The auction of 100 untouched Indonesian islands offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the super-rich

The auction of 100 untouched Indonesian islands offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the super-rich

Balinese beach

The least-untouched indonesian island of bali
Photo: WILLY KURNIAWAN (Reuters)

Sotheby’s auctions development rights to what is proper to him Literature calls “one of the most intact coral atoll ecosystems on Earth”: a group of 100 Indonesian islands that are home to irreplaceable biodiversity. At a time when billionaires like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos are lining up to donate their fortunes, and when their efforts are more discredited than ever, wouldn’t it make sense to one of very rich at buy them development rights— and then leave the islands alone?

The idea of ​​protecting land, especially forest land, buying it and not trying to modify it or exploit it is nothing new. In the United States in particular, but also elsewhere, private forest ownership plays an important role in conservation, often through a system of transfer of property rights, voluntary and permanent, to NGOs or other groups dedicated to their protection. According an article from 2018 by Christopher Nolte of Boston University’s Department of Land and Environment, about 10% of the world’s forested land is privately owned.

Companies are too invest more in the forestsnoted the World Economic Forum, often with the aim of supporting their future activities in attempting to mitigate climate change. Business efforts, however, ranging from the protection of existing biodiversity to tree planting pledges who sometimes materialize, or can even make more harm.

How can a billionaire help preserve forests?

It was a mixed month for philanthropy. Bezos promised to donate the majority of his fortune, with a focus on fighting climate change. Mackenzie Scott, ex-wife of Bezos, becauseme one of the greatest living philanthropists. At the same time, Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of collapsed crypto exchange FTX, has discredited philanthropy in general, and the fundraising movement specifically. effective altruismboth by his irresponsible business practices and by his admission that many of his assertions about wanting to do good weren’t true.

Buy development rights to these islands—or even to other expanses of nature– and leaving them alone is a good way for effective philanthropists and altruists to redeem themselves somewhat. (And, it must be said, a far better way for them to spend their money than pouring it into techno-futuristic research into the distant prospects of colonizing the galaxy.) It’s definitely not ideal for a wealthy westerner buy and preserve these treasures of biodiversity. But the alternative – selling them to develop them for profit – does not hold. promise to resolve world environment problems, even the specific problems faced by Indonesia.

Palm oil and forest fires

Indonesia has a terrible record of protect its own biodiversity, and for the most part, his palm oil industry is to blame. industry deforested more than 300,000 hectares of forest in 2012 alone, the record year for deforestation to date, according to non-profit news site mongabay. This lead to some spectacularly destructive forest fires, resulting the draining of forest peatlands for the cultivation of oil palm. Fires in Indonesia in 2015 could have resulted in 100,000 premature deaths, according to a Harvard study, and emitted as much CO2 as the whole of the UK economy, Greenpeace estimate.

Jit records of international property developers do not recommend them as stewards of a network of pristine atolls either.

PT Leadership Islands Indonesia, the company to carry out the development of the islands, set aside $1.5 million for “security patrols,” the watchman reported. The company wants to stay away anyone with no “right” to be there, such as poachers and, presumably, potential tourists who don’t want to pay to stay the exclusive resorts planned for the islands. Who else – and what scrutiny – will they keep out? And is that really the best way to protect one of the last wild places on earth?

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