Fortress Conservation video

This video illustrates what Dan Brockington aptly called Fortress Conservation,


Let’s treat people as well as we treat animals

This could be an indication of an outbreak of common sense,

There’s a bold new idea on the front edge of conservation: Let’s treat people as well as we treat animals.

Story here,

Creating Conservation Communities

Dress for success


We have previously mentioned the current predicament of the Hadza. Here is an article in the Daily Mail, Face to face with Stone Age man: The Hadzabe tribe of Tanzania.

Ah, journalists. The Hadza don’t live in the Stone Age. “Hadzabe” is the feminine plural of “Hadza”; this usage is usually considered redundant in English, so we speak of the “Swahili”, not the “Waswahili”. The journalist writes,

I introduced myself and Naftal translated my words into clicks and whistles to an older Hadza called Gonga (Good Hunter in Swahili).

He smiled warmly, revealing surprisingly well-kept teeth.

The Hadza language, like many language in Southern Africa, use clicks as consonants, but no whistles.

There is a picture of the journalist in the article. He has surprising well-kept teeth for a British journalist.

What is interesting about the picture is that the young Hadza man is dressed up for the tourism business. Hadza men don’t usually use animal skins for clothing, and they certainly don’t use hoods. A hood makes no sense in the environment in which the Hadza live. There are photographs of the Hadza dating back to the 1930s, taken by Ludwig Kohl-Larsen, and there are later photographs taken by James Woodburn and others.

It is clear that increasing use of skins and also beads is a response to tourism. The Hadza are now on the tourism circuit. They put on their faux-traditional outfits for the benefit of tourists, and take them off when the tourists have left.

If that provides more income, why not? One danger is that government officials will find it embarrassing that there are people walking about in hides and skins, and will do little to help the Hadza with the biggest problem they face, loss of control and ownership of their lands.

Hadza hunters-gatherers under threat

The Washington Post reports on the Hadza hunter-gatherers,

50,000 Years of Resilience May Not Save Tribe

Tanzania Safari Deal Lets Arab Royalty Use Lands

YAEDA VALLEY, Tanzania — One of the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers on the planet is on the verge of vanishing into the modern world.

The transition has been long underway, but members of the dwindling Hadzabe tribe, who now number fewer than 1,500, say it is being unduly hastened by a United Arab Emirates royal family, which plans to use the tribal hunting land as a personal safari playground.

The deal between the Tanzanian government and Tanzania UAE Safaris Ltd. leases nearly 2,500 square miles of this sprawling, yellow-green valley near the storied Serengeti Plain to members of the royal family, who chose it after a helicopter tour.

A Tanzanian official said that a nearby hunting area the family shared with relatives had become “too crowded” and that a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family “indicated that it was inconvenient” and requested his own parcel.

The official, Philip Marmo, called the Hadzabe “backwards” and said they would benefit from the school, roads and other projects the UAE company has offered as compensation…

The long-run threat to the Hadza is habitat loss. Tanzania has for many years had one of the fastest growing human populations in the world, and the Hadza have lost land from encroachment by farmers and the destruction of woodlands. Ironically, what caused the destruction of one forest was the demand for charcoal from the neighboring Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The actions of the Abu Dhabi royal family may or may not threaten the Hadza’s livelihood, but obviously some Hadza believe it does. What the Hadza need are clear and well-defined property rights to their land, including rights to charge tourists and hunters.

Here are a few photos.

Sustainable alternative energy – biofuels in Indonesia

From Financial Times (registration necessary),

Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology signed a deal yesterday with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Hong Kong Energy Holdings to develop biofuel projects worth $5.5bn in two remote provinces.

The three companies intend to plant 1m hectares of oil palm, sugar cane and cassava over the next eight years in Kalimantan and Papua to generate bioethanol from the latter two crops and palm oil, according to a Sinar Mas statement…

Susili Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesias president, has said he want to prioritise alternative energy development to reduce dependence on oil and gas, in spite of objections from environmentalists. This includes targeting $22bn in investment to develop 6m hectares of plantations for biofuels…

The Sinar Mas Group is controlled by Indonesia’s Widjaja family whose Asia Pulp & Paper in 2001 defaulted in $14bn in debt in the biggest corporate default in emerging markets history. Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of Borneo, while Papua is the country’s easternmost province on New Guinea island.

The Papua development will involve clearing vast swathes of virgin rainforest, including additional areas for support facilities. Many communities will almost certainly be uprooted, according to Palm Oil Watch, a non-governmental organisation monitoring the sector…

“We are also worried about the impact these vast monoculture plantations will have on the environment, particularly as the Chinese don’t have much experience in this sector.”…

Is clearing the rainforest in order to produce biofuels a good idea? Obviously, “sustainable” and “alternative” does not necessarily mean “good”.

PATVIQs and local people

Tim Abbott writes in a comment on this post,

I found this a fascinating concept when you shared it with me and am pleased to see it moving to a new stage of development. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on its utility for protected areas that are most vulnerable to degradation from excess visitation (eg. Galapagos, Namibia’s Vis River Canyon), as well as those where local people realize very few tangible benefits. I’d imagine that communities that rely on tourism will need to see an equivalent amount and distribution of benefits from PATVIQ to embrace it as an alternative.

This is a really important issue. The good thing about PATVIQs (Protected Area Tradable Visiting Quotas) is that they can be bought and retired. If you could buy PATVIQs for e.g. Galapagos, you could choose not to use them. In this way you could provide financial support without putting a strain on the environment – zero footprint.

The aim is not to eliminate tourism, the aim is to provide income without necessarily increasing the number of visitors. Also, there are wonderful parks, e.g. Virunga, that deserve support, but visitors are few because it is a dangerous place to visit. This could be one way providing support.

Clearly some PATVIQs should be allocated to local people. Should they be allocated to communities or to individuals? My instinct would be to allocate them to individuals; people can always pool their resources if they want to. I have seen too many communitarian projects turn into poverty traps. However, this is not dogma, if collective ownership rights make sense in some places, why not?

Which proportion of all PATVIQs for a Protected Area (PA) should be allocated to local people? I have no idea, but looking at PATVIQs as a way of compensating local people for the opportunity costs of PAs could be a starting point.

Jared Diamond’s Collapse

John Hawks observes that Mel Gibson’s film Apocalypto is basically a novelization of the Maya part of Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive.

Diamond pushes this simplified version of Maya history as an allegory for U.S. ecological hubris…

…if you’re looking for the social zeitgeist behind this Apocalypto phenomenon, it would seem to derive from these widespread assumptions about Maya ecology and political structures that Diamond has helped to popularize. Collapse itself already simplifies vastly to make his point about ecologies and social regulation. The entire book is a case of “imposing an accessible scheme on a faraway time and place.”

Here is a fair 2005 review of Collapse by Jared Diamond. Partha Dasgupta writes,

…I think he has failed to grasp both the way in which information about particular states of affairs gets transmitted (however imperfectly) in modern decentralised economies – via economic signals such as prices, demand, product quality and migration – and the way increases in the scarcity of resources can itself act to spur innovations that ease those scarcities. Without a sympathetic understanding of economic mechanisms, it isn’t possible to offer advice on the interactions between nature and the human species…

There is no evidence that he even realises he doesn’t have the equipment to hand with which to study our interactions with nature...[emphasis added].


More on Collapse in a review by Ronald Bailey in Reason, here. More on Apocalypto by Tyler Cowen here.