|Graffiti in Managua: "To lose Bosawas |
(Nicaragua's largest nature reserve) is
to lose everything."
(Road building in the U.S. is done by machines and a handful of humans; here, where the cost of labor is shockingly low and capital equipment is expensive, roads are built by hundreds of humans armed with shovels.)
It is expected that improved roads will bring economic opportunities and a measure of increased prosperity to the poorest parts of Nicaragua, which is undeniably a good thing! But there are notes of worry and ambivalence too when we listen to the pastors in the region. With roads often come a flood of newcomers, changing the culture and the way of life, new technologies, problems from the big cities, pollution and deforestation. When we visited Ecuador's oilfields a few years ago, many people told us that the road built by Texaco in the 1960s was one of the most destructive elements of the oil exploration, overnight changing an isolated corner of pristine rainforest into a frontier town.
interesting article and video presentation about the planned highway through part of the Bolivian amazon that has pitted Evo Morales against some of the indigenous groups who helped make him Latin America's first indigenous president.
Bolivia has been embroiled in conflict for the past year over the planned construction of a 182-mile highway, 32 miles of which would cut through TIPNIS, a vital ecosystem — located at the geographic heart of South America — that links the Andes and the Amazon basins. The road would be an important addition to Bolivia’s woefully undeveloped highway system. Yet environmental studies predict that the project will cause widespread damage, contaminating the park’s three main rivers, opening large areas of forest to illegal logging and settlement, and altering habitats that are home to 11 endangered species and rare primates. All that would threaten the traditional way of life of the reserve’s three dwindling indigenous cultures — the Tsimanes, Yuracarés and Mojeño-Trinitarios.There is a sense, fostered by many environmental and development groups, that the twin goals of environmental protection and economic development can be wedded together through the concept of "sustainability." Sustainable development is at heart a positive, hopeful vision of a future that is prosperous, just and green -- although some have argued that it is a mirage that papers over real tensions between the two goals. I still think the concept has a lot of merit, but it's worth recognizing how hard it really is to accomplish, especially when not everyone involved is on board with the idea, even in theory (e.g. a few recent reports on the role of organized crime in driving deforestation).