Friday, 13 October 2006


According to their website "Alcan created the Alcan Prize for Sustainability to recognize outstanding contributions to the goal of economic, environmental, and social sustainability by not-for-profit, non-governmental, and civil society organizations." On the surface this appears a worthy cause, and Chairman of the Adjudication Panel is Dave Runnalls, a widely respected environmentalist. So imagine my surprise when I saw that among the finalists was the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), from Canada. I checked their website to see if these particular Mennonites were trying to change the ways of their brother and sister Mennonites but there was no obvious evidence of that. Now Mennonites are well known as peaceful, rather introsective, deeply religious farmers (the Amish are among the best-known sects). But in places like Belize and Paraguay, they are also known as among the most efficient destroyers of natural habitats. Many of the the lands around the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA) in Belize (which the WLT helped save) were cleared by Mennonites, and they are still actively clearing the Gran Chaco of Paraguay. There is no question that they are efficient farmers, but in terms of wildlife and the natural environment, they are a disaster in many parts of the world.

I emailed both Alcan and Dave Runnals asking how they justified this shortlisting -- but answer came there none..... It would be interesting to know just how many thousands of acres of rainforests and other habitats the Mennonites have destroyed over the years. Does anyone out there in cyberspace have any data? I have no objection to Mennonites farming or buying land -- but why can't they buy existing farmlands, why do they have to destroy the world's last remaining wilderness? And why should such a sect deserve a prize for sustainability? Answers by email or on the usual postcard please.....

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