Hands off… don’t destroy it!

“Mozambique still has 29,000 square kilometres of virgin forest”. What a headline! It appeared on MacauHub Electronic Newsletter on 30 July 2013. “Don’t destroy it… leave it alone!” That was my reaction as I read the headline. The absurdity of the opening lines was even more troubling:

[T]he unbridled exploration of forest resources will not affect the survival of forest species, said the national director for Land and Forests said in Inhassoro. Simão Joaquim also said that the presence of many foreign companies in Mozambique, in what can be considered unbridled exploration of wood for export, is as yet not a risk to the survival of the forests.

How could anyone in their right frame of mind seriously believe this nonsense? Forests are already endangered spaces all over the world. The devastating consequences of deforestation, the price we have to pay for the so-called development is under-appreciated. Do Mozambican authorities really believe the vicious cycles of floods and droughts have nothing to do whatsoever with lands stripped off their vegetation and left bare? Partha Dasgupta is right — the biased omission of environmental destruction from constructions of indices of well-being (GDP, economic growth, inflation, unemployment, poverty, human development) amounts to madness —

Current estimates of NNP are biased because depreciation of environmental resources is not deducted from GNP… NNP estimates are biased because a biased set of prices is in use: prices imputed to environmental resources on site are usually zero, and this amounts to regarding the depreciation of environmental capital as zero. But this in turn means that profits attributed to projects that degrade the environment are higher than their social profits. A consequence is that wrong sets of projects get selected – in both the private and public sectors.

Besides, what kind of economic growth that relies exclusively on extraction of resources (e.g. felling trees) without adding an inch of value before exporting them? There was no input, not a single one, on the part of forestry companies to produce the forests they feel entitled to destroy. Are we really without the ability to create any thing of value to ourselves and to others? What kind of spaces do we want to leave for posterity? Can we truly and proudly sing Hallelujah! to this kind of development? There should be no pride but shame in claiming development victory from pure and reckless extraction and exportation of natural resources without adding value to it.

Keep your hands off those forests! They have purpose and value just as they are.

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