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The Problems With Those Oscar Swag Bag ‘Conservation’ Land Plots Are Worse Than We Knew

Those land certificates aren't exactly as they advertise.

91st Oscars title card.

We’ve already written about the ridiculous items in the extravagant goodie bags given out to Oscars nominees, which this year included gifts such as free body sculpting and something called “Sweetums flavored intimate wipes.”

However, one Oscars gift is different from all the rest in that it’s not a product or a service but a symbolic land title.

“Pieces of Australia” is one of those conservation groups that reportedly uses donations to buy land in threatened ecosystems.

POA seems to be a relatively new organization, with the Oscars being their first major marketing move. Their YouTube has a single public video of the “vast estate of land they are protecting.” Their website is similarly sparse on details, though they assure readers that their “Conservation Packs are designed to contribute to the preservation and protection of rich biodiverse bushland & forest areas in Australia from being exploited.”

The irony is, of course, that the organization has been caught reportedly exploiting an Indigenous group.

The Indigenous Carbon Industry Network is a non-profit network that acts as “the peak industry body for the Indigenous carbon industry.” Basically, the group exists to empower Indigenous Australians’ ability to negotiate with and have their voices heard in the carbon industry.

But what does this have to do with ‘Piece of Australia’?

Well, POA reportedly included pictures of ICIN workers and references to them in their digital booklet that came with their Oscars gifts, implying that they worked closely with the ICIN in their conservation efforts. A claim that ICIN quickly rebutted.

“ICIN has not granted permission for any of our information, publications or photos to be reproduced to support the Oscars ‘Goodie Bag’ or ‘Pieces of Australia,’” ICIN stated on their website. “In particular it has not granted permission for any photos on our website or publications featuring Aboriginal people undertaking fire management to be reproduced by a third party to support the Oscars ‘Goodie Bag’ or ‘Pieces of Australia’ in any way.”

Pieces of Australia have since deleted the images and any mention of ICIN in their digital booklets. However, authorities and indigenous groups are still rightfully wary of the group.

While POA acknowledges the Baruŋgam Nation as the traditional caretakers of the land they’ve bought, the conservation group has not indicated that they are actually working with indigenous peoples to take care of the land.

POA is not the only program that appears to have engaged in deceptive marketing practices in the name of “conservation.” Established Titles has run a similar business, claiming the additional “perk” of the land also coming with a certificate that declares the recipient “lord or lady” of their Scottish conservation land. Both John Oliver and Devin Stone of Legal Eagle have warned against the potential scams of carbon offsets and purported land conservation groups.

What makes POA’s appropriation so much worse than these groups is the fact that they are essentially benefiting from actual indigenous climate activists’ work. Indigenous Australians are having their land and culture sites directly harmed by pollution and climate change, but many of these conservation groups don’t care to help or get involved. Selling indigenous land on top of that is just the cherry on top of the hypocritical sundae.

A reminder: Climate activism is not easy. It’s not a gift that can be given. It requires sacrifice and awareness and empathy. Perhaps above all else, it requires cooperation with those who actually know the best ways to conserve the land and use it in ways that benefit everyone.

(featured image: Academy Awards)

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Kimberly Terasaki is a Creative Writing graduate, fanfiction author, and intersectional feminist. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan. She appreciates all constructive criticism and genuine discussion.