My initial notice of The Nature Conservancy was as a teenager when I was first beginning to think about what is commonly referred to as the Earth’s ecosystems, the depletion of same, and the negative influence of the Western world’s consumer driven economies.
In those days of my teen years, the early 1970s, I was very much interested in the preservation of large tracts of wild lands. There were various government agencies at that time involved in struggling to preserve such areas, and I was always happy to see legislation passed to buy and save as much wilderness and as much rural land as possible.
However, there began to be a lot of press for many private organizations who were active in protecting some wild places. The news media began to report on these groups, with specific attention given over to The Nature Conservancy. On the face of it, things sounded good. These people had been successful in buying up, or trading for parcels of unique and sensitive lands to lock them up in various ways to prevent them from being developed or exploited for commercial gain. Superficially, it seemed an encouraging development.
But even as a kid I was disturbed by this move away from governmental acquisitions of wild lands and toward a privately funded method of doing so. The first time I recall being truly disturbed by the actions of these private groups was in the description of how they were willing to negotiate and make concessions to gain some small advantages in protecting the core areas of some especially unique ecosystems. This bothered me mainly because, even as a kid, I’d learned that too much of working within the system and giving in to capitalist exploiters was to play into their hands. This was, in fact, a move to emasculate the governmental groups tasked with saving our wild places and making it easy for half-measures by private groups that did nothing much but enable corporations to exploit and ruin vast areas that might otherwise be saved.
To give them credit, the Nature Conservancy has, indeed, protected many wild and unique places in many nations around the world. Some truly rare systems and living organisms owe their continued existence to this group and the people who helm it. But one thing that seems central to their actions is that they generally end up protecting only the heart of a rare and endangered place. Yes, they safeguard the core of a wilderness, but the deals they cut for these small lands generally allow for the further exploitation of the areas around these limited and fragile wildernesses.
And what good does it do to protect a heart when the lungs are allowed to become diseased? What good a heart if kidneys are filled with toxins? What good a heart with livers swimming with poison? What good a heart with limbs lopped off and left to bleed?
The Nature Conservancy goes only so far in what they can do, and what they apparently are willing to do. By using specious arguments in favor of such concepts as “property rights” and “access to free enterprise”, the corporations who make obscene profits via the rape of our collective ownership of the lands that sustain us have empowered themselves to continue this rape at the cost of the rights of the citizens of this world. I have watched while the government has first given away its powers to protect our wild and rural lands, and then completely lost these powers to corporate interests. Wild and natural ecosystems cannot exist and thrive if they are allowed to be surrounded and imprisoned by walls of development and exploitation.
The Nature Conservancy is a good idea, if it had merely been a part of a much larger effort of a National (and International) movement to preserve our wildernesses and farmlands and rural areas as parks and regulated green spaces. Alas, it seems as if the Conservancy has been promoted by the corporate interests who wish to use it to their own advantages at the loss of the people of the nations within whose borders these same corporations do so much damage.
Unfortunately, the Nature Conservancy has ended up being not a part of a larger movement, but the only portion of a failing struggle to sustain life on this globe.