Last week, a large area of tropical forests in the Congo Basin went up for auction. This is the continuation of a disturbing trend that is happening in the region, where oil companies have been taking over the land and destroying the local habitat.
To make matters worse, these are closed auctions that only oil companies can participate in, so it is not even possible for philanthropists or independent foundations to make bids. The idea here is that oil companies will be able to generate sustained revenue over longer periods of time, whereas a conservation deal will typically only result in a one time payoff.
The region is home to Africa’s first conservation area, the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site created in 1925. This is also the habitat for many endangered species including gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos. Indigenous groups like the Mbuti and Baka people are also at risk of displacement if this land is sold.
The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo believes that this is the best option for their country, because they are more concerned about economic development than the environment.
From their perspective, this is an entirely understandable measure because they need economic growth for survival, plus many developed countries were able to cut down trees and pollute as much as they wanted for the past several hundred years, so lectures from the west about the environment seem a bit hypocritical.
The ReFi community has recently been working to develop solutions to these problems, and possibly enter the bidding. A community-based effort called Redemption DAO has formed to raise funds, and hopefully change the rules of the game to allow conservationists to enter the bidding.
Even if the auction remains closed for only oil companies to participate in, the group is seeking to negotiate with oil companies on a lucrative deal to actually preserve the land instead of destroying it.
At this point it is unclear if the effort will be successful. A similar effort to buy a copy of the US Constitution narrowly failed in the final moments of the auction, and the stakes were much lower in that situation. However, this is a new coordination strategy that environmentalists will be using and perfecting in the months and years to come.
If you want to learn more about the Redemption DAO, check out their Linktree site for all of their important links and social media pages.