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Staying Green

Rebecca Ram

Guyana, I know by experience, is a country unknown to many. At times I smile after hav­ing informed someone that I am from Guyana because I know that many of them think that I meant Ghana. To avoid a comment about other Ghanaians that they know I've learned to quickly add, "It's on the northern Coast of South America," and then throw in "We speak English there..." to avoid that strange moment when I receive a compliment about how great my English is. What can I say; Guyana isn't the most popular country in the world. For a coun­try just a bit larger than Minnesota, it has just about one-fifth the population. In Minnesota there are approximately 61.8 people per square mile. In Guyana there are 8 people per square mile. Need some land? We have lots. But most of it is off limits unless you have no problem living in the middle of the jungle.


I saw the extent of my country's "greenness" for the first time two years ago when my family and I took a trip to Kaieteur Falls, the largest (in terms of volume) single drop waterfall in the world and without a doubt one of the most powerful falls on this planet. We left from an airport about ten minutes away from Georgetown, the capital. It took about six minutes of flying to move away from a densely populated coastline where 90 percent of the Guyanese population live into a thick blanket of rain­forest, which got taller and thicker as we moved closer to the Kaieteur National Park. After seeing this, it wasn't hard to believe that 80 percent of Guyana's land is rainforest. It was the greenest thing I had ever seen. Perhaps our large jungle is a reflection of our low population or our com­bined poverty, but whatever way it is seen, my little unknown country has a treasure that not many other nations have: a pristine rainforest!


The Guyanese rainforest is part of the Amazon Rainforest, which is con­tained in five other South American countries. The Amazon is the largest and most species rich rainforest in the world. Guyana's portion of the Am­azon contains more than 6000 species of plants, 700 birds, 200 mammals, 200 reptiles and amphibians and innumerable insects, many of which are endemic and some that have not even been discovered yet. Though rain­forests make up only about 2 percent of the earth, they represent the most common type of forest cover on earth today and contain over 50 percent of all the species of plants and animals in the world! Rainforests play a huge role in maintaining the balance in the earth's atmosphere by producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the environment. With the current rate of deforestation in the Amazon being 15,000 square miles per year, and this rate steadily increasing, it is estimated that the world's rainforests will disappear completely by 2050. Could the disappearance of the rainforests wreak havoc on our planet? Most scientists and envi­ronmentalists agree that rainforest destruction contributes to a climatic shift toward higher temperatures that threaten to wipe out the vast major­ity of plant and animal species from the Earth within decades. With these consequences looming it is no surprise that countries with rainforests are encouraged to preserve these rare treasures. The rainforest has to be saved for the sake of life on earth. Yet doing so at this point means that the economic development of nations that host rainforests must halt. This is a market failure but it is reality today as forests are worth more dead than alive. The president of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, rightly reminds us that legitimate economic activities such as selling timber, etc., are usu­ally to blame for deforestation because the world economy values these services more than the services that forests provide when trees are kept alive, including storage of greenhouse gases. For this reason since 2006, President Jagdeo has been pushing an idea that has been around for a while but has not been taken seriously: the world must create economic incentives to prevent deforestation. President Jagdeo has been an activist for this cause, and he has participated in negotiations for the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012 and in the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copen­hagen. Although the blame for the high level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere lies on the shoulders of the developed world, the con­sequences of global warming affect everyone everywhere and it will take a worldwide effort to curb global warming before it leads us to catastrophe. Guyana is ready to go but it can't do it alone. It needs the right economic incen­tives - and if these are provided the country is willing to protect almost its entire rainforest.


Guyana has developed a Low Carbon Develop­ment Strategy (LCDS) to protect the rainfor­est. Though Guyana has been accused of being yet another third world country looking for a way to gain some easy money, its LCDS has a sound purpose which has both economic and social benefits. It is not about being paid for not touching the rainforest. It is a strategy that can revolutionize the model of the country's economy by investing in low-carbon econom­ic infrastructure, facilitating investment and employment in low-carbon economic sectors, sustainably managing forest-based economic sectors, particularly forestry and mining, and creating new opportunities for forest dependent and other indigenous communities. It is a way of thinking that can benefit both the people of Guyana and the world.


On my trips to Guyana from Moorhead, I usu­ally need to get to New York City at some point. Flying over New York City is fun because there is a lot to look at. As we approach John F. Kennedy International Airport, my eyes are fixed on the land below. It fas­cinates me; the tall buildings and all the lights on every inch of land it seems. When I fly over Guyana. I take one look out the window and I know I am in a different world. The plane enters on the northern coast of Guyana where we fly over all things green separated by huge rivers, which flow out into the Atlantic. Here and there, a few specks of light can be seen until we get to the airport. The trees are not as big as those seen on route to Kaieteur Falls but the sight still steals my eyes as much as the view of New York City's skyscrapers do. Perhaps it is strange but the freshness of that green untouched land fascinates me. When the plane touches down on that green earth - that is my home - and I realize that I don't think I'd have it any other way. 


Gies , Erica "Climate for CONSERVATION." Americas 61.3 (2009): 6-12. 
"A Low Carbon Development Strategy, Transforming Guyana's Economy while Combating

     climate Change" (Office of the President , Dec 2009) http://www.gina.

     20draft%20for%20review%20-%20guyana%20low%20carbon%20 development%20strategy.pdf 

Pendergast, Sara. World mark Encyclopedia of National Economies. Volume 2, Detroit: Gale,

     (2002.) 209-216. 
"Rainforest Destruction." Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts

     On File News Services, 15 Jan. 2009. Web. 13 Jan. 2010. <http://www.2facts,

Source : BBC News

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