Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Deadly conflict over a CDM?

Ok, this is not good news. 23 Honduran peasants and two others have been apparently killed by private security forces in conflict over the implementation of a CDM project in which the peasants' land was "illegally" sold to developers of palm oil plantations which generate carbon credits.

Environmental protection in developing-world settings has often been linked to militarism, the eviction of indigenous people or peasants, and the strong sense that land-use in the third world is (still) being directed by  first-world economies or politicians.  Geographers have been all over this (google "fortress conservation").

So we're kind of used to thinking about game wardens in the Serengeti with heavy weaponry.  It's long been recognized as a problem that traditional and often sustainable land-users are being driven off their land (often to end up in urban slums) by first-world-initiated environmental protection actions.

But ecosystem services and carbon was supposed to be different -- cleaner, somehow, involving fewer guns and more payments to stewards of the land.  So this news is unexpected in some ways, but in other ways it fits right in with the long and sometimes bloody history of first-world directed environmental policies implemented in the developing world.  As long ago as 2007 this was being referred to as "CO2lonialism".  As a slogan it's catchy, but conceptual and polemical.  However, there's nothing like a body count to change the narrative -- not something that the Kyoto community and the CDM board can afford to let happen.