Many stakeholders who profit from the ‘sustainable’ use of wild species benefit from having people believe that the sustainable use model is the only way to save the natural world. It is not.
These stakeholders have had more than 50 years to collectively generate the information that proves the sustainable use model works, when it comes to the trade in wild species. They talk about sustainability as if it is a proven strategy. It is not, it is simply a free trade ideology.
No proof of sustainability has ever been provided other than for a handful of carefully selected case studies. Overall, the picture is as dire as ever, with wild species in rapid decline and trade being a leading cause of extinction risk.
The fact that there is still no proof of sustainability, as it is used to justify the pillaging of the natural world for profit, means you could go one step further. In the years to come, will we collectively realise that ‘unproven sustainability’ was simply another type of ‘legal fraud’ enabled by regulatory systems stripped bare of resources to the point of being less than useless because their existence maintained the illusion that something was boing done?
There is an alternative to ‘sustainable’ use. A Basic Income.
I hear the voices says that this is unaffordable, but is it? In recent months a growing number of sources are quoting World Bank data which says that today indigenous people make up just 6% of the world’s population but they protect 80% of the planet’s remaining biodiversity.
The global population has just reached 8 billion. So, these 6% of indigenous people amounts to 480 million. If the world paid each of these people (adults and children) a basic income of US$100 a month to protect the 80% of the planet’s remaining biodiversity, this would amount to US$577 billion annually. That sounds like a lot of money, but lets recall that global trade in 2021 was worth US$28.5 trillion.
If we drop the notion that trade has to be ‘free’ (meaning free from taxes and levies on business) and embrace the idea that it might be better for our collective future to preserve the biodiversity we have left, then US$577 billion is not a lot of money.
Paying a basic income linked to conservation (and social) outcomes can be financed with a levy of just 2% on global trade.
A basis income linked to conservation is a valid alternative to the sustainable use model and must be explored as an option. The fact that it hasn’t already been considered is very telling. Particularly given the significant investment made in recent years pushing Sustainable Use and Livelihoods (SULi). While indigenous peoples and local communities have a right to be at the table, poverty alleviation and conservation must be decoupled. It they are not this gives business interests a greater say in natural resource use via local community proxies.
Similarly, impoverished communities living close to wild species should not be used in the political agendas and power plays of those who simply want to maintain the trade in endangered and exotic species.
Lynn Johnson is a physicist by education and has worked as an executive coach and a strategy consultant for over 20 years. In her work she pushes for systemic change, not piecemeal solutions, this includes campaigning for modernising the legal trade in endangered species, to help tackle the illegal wildlife trade.