Monday, December 13, 2004

Rev. Gerry: 2 Fascinating Stories of Hope from Africa

Good morning everyone,

Two stories today fire the imagination, both from Africa. On the surface, they have to do with the environment, and are powerful in their own right for only that. But underneath, they are both stories of the people reclaiming their heritage and creating a participatory democracy from a deep sense of shared ownership. These are powerful grassroots movements, giving us models of innovation with which to consider our own plight.

First are two stories story about Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai winning the Nobel Peace Prize, (“Plant a tree, grow a democracy,” and “A plea for new thinking”). Her leadership has resulted in the planting on 25 MILLION trees in Kenya, with support from international charities, and as a result building citizen-activist-owners of Kenyan resources. She did not do this without having to confront the powerful at great risk to life and limb. The story aptly draws a parallel between Kenyans taking back their land and building a true democracy, and our own modern world: “Under the rule of a despot in Kenya, Maathai observed what is true everywhere: Where public resources are handed over like booty to private interests - whether forests and minerals in Kenya or timber, oil, the broadcast airwaves, the Social Security Administration, or the unpolluted air in America - the spirit of democracy suffers.”

The second story, below it, is a Namibian project of the World Wide Fund for Nature. Locally managed wildlife conservancies have, radically, already put 1/10 of Namibia’s land under conservatory management, directly profiting the impoverished local people, who understand maintaining these resources for future generations. "My vision is that wildlife can help people out of poverty in Africa. But we should learn from places where there was wildlife once, and now there isn't any more. We have to sustain the resource."

Somebody wrote that we moderns are desperately flapping around like wildlife caught in an oil spill. I liked the metaphor, though not the condition. We are confronting a peaked out carbon-based economic system and divisive, polarized, politics promoting ongoing global warfare to feed the military-industrial complex that will, beyond rational comprehension, ensure oil’s earliest depletion.

That which we own communally, our water to drink, our air to breathe, our open spaces, our endangered fish and fowl and fauna and flora, our ozone layer, our glaciers and oceans and trees, our airwaves - even our common history, the education of our children, our control of our own thoughts and bodies - are less and less ours to direct, and our basic democratic freedoms are increasingly in question. But so far, we own the winds and no one has clouded over the sun, and between us all we have vast economic resources. We are possessed of the unlimited possibilities of the human spirit to create something better, and we have received the wake-up call to get to work.

So, I think a question we must ask ourselves is whether we will flop around with oil-soaked wings and gills, suffocating slowly in the inexorable tide of a ruthless force more powerful, or whether we might take a page from this kind of ingenuity to create ever-expanding pockets of sanity and peace for our future generations.

in peace, gerry
Rev. Gerry Straatemeier, MSW
Co-chair, Gandhi/King Season for Nonviolence, S. AZ


References:
Plant a Tree, grow a Democracy
Paul Vitello, December 12, 2004

see also: A Plea for new Thinking

The Nobel Peace Prize winner links the pursuit of peace with environmentalism and a shift in humanity's thinking. OSLO, Norway - To the beat of African drums, Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai received her Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, telling the audience of royals, celebrities and diplomats that protecting the world's resources is linked to halting violence.

"Today, we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system," the first African woman and first environmental activist to win the peace prize said.


See also:
Where the animals can build a community.

Africans are striving to make their wildlife their greatest asset, reports Michael McCarthy in Torra, Namibia

In Namibia in southern Africa, however, it is not an industrial facility on which the locals are staking their economic futures: it is a wilderness and its wildlife. It is a great and splendid array of elephants and rhinos, of giraffes and lions, of gemsbok, kudu and springbok.

A community based on wild animals, as British communities were once based on cars, cotton, coal or shipbuilding? It sounds preposterous, a fantasy.

But it is happening in Torra, and in the coming century it may be the only way forward for conservation in Africa, the continent where the world's most spectacular wildlife and the world's poorest people are on collision course.

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