Cruel Conservation?

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.




The 5th conference of the World Parks Congress convened last Monday, with the goal of increasing the number and percentage of protected natural areas worldwide. The meeting was marked by controversy regarding the overlap of land protection and native peoples’ rights. Former South African President Nelson Mandela welcomed the delegates to the conference in Durban, South Africa. Mandela and other speakers lauded the Congress for its plans to address poverty and impoverished peoples’ search for food as a contributing factor in environmental degradation. Scientists believe that the over-harvesting of foods in protected areas threatens ecosytems and biodiversity. But the Indigenous Peoples Caucus, representing about 150 groups worldwide, urged conference attendees to break from traditional western perceptions of land use and permit native tribes to stay on their land.

Past conservation efforts have driven tribes from their land, a practice which the Indigenous People’s Caucus argues is unjust and does not respect native peoples’ ability to live sustainably off their land. The Associated France-Presse reports:

“The Indigenous Peoples Caucus issued a declaration at the start of the event requesting special attention to their ‘expulsion and exclusion’ from protected areas.

‘According to international laws, we have a right not to be forcibly removed from our land,’ [spokewoman Joji] Carino said.”

The groups demanded that the 2,500 conference delegates provide them with open access to and management of their ancestral lands. Some tribes in the caucus were removed from their ancestors’ lands, while others have no say in their management. Reuters reports that the conference’s is “Benefits Beyond Boundaries” and aims to encourage conservation in areas beyond park borders as well as attempt to alleviate rural poverty by employing rural workers in ecotourism and other conservation efforts — but Indigenous tribes, apparently, aren’t seen as the priority that rural workers are.

The Caucus was further enraged by conservationist Richard Leakey’s comments that conservation was more important than the rights of indigenous people, the London Guardian reports. Indigenous groups believe their fight for justice can coincide with land preservation, and were angered by Leakey’s suggestion to provide “compensation” instead of allowing the tribes to manage their lands:

“‘Leakey’s taking us back to the colonial era ,'” said Edward Porokwa, of Tanzania’s Masai.

The World Conservation Union’s Congress will end on September 17th. In addition to its aims to fight poverty, the Congress has an agenda of protecting wetlands, improving marine protection, and working with mining and drilling companies to support conservation efforts. According to a World Conservation Union Report, 19 million square miles, or 11 percent, of the world’s lands are now protected — up from just 2 million square miles in 1962. But at least 700 highly threatened species still lack protection, the report says.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate