The debate rages on. World Watch magazine’s new issue contains a whopping 16 pages of letters [PDF] in response to Mac Chapin’s controversial article “A Challenge to Conservationists” [PDF], which accused big international conservation NGOs of trampling indigenous people’s rights as the groups work to put ever-larger chunks of land under protection. World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy — the three big international NGOs targeted in the article (BINGOs for those acronym fanciers) — wrote in, of course, but their letters are actually surprisingly dull and dry. More juice from two of the three can be found in longer responses posted on their websites (CI’s here and WWF’s here). CI’s website response in particular aims to rip the piece apart at the seams, picking apart arguments and citing a few (mostly minor) factual errors after laying the groundwork with this:
The article has many flaws, but one of the most significant is that the entire premise of the essay, stated at the beginning, is entirely untrue. A sweeping false assumption is then followed by arguments based on a series of inaccuracies. The article opens with, and is based entirely upon, the false assumption that “As corporate and government money flow into the three big international organizations that dominate the world’s conservation agenda, their programs have been marked by growing conflicts of interest — and by a disturbing neglect of the indigenous peoples whose land they are in business to protect.” This is simply untrue.
If you’re not anxious to lap up all 16 pages of letters, my “best of” list includes those sent in by Thomas Lovejoy (who contends that Chapin’s piece is largely off the mark), Mark Dowie (who says Chapin makes some decent points but the situation is improving), and Rebecca Adamson and John Nelson (who say Chapin hit the nail on the head, and give many examples to prove his point, including the forced evacuation of Pygmies from their ancestral lands in the Congo basin).
It’s a rollicking good debate. Join in the fun.
(And if you just can’t get enough, read about the kerfuffle the article caused inside Worldwatch itself.)
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