The Field Museum, Drugs, and Stupid Bureaucrats

My friend Tim sent this one: In today’s Chicago Tribune — a fairly bizarre bit of news about Chicago’s Field Museum and Peru.
Apparently the Field Museum has a program in Peru funded in part by USAID:

Field Museum has been deeply involved in the preservation of Cordillera Azul since 2000, when museum scientists first explored the uncharted rain forest in central Peru.æ Since 2001, when the region was declared a national park, the museum has been a key administrator of a complex and innovative program to involve surrounding communities in the long-term conservation of the 5,225-square-mile area.

While coca production has spiked and waned around Cordillera Azul for decades, Field Museum staff members have encouraged local residents to reject drug cultivation as damaging to the long-term health of the region and have promoted growth of legal crops.æ The museum has never been involved in the U.S.æ government’s drug interdiction efforts, however.

This is a long-term project to save the rainforest and provide alternate approaches. Well, coca paste was discovered in 3 of the 66 communities in the area, so the U.S. government was going to cut the aid. Fortunately, some cooler heads prevailed for now.
Now, I don’t know enough about the project to say how valuable it is, or whether it’s a good expenditure of tax money.
It’s the knee-jerk reaction that I find all too typical. A couple of incidents and they want to scrap a long-term program that is designed to find positive alternatives to a drug economy. So what would those communities do? Probably turn to the drug business.
[Just like the Mark Souder HEA financial aid law. Made a mistake and got arrested for pot? Well, we’ll take away your financial aid so you can’t go to college and then you can.. well, sell drugs, I guess. Take action NOW to end that horrible business.]
Back to the Field Museum…

When the museum first came into the area, communities agreed to work with its scientists and staff only after receiving assurances the program would be a long-term effort, said the International Relations Committee staff member.

Many other U.S.-based programs have made, and broken, similar pledges in the region, the staff member said.

“These are poor rural areas.æ The Field Museum is terrified and so is the committee that we are going to break that promise to them,” the staff member said.

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