Rainforest Conservation: A Theme for Posterity
By now, we have all heard about the plight of our ecological systems. “Save the Rainforest,” has become the battle cry for most 5th grade students after their two-week unit study of the rainforest. Rainforests are the most biologically rich terrestrial ecosystem on earth, providing habitat for up to 50% of earth’s creatures. The tropical rainforest is, quite simply, the richest, oldest, most productive, most complex terrestrial ecosystem on earth. However, these worldwide crucibles of biodiversity are being depleted at the rate of 214,000 acres per day: an area larger than New York City (Myers 1989).
Although habitat destruction is a serious concern even in our own backyards, studies have shown that most destruction tends to take place where people are the poorest and biodiversity is the richest (Wilson 1992). In most emerging nations, natural resource intensive businesses become a primary source of income as poverty stricken citizens, landowners and governmental entities cash in. This allows the conversion of critical habitat into farm and ranch land, sites for industrialized logging, mining and other human development. For nearly five decades, with the help from citizenry and local governments, environmental groups have been trying to slow the degradation.
Recently, alternative protective strategies engaging all sectors have begun to take hold as realistic solutions for habitat protection. Sustainability, which is simply the ability to live without handicapping future generations, has become the focus of modern preservation efforts. Utilizing the roles of living systems which are essential to life as we know it as allies, non profits innovatively engage corporate investors to take part in sustainable business ventures like butterfly farming, organic multiple/alternative crop cultivation or even aqua culture. Local citizens once forced to take part in the destruction out necessity of survival, are now being empowered at the local level to create partnerships for sustainable businesses enterprises.
A civil sector organization I recently spent time with, Corazon de la Terra, works in and around the state of Jalisco, Mexico to create ecological stability through ecosystem analysis and impact evaluation while creating methodology for sustainable management. However, by modeling community organizing efforts, they are able to connect with rural farmers and landowners to engage in strengthening their own communities by advancing present land use processes into more sustainable, long- term endeavors. For example: farmers teaching other farmer’s sustainability (Aguilar 2006).
At a recent Colorado Alliance for Environmental Educators fundraiser, Hunter Lovins famed conservationist, and author of Natural Capitalism stated confidently “ We have won!” “The Business sector has become aware of their role in environmental conservation. We now have technological and intellectual resources to positively shape posterity. Innovative solutions can transform social and ecological capital globally, and reconnect citizenry with realistic, people-centered projects that influence market mechanisms.”
What can we do? We are doing it! The Butterfly Pavilion is one of these so called sustainable market mechanisms. Our continuing contribution of engaging visitors, educating children, and creating community awareness keeps the sustainable wheel of habitat protection rolling. Who knows, perhaps one day the Butterfly Pavilion through the support of corporate partners may even fund butterfly-farming projects all over the world. The sky is the limit when it comes to rainforest conservation, and we have just begun to take flight!
Posted by Patrick Tennyson
Director of Education, Butterfly Pavilion