Letter to the editor of the Kenya Nation:
From Environmental Activist to Environmental Pragmatist????
I read with great interest and concern a recent item in the Daily Nation discussing Nobel Prize Winner, Wangare Maathai's visit to the US and her lobbying for debt relief but also : "Resisting Appeals to criticize the bush administration on its refusal to endorse the Kyoto treaty on global warming."
The above comes in the wake of Prof. Maathai also having become a goodwill ambassador for the COMIFAC initiative which essentially endorses the industrialof the very nice language on sustainability which tends to go with such declarations.. The fact is that none of the conservation organization, the donors such as the IMF or World Bank, the EU have had any real success in controlling the environmental degradation and in many cases the negative social impact which comes on the heels of industrial logging of these, the worlds most diverse ecosystems. Once these forests are opened up it becomes extremely difficult and costly to control pretty much anything; bush meat poaching, the illegal felling of trees, clear cutting through slash and burn agriculture, immigration - resulting in large logging townships which often severely stress the existing social order and infrastructure. The countries in question do not have the resources or the level of governance to deal with these issues.
If we take the worlds remaining bits and pieces of primary rain forest, the fact is, the hard woods originating from them represents probably the most luxury of the natural resources exploited unsustainably (maybe with the exception of diamonds).
There are estimates out there suggesting that mankind would already need another 1.5 planets, like earth, to sustain the present off take of natural resources. We know that the hydrocarbons are in short supply, the same for phosphates, fresh water, the fish in the sea have been and are being drastically being over fished and on and on. Prof. Maathai makes the very valid point that the resulting 'resource wars' will be on of the major challenges facing mankind in the not too distant future.
How can we ever hope to bring exploitation of these more essential resources back to sustainable levels if we can not look at formulas, like declaring the worlds remaining primary rain forests as 'World Heritage Ecosystems' - possibly with the developed world setting up special trust funds, so their exploitation can be restricted to the needs of the local populations for their domestic needs. The fact is, there are enough substitutes and other wood sources on the market and as such the Congo Basin hard wood is a luxury commodity the industrialized world could do without.
I have little doubt that the Nobel Committee took this into consideration when awarding the Professor the prize for these, her views on her environmental activism. For her standing up to politicians and the corporations controlling resource extraction.
America in this context has the by far the largest environmental foot print certainly on the CO2 emission front. In addition the present US administration has developed the reputation for being as anti environmental as any in recent history. Many of the environmental protection legislation passed by the President Clinton, in the last days of his administration, have or are being systematically rolled back.
Dr. Jane Goodall, another international spokesperson on environmental issues, recently called the US administrations attempt, to weaken 'The Endangered Species Act', as being: "Disgusting". This from the same Dr. Goodall which for years has been advocating the 'Quiet diplomatic approach" in dealing with politicians and community leaders.
Clearly this approach has not and is not working and I have no doubt that Prof. Maathai would attest to this as for as her past activities in fighting for Kenya's remaining forests.
In this context I find it very distressing to see one of the only environmental activists with a global voice becoming just another politician going the way of least resistance, endorsing the corporate exploitation of the remaining primary rain forests and shying away from taking on the present US administration over their very questionable and poor environmental record.
African debt relief will, in the near future, be discussed by the G8 in Scotland , it is one of the main agenda items and has other international supporters and spokes persons like Bono and Bob Geldof. It is also on the agenda of a wide range of Kenyan ministers going on visits to foreign capitals. However where are the voices demanding more environmental transparency and accountability pointing out that poverty alleviation will be a lot easier if based on ecosystems which are still intact or can be salvaged?
Trying to be everything to everybody might be the way to win popularity contests and maybe result in invitation to the White House, however I do not believe it is the approach the Nobel Committee had hoped for when giving the peace prize to an 'Environmental Activist' and not another "Environmental Pragmatist".
Copyright © 2016 KarlAmmann.Com All Rights Reserved
All photographs © 2016 Karl Ammann
website by the Goldray Consulting Group