Shutting the door on ‘resource grabs’

Despite significant efforts around the globe to conserve natural resources, often the news still includes reports of illegal attainment of wood, minerals, and even animals, to the detriment of both the environment and human communities. 

Illegal logging in Madagascar’s rain forests, including protected areas, is driven by poverty but taken advantage of by traders who export stockpiles of rare hardwoods. This encourages further illegal logging of protected tree species such as rosewood and mahogany. Demand for the wood comes from companies in other nations, often to make extravagant products such as a million-dollar carved bed frame. The logging exacerbates political instability and negatively affects Madagascar’s unique and fragile ecosystem, while providing little or no economic benefit there. (It can be less than one percent of the wood’s final value.) 

In other situations, the resource grab may be more need-based but is still divisive and destructive. For example, the expanding demand for rare earth minerals to use in electronic devices and cellphones has driven environmentally destructive mining practices in already politically unstable but mineral-rich regions such as the eastern Congo. The terms “blood minerals” and “conflict minerals” are often used to describe such situations where the financial benefit of the mining goes to local militias and exacerbates existing conflicts. And in any case, resources are typically taken without concern for ecological or humanitarian consequences. 

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