Conservation vs. development, to me at least, always seemed to be a false dichotomy.
However, within the last 12 hours alone, I’ve seen multiple posts that argue otherwise. One was in Foreign Affairs regarding Morales’s declining regime, and another on two large concessions in Gambela, Ethiopia (Saudi and Indian); these are disparate continents and issues, yet both writers seemed to think that unless a national park or protected area has a fence and federal guards 24/7, people have the right to abuse the land. The more striking assumption, however, is that it would not be in the interests of the citizens to preserve their wildlife–as if people do not fish, hunt, drink water, breathe air, wear clothes made from plants, consume plant-derived medicine, grow food that needs pollinators, or take advance of the hundred other ecosystem services afforded them by the land they live on. Development does not have to be the crazy roller-coaster that China embarked on, with the obsessive emphasis on cheap fuel and rapid industrialization. We have already seen examples of African entrepreneurs taking advantage of abundant solar resources to provide clean electricity, and of the power of simple cellphone networks to transform personal banking and increase market access on the continent. Why should it stop there?
I don’t know that paying for ecosystem services is the ultimate answer to this dichotomy, but other market-driven incentives already exist. Ecotourism. Agroforestry. Shade-grown organic-certified coffee and tea. And if we drive ourselves to be more creative, more will arise.