Heads You Lose, Tails I Win
World Bank has been OKing illegal logging in the Congo, says Greenpeace study
You’ve probably developed an immunity to scandal and outrage, but we’ll keep plying you with it anyway: a two-year study by Greenpeace International has found that in the past three years, Congolese village chiefs have handed over vast expanses of the world’s second-largest rainforest to European and U.S. logging companies in what some might call, um, uneven exchanges. African teak can bring in almost $8,000 per tree; in exchange for huge tracts of forest, tribes were offered simple buildings costing perhaps $20,000 — which sometimes didn’t materialize — while some communities were paid only in sugar, salt, tools, and beer. While the loggers, which have “rights” to the forest for 25 years, aren’t in Greenpeace’s good graces, the report focuses criticism on the World Bank, which encourages such “social responsibility” agreements — and is not enforcing its own logging moratorium. “If the trees go, then we will have nothing,” says one local. “We will be consigned to poverty forever.” Social responsibility ain’t what it used to be.