The Crimes of the Conservation Industrial Complex Against Africa and the Global South
From Ahmed Sule ,CFA & Dr. Margareth Rungarara-Keenan
To the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Conservation Industrial Complex
The agitation and mechanism for the reduction of population growth in the Global South and Africa in particular for the sake of preserving animal and plant species threatened with extinction is a crime against humanity and must be stopped.
Early this month, the United Nations Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a report which revealed the drastic collapse in biodiversity worldwide. Biodiversity is defined as the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat. According to the IPBES report which has been described as the most comprehensive report on biodiversity, around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Some of the key drivers for the deterioration identified in the report include pollution, climate change, population and per capita consumption increases.
In the aftermath of the publication of the report, commentators in the western media latched on the findings to call for the need to reduce population growth in Africa. In its editorial titled, “Decisive action now can save the world’s wildlife”, the Financial Times argued, “We must recognise that one underlying driver of biodiversity decline is a doubling of the human population since 1970 to an estimated 7.6 bn today, combined with a fourfold expansion in the global economy. Pushing down high birth rates, particularly in Africa where demographers expect most of the world’s population growth to take place over the next 30 years, is a politically difficult issue. But it is essential to ensure that all babies are wanted by both parents, through an emphasis on female education and empowerment as well as providing contraceptives to everyone who needs them.” Camilla Cavendish, a senior fellow at Harvard University noted in an article, “Whichever view you favour, it will clearly be a priority to help African countries adopt education programmes to slow population growth. Having more children is not in our interest as a species.” In responding to Cavendish’s article, a reader wrote, “Perhaps a solution could be found by the rich north making wealth-increasing investment in these countries in exchange for population control policies … a maximum two-child per couple policy aim would in time lead to a reduction in population due to normal survivorship rates and infertile couples. Controversial? Sure, but we cannot just stand by and let current laissez-faire policies condemn our species to death.”
The call for the reduction of Africans birth rate to prevent the extinction of the world’s plant and animal species is not a new phenomenon. Over the years, the western conservation industrial complex which comprises of governments, conservationists, family planning NGOs, scientists, billionaires, media commentators, academics along with their African and Asian accomplices have conspired to put biodiversity ahead of black and brown lives.
At face value, discussions about the linkage between population growth and biodiversity degradation appear to focus at the world’s population in general, but when one drills deeper one will discover that the population in question is the black and brown regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Rather than tackle the key drivers for biodiversity degradation by addressing the West’s insatiable consumption patterns, pollution, changes in land and sea levels, climate change, unsustainable global economic growth etc, conservationists have set their sights on the population of the Global South and Africa, in particular. Conservationists have identified a number of biodiversity hotspots, which are regions where significant levels of biodiversity are at risk from human beings. These hotspots covering countries like Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, India, Philippines and Malaysia are in places populated by black and brown people.
Discussions around reducting population growth in the Global South were initially centered around poverty reduction, scarce resource management and a better lifestyle, however, with the release of the UN IPBES report, the preservation of endangered species at risk could become the key rationale for nudging fertility rates down. Advocates for the nudging of Africa’s population growth have developed an Aristotelian syllogism along the following lines:
Premise 1: Animal and plant species are facing extinction.
Premise 2: One underlying driver of biodiversity decline is population growth.
Premise 3: More than half of the global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa.
Conclusion: Africa’s population needs to be culled.
Conservationist NGOs have now moved into the arena of family planning with the hope of reducing birth rates to create an enabling environment for animals and plants at risk. Reducing population growth in the Global South is considered to be a cheaper option in improving biodiversity as opposed to curtailing global consumption and pollution or slowing economic growth. In 2008, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) which is the world’s leading independent conservation organization produced a manual on integrating family planning into conservation projects working in remote areas of high biodiversity in developing countries. According to the manual, “In many of the areas where conservation organizations carry out projects, if the issue of natural population growth is not tackled, in the long term the resulting increase in numbers of people may undo all the benefits.”
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has come up with an innovative way to link population explosion and wildlife preservation through its Endangered Species Condoms’ which it describes as a “Fun, unique way to break through the taboo and get people talking about the link between human population growth and the wildlife extinction crisis.” The condoms are wrapped in packaging which depicts endangered species with captions like — ‘Wear a condom now, save the spotted owl’. CBD argues “In order to make sure we leave room for wildlife, it’s critical that every pregnancy is planned, and that people take the environment into consideration when planning when — or if — they want their family to grow.” Blue Venture, a marine conservation organization that operates in Madagascar integrates family planning services with its conservation activities. A number of western conservationists are also partnering with reproductive choice and women’s’ rights groups to offer contraceptive implants, Depo-Provera injections and intrauterine device fittings to poor women in the Global South.
In the process of reducing Africa’s birth rate, conservationists are putting the lives of women at risk. They prey on vulnerable poor women and urge them to take contraceptives, some of which are detrimental to their health. For instance, organizations like Blue Ventures and the Jane Goodall Institute administer Depo-Provera injections to women in their projects in Africa. This injection was championed by the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative (a programme which aims to get 120 million more women and girls in the world’s poorest countries to use modern contraceptives by the year 2020). This “shot” has serious side effects like potential bone mineral loss and increase the risk of HIV. It also has a dark history of over usage on black women. The Apartheid South African regime distributed Depo-Provera to black women working in the factories and farms and those who refused were threatened with job losses. In 1978, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carried out an audit on Emory University which conducted a study on the impact of Depo-Provera on 4,700 black women and found out that the lives of the women were put at risk. Later, the FDA stated, “Never has a drug whose target population is entirely health people been shown to be so pervasively carcinogenic in animals as has Depo-Provera.”
This agenda is driven by Western Europe and the United States, the global powerhouses in conjunction with scientists and conservationists who are more concerned with the state of the planet and the extinction of wildlife than the rights of Africans and Asians. Moreover, it is not acceptable to invade sovereign countries, disregard cultural differences between Western ideas and African culture and impose restrictions on how they should make use of what has been given to them by nature.
Western governments play a crucial role in reducing the birth rate in the Global South by providing funding to the various international NGOs that dot the southern hemisphere. In the last 50 years, the US government has taken the lead in funding family planning & reproductive health (FP/RH) globally. It is the largest donor to FP/RH projects in the world and one of the largest buyers and distributors of contraceptives. The US government via the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) operates reproductive health programmes in predominantly African and South Asian countries. In 2012, the UK committed to spending an average of £180m a year on family planning (FP) to 2020. According to FP2020, the top donor governments providing bilateral assistance for family planning between 2012 to 2017 totalling $7.4 billion were US, UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Norway .
In contrast, the 69 FP2020 focus countries comprise of black and brown populated countries like Afghanistan, Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Nigeria and Yemen .
The FP2020 notes, “Among the 69 FP2020 focus countries, injectables are the most common method in use in 26 countries, followed by pills in 17 countries, male condoms in 9 countries, and IUDs in 8 countries. Female sterilization is the most common method in use in 6 countries (Honduras, India, Nepal, Nicaragua, Solomon Islands, and Sri Lanka), ranging from 32% of modern contraceptive use in Sri Lanka up to 75% in India.” We perceive this to be a violation of human rights from such organization that should be protecting these vulnerable women.
When the Nazi’s implemented forced abortion on Polish women during the second world war , there was huge condemnation from the very nations which are now reducing Africa’s population. Similarly, when Deng Xiaoping implemented his forcible one child policy in China in 1980, there was a huge cry from the West who condemned his actions as barbaric. The treatment of Africans over the past decades and the irresponsible invasions by the conservation industrial complex akin to colonialism and apartheid. Participants in the conservation industrial complex might delude themselves into believing they are doing the world a favor by nudging poor black women in the Global South to undergo sterilization or use the pill for the sake of the planet, but as Martin Luther King put it, “It is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends.”
Because the purveyors of culling African birth rates are predominately whites, the voices of blacks are missing from the debate. Present day conservation/family planning management is a whitewashed pyramid scheme with white governments and white billionaires at the summit, white and sometimes black middle-class project/country managers in the middle and poor black and uneducated women at the bottom.
There is a one-way communication channel where those at the bottom are left with no choice than to surrender their reproductive rights at the altar of whiteness. It must be noted that the culling of Africans by outsiders could not be achieved without the help of insiders. Several African leaders have partnered with western NGOs to slow the population in the continent. The NGOs also rely on duly trained Africans to do the field work and administer the necessary contraceptives.
From a black perspective, the optics surrounding the urgency for blacks to forgo their reproductive rights for the sake of animal and plant species tells us that while animal lives matter, black lives don’t matter. The African region is viewed as a crossbreed between a 21st Garden of Eden and a jungle where after a couple of months of hard work, westerners can visit to relax and get in touch with nature. Western conservationists don’t see anything odd in substituting a black African baby with a black rhino. We acknowledge that tackling biodiversity degradation is important, however, it should not be at the expense of black lives.
We hear the loud voices and read the petitions of white conservationists and animal lovers when crows, badgers and hippos are culled, but when black babies are culled to make space for the Ethiopian wolf and the pangolin, the environmentalists press the mute button.
We witnessed the global outrage when Cecil, the Lion was killed in Zimbabwe, yet all we could hear was silence when Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland were murdered in cold blood by trigger happy racist police.
We are at odds as to why centuries ago, our ancestors were encouraged to procreate to produce offspring’s who served as slaves to the white plantation owner only to be told today that we are too many and causing animals and plants to go extinct. Black Lives Matter.
We don’t understand why our black babies have been dismissed by white conservationists as carbon debits and carbon emitters.
We try to rationalise why the African drill monkeys are welcomed into Europe with open arms while European governments look the other way as thousands of Africans perish at the sea trying to reach Europe.
We find it strange that conservationists have nothing to say about the fertility of pigs, cows and chickens even though meat production is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions, yet these conservationists manipulate black women to take the “shot” and swallow the “pill” to reduce greenhouse emission.
We watch in amusement as conservationist pontificate about the importance of reproductive rights and freedom for women in the Global South hence why we scratch our heads when we realise that reproductive rights for black women are only acceptable in the West when fertility is reduced.
Besides policing black and brown bodies by urging vulnerable women to reduce their fertility for the sake of extinct animal and plant species, some western conservationists have been accused of funding paramilitary forces to safeguard wildlife at the expense of black bodies. A recent Buzzfeed report revealed human rights violations perpetrated by the anti-poachers funded by the WWF. According to the report , “In national parks across Asia and Africa, the beloved non-profit with the cuddly panda logo funds, equips, and works directly with paramilitary forces that have been accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering scores of people.” The report also noted, “WWF is not alone in its embrace of militarization: Other conservation charities have enlisted in the war on poaching in growing numbers over the past decade, recruiting veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to teach forest rangers counterinsurgency techniques and posting promotional materials showing armed guards standing at attention in fatigues and berets.” It must be noted that most of the anti-poachers are Africans who are motivated to kill their fellow brothers for thirty pieces of silver paid directly or indirectly by western conservationists. In 2015, the former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano alleged that armed rangers in South Africa’s Kruger Park had killed nearly 500 Mozambicans for poaching activities. The funding of forest rangers to buy bullets which end up in the backs and heads of black poachers is another demonstration of the narrative that animal lives matter while black lives don’t matter. Once again, the biodiversity activists have lost their voice as black lives are abused.
Furthermore, several people in the Global South have been displaced to make way for animals. The Buzzfeed report noted, “Since 1872, when Native American tribes were forced to leave their ancestral lands to make way for Yellowstone National Park, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have lost access to their land to ensure animals roam in people-free spaces. These communities, from the Tharu in Nepal to the Baka in Central Africa, remain on the outside looking in at land where their ancestors gathered food, built shelter, and made medicine out of natural resources for generations”
The reducing of Africa’s population growth rate, the militarization of conservation management and the displacement of people from their ancestral homes are manifestations of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the western conservation industrial complex. People often associate crimes against humanity with war and pogroms against an ethnic or religious group which are carried out by governments or military personnel, however, the scope extends beyond this interpretation.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which has been ratified by many of the countries where the conservation NGOs operate and are registered, states in Article 7 (1): “’Crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack …. (b) Extermination. … (j) The crime of apartheid.” According to Article 7 (2) of the Statue, extermination includes the “Intentional infliction of conditions of life ….. calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population” and the crime of apartheid means “Inhumane acts of a character …. committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, states in Article II, “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: … © Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”
A key indicator in determining whether human rights abuse is a crime against humanity is if the act committed is widespread or systematic. Widespread means that the act is committed on a large scale rather than on an isolated basis, while systematic suggests that the act is done in a methodical or planned manner. The coverage of the cull has been concentrated in the top biodiversity hotspots which have a combined population in excess of a billion black and brown people. Furthermore, the conservation industrial complex is a well-oiled machine. Since the focus on reducing Africa’s and Asia’s birth rate for the sake of biodiversity is intentional, targets civilian racial groupings, leads to the destruction of black and brown populace, prevents birth rate within an ethnic group and reinforces white supremacy, there is a case for the people of the Global South and Africa in particular to file charges against the western conservation industrial complex for crimes against humanity and violation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
In view of the above, we charge crimes against humanity. The proof of our charge comes from the policies, manuals, websites, graphs, flyers, speeches, funding, comments , images, workshops, interviews, podcasts and films produced by the western conservation industrial complex. We call on the United Nations to act and call the conservation industrial complex to account. We call on all men and women of goodwill to rally behind our petition to put an end to the gradual extermination of the black race. We believe that in writing this paper, we are rendering a service to the progress of mankind. We have kept within the purview on the Rome Statute and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which covers acts to prevent births within a racial group.
Respectfully submitted as a service to the peoples of the world, and particularly to the lovers of justice.
Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA
Dr. Margareth Rungarara-Keenan