Many of us have felt the impact of the economic crisis.
Shares are down, pension funds have evaporated, some have lost their jobs, and house prices have plummeted. The world has certainly seen more cheerful times, at least in financial terms.
Conservation organizations are also being forced to cut back, because we expect that the private donations and grants won’t flow very easily for the next few years.
So we are reducing our budgets and make sure that we carefully consider each dollar spent.
You could think that this is all bad news for conservation. But the crisis may have an unexpected silver lining.
Here in Borneo, development activities are much reduced. Planned oil palm and coal mining expansions are lying dormant because no one can obtain the necessary loans to get these projects started.
That may well lead to a reduced rate of deforestation over the next few years. If that happens, the crisis will give conservation a badly needed breathing space.
The Conservancy is working closely with the Indonesian government to improve land use planning in places like Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. Finding a balance between the need for economic development and poverty alleviation while maintaining environmental and social values requires really good planning.
We are working hard to provide the Indonesian government with data and information that could help improve their land use planning (among other efforts) by taking into consideration the often unvalued environmental services that forests and seas provide.
A few years of low economic activity may just be what we need to buy some time and discuss with the government how an alternative development scenario could be implemented here. One that maintains forest functions and thus habitats for the incredibly high number of species that live here.
Maybe we shouldn’t be cutting back our expenses. Maybe this is the time when we should intensify our efforts.