outline of the concept. Where do we go next? That part is up to all of you.
The good news is that the question of how we, together, can truly impact the environment – that part is NOT a challenge. Here we are talking about a real life solution to the real life frustration of how do I, as an individual, make a difference?
- How can I, producing carbon pollution via my use of car, airplane, air conditioning, etc., really do anything meaningful to mitigate these impacts?
- How do I, wanting to affect environmental legislation on a global level, really make a difference?
- How do I, concerned about biodiversity issues worldwide, deal with saving species?
Here, as we form our Conservation Cooperative, we have a real-life way of dealing with these issues, one that will enable each and every member of the community to tangibly experience the impacts of their work.
So, let’s do it! Let’s grow our community to 6,000! Let’s get the word out across social networks, in the media, and via simple word of mouth, and most of all, it will require YOUR feedback, input, and help in order for this seed of a concept to grow and become a real life solution.
It all starts here: Campaign for 5000.