August 26, 2007

Globalization of conservation: a xenophobic view from the South

An essay in Science by J. P. Rodríguez and coauthors (Globalization of conservation: a view from the South) ends with these seemingly innocent words:
Large international nongovernmental organizations have efficiencies of scale and operation, as well as an important role in influencing global policy. However, we argue that leadership in conservation has to be decentralized and better integrated into local conditions. Locally produced strategies and agendas, implemented by strong local institutions and individuals are key to success.
What comes before this is a bitter critique of Conservation International, the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the like, and a conspicuous lack of criticism - or rather a conspicuous complacency - towards the truly bad guys in the story - the nationalists, xenophobes or whatever you call them, best exemplified by Evo Morales of Bolivia. The fact that two of the authors of the essay live in Bolivia, two in Cuba and one in Venezuela makes such complacency all the more conspicuous.

The authors of the essay state that some key proposals of international NGOs "are insufficient", "have rarely met expectations", and "are inadequately evaluated", but do not express the slightest hint of disapproval for the fact that "foreign organizations are seen by some Bolivians as usurping control of national territory". Foreigners trying to usurp control of national territory - the language is hilarious and scary at the same time; Francisco Franco would have loved it. For further reading on the topic the essay cites praising accounts of Morales's "nationalization" of oil fields and protected natural areas.

There is also something in the essay that says a lot about the ideology behind the current environmental movement:
Biodiversity conservation continues to require improved integration with human welfare concerns. This has been central to a long-standing debate among environmentalists stretching back at least to the 1970s when the Club of Rome think-tank, in its "Limits to Growth," emphasized the global risk to humanity and ecosystems from natural resource depletion, greatly influencing the modern environmental movement. At the same time, developing-world scientists from the Bariloche Foundation in Argentina produced the "Latin American World Model," which stressed the need to address socioeconomic concerns to build what we would now call a sustainable society.
The authors of the "Latin American World Model" called it a socialist society.

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