While the topic of land deals gradually became an object of passionate dedication, Markus Giger continues to describe the related problems with sober calm; he lists examples and notes that such “mega deals” are only part of the story – but goes on to add: “When you hear that such and such amount of land was cleared to grow palm oil again, it really hurts.”
What is it that hurts the most?
It varies. Even back when I was working in Indonesia in the 1980s, we witnessed virgin forest being cleared for palm oil plantations. I passed through areas where there were only monocultures and a few small villages scattered in between. The monoculture landscapes were an eyesore compared with the multifunctional, culturally shaped landscapes that you found in less-affected areas of Sumatra. And when you know that this is increasing, taking away people’s ancestral lands and way of life, eroding biodiversity, and exacerbating the climate crisis with deforestation, you ask yourself: What does this mean for us once it’s all gone?
How can this negative spiral be stopped?
(grins) It’s a question of whether pessimism or optimism prevails.
(reflects) You shouldn’t underestimate people’s ability to innovate. Things can suddenly come into being that you would never have believed possible. And maybe the day will come when reason prevails and those with decision-making power say: Now is the time not just to talk, but to truly act.
While Markus Giger became increasingly involved with governance issues over the years at CDE, his degree in agronomy from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and his studies at the Institut Agronomique Méditerranéen in Montpellier, where he focused on rural development, still come through here and there. So, too, now. “Aspects of the solutions – innovations – have to come from the technical sciences.” As with renewable energy or digitalization. “Because it’s extremely hard to change governance, let alone human nature. Technical innovations are easier.”