If You Want to Save the Amazon Rainforest, Privatize It

Derrell McIver | @BenjaminDMyles1

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most beautiful and essential natural features on our planet. Yet, it is now in great danger as fires, raging for many weeks, threaten the “lungs” of Earth. We should be worried about the Amazon rainforest. But calls for the government to act are not the answer. If they give up ownership and privatize it, governments will provide the best way for the Amazon and other threatened natural resources to be saved. By doing so, they will introduce a beneficial profit motive. 

How Could the Amazon Rainforest Be Privatized?

Many indigenous groups still call the Amazon rainforest home. These tribes claim land ownership first at no fee. The Portuguese and Spanish conquerors stole this land from them and passed it down to the current governments. This localization would enable the people who have the most immediate cause to protect their home to completely oversee its safety. 

Private exploration firms and non-profit conservationist groups could bid for the remaining land. The firms could either offer vacations or scientific explorations, or both. Since this land has never been homesteaded, private entities will affect the land in some way. They can do this by setting up defined and defended property boundaries to prevent intruding loggers. 

Advantages of Privatization

African governments maintain their nature reserves in a similar way. These national parks — run by the government — sell big game trophies to private hunters. This serves two purposes: animal population control and money used for protecting against poachers. The various governments should privatize these parks and the Amazon so that market competition, the threat of a lawsuit, and potential for boycotts can further the goal of conservation. Governments are by nature free from these threats. 

When governments have the final legal say, they protect themselves from the lawsuits needed to protect the forest. The courts of Brazil likely will refuse to hear a suit against the government for ineffectiveness. This is because of a doctrine called Rex Non-Potest Peccare, or “the King can do no wrong.” This only adds to the government’s inefficiency whereas in the private market consumers and investors can sue if something is being handled incorrectly.

But political boycotts and competition exist in democracies! We can vote politicians out of office!

This is highly unlikely. Brazil is going through an intense political clash. Even though the Amazon rainforest is a defining feature of the country, it is likely that the fires will have a little effect on elections. If we privatize it, we can allow those with a specific interest in conservation, like native people and tour companies, to achieve this goal. 

Rainforest Morality

How is rewarding the various governments with the money from these sales just? No: this is because the governments took the land by theft and force. However, a test of firms and non-profits’ ability to raise money for bids is a necessary protection to make sure the most deserving people get to own the land.

This may sound uncertain, but we know what happens with government ownership. Corruption and lack of profit combine to motivate governments to do nothing about the fires. This also extends to other threats such as illegal loggers and miners.

Governments must take these lands out of the commons and permit homesteading by private companies and charities if they want the Amazon rainforest to be saved. It is the political descendants of empires who own this land. Rightful owners and homesteading firms should exercise their claim to the Amazon.

The privatization of the Amazon rainforest is the best way to preserve it for the health of our planet.

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