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Friends of the Earth Argentina is engaged in a campaign to protect some of that country’s most important wetlands, and their campaign will soon arrive at the doorstep of an unlikely accomplice in the potential destruction: Harvard University.
According to a report released late last year by the Oakland Institute and the Responsible Investment at Harvard coalition, industrial timber plantations owned by Harvard University in the Corrientes province of Argentina have degraded the Iberá Wetlands ecosystem and endangered thousands of small-holder farmers in the region.
Harvard owns 212,500 acres of land in the Iberá Wetlands -- one of the world's largest reserves of freshwater -- and also owns two timber companies that are converting the land to monoculture pine and eucalyptus plantations. Since Harvard purchased the companies in 2007, the timber plantations have expanded into protected wetland areas and surrounding communities.
According to local residents, the companies generate little economic benefit for the local population because young people have to leave their hometowns as plantations decrease the productivity of their farms. Moreover, the plantations harm public health with their pesticides use and cause damage to public roads.
The monoculture plantations also devastate the environment as they reduce the availability of water for farming, increase summer droughts, create water shortages, and threaten critical habitat for hundreds of plant and animal species.
The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition is asking supporters to sign an Avaaz petition to demand that Harvard stop the plantations' expansion. This month, two organizers from Corrientes, Emilio Spataro and Adrián Obregón, will come from Argentina to Harvard Yard for a Week of Action to speak to student groups and administrators about the urgent need for Harvard to desist its exploitation and mismanagement of the Iberá Wetlands.
To learn more and join the rally in Harvard Yard on Friday, April 11, at 2:00 P.M, go to ResponsibleHarvard.com. To sign the Avaaz petition, click here.
See more about this case on the website of Friends of the Earth US