How a conservation non-profit made climate change worse by not cutting down trees

Originally published at: How a conservation non-profit made climate change worse by not cutting down trees | Boing Boing


Step one: Start a non-profit.

Step two: The usual bullshit.

Step three: Profit



Another case where the market-based solution to which neoliberalism claims there’s no alternative turns out to be no solution at all. But VCs are throwing money at a serial grifter like Adam Neumann (formerly of WeWork) to not only push another one of these “solutions” but also put it on the blockchain.


Well, capitalism ruins everything it touches, and once you assign a profit motive channel to something positive, it inevitably gets turned into something it was not supposed to be. It’s like playing a game with a rules lawyer – the point of all games is to have fun, but once someone starts twisting the rules around so that winning becomes the point, the fun is lost in pursuit of just winning the game at any cost, including boredom and loss of interest in playing by the other players.


Capitalism demands that corporate sacrifice in the aim of doing the right thing be restituted by obscure, easily-subverted methods.

The big obstacle is convincing corporate culture that doing the right thing involves sacrifice and change without compensatory remuneration, in some cases remanding certain business models to obsolescence. Good luck with that.


I think if the money is spent for additional conservation, then maybe this isn’t as bad as it seems. Did Audubon use the money to purchase additional forest land? What exactly they did with this windfall is important. It may even be a better result.

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I think this is true if you assume that the Only way that Aud could have raised that money was by selling credits to increase pollution AND if Audobon’s action after making 6million dollars was somehow a net benefit that outweighed the pollution they funded.

There’s no way that happened.


This what happens when MBAs and lawyers run things


Unless the industries they sold those carbon credits to for all that money pushed things toward the net worse with their now-greenwashed emissions. Then maybe it’s not a better result.

You don’t get into as many of these “maybe’s” when a nation-state and/or international body just taxes emitters by the tonne (in fiat currency) and then immediately applies the revenue where experts think it would do the most good. No trading, no speculation, no cryptocurrency, and a lot less “maybe”.


This is a nice explainer of why carbon credits and carbon taxes don’t have anything like the same outcome.

(That and the number of carbon credits handed out in some schemes at base level is just obscenely and ridiculously high.)


And we’re super-sure that the company was not set up, indirectly, by those oil and gas companies themselves?

Because it seems kind of obvious to cynical me.


No honor system works when grifters participate, and dang but climate change is one of the worst collective distributed, global, intergenerational punishments (surely arms dealers and human traffickers are worse, but killing nearly an entire planet’s worth of plants and animals has got to count for something /s).

I ask this seriously of all y’all reading this:

what to do?

Seriously. In my struggle to understand, and to put handles on our dire situation, I try to make effective, reality-based solutions to climate change an object of study. Ok y’all, here’s some of what I have found useful:



I wish I could find a better, deeper, more recent interview with Kim Stanley Robinson, or with Neal Stephenson, re carbon capture, carbon offsetting, and other carbon reduction strategies based on science, case studies, and current evidence include the grifty bs dataset in the OP. I have found them to be good researchers and good communicators as “hard science” sci-fi (or cli-fi) authors.

(apologies for cross-posting)

(start of interview at Long Now Foundation)

On a different fork of the same journey toward a livable future, Dr. James Hansen is on board with some version of a carbon fee & dividend program:

:point_right:t5: but not carbon credits: :point_left:t5:

Thus, carbon offsets become a diversion from the real task of reducing emissions at source. James Hansen has described carbon credits as being the equivalent of “Medieval Indulgences,” allowing people to assuage their guilt while continuing to contribute to climate deterioration.[10]

I want to close on an upnote, for my own sanity, so here’s some info about Gaviotas, Colombia, where they funded afforestation (or perhaps reforestation) with carbon offset grant monies in the 1990s.

In 1992, in conjunction with the Kyoto Protocol and the Japanese government, the Environmental Research Center at Las Gaviotas began substantiating the concept of carbon sinks to sequester carbon dioxide and stabilize the climate. Based on the cash generated by its renewable energy project, complemented with funding secured through the Japanese government, Las Gaviotas, founded and directed by Paolo Lugari, planted 8,000 HA of Caribbean pine trees in a savannah that had been unproductive for centuries.

It was considered impossible to plant trees in such acidic, inhospitable soil (pH 4) but thanks to the innovative use of mycorrhizal fungi which acts as the saliva for the tree, the forestation was successful. More than just successful, this initiative to initiate economic activities and to validate carbon sinks unleashed a chain reaction of positive effects that surprised even the initiators of the program…

Today, more than a decade later, the forestation of 8,000 HA has resulted in 10 percent more precipitation (some 110,000 m3 per day), converting Las Gaviotas into a net supplier of drinking water, a crystalline water of superior quality. With the cost of drinking water exceeding the cost of petroleum, Las Gaviotas demonstrated that reforestation allows us to address one of the most critical issues the world is facing: access to natural potable water!

The planting of the Caribbean pine tree provides another economic impulse. The 7 to 14 grams of resin a day produced by the tree is locally converted to colofonia, a raw material for the paint and paper industry. The tapping and the processing of the resin brings industrial activities, and the generation of value-added to the region. PICTURE Preparing water for distribution. The abundance of water is a byproduct of the emerging forest.

(there is some language at ZERI’s web page that I have real issues with, but ZERI has worked closely with Paolo Lugari for a while so I will try to cut them slack and bring up what I think is relevant and real)

Still digging.
Working on hope, but have given up on optimism.

Here in Central Texas, we broke a heat record yesterday and will probably do it again today.


The human experiment is deeply flawed. Evolution better get it’s ass in gear and either weed what ever flaw in the human brain that appeals to greed or step up it’s efforts with covid.

This is like a tragedy straight out of something like Better Call Saul. Time after time, it shows how no scam can be successful without having awful consequences somewhere down the line. You may benefit in the short term, but someone else always get hurt in the end.


At what level?

Governments - need to pass legislation that drastically cuts the amount of carbon that gets emitted into the air, and tax All the carbon emissions. And fund ‘green’ energy production using those taxes.

Since carbon capture isn’t currently scalable, but we need to act fast, those taxes need to take into account the cost of reparations to fix climate damage from emissions damage - which we can’t. so that carbon tax would have to be enough to actually stop the use of polluting dead dinosaurs.

Otherwise we are just pretending that trading around ‘credits’ cuts carbon emissions, when in reality it just created a new layer of people making profit while we still don’t cut emissions.

Individuals need to elect people who will actually do that.
Changing our individual energy use behavior won’t hurt, but it will not solve the problem. Like recycling - throwing my plastic in a recycling bin (which I do) won’t stop the plastic use problem as long as everything comes in a non-reusable plastic container. But outlawing the production and sale of nonsense use of plastics will do much more toward solving the problem.

You can’t plant enough trees to offset current pollution levels.


This isn’t an unintended consequence of carbon credits. Its proponents envisioned exactly this sort of thing, which they would describe as “CO2 producers were forced to give $6m to a conservation non-profit”.

And it doesn’t sound entirely stupid if you put it that way. It’s not the case that polluters burn fossil fuels for pleasure, and will pay any amount to do so – this transfer does make it more expensive for them…

A tax would be better, but in terms of deterrence, a $6m fine works the sams whether it’s owed to the government or the Audubon society.

The really diseased part of carbon credits is the idea that a random patchwork of charities and businesses can fix climate change. That’s pure Ayn-cap propaganda. It’s about pretending governments don’t need to be involved, because if they were, they could do a lot more than just taxing emissions; they could actually make businesses stop emitting CO2.

(Not to mention the mile-wide opportunity for self-dealing and lax enforcement that’s winkingly designed into the carbon credits scheme)


I’m always amazed that Audubon Societies are named after a man who killed birds in order to draw/paint them. But then he couldn’t use a camera back then.

“Be a shame if anything happened to these nice carbon sequestration units we have here. A real shame…”

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I was thinking it was like one of the common practices in the Catholic church that led to Martin Luthor’s reformation efforts:

(The TLDR is that the Catholic church used to let people buy their way to forgiveness, which obviously led to massive corruption and even a dependence on rich people purchasing indulgences in order to fund certain church projects. Knowing that they’d be forgiven, rich folks started “sinning” worry-free and sometimes purchased their indulgences in advance. This is not the sort of revenue stream you want an organization to grow dependant on.)