Fire on the Paramo
When it was over, a pine plantation to offset emissions by a Dutch utility produced only smoke
In the early 1990s, FACE, a Netherlands-based foundation created by a consortium of Dutch electricity companies, began establishing tree plantations around the world to offset the utilities’ burning of fossil fuel. One project involved a Kichwa community in Ecuador. Despite initial enthusiasm, the plantation imported dangerous exotic trees, failed to produce wood and income for the communities, and degraded the unique páramo ecosystem. Eventually, these factors contributed to a tragic fire, which probably caused a net loss in carbon absorption, even as the utilities chugged on. The United Nations has approved plantations for climate-change mitigation, and may expand that approval. But the residents of Mojandita are still smoldering.