Imagine having several million dollars to spend on nature conservation--and not being able to get a thing accomplished.
That's the position the leader of a prominent European nature organization finds himself in. He and the organizations he represents are trying to save endangered forests in Sumatra, Indonesia, but they've been at a standstill for years.
Why? Because the only real way to get things done there is to pay off the right people.
"Corruption is a nightmare," he said. "We are ready to buy forests for conservation and put millions into it, but we are not really making any progress because we don't pay under the table."
He continues: "It is unbelievable how difficult it is to save the forests for the local people, the nation and the global community by honest (and generous) payments for ecosystem restoration. We are being overrun by bad governance and individuals giving away common goods for private profits."
As conservationists, we hope we're above such things... but is it naive to pretend bribery isn't part and parcel of the way business is done in some places?
It's a debate worth having. If the stakes are high and there's no apparent alternative, should conservationists consider crossing some palms to advance a just cause?