National Geographic: REDD

The missing alternative at Cancun: traditional indigenous stewardship

Dennis Martinez, a Native American forest-restoration specialist, had a unique perspective on climate mitigation: traditional knowledge. As Martinez knew intimately from his work, climatic chaos would wreak special havoc on degraded ecosystems, so that biodiversity was more important than ever. In his observations, and from studies in the field, he found that traditional indigenous communities had the best tools to preserve biodiversity and keep carbon in the ground.

But the UN’s climate mitigation plan, he was finding out, would further destroy or erode not only the biodiversity but also those cultures that were preserving it. And as a way to allow polluters to offset their pollution by preserving carbon-absorbing forests, he learned, the plan would also distract the world from failure to cut emissions at the smokestacks and tailpipes.

From an initial conversation in late 2008, this insight grew into a reported essay posted on National Geographic News Watch on December 8, 2010. Project Word helped every step of the way, providing the full complement of services—from developmental editing to entrée with editors. It ran with a companion story on Kuna Yala, an indigenous community in Panama, whose own experience with the plan resonated with Martinez’ essay.

PDF here.


Rising seas around Panama's Caribbean islands have forced the Kuna peoples to consider moving to their mainland territory--but it's the same land Panamanian authorities want to set aside for "avoided deforestation," part of the REDD program under debate at Cancún. Photo by Roberto Guerra.

Sun, 12/12/2010 - 11:30pm