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Opinion: False Efforts to Preserve Natural Resources

Political leaders fill their mouths with promises and their hands with international awards for their efforts to preserve natural resources.

Hands holding a sphere

More than ever we must demand guarantees for environmental and human health. Photo: LatinAmerican Post

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Opinión: Los falsos esfuerzos por la conservación de los recursos naturales

Where can we put our hopes in times like this? That is the question that comes to mind every time I read a news story about climate change and its imminence. The temperature rises and, at the same time, the leaders of the nations meet with each other to shake hands, praise each other, appreciate the efforts and fill their mouths with words like "renewable energy", "circular economy", "mitigate climate change "and" conservation of natural resources ". Their reunions end and they return home with their hands full of awards, or with funding to make protected areas more extensive, money that is only news when it is received, because afterwards we do not know what happens to the it. Perhaps in a couple of years we will learn that there was such an expansion, and we will also learn that, once again, an environmental leader was assassinated for defending one of those supposed protected areas of a legal mining or oil project.

And it is that mining and oil projects are disastrous when they are illegal, but they seem to be the best for nations when they are legal and can consult the communities that inhabit the territories that will be destroyed with just 45 days in advance. Very little time for those who live in the area to even be able to carry out censuses, research and collect information to prevent their homes and lives from being affected once again by economic development.

Also read: Opinion: This is the failure of COP26

Little or no human conservation

The so-called conservation of natural resources aims to protect, preserve and restore natural environments and the communities that inhabit them. Up to here, everything is very ethical and very beautiful. But when the conservation of natural resources is also understood as the management of human use for public benefit in a socially and economically sustainable way, doubts arise. In part, there is nothing wrong with this, since its origin, our species has used natural resources for its benefit. The problem is that, since the Industrial Revolution, these resources began to be used en masse to create a broader need for consumption, which produced even more demand and from then on that cycle has only grown over time.

Today, the demand is so high that a historic event such as the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop those consumption paradigms. In fact, the economic crisis caused by quarantines around the world caused production processes to grow uncontrollably due to the economic reactivation. Because of this, we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place.

The conservation that is discussed at COP26, and in similar spaces, is slow, responds to bureaucracy and does not take into account the people who inhabit natural spaces. Proof of this is the little effort made by governments around the world to give ethnic communities what was taken from them by violence hundreds of years ago. Today we preach a free world, a safe world, but they are still the last to be heard and cared for.

If conservation does not take into account the human factor and does not fulfill the promises not only with the environment but with the groups that have historically been relegated, that is not called conservation, it is called chit- chat.

Who do we turn to? To a UN that talks and talks and does not demand? Leaders who win awards and mock behind our backs? More than ever, we must demand guarantees for environmental and human health. More than ever, we must point the finger at them.