Chicken or the Egg?
May 13, 2015 6:24 AM   Subscribe

The Ecotourism Industry Is Saving Tanzania’s Animals and Threatening Its Indigenous People. "With much of the natural world in the Global North already past the point of no return, and with the effects of climate change multiplying yearly, more and more of the Global South is being cordoned off in service of a global patrimony that has little relevance to the lives of the people closest to the land. The collateral social damage of these conservationist policies presents a conundrum, a Sophie's Choice. Whose rights are preeminent—those of nature or those of the people who have always lived closest to it?"
posted by infini (16 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This is an interesting and complex article.

more and more of the Global South is being cordoned off in service of a global patrimony that has little relevance to the lives of the people closest to the land

It's not just the Global South. Around here the big old family-owned ranches are being sold as trophy ranches, some to celebrities, some to people who made their money on Wall Street, and others to investment groups. There are ecological benefits, since the new owners do not need to make money from the land and so can use it much less intensively, but in every case the new owners do not allow access for hunting, mushroom picking, and so on. The land has been privately owned since the European settlement of the area, but it has had defacto public access for that entire time, something that owners of trophy ranches consider incompatible with their ownership and vision for the land.

I can see both sides of it -- if I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a 10,000 acre ranch, I doubt I'd want to have to deal with random hunters and hikers either, but at the same time it troubles me to see land access increasingly curtailed as a side effect of inequality, which is what is making these huge land purchases possible.

What I see here is like one-thousandth as contentious and complex as the indigenous land issues described in the article, but they are stemming from the same underlying pattern of access and control.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:50 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I remembered being bothered by the local politics of the book Gorillas in the Mist, in which Fossey almost always allied with the local farmers who were responsible for all of the habitat destruction but who didn't actively kill animals in the bush, against the poorer hunters who were despised by the farmers (and often by Fossey) but who had an active interest in expanding the wildlife habitat but no political muscle to pull it off. She did hire some of those hunters as trackers and guides, but it was clear that Fossey was willing to sacrifice the poorest and weakest humans for the gorillas.
posted by clawsoon at 6:54 AM on May 13, 2015

Related: Did you know that the WWF are funding death squads to save Mother Earth?

Did you know that some environmentalist organizations are basically ok with death squads? Or at least ambivalent about it?

When the environmentalist movement was founded, I don't think anybody could have guessed that the 21st century would herald the era of "Green Imperialism" ... the era of white people killing brown people for the sake of Mother Earth.
posted by Avenger at 6:58 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I almost couldn't finish reading the article because I was made blind by sheer rage.

Ths is a clear cut example of neocolonialism. If you're buying up land in a foreign country country, right from under the people who have lived there for generations, and then you hire guns and muscle to enforce those boundaries, you're not an entrepreneur or an activist, you are a colonist. That you then charge hefty amounts of money for other non-indigenous people to trespass is irrelevant.

"Save the environment [from savages]" will, if it hasn't already, become the Trojan horse by which (almost always white) Westerners seize and control indigenous lands in the global South, push them into starvation and population decline and the slow-moving horror of cultural legacy erosion. And when those peoples are subdued or nearly wiped out, Westerners will take their necklaces and their clothes and their songs and sell them to other Westerners who want to show others how cosmo they are.

FUCK these people. There are other ways to advocate for the preservation of wildlife.
posted by Ashen at 7:02 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

the era of white people killing brown people for the sake of

We've gotten used to it by now.
posted by infini at 7:16 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also, if you read the comments on the Vice article, one (white) commenter notes that the Maasai population has increased from 50,000 to 700,000 and that they should be given "birth control [...] to aid locals to adapt and improve their lives".

This is what well-meaning Green Imperialism looks like. There are just a few too many of you brown folks and it's bad for the environment, so ..... here, take some of these pills. It's medicine. It's good for you.

As for me, I consider myself an Environmentalist but I no longer really understand what that term means. I want the nature to be peaceful, unspoiled and beautiful. I want human beings to enjoy and participate in nature.

What I don't want, is hiring gunmen to protect scenic vistas and telling brown people to "stop having babies, because there are too many of you". I don't want to tell indigenous peoples that they must give up their whale and seal hunts because it personally offends my sensibilities.

I don't know how to reconcile these conflicting ideas. I'm simply at a loss to understand how we are going to "save the planet" in the future without trampling all over the people who live closest to the land.
posted by Avenger at 7:17 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

The local Makah gray whale hunt kind of falls under this rubric as well. Many folks are ready to throw the Makah under the bus with what seems like a totally unexamined "well-meaning Green Imperialism".
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:22 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Actually I think the opposition to the Makah whale hunt can basically be attributed to imperialism.
posted by Nevin at 8:15 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not too hard to imagine a slightly alternate universe where in the Canadian Indian Residential schools, whale hunting was forbidden along with native language and other cultural practices.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:38 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

The irony is that the article mentions its civilization and its benefits, like healthcare and diet, that led to Maasai living longer (and thus their population grew) and don't forget all the money you donate for improving maternal health and child mortality rates which are part of the MDGs set. Its like the left hand and the right hand aren't quite sure if they belong to the same body attached via the spinal cord to a brain.

Yes, its a complicated article and it sets up conflicted emotions.
posted by infini at 9:16 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised this article doesn't mention the conservancy system in Namibia, which seems to be a fairly successful way of managing many of the same problems. There are a bunch of areas designated as "wildlife conservancies." They're communally owned and managed by the people living inside them. Rich people pay exorbitant prices (like tens of thousands of dollars a head) to get their weird sad boners shooting (non-endangered) elephants and giraffes, and safari companies pay smaller fees to drive tourists around. All of the meat from the trophy hunting goes straight to the nearby villages. The money is used to reimburse inhabitants when a stray elephant tramples their millet crop. I'd personally prefer that nobody mows down megafauna for fun, but the system could be a whole lot worse.
posted by theodolite at 9:51 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

The WWF was started by trophy/sport hunters.
It does no good to punish poachers if you continue to allow trophy hunting.

By the way, meat from animals killed by trophy hunters does not go to poor villagers.
The meat of many big game animals is considered a delicacy. It sells for a high price in specialty shops, whether fresh or made into biltong, the Southern African version of smoked jerky. Trophy hunters don't even inject a serious amount of money into the local economy. The money ends up in the hands of land owners or politicians, same as the money from ivory poaching and rhino horn poaching.
Meanwhile no matter what is done, people and animals suffer and die for stupid reasons.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:26 AM on May 13, 2015

The WWF was started by trophy/sport hunters.

Don't let facts get in the way of your diatribe.

"The Conservation Foundation, a precursor to WWF, was founded in 1947 by Fairfield Osborn in New York City in support of capitalism-friendly ecological practices. The advisory council included leading scientists such as Charles Sutherland Elton, G Evelyn Hutchinson, Aldo Leopold, Carl Sauer, and Paul Sears.[8] It supported much of the scientific work cited by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, including that of John L. George, Roger Hale, Robert Rudd, and George Woodwell. In 1963, the Foundation held a conference and published a major report warning of anthropogenic global warming, written by Noel Eichhorn based on the work of foundation vice-president F Fraser Darling, Edward Deevey, Erik Eriksson, Charles Keeling, Gilbert Plass, Lionel Walford, and William Garnett.[9]"
posted by binturong at 11:40 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Critics allege some environmentalist advocacy for increased regulation of e-waste handling in mature economies produces economic disincentives to remove the most hazardous materials prior to export.

though it might be bit of a derail, I thought its another symptom of the Green Imperialism mentioned earlier. NIMBY
posted by infini at 12:13 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Global_Geneva recently released the third annual Top NGO ranking, and unfortunately, it’s more of the same. In 2013, I reviewed the Board profiles of the previous ranking, focusing on their gender balance and diversity, and links to the tobacco, weapons and finance industries. The findings were troubling. Many of the listed NGOs were not adequately diverse or representative, and over half had links to the above industries.

stop me if my grar is ott
posted by infini at 12:40 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Everything is terrible and neocolonial conservation is no different. But the alternative is rarely if ever a peaceful, traditional life lived by local people. It's modern development, with all that entails.
posted by one_bean at 7:19 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

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