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Nature Conservancy

FLASHBACK | Conservation International: Privatizing Nature, Plundering Biodiversity

conservation-international

Seedling | Grain

October 2003

by Aziz Choudry

Conservation International’s corporate sponsor list reads like a list of the US’ top fifty transnational corporations. Biodiversity conservation is at the top of Conservation International’s list of goals. But as the list of Conservation International’s dubious ventures and questionable partners around the world grows, Aziz Choudry is starting to wonder if it is time to ‘out’ this ‘multinational conservation corporation’ and show its true colours.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C, with operations in over 30 countries on four continents, Conservation International claims to be an environmental NGO. Its mission is “to conserve the Earth’s living natural heritage, our global biodiversity, and to demonstrate that human societies are able to live harmoniously with nature.” [1] This all sounds very laudable and Conservation International has some very high profile fans. This year Colin Powell shared the podium with Conservation International President Russell Mittermeier at the launch of the Bush Administration’s “Initiative Against Illegal Logging” at the US State Department. In December 2001, Gordon Moore, who founded Intel Corporation, donated US $261 million to Conservation International, supposedly the largest grant ever to an environmental organisation. Moore is chairman of Conservation International’s executive committee. Conservation International has repaid Moore’s largesse by nam-ing an endangered Brazilian pygmy owl after him. [2]

Symphony of Failure

Vickrey

Environmental Activism in Four Movements

Counterpunch

October 16, 2013

by Gregory Vickrey

 

Allegro – Local Failure

In 2010, I wrote an article titled, “Environmentalism is Dead,” decrying the ineptitude and/or downright skullduggery of large environmental nonprofit organizations. At the time, I still held the foolhardy belief that we could keep environmental activism alive at the local level through traditional nonprofit vehicles, particularly because of the “good people” typically involved in such outfits and the hypothesis suggesting small and nimble – and the development of personal relationships – could create more effective tactics within a comprehensive strategy or agenda.

Of course, I was wrong.

I suppose one could argue isolated circumstances prove exceptions to the more idealistic rule, but conversations with activists around the United States and Canada, in particular, have only supplemented my own experiences to the point where the hypothesis above demonstrates abject failure in practice among the grassroots, local and regional fare.

Environmentalism truly is dead.

Keep Off The Grasslands | Mark Dowie On Conservation Refugees

WKOG Editor: We especially like the fact that Dowie distinguishes between member-funded and corporate-funded  NGOs. We also enjoyed the irony that the person who alerted Dowie to the indigenous peoples predicament was Rebecca Adamson, who, in turn, has capitalized on the indigenous rights paradigm to become a corporate broker.” [Further reading on More on Adams:  The Corporate Buy-In]

Video | These people have names…

Nakuru Lemiruni sends a message to those responsible for evicting the Samburu tribe from their land. The Samburu of Kisargei, in Kenya’s Laikipia district, were brutally evicted from the lands they call home in 2010 after the land was sold to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). AWF, using funds from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), says it bought the land on the understanding that no-one lived there. When the Samburu protested and took the matter to the courts the land was hurriedly ‘gifted’ to the government. Police chose a Friday “market day” for their attack, when the men were away and only women, elders, and children were in their homes. Fanning out across the 17,000- acre Eland Downs Ranch, police burned the Samburu families’ homes to the ground, along with all their possessions. Identified in the Kenyan press as “squatters,” the evicted Samburu families petitioned a regional court to recognize their ancestral claims to the land where they lived and grazed their cattle The suit has been filed by the Samburu against the African Wildlife Foundation and the former President. They need money and public support to win.

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The Sun Magazine

Issue 452 | August 2013

by Joel Whitney

Journalist Mark Dowie was speaking at an environmental conference in Ottawa, Canada, in 2004 when he was approached by Rebecca Adamson, a Cherokee and the founder and president of First Peoples Worldwide. She began telling him how conservationists were mistreating indigenous tribes around the world. Intrigued, Dowie decided to look into the subject and write about it.

He traveled for four years to remote parts of the globe, and what he found troubled him. Everywhere he went, native people were being kicked off their ancestral lands to make way for national parks or protected wilderness areas. Dowie wrote a book and titled it Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples. He estimates that over the past one hundred years there have been 20 million such refugees worldwide.

He also discovered that the large conservation organizations were partnering with corporations that wanted to build oil wells or gas pipelines or mine for minerals on these lands. Originally conservationists were opposed to drilling and mining, but, Dowie says, the lines between the conservation giants and the corporate giants are being blurred: “International conservation organizations remain comfortable working in close quarters with some of the most aggressive global resource prospectors.” These extractive projects are far more environmentally destructive than the presence of indigenous people, he says. In fact, it’s indigenous traditions that have protected these biologically rich lands, often for millennia.

Dowie was born in Toronto, Canada, and spent his formative years in Wyoming. He calls himself a “Wyoming cowboy,” and his son and ex-wife still own a ranch on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Dowie worked for Mother Jones magazine from 1975 to 1985, first as general manager, then as publisher, and finally as editor. In addition to Conservation Refugees, he is the author of Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century and American Foundations: An Investigative History. During his nearly forty years in journalism, he has won nineteen awards, been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and contributed to the Times of London, Harper’s, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation. He is currently a contributing editor at Orion and has taught environmental reporting and foreign correspondence at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

I visited Dowie at his home on Tomales Bay in Inverness, California, to discuss the fate of the conservation refugees. Inverness sits on the eastern shore of Point Reyes Peninsula, a protected national seashore. Dowie lives there with his wife — the artist Wendy Schwartz — and their yellow lab, Gracie, who welcomed me with a volley of barks as I crossed the yard on my first visit.

Dowie invited me to follow him through the reeds to his shore-side observatory, a small structure on stilts in the inlet. Six foot three and bowlegged, he stooped a little as he guided me past the poison oak. At seventy-four Dowie is silver haired, broad shouldered, and quietly assertive. When questioned, he answers quickly and without meandering. When challenged, he smiles as if appreciative of the chance to clarify his meaning. He emphasizes that the conflict between native peoples and conservationists is not a story of good guys versus bad guys but “good guys versus good guys.”

 

Whitney: Your book starts close to home with the story of Yosemite National Park.

Dowie: The creation of Yosemite was a long process that began with its “discovery” by white European Americans. Native Americans, of course, were already there. John Muir, forefather of the American conservation movement, is often cited as the park’s founder. He wrote and spoke lyrically about the spiritual renewal urbanites experienced when they entered places like Yosemite Valley — which he defined as a “wilderness” despite its long-standing human population.

Boreal Forest Agreement With Industry: Not One Hectare Of Forest Has Been Protected In Three Years

Canadian-Boreal-Forest-Ag-006

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” (CBFA) was reached on 18 May 2010. Photograph: Richard Brooks/Greenpeace/EPA.

“Efforts to control corporations’ destructive impacts must have a critique of corporate power at their heart and a will to dismantle corporate power as their goal, otherwise they reinforce rather than challenge power structures, and undermine popular struggles for autonomy, democracy, human rights and environmental sustainability” – Corporate Watch [Britain]

FLASHBACK: How Nonprofit Careerism Derailed the “Revolution”

December 27, 2004

Greens and Greenbacks

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

My good friend Lisa Goldrosen is a veteran of many left causes. Lisa has spent her entire adult life working in various coop endeavors. She has a wonderful collection of buttons and posters from back when America rose from the slumber of the Eisenhower years. She has buttons from the early days of the clean-up of the Hudson River ­ Pete Seeger’s precursor to Greenpeace. More are from the early Civil Rights Movement. Others are from the anti-Vietnam War effort and the SDS era on campus. She has one anti-war poster that could be recycled as is and still be useful today.

Lisa has arranged them all in a wonderful historic collage. She regularly uses it to give history lessons to young radicals here in Oregon. Someone always asks, “Why didn’t I ever hear about this in school?”

Being a 60s activist myself, having grown up in Flint — steeped in the history of the Labor Movement, a Civil Rights activist at fourteen, a UAW member at eighteen and a draft resister/ Conscientious Objector/anti-war activist later — I always enjoy my discussions with Lisa.

Recently, she put my frustrations with the current state of activism in full perspective.

The Three-legged Stool of Counterrevolution

Lisa notes, “The Revolution was derailed by three things: the end of the draft; Roe v. Wade and the rise of the nonprofit sector. Once the children of privilege were no longer subject to any personal pain, it was over. It was a brilliant strategy by predatory capitalism.”

While I’m not sure if Revolution, or even Reform, was/is inevitable, I agree. Once the draft and the possibility that middle-to-upper class kids would be sent to fight Imperial Wars was over, it’s easy to see how the bottom fell out of the anti-war movement. Recent Imperial Wars, fought predominantly with “volunteers,” are just as heinous as Vietnam, but with few highly-educated, comfortable kids’ lives being on the line, we have yet to see anything approaching the across-the-board, massive opposition that Vietnam engendered. (Astonishingly, this very year during yet another ill-fated Imperial misadventure, we saw the “Peace” Movement line up vociferously behind a proudly-stated “I’ll hunt ‘em down and kill ‘em” warmonger for president!)

Same with Roe v Wade. A whole lot of steam went out of progressive social efforts once this same socioeconomic group could gain access to affordable, legal abortion. (It appears to be the sole bottom line litmus test still applied to the Democratic Party.) Remove the pain and the rulers gain.

It really did become — remove the personal pain from these me firsters and the hiccup of resistance vanishes. I already felt that way about these two issues. But, Lisa’s expansion of the concept to include the rise of the “Nonprofit Sector” put the final piece of the puzzle in place.

What’s the Fallout When Green Groups “Partner” with Arms Makers? | Conservation International & Nature Conservancy

Apr 30

Posted by

"Bombs Away!" by Anxious223 Chris Dixon. Creative Commons license.“Bombs Away!” by Anxious223 Chris Dixon. Creative Commons license. 

About a year ago Conservation International was pilloried by a couple of British videographers posing as executives of the arms maker Lockheed Martin. They bamboozled a C.I. official in London into a meeting where she outlined several ways the nonprofit could “partner” with the arms maker under terms that looked a lot like greenwashing. You can watch the video here and judge for yourself if C.I. did anything wrong.

I had a few issues with the “exposé;” chiefly that C.I. already had dealings with B2 bomber maker Northrop Grumman, whose chairman and CEO Wes Bush is a member of its board of directors. And another big group, The Nature Conservancy, was already in the pay of Lockheed. These existing relationships undermined the shock value the scamsters were going for.

Still, you’d think the critique, or at least the bad press coverage it generated, would inspire reflection about the reputational damage some corporate deals can bring down on a nonprofit organization. More specifically, is a company that makes weapons of war an appropriate partner for a group whose mission is saving the Earth’s biodiversity? Well, if those questions were raised, they didn’t lead to change.

C.I. has just cranked up its P.R. machine in service of a new partnership with Northrop, “a unique and innovative professional development program for public middle and high school science teachers.”

In a nutshell: The Northrop Grumman Foundation will pay for 16 teachers from four U.S. public school systems to visit CI’s Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network’s Volcan Barva site inside La Selva Biological Station and Braulio Carrillo National Park in Costa Rica.

“We believe that supporting professional development opportunities for teachers will have the greatest impact on engaging students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. We expect this program will help cultivate the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Sandy Andelman, vice president at Conservation International in a press release the two partners issued April 19.

Whoa! That statement requires a reality check. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 3.6 million K to 12 grade teachers in the United States spread across 14,000 public school districts. The group selected for this program doesn’t even come close to representing 1 percent of the teachers in the country.

While they will surely have a rewarding time and may even return home to inspire their students, the scale of the program is too small to have the impact Andelman claims. Like so many of these corporate-conservationist joint ventures they are more symbolic than substantive.

How Environmental Groups Gone Bad Greenwash Logging Earth’s Last Primary Old Forests

The Great Rainforest Heist

April 16, 2012

by Dr. Glen Barry | Rainforest Portal

The world’s pre-eminent environmental organizations, widely perceived as the leading advocates for rainforests and old growth, have for decades been actively promoting primary forest logging [search]. Groups like Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Environmental Defense Fund actively promote industrially logging Earth’s last old forests. Through their support of the existing “Forest Stewardship Council” (FSC), and/or planned compromised “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” (REDD), they are at the forefront of destroying ancient forests for disposable consumer items – claiming it is “sustainable forest management” and “carbon forestry”.

Rainforest movement corruption is rampant as these big bureaucratic, corporatist NGOs conspire to log Earth’s last primary rainforests and other old growth forests. Collectively the “NGO Old Forest Sell-Outs” are greenwashing FSC’s destruction of over 300,000,000 acres of old forests, destroying an area of primary rainforests and other old forests the size of South Africa (two times the size of Texas)! FSC and its members have built a massive market for continued business as usual industrially harvested primary forest timbers – with minor, cosmetic changes – certifying as acceptable murdering old forests and their life for consumption of products ranging from toilet paper to lawn furniture. Some 70% of FSC products contain primary forest timbers, and as little as 10% of any product must be from certified sources.

FSC has become a major driver of primary forest destruction and forest ecological diminishment. Despite certifying less than 10% of the world’s forest lands, their rhetoric and marketing legitimizes the entire tropical and old growth timber trade, and a host of even worse certifiers of old forest logging. It is expecting far too much for consumers to differentiate between the variety of competing and false claims that old growth timbers are green and environmentally sustainable – when in fact none are. While other certification schemes may be even worse, this is not the issue, as industrial first-time primary forest logging cannot be done ecologically sustainably and should not be happening at all. FSC’s claims to being the best destroyer of primary forests is like murdering someone most humanely, treating your slaves the best while rejecting emancipation, or being half pregnant.

To varying degrees, most of the NGO Old Forest Sell-Outs also support the United Nations’ new “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” program (UNREDD, REDD, or REDD+), originally intended to protect Earth’s remaining and rapidly diminishing primary rainforests and other old forests, by making “avoided deforestation” payments to local forest peoples as an international climate and deforestation solution. Large areas of primary and old-growth forests were to be fully protected from industrial development, local communities were to both receive cash payments while continuing to benefit from standing old forests, and existing and new carbon was to be sequestered.

After years of industry, government and NGO forest sell-out pressure, REDD+ will now fund first time industrial primary rainforest logging and destruction under the veil of “sustainable forest management” and “carbon forestry”. REDD+ is trying to be all things to everybody – forest logging, protection, plantations, carbon, growth – when all we need is local funding to preserve standing forests for local advancement, and local and global ecology; and assurances provided REDD+ would not steal indigenous lands, or be funded by carbon markets, allowing the rich to shirk their own emissions reductions.

Sustainable forest management in old forests is a myth and meaningless catchphrase to allow continued western market access to primary rainforest logs. Both FSC and now REDD+ enable destruction of ancient naturally evolved ecosystems – that are priceless and sacred – for throw away consumption. Increasingly both FSC and REDD+ are moving towards certifying and funding the conversion of natural primary forests to be cleared and replanted as plantations. They call it carbon forestry and claim it is a climate good. Even selective logging destroys primary forests, and what remains is so greatly ecologically reduced from first time industrial logging, that they are on their way to being plantations.

Naturally evolved ancient forests are sacred and primeval life giving shrines, and standing and intact, large and contiguous primary rainforest and other old forests are a requirement for sustaining global ecology and achieving local advancement. Old forests are a vital part of the biosphere’s ecological infrastructure – and have a prominent, central role in making the Earth habitable through their cycling of carbon, energy, water, and nutrients. Planetary boundaries have been exceeded, we have already lost too many intact terrestrial ecosystems, and what remains is in adequate to sustain global ecology.

Primary rainforests cannot be logged in an ecologically sustainable manner; once logged – selectively, certified, legally or not – for throw-away consumer crap, their primary nature is destroyed, and ecological composition and dynamics are lost forever. What remains is permanently ecologically diminished in terms of composition, structure, function, dynamics, and evolutionary potential. Logged primary forests’ carbon stores, biodiversity and ecosystems will never be the same in any reasonable time-span. Selective, industrially logged primary rainforests become fragmented, burn more and are prone to outright deforestation.

Primary forest logging is a crime against Earth, the human family and all life – and those doing the logging, profiting and greenwashing the ecocide are dangerous criminals – who must be stopped and brought to justice. There is a zero chance of protecting and ending first time industrial logging of primary rainforests when the NGO Old Forest Sell-Outs say it is sustainable, even desirable, and continue to greenwash FSC old growth timber markets – now to be expanded with potential REDD funding – providing crucial political cover and PR for forest ecocide through their presence in the organizations.

Each of the named organizations’ forest campaigns are a corrupt shell of their former selves – acting unethically and corruptly – destroying global ecology and local options for advancement, for their own benefit. The rainforest logging apologists have chosen power, prestige and money coming from sitting at the old forest logging mafia’s table, gathering the crumbs fallen from the table to enrich their empires, rather than the difficult yet necessary job of working to fully protect rainforests and other primary forests from industrial development.

WWF, Greenpeace, and RAN are particularly culpable. With rainforests threatened as never before, RAN targets the Girl Scouts, Greenpeace supports Kleenex’s clearcut of Canadian old growth boreal forests for toilet paper, and WWF runs a bad-boy logger club who pay $50,000 to use the panda logo while continuing to destroy primary forests.

The only way this NGO old forest greenwash logging machine will be stopped is to make doing so too expensive to their corporate bureaucracies in terms of lost donations, grants, and other support – whose sources are usually unaware of the great rainforest heist. Ecological Internet – the rainforest campaign organization I head – and others feel strongly, based upon the urgency of emerging ecological science, and our closeness to global ecological collapse, that it is better to fight like hell in any way we can to fully protect and restore standing old forests as the most desirable forest protection outcome. Greenwash of first time industrial primary forest logging must be called out wherever it is occurring, and resisted by those in the global ecology movement committed to sustaining local advancement and ecosystems from standing old forests. There is no value in unity around such dangerous, ecocidal policy.

Despite tens of thousands of people from around the world asking these pro-logging NGOs to stop their old forest logging greenwash, none of the organizations (who routinely campaign against other forest destroyers, making similar demands for transparency and accountability) feel obligated to explain in detail – including based upon ecological-science – how logging primary forests protects them. Nor can they provide any detailed justification – or otherwise defend – the ecology, strategy and tactics of continued prominent involvement in FSC and REDD primary forest logging. They clearly have not been following ecological science over the past few years, which has made it clear there is no such thing as ecologically sustainable primary forest logging, and that large, old, contiguous, un-fragmented and fully ecologically intact natural forests are critical to biodiversity, ecosystems, and environmental sustainability.

We must end primary and other old forest logging for full community protection and restoration. The human family must protect and restore old forests – starting by ending industrial-scale primary forest logging – as a keystone response to biodiversity, ecosystem, climate, food, water, poverty and rights crises that are pounding humanity, ecosystems, plants and animals. There is no such thing as well-managed, sustainable primary forest logging – first time industrial harvest always destroys naturally evolved and intact ecosystems.

Humanity can, must and will – if it wishes to survive – meet wood product demand from certified regenerating and aging secondary growth and non-toxic, native species plantations. Humanity must meet market demand for well-managed forest timbers by certifying only 1) small-scale community eco-forestry practiced by local peoples in their primary forests (at very low volumes for special purposes and mostly local consumption), 2) regenerating and aging secondary forests regaining old-growth characteristics, and 3) non-toxic and mixed species plantations under local control. Further, reducing demand for all timber and paper products is key to living ecologically sustainably with old forests.

Local community development based upon standing old forests including small scale eco-forestry is fine. Small scale community eco-forestry has intact primary forests as its context for seed and animal sources, and management that mimics natural disturbance and gap species establishment. It is the industrial first time logging – selective logging, defined as selecting all merchantable, mature trees and logging them– turning primary forests into plantations, that is problematic. The goal must remain to maximize the extent, size, and connectivity of core primary forest ecosystems, to maximize global and local ecosystem processes, and local advancement and maintained well-being from standing old forests.

By dragging out the forest protection fight on a forest by forest basis, until ecological collapse becomes publicly acknowledged and society mobilizes, we can hold onto more ecosystems, biodiversity, and carbon than logging them a tiny bit better now. Soon – as abrupt climate change and global ecosystem collapse become even more self-evident – the human family will catch up with the ecological science and realize old forest destruction and diminishment must end as we ramp up natural regeneration and ecological restoration of large, connected natural forests adequate to power the global ecosystem. As society awakens to the need to sustain the biosphere, having as many intact ecosystems for models and seed sources for restoration as possible will be key to any sort of ecology and human recovery.

Rainforest protection groups engaged in greenwashing primary forest logging (an oxymoron misnomer if ever there was one), particularly while offering no defense of doing so, while raising enormous sums for rainforest “protection”, must be stopped. We must continue to call upon all big NGOs to resign from FSC and REDD, and join us in consistently working to end primary forest logging, and protect and restore old forests. Until they do, they must be boycotted and their funding cut off – even if this impacts other good works they may do, as old forests are such a fundamental ecological issue – until they stop greenwashing the final destruction of primary forests. And it is past time for their supporters to end their memberships as ultimately these big NGO businesses are more concerned with their image and money than achieving global forest policy that is ecologically sufficient, truthful, and successful.

As a rainforest movement, we must return to the goal of a ban on industrially harvested primary forest timbers. This means continuing to resist and obstruct old forest harvest, businesses (including NGO corporate sell-outs) involved, timber marketing, transportation, storage, milling, product construction, product marketing, and consumption. The entire supply chain for ecocidal primary forest timbers must be destroyed. More of us must return to the forests to work with local communities to build on-the-ground desire and capacity for ecologically inspired advancement from standing old forests, and physically obstructing old forest logging. We must make stolen, ill-gotten old wood from life-giving ecosystems an unacceptable taboo, like gorilla hand ash-trays, only worse. Together we must make old forest revolution.

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Join and follow the End Old Forest Logging campaign at http://facebook.com/ecointernet

 

Failed Saviors | NGOs & Ecotourism [Africa, WWF, Nature Conservancy]

Source

Are ecotourism and wildlife conservation in Africa so sacrosanct in the minds of their supporters that they’ve dodged proper regulation or perhaps even swerved off moral pathways?

I obtained with pride a Conde Nast ecotourism award in 2004 for my client, Hoopoe Safaris of Tanzania. But in the decade since then my own ideas about ecotourism and NGO involvement in African conservation have changed.

There are two issues, here. The first is that “ecotourism” is no longer a legitimate marker for good tourism practices in Africa. The second is that wildlife NGOs have grown increasingly callous of the priorities of local populations. So the two are related. Both discount the preeminent interests of local people in the areas where their interests are pursued.

The common thread that I’ve watch develop over the last decade is that western-driven “charity” or “aid” or “consultation” or “community based tourism” has grown increasingly isolated from the people who theoretically will benefit from those foreign efforts.

Even if there aren’t contextual conflicts, disputes about goals or methodology, the ignoring of the local populations’ interests spawns conflict. Imagine what you might feel if a Chinese NGO came into your suburban neighborhood and began research then implementation of plans to cultivate an herbal remedy … like garlic mustard… in the city parks. You would at least expect participation in the discussion, and you would become infuriated if you weren’t consulted.

In the last decade local people throughout Africa have increased substantially in numbers and in education levels as well. Most parts of Africa have become well linked to the outside world through increased internet and cell phone access. This empowers the local communities to better scrutinize their so-called foreign benefactors.

ECOTOURISM IS A SHAM

The academic community has always been skeptical of ecotourism. A 2007 Harvard study of Tanzania ecotourism concluded that while most such projects seemed legitimate, there was a substantial percentage that weren’t. An analysis by Ohio State University in 2011 of Tanzania ecotourism was much more damning. The report actually named (accused) specific Tanzanian operators that were scamming tourists with the ploy of arguing their products were ecotouristic when they were anything but.

The above studies, and many more referenced within them, are convincing documents that ecotourism if not an out and out scam is a very poorly formed idea. The initial theories might be good, but implementation seems impossible. And the Ohio State study in particular described why self-appointed certification authorities weren’t working, either, so that the notion of creating some universal standard is mute.

The UN initially thought otherwise. It promoted ecotourism but has since backed away from the idea. Almost a year ago exactly I posted several blogs citing the growing skepticism with ecotourism throughout the world. Nothing has changed; ecotourism as commonly applied in the marketing of travel is neither honest or good.

Khadija Sharife in the Africa Report summed it perfectly last week in the post’s title, “The Drunken Logic of Ecotourism.”

WILDLIFE NGO ARROGANCE

But in the year since I and many, many others pointed out the disservice that foreign marketing ploys like “ecotourism” do to local peoples, another foreign fixture of African life has emerged as equally unfair and misleading: wildlife NGOs.

It will be harder to convince you of this, I know. The loyalty that the world’s great animal savior organizations command is legend. It’s one thing to suggest that a relatively small foreign-controlled tour company in Tanzania is not serving the local populations well. It’s another to make this claim against the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) or the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).

WWF’s long involvement in Africa stands mostly as a fabulous contribution to baseline research and good management of threatened and endangered species. But as with the morphing of the idea of ecotourism into a marketing scam, it could be that the long involvement developed a sense of propriety WWF should not have presumed.

Its most serious conflict is in Tanzania in the Rufiji delta, the outskirts of the great Selous game reserve, which has come under increasing scrutiny because of its enormous hydroelectric potential. A much greater controversy actually than the WWF one I describe below is the World Bank decision to support a hydroelectric dam that could seriously disrupt The Selous and Rufiji delta basin.

But the World Bank’s mission to help developed countries grow and prosper is contextually proper in weighing the consequences of a dam draining a game reserve. The debate is heated and ongoing, and everyone accepts one important debate: who should make the decision? Professionals weighing the overall value to Tanzanian society, or local people immediately impacted?

Quite unlike the World Bank, WWF skipped this important step when it began programs to inhibit rice farming on the outskirts of The Selous. Local rice farmers were obviously the first to be impacted, but they had no input into the decisions regarding the project and WWF sought none from them.

The project mission was always suspect to me, but the rapid implementation without adequate consultation with the local population reeks of arrogance. The entire project has now devolved into all sorts of criminal and unethical consequences. Eight WWF employees have resigned, plus the Tanzania country director, Stephen Mariki.

WWF should be complemented for trying to right this wrong, but the culture that led to their presumption of determining the life ways of local Tanzanian people is the real problem. And that will be a much harder thing to remedy than just abandoning the rice project.

The current most egregious wildlife NGO controversy, however, is on no path to reconciliation because the organization, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), continues to defend its position.

AWF encapsulates its overall mission in the phrase “heartlands.” Over the last several decades, AWF has created heartland areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa in which it concentrates its research and assistance. An essential purpose is to create wildlife corridors between established nationally gazetted protected wildlife areas like national parks to increase the potential for biodiversity and reduce the inbreeding that could otherwise effect large wild animal populations.

Noble. The problem for some time has been to create these corridors, land must be acquired from private holdings. This may have something to do with AWF’s close partnership with the Nature Conservancy in 2007.

But what happens when farmers or other landholders don’t want to sell? AWF’s response has been high-handed and now, it appears, infuriated local populations are gaining the initiative.

In and around their large Manyara ranch holding in Tanzania, AWF has negotiated versions of eminent domain with the Tanzanian government that caused enormous friction locally. And now in Kenya, their acquisition of land (which they subsequently tried to deed over to a new Kenyan Laikipia National Park) is on track to totally cripple all their good efforts in East Africa.

AWF insists it has been playing by the rules. But two thousand Samburu people don’t care if they were playing by the rules or not; they insist with credibility that they have been displaced illegally from their traditional lands by AWF’s high-handed moves.

Unlike WWF, AWF seems to be digging in its heels for a fight that will emasculate it. And if it goes down as I expect it will, so will the reputation and memories of good work that wildlife NGOs have been undertaking for decades in Africa.

Why is AWF resisting an acceptable settlement? AWF is a much younger organization than WWF, and its donor base is much smaller than WWF, much less publicly than individually endowed.

Nature Conservancy is itself a less publicly endowed organization limited to wealthy landowners mostly in Illinois. It could be that these two closely held NGOs feel less vulnerable to public opinion than a more globally funded organization like WWF.

Both these situations, with ecotourism and wildlife NGOs, represent not just outside interference, but outside indifference to the preeminent rights of local people. And because that indifference has been so arrogant – dare one say “racist”? – it led these otherwise noble organizations into presumptions of their legitimacy that denied the preeminent legitimacy of local peoples.

It led tourist companies to scam local peoples with ecotourism; and it led wildlife NGOs to become deluged by the power of their previous successes. It led both types of organizations to ignore the legitimate and preeminent needs of the local populations.

Africa is developing so rapidly I can see incidents of polite refusal, so to speak, of tourist projects and foreign wildlife programs that are put to bed rather easily. The recent controversy in the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) involving the translocation of rhino is a good example of “local populations” politely indicting foreign organizations trying to tell them what to do.

But in heated political arenas, this politeness will be lost. WWF had to back down altogether, fire staff and refund grants. AWF should do the same. When sensibilities are exchanged for political control, foreign tour companies and foreign wildlife NGOs have no hope of prevailing.

Beware, guys. A lot of good has come from your work in the last half century. Don’t blow it.

Bolivia: The US Is Spying on Latin America Under the Cover of USAID and other NGOs

 “I am convinced that some NGOs, especially those funded by the USAID, are the fifth column of espionage in Bolivia, not only in Bolivia, but also in all of Latin America,” Morales said during a press conference in Oruro, a southwestern Bolivian city.

Feb 10, 2012

China Daily

LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales on Thursday accused the United States of spying on his and other Latin American countries.

The Bolivian president said the spying is done under the cover of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

“I am convinced that some NGOs, especially those funded by the USAID, are the fifth column of espionage in Bolivia, not only in Bolivia, but also in all of Latin America,” Morales said during a press conference in Oruro, a southwestern Bolivian city.

Morales said the United States, through the cover of development aid operations of those organizations, knows “all the details of the activities of the social sectors and union leaders” in those Latin American countries.

The president regretted that some union leaders were allegedly used by these NGOs to stir disputes such as the one over a highway project in an indigenous territory in his country.

An All Time Environmental Low? Objectifying Women | Nature Conservancy Partners with Sports Illustrated

“The corporate greenie Nature Conservancy takes greenwash to an all-time low. Quite unprecedented even for an “enviro” outfit that partnered with Dow Chemical.” – Tin Alvarez, Ecological Activist, EcoJustice Pilipinas

Beaches, Babes, and Conservation: What’s Wrong With That?

2/9/2012

 by Keith Goetzman

 The Nature Conservancy is taking a new stripped-down approach to environmental protection: The green group is teaming up with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and online luxury retailer Gilt to raise money for beach preservation in an unholy mashup of sex, commerce, marketing, publishing, and environmentalism.

Why the green tie-in? “Because everyone benefits from pristine tropical beaches. Especially when they’re occupied by gorgeous women in bathing suits.” That’s according to promotional prose about the partnership on the Gilt website, in an announcement that is no longer posted. (Though you can still buy a $1,000 ticket to a New York launch party where you can hang out with the swimsuit supermodels.)