Richard Conniff

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El operador de una motosierra posa de pie sobre las raíces cortadas de un árbol de shihuahuaco durante un proyecto de gestión forestal en Perú. Credit Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

Cuando el tratado comercial entre Estados Unidos y Perú entró en vigor en 2009, sus defensores lo promocionaron como un ejemplo máximo de buen juicio ambiental. Era la primera vez que el texto principal de un acuerdo comercial incluía salvaguardas detalladas para el medioambiente y los trabajadores. Eso importaba —y todavía importa— no solo como modelo para otros acuerdos comerciales, sino también porque el medioambiente que supuestamente se estaba protegiendo incluía una enorme porción de la selva amazónica.

Como parte del Anexo sobre el Manejo del Sector Forestal del tratado, Estados Unidos proveyó 90 millones de dólares en asistencia técnica para fortalecer la aplicación de las protecciones por parte del servicio forestal peruano y para crear un sistema electrónico que rastreara cada tronco desde su corte hasta su exportación (hasta ahora, ese sistema no parece estar en funcionamiento debido a problemas con el software, según rumores).…  Seguir leyendo »

A chainsaw operator stands on the cut roots of a Shiwawaco tree during a forest management project in Peru. Credit Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

When the trade deal between the United States and Peru went into effect in 2009, proponents touted it as a shining example of environmental good sense. It was the first time the main text of any trade deal included detailed protections for the environment and for labor. That mattered — and still matters — both as a model for other trade deals and also because the environment ostensibly being protected includes a large chunk of the Amazon rain forest.

As part of the deal’s Forest Sector Annex, the United States provided $90 million in technical assistance to beef up enforcement by Peru’s forest service and to create an electronic system intended to track every log from stump to export.…  Seguir leyendo »

Despairing on Earth Day? Read This

Before the environmental activist and gay rights lawyer David Buckel set himself afire in Prospect Park in Brooklyn on April 14, he wrote a letter explaining that he had chosen his “early death by fossil fuel” as an act of protest against the environmental catastrophe that we are bringing upon ourselves and the planet. It was a horrifying end, not least because in life Mr. Buckel had successfully taken on issues as seemingly intractable as the legalization of same-sex marriage. If someone so capable had given up on the environment, one woman remarked to a Times reporter, “What does that mean for the rest of us?”…  Seguir leyendo »

A sawmill in Peru, where more than half of the logging operations are illegal. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Strange as it may sound, we have arrived at a moment of hope for the world’s forests. It is, admittedly, hope of a jaded variety: After decades of hand-wringing about rampant destruction of forests almost everywhere, investigators have recently demonstrated in extraordinary detail that much of this logging is blatantly illegal.

And surprisingly, people actually seem to be doing something about it. In November, the European Court of Justice put Poland under threat of a 100,000-euro-per-day fine for illegal logging in the continent’s oldest forest, and early this month Poland’s prime minister fired the environment minister who authorized the logging.

In Romania, two big do-it-yourself retail chains ended purchasing agreements with an Austrian logging giant implicated in illegal logging there.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian lumber in transit in 2008. Credit Michael Christopher Brown/Magnum Photos

I have loved wood and the smell of sawdust ever since I was a child and got to wander among the open sheds at the local l

umberyard. But for years now I have had a sick feeling every time I shop for almost anything made of wood. The prices are often unbelievably good, but then I notice the words “Made in Vietnam,” or some other country where illegal logging is demolishing forests at appalling speed, largely for the United States and European markets.

So I was pleased when I read this month that a federal judge had approved a criminal settlement in just such a logging case.…  Seguir leyendo »

Me and My Jetta: How VW Broke My Heart

The day I went to pick up my new Volkswagen Jetta TDI in March 2009, the salesman had me sit in the driver’s seat while he introduced the car’s various features. The engine was softly idling, and as I reached to shut it off, he told me not to bother. The minimal amount of fuel this car burned — sipped, in the automotive argot — was its great selling point. That, and the almost complete removal of hazardous exhaust that had made earlier diesel vehicles notorious.

This was that new thing in the world, “clean diesel,” using ingenious German technology to keep nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions out of kids’ lungs, and low enough to meet even California’s stringent pollution standards.…  Seguir leyendo »

Let’s stipulate up front that there is no great sport in hunting a black rhinoceros, especially not in Namibia’s open countryside. The first morning we went out tracking in the northern desert there, we nosed around in vehicles for several hours until our guides spotted a rhino a half mile off. Then we hiked quietly up into a high valley. There, a rhino mom with two huge horns stood calmly in front of us next to her calf, as if triceratops had come back to life, at a distance of 200 yards. We shot them, relentlessly, with our cameras.

Let’s also accept, nolo contendere, that trophy hunters are “coldhearted, soulless zombies.”…  Seguir leyendo »