It's not often that I am so stunned by a wildlife documentary that I want to tell everyone about it. However, BBC1's Lost Land of the Jaguar had exactly that effect on me. It was a truly amazing programme that put across the passion of the experts examining the wilderness and its dazzling array of flora and fauna in such a way that I suddenly felt the saving of this area must be a major issue for everyone, because it truly is unique.
Protecting rainforest is one of the stereotypical “green issues” that we are expected to campaign on and people expect us to do it. I have even been asked by members of the public on stalls why we don't campaign more about rainforest preservation. The fact is that we do, but by encouraging behaviour change that will decrease pressure on such resources and as yet untapped riches. The biofuels campaign this summer has had a strong message showing that our everyday actions can directly influence the future of such places.
There is a place for direct action in terms of conservation of very special places, though, and this programme brought it home to me how badly needed this is. The government of this country is under great pressure to create more revenue, as it is the second poorest country in South America. Selective logging has started in the north of the country, but now the timber concessions are spreading further and further south, which means there is more and more threat to this area. In the first programme they stated that the Guyanan government had proposed some sort of carbon trading scheme and the BBC website states that
the Guyanan president had offered to place the entire standing forest under the control of a British-led international body in return for a bilateral deal with the UK that would secure development aid and the technical assistance needed to make the change to a green economy.
If that is true and we do not take the chance, it will be one of the worse climate change crimes of all. Deforestation has a greater impact on climate change than most people realise. The BBC website also cites the Stern review as saying that deforestation over the next four years could create more emissions than all flights taken from the Wright brothers up to 2025.
I have always thought of carbon trading and such systems to be a cop-out, but in this case whatever can be done to ensure this land is not lost to commercial exploitation should be done. The government of Guyana should be given every possible type of assistance in return for preserving such a priceless land. If you haven't seen the programme, please take the time to watch it for yourself. After that, please take the time to think about how to save this place.