Marketing the rainforest : 'green' panacea or red herring?

Dove, Michael
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Honolulu: East-West Center
As more and more of the world's tropical rainforests are cut down, environmentalists have come up with a new idea to stop the destruction: marketing non-timber products from the rainforest. They argue that if Western consumers buy forest products such as "Rainforest Crunch" ice cream, cookies, cereal, or cosmetics, the forest will become too valuable for the native people to cut down. Most of the trees, however, are cut down not by native forest dwellers but by commercial loggers and ranchers and the migrants who follow them. Moreover, whenever a forest product becomes valuable in international markets, elites are likely to appropriate it and leave only products of little value to the forest dwellers. Marketing rainforest products is not only trying to protect the trees from the wrong people; it perpetuates the process of leaving to the forest dwellers the resources of least interest to the broader society. The focus on "green shopping" is a dangerous distraction from the political and economic changes that must be made to encourage conservation of the world's tropical forests and improve the lot of the people who live there.
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