The War on Conservation

The War on Drugs has many, many unintended consequences, and New Scientist brings another one to our attention:

New Scientist's inquiries suggest that the narcotics trade is a serious but largely neglected impediment to conservation efforts. Drug production and trafficking can damage sensitive ecosystems... . In other cases, biologists and officials who should be enforcing environmental laws are kept away by the threat of violence.

Naturally, prohibition is not given the credit for causing these problems. The article's questionable conclusion:

Ultimately, fundamental change may only happen if there is a shift in strategy in the US-led war on drugs, currently dominated by attempts to reduce supply by targeting illicit crops and drug smugglers. Laurie Freeman, a fellow of a non-governmental organisation called the Washington Office on Latin America, has studied the escalating drug-related violence in Mexico and believes the answer lies in efforts to reduce demand in the US, and a broader approach to aiding Latin American countries in their anti-drugs efforts.

Drug cultivation happens off the beaten path, shifts locations, and is guarded by armed thugs? And this isn't the case for normal crops? I wonder what the difference is.

Of course, the conservationist organizations affected can't just declare their opposition to prohibition.

[Drug-related violence] is also a difficult topic for groups that rely on a "wholesome" image to attract public donations. "It's not something that foundations necessarily want to print in their annual reports," says Nichols. "It's considered unstoppable. And I think people perceive the danger involved in engaging with it in any way."

The conservation organisation WWF, for instance, is running into narcotics-related problems in the forests of Chocó-Darién, near the Colombia-Panama border. "The issue of drug use and production is very far removed from our expertise," says Tom Lalley, spokesman for WWF-US.

I hope that it's only a matter of time until everybody realizes that they are harmed in some way they didn't expect by the War on Drugs.

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