Big International NGOs (BINGOs) like the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy directly cause the displacement of Fourth World peoples from their territories resulting in large numbers of native peoples living as refugees. Former Publisher and Editor of the magazine Mother Jones Mark Dowie writes in his new book Conservation Refugees that conservation organizations succeeded in establishing 108,000 officially protected conservation areas world-wide since 1900 and that half of these resulted in expelling indigenous peoples–forcing them into permanent refugee status. Displaced in the interest of conservation many indigenous peoples have been forced into poverty, assimilation and “trespassing” on their ancestral lands for food and sustainance. Dowie describes in his book the experience of the Maasai and the San of northeastern Africa and the Kalahari Desert; and the Karen forced into of Thailand and the Adevasis of India. Native peoples in North and South America have continued to experience the same adverse relations with conservation groups seeking to expell native people while “conserving the land.” These “conservation” groups fail to recognize that the native peoples are an essential part of the biodiversity in the very areas they seek to conserve. Instead of achieving balanced conservation areas, the BINGOs have succeeded in creating human misery, unbalanced territories and unthinkingly contributed to the adverse effects of climate change.
Mature cultures help ensure the biological diversity of ecological niches all around the world. It is the forced removal of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands that contributes to the degredation of ecological areas and the violent displacement of whole peoples into destitution and dependency. Forcing indigenous peoples into refugee status contributes to the imbalances that promote the destruction of forests, increased carbon emissions and wider releases of green house gases. The result: climate change and its adverse effects on all life on the planet. While it is true that the BINGO effect is only a small part of the climate change dilemma, there is no doubt that conservation without a balance between culture and the natural environment produces mutliple disasters–none of which are healthy for humans.
The United Nations reported at the end of 2008 there are more than 42 million refugees world-wide. Of these people forcibly pushed from their ancestral lands as a result of conservation, conflict and persecution perhaps half or 21 million are indigenous peoples. These are peoples forced from their territories like the Far pushed by the Sudaneese supported Arab tribesmen into Chad from Darfur. Indigenous peoples in Pakistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Somalia, Republic of the Congo, Lebanon and in Columbia are among those now forced into refugee status. There are native peoples refugees still in the United States, Canada and Mexico resulting from wars against the various indigenous peoples from the 19th century through to the present.
Indigenous peoples forced from their ancestral lands by violent clashes with invading forces continues as it has for more than four centuries. Conservation groups and their big brothers in the non-governmental organization arena should be natural allies to native peoples, yet they persist in their efforts to close off ancestral lands to the very people who balance the ecosystem with their cultural practices. BINGOs failure to fully appreciate the importance of balanced cultural and biological diversity in nature reflects the kind of narrow minded actions of those who would displace native peoples through conflict and oppression. This type of thinking is also responsible for the growing disaster we now recognize as climate change. BINGO conservation efforts and violent conflicts combined with the stupid production of poisonous chemicals and overuse of carbon-based energy sources will make all people refugees one day, but refugees with no place in which to seek refuge.
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