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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

The Nation has consistently covered the environmental movement with a critical eye, which I consistently support. These groups' danger lies in the fact that they are seen as inherently harmless and out to serve the public interest.

This article, however, was not fair to the mainstream environmental groups it criticizes, which weakens its credibility. As far as I can tell, only the Sierra Club was asked to comment, and they declined. There are so many of these environmental groups--surely one of them would have been willing to release a statement or answer the reporter's questions?

Shreema mehta

College Park, MD<a name="hurowitz"></a>

Mar 5 2010 - 9:34am

Web Letter

I wish we could all live with Mr. Hari in magical unicornland where wanting something makes it come true. All the environmental groups discussed here--and the millions of activists who are their members--urgently want to reduce climate pollution as rapidly as possible. Many activists have spent decades painstakingly building support for this noble cause in the face of billions of dollars in opposition spending.

Unfortunately, standing in the way of that desire for a safe climate is the US Senate and its undemocratic sixty-vote requirement. That is the primary obstacle to strong action on climate change. To say that it's primarily driven by anything other than the opposition of pro-oil, anti- environment senators is simply blind.

The citizen groups Mr. Hari attacks work hard to build coalitions, recruit volunteers and fight polluter spin in the media every day for relatively low pay. The fact that we have any chance at all of action on climate change is due in large part to their hard work. Would that there were more of them and they had more resources--and we might just be talking about action that had already occurred.

Mr. Hari's description of the role of rainforest protection in climate legislation is wildly off the mark. Destruction of rainforests produces more pollution than all the cars, trucks, ships, and planes in the world combined. We cannot solve the climate crisis until we solve the deforestation crisis.

Ultimately, everyone agrees we need the national accounting Mr. Hari discusses. But what, beyond angry whining, is his plan to stop deforestation in the many years required for most rainforest nations to develop the national plans and deforestation baselines required for effective national accounting?

In the meantime, should we stop states like Amazonas in Brazil or East Kalimantan in Indonesia from getting international financing to help them save their own forests? That's what "sub-national accounting" means. Many of the eligible states are significantly larger than major countries. Amazonas, for instance, is about three times the size of France. And should we wait eight years for Indonesia to develop a national plan until we allow East Kalimantan to undertake serious efforts to save its forests--which are disappearing more rapidly than any forests anywhere in history?

What of the orangutans, birds of paradise, rare frogs--and indigneous people--who make these forests home? What of the pollution deforestation spews into the air?

Mr. Hari, oddly, trashes the Noel Kempff National Park conservation project. This was the world's first large-scale forest climate pilot project. It was begun in 1997. It has produced multiple advances in conservation science and policy (as chronicled in the many published articles and books about Noel Kempff).

Yes, as everyone who follows this issue knows, the project sponsors thought it would produce way bigger emissions reductions than it did. But when they discovered--rapidly--that it didn't, they reported those results honestly. This is one of the reasons rainforest protections in climate legislation are strictly pay-for-performance. No one gets any compensation for conservation until after they've proven a forest is already conserved. It's unfair of Mr. Hari to leave out this very important point.

For a fuller take-down of Mr. Hari's contrived arguments, see "Report: Forest conservation can be as reliable as other ways of reducing pollution," at Grist.org.

Glenn Hurowitz

Washington, DC

Mar 4 2010 - 8:56pm

Web Letter

Thanks so much to Johann Hari for this courageous Truth-->> article. We need more journalists like him.

I hope he will come to the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, In Cochabamba, Bolivia, April 19 to 22.

Rebecca Sommer

New York, NY

Mar 4 2010 - 6:46pm