One man's Eden


One can hardly blame Kristof for admiring the beauty of Gabon, pictured here in a creative commons licensed Flickr image from carlosoliveirareis, but maybe he could have said more about the ugliness masked by the idyllic landscapes?

Nick Kristof‘s in love. It’s so great for him and for his readers, who grow weary with all the dreary news he reports. No fistula stories for a change. Instead a beautiful beach in Gabon where a few elephants gambol. Kristof is smitten with Gabon’s beauty and its hope to build a green Gabon.

Gabon could be the Costa Rica of Africa with huge swaths of rainforest protected from development. Perfect for tourists and for the preservation of lowland gorillas. Sounds great, for some people who can afford to enjoy these treasures.

But not so good for the former forest dwellers in Gabon such as the Babongo. They, like so many other indigenous peoples of Africa, can no longer pursue their traditional livelihood of foraging (hunting and gathering). Extruded from the forest because of conservation areas and other forms of development, they have been “resettled” and now perform wage labor for others.

No longer stewards of the forest, they are outcasts in modern Gabon. Lowland gorillas have it better than they do.

St. Nick is a champion of the rights of women and girls around the world. He also loves pristine beaches and elephants. How about a few words about the desperate plight of the many forcibly displaced indigenous peoples of Africa — and elsewhere worldwide — whose lives have been totally ruined by development?

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