Saving the rainforest - or just generating more paper?
At the World Land Trust, we have always emphasised the need for conservation action, as opposed to yet more discussions, reports and research. With limited funds to spend on conservation, the Trust feels that it is better to use available funds primarily to protect as much wildlife habitat as possible before it is too late.
A new report, "Saving the Rainforests: Civil Society Mapping - A project for the UK Environmental Funders Network" (PDF document, 817KB, opens in new window) by Harriet Williams and Jon Cracknell made me wonder what value this might have to conservation.
The authors have done a huge amount of work compiling all the data, but I haven't a clue what it all shows. One very significant piece of data omitted entirely is the financial resources expended on each of the activities identified (such as "Peoples Heroes", "Finance Pioneers", "Brand Attackers", or "Voluntary Carbon Offsets"), and without that information it is absolutely impossible to compare like with like. Like so many academic studies, it seems of very little use to the actual practitioners in the field.
The World Land Trust is listed in the report, and its activities categorised, but quite how they were delineated and compared with other organisations is entirely unclear to me. Organisations significantly smaller than the WLT according to the analysis, appear to be active in a very wide range of activities -- but since there is no indication of what resources are devoted, it does not really reflect what's happening on the ground.
The fact on the ground can often be very different to what appears from a superficial reading of an annual report and accounts. For instance, the WLT probably has far more interaction with indigenous peoples than most of the organisations listed as active, yet WLT is not listed at all, because a) we do not give it a high profile in our publicity, and b) as a proportion of our overall budget it is not large. But an organisation spending 50% of a small budget on work with indigenous peoples is spending much less than WLT spending 5% of its total budget.
If you read this report and disagree with me, please can you show me how it can benefit the operation of conservation? Clearly a lot of work went into it, but I don't see how it advances rainforest conservation.