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Alan Oxley - Keywords - Biography, Modus Operani
An Open Letter about Scientific Credibility and the Conservation of Tropical Forests
To whom it may concern:
As professional scientists employed by leading academic and research institutions, we are writing to alert the general public about some of the claims and practices being used by the World Growth Institute (WGI) and International Trade Strategies Global (ITS), and their affiliated leadership.
WGI and ITS operate in close association. ITS is owned by Alan Oxley, an Australian industrial lobbyist, former trade representative, and former Ambassador who also heads WGI. According to its website1, ITS also has “close associations” with several politically conservative US think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation.
In our personal view, WGI and ITS — which are frequently involved in promoting industrial logging and oil palm and wood pulp plantations internationally — have at times treaded a thin line between reality and a significant distortion of facts. Specifically, we assert that:
In summary, our goal is not to defend any environmental organization or to suggest that environmentally and socially equitable development is not an important objective for developing and transitional nations. Nor do we dispute that oil palm plantations, when established on previously deforested or abandoned lands such that they do not contribute either directly or indirectly to deforestation, can have important economic benefits and largely acceptable environmental costs. However, we do assert that a number of the key arguments of WGI, ITS, and Alan Oxley, represent significant distortions, misrepresentations, or misinterpretations of fact. In other cases, the arguments they have presented amount to a “muddying of the waters” which we argue is designed to defend the credibility of the corporations we believe are directly or indirectly supporting them financially. As such, WGI and ITS should be treated as lobbying or advocacy groups, not as independent think-tanks, and their arguments weighted accordingly.
William F. Laurance, PhD, Distinguished Research Professor & Australian Laureate, Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Thomas E. Lovejoy, PhD, Biodiversity Chair, The Heinz Center, Washington, D.C., USA; University Professor, George Mason University, Virginia, USA
Sir Ghillean Prance, FRS, VMH, Professor and Director Emeritus of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK
Paul R. Ehrlich, PhD, Bing Professor of Population Studies, President of the Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University, California, USA
Mace, PhD, FRS, CBE, Professor and Director of the
NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London, Ascot,
Peter H. Raven, PhD, President Emeritus Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Susan M. Cheyne, PhD, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, UK; Orang-utan Tropical Peatland Project, Director of Gibbon and Felid Research
Corey J. A. Bradshaw, PhD, Professor and Director of Ecological Modelling, The Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide; South Australian Research and Development Institute, Adelaide, Australia
Omar R. Masera, PhD, Professor and Director, Bioenergy Lab, National University of Mexico (UNAM); President, Mexican Network on Bioenergy, Morelia, Mexico; Nobel Laureate on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Gabriella Fredriksson, PhD, Research Fellow, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Studies; Knighted in the Order of the Golden Ark University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Barry W. Brook, PhD, Professor and Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change, Director of Climate Science, The Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Australia
Lian Pin Koh, PhD, Senior Research Fellow ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Zurich, Switzerland
3W.F. Laurance et al. (2010) Better governance to save rainforests. Nature 467:789.
4W.F. Laurance et al. (2010) Predatory corporations, failing governance and the fate of forests in Papua New Guinea. Conservation Letters In press
8“Scientists laud forest conservation deal for Indonesia”, Tropical Biology and Conservation, Bali, Indonesia, 23 July 2010.
9C.J.A. Bradshaw et al. (2010) Evaluating the relative environmental impacts of countries. PLoS One 5:e10440.
10L.P. Koh & D. Wilcove (2008) Is oil palm agriculture really destroying tropical biodiversity? Conservation Letters 1:60-64.
11E.B. Fitzherbert et al. (2008) How will oil palm expansion affect biodiversity? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 23:538-545.
12C. Barr & C. Cossalter (2004) Pulp and Plantation Development in Indonesia. Centre for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia.
14P.L. Shearman et al. (2009) Forest conversion and degradation in Papua New Guinea 1972- 2002. Biotropica 41, 379-390.
15P.L. Shearman & J. Bryan (2010) A bioregional analysis of the distribution of rainforest cover, deforestation and degradation in Papua New Guinea. Austral Ecology doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.2010.02111.x.
16H.K. Gibbs et al. (2008) Carbon payback times for crop-based biofuel expansion in the tropics: the effects of changing yield and technology. Environmental Research Letters 3:34001.
17L.P. Koh et al. (2009) Conversion of Indonesia’s peatlands. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7:238.
18M.F. Kinnaird et al. (2003) Deforestation trends in a tropical landscape and implications for endangered large mammals. Conservation Biology 17:245-257.
19M. Linkie et al. (2003) Habitat destruction and poaching threaten the Sumatran tiger in Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra. Oryx 37:41-48.
20B. Yaap et al. (2010) Mitigating the biodiversity impacts of oil palm development. CAB Reviews 5:1-11.
21M. Colchester (2010) Palm Oil and Indigenous Peoples in Southeast Asia: Land Acquisition, Human Rights Violations and Indigenous Peoples on the Palm Oil Frontier. Forest Peoples Programme, Moreton-in-Marsh, UK.
23R.A. Butler & W.F. Laurance (2008) New strategies for conserving tropical forests. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 23:469-472.
24T.K. Rudel et al. (2009) Changing drivers of tropical deforestation create new challenges and opportunities for conservation. Conservation Biology 23:1396-1405.
25W.F. Laurance et al. (2009) Impacts of roads and linear clearings on tropical forests. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24:659-669.
26W.F. Laurance (2004) The perils of payoff: Corruption as a threat to global biodiversity. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 19:399-401.
27J. Riańo & R. Hodess (2008) Bribe Payers Index 2008. Transparency International, Berlin, Germany.