Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Monday, November 29, 2004

World Watch & TNC square off

In the land of sometimes it's better not to respond...... Here's an interesting exchange on the relationship between the big dog conservancies and indigenous people. The first is a pdf (reg.req) from a World Watch Magazine article by Mac Chapin that indicts The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International for basically running roughshod over the native people primarily in South America. A very condensed version is that the three groups have given lipservice to dealing with the natives... but in reality are compromised because what the Indigenous people think is best for themselves is often counter to the what the scientists see as best for biodiversity and the fundraisers see as best for keeping the corporate and governmental funders happy. So far I've only seen what TNC president Steve McCormick has to say in response.
I only learned about the controversy because I read McCormick's response. But World Watch is obviously talking to the larger environmental community and the foundations that help fund it. So there must have been a calculation at TNC headquarters that this shot couldn't be ignored.
The accusing article can probably be summed up by this quote on page 6.

"They see themselves as scientists doing God's work, " says one critic, poing out the conservationist's sense of a "divine mission to save the Earth". Armed with science, they define the terms of engagement. Then they invite the indigenous residents to participate in the agenda that they have laid out. If the indigenous people don't like the agenda, they will simply be ignored."

McCormick's response politely agrees that the article raises important issues about the need for dialogue.... then says it's a bunch of hooey. The nut of his argument.....

"Mr. Chapin’s underlying premise – that large international conservation groups are by their very nature incapable of effectively working with indigenous and traditional peoples – is simply incorrect.
Such a premise suggests that any organization working in disparate locations around the world and receiving significant individual, governmental or corporate support should not even attempt to work in areas with indigenous populations for fear of imposing foreign priorities and irreparably harming traditional lifestyles."

It's funny, if you substitute "indigenous people" for "Oregon residents" (see the article below) and the big three conservancies for government, you have pretty much the same conflict. It boils down to figuring out the questions... do people have a place in the wilderness, and if they do, how big of a place should they have? If the scientists' mission from God conflicts with the locals' God given right to do what they want to do with their land, who wins?
All topics for exploring.... but my bit of advice, even when saving the earth, a little listening and a touch of humility go a long way.


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker