Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Blog takes off

For the first year or so, I wrote my blog on a fairly regular basis, but got little or no feed back. However, recently this has all changed. There appear to be real, live readers out there. YOU must be one. Several have emailed me at the World Land Trust, while a few have actually posted responses to my blogs. This is great. I don't write just to make a point, I also write to try and stimulate discussion. It is all too easy to assume that the way conservation has been carried out in the past is the right way, and to get stuck in ruts. But situations change, and so must we.

As an example, I grew up in an era when it was always assumed that the 'noble savage' lived in harmony with his natural environment. I was one of the first wildlife specialists to work for Friends of the Earth, back in the 1960s. FoE quoted the famous speech by Chief Seattle, on how nature and men are brothers, or something along those lines. It doesn't matter what was quoted, because the whole speech was a fake. Written in the 1950s, by an ex-Disney script-writer. And so is the 'Noble Savage' a fake. Humans have a nasty habit of living at the limits of their technology. Give a Stone Age tribe guns, and they will extirminate wildlife with zeal (and probably the nearby tribes as well). But the concept of the 'Noble Savage' living in harmony with nature is what underpins many peoples' views of the indigenes living in the rainforests. To me 'native rights' are not what we should be concerned with. We, as conservationists, should be concerned with the rights of local people, regardless of how long they have been there. What does it matter if an area was colonised by your grandfather, or colonised 2000 years ago? Why on earth should the fact that your great-great-great-great grandfather moved in and squatted on land give you greater rights than somone who only arrived three generations ago? In the UK we have abolished the hereditary rights of peers of the realm to govern. Because someone's ancestor was mates with William the Conqueror, it no long gives him or her the right to govern England. So why should some one who's ancestors arrived in the tropical forests a few generations back, have rights to exploit them in an uncontrolled manner?

Just a thought. I am not sure. But some views, from either side would be useful. So far the land acquired with WLT funding has never had to confront these issues; and it is always owned by a local organisation. But in the future it may need consider the rights of indigenes, so the views of supporters and readers would be most welcome. In fact I am considering designing a questionnaire -- so suggestions for the questions that need to be addressed would also be useful.

1 comment:

  1. I fully agree with you because we have reached a place in time where these social/cultural value debates remind me of that saying about "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic".