GoodvBad

GoodvBad

Africa, make no mistake: abstaining from morality is immoral. Serious moves afoot to boycott those African countries that abstained from demanding that Russia withdraw from Ukraine. This includes South Africa which by abstaining from this historic vote condemns its own courageous struggle for democracy.

The majority of African countries, as with the majority of countries worldwide, voted to demand that Russia cease hostilities and withdraw. It was a historic and brave moment for the world. The results demonstrate which African countries are weak and withering, and which are strong and prospering.
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African Cowardice

African Cowardice

“We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression.”

When Kenya’s Martin Kimani, ambassador to the UN, concluded his lambasting of Russia in the UN Security Council last Tuesday we waited for the rest of Africa to follow suit. They didn’t.

My surprise has turned to anger. A life of empathy with Africa’s condition riles my intellect. What the hell is wrong with Africa, the part of the world that has suffered more from foreign occupation than any other?
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Unholy Alliance

Unholy Alliance

South Africa’s repugnant refusal to condemn Russia is a dangerous over estimation of the importance of its BRICS trade alliance. As a leader of much of the African world, it’s cultish suicide.

Attempts to frame the Ukrainian invasion as just another dispute among us rich and powerful is shameful. The South African Rand plunged today. Apparently the Rand understands.
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In The Darkness

In The Darkness

Britain’s House of Lords isn’t normally a cauldron for news. Scheduled tea breaks would likely prevail over debate of the imminent apocalypse of an asteroid racing towards Westminster. But Wednesday Lord Peter Hain managed to step onto the world stage to – with not quite these words – warn America of what has just happened in South Africa.

I’ve often connected South Africa and former President Zuma, with America and former President Trump. Well, move Mitt Romney into the mix, now. Something’s very depressing about all of this.
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Klassy Kruger

Klassy Kruger

Kruger National Park in South Africa remains the best managed large wilderness on earth. (Yellowstone is close but suffers from too little regulation because consumer demand is so high and ranchers so powerful.) But “best managed” does not mean most “spectacular” or “awe-inspiring” and definitely not “wildest.” Those attributes belong absolutely to the Serengeti.

And it’s the reason the Serengeti is so much more threatened than Kruger. The wildness of the Serengeti just doesn’t fit in with modern life.

Poorly managed and under-resourced kids are still being trampled by elephants, farmers are victimized by diseases like hoof-and-mouth and yellow fever that run rampant in a truly wild environment, and necessary dams and structured catchments essential for agriculture can’t be implemented without random destruction to the wild.
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Divy Up

Divy Up

Minutes after Biden’s speech ended the media of sub-Sahara Africa fired up. No matter they were all ending their day: “Biden tears into Trump,” Nigeria’s Independent online newspaper proclaimed. South Africa’s Business Insider focused on Barak Obama’s praise of the speech.

“Democracy is at a greater risk,” Business Insider concluded.

You have to go outside America to see what the speech means. No matter how historical or consequential the speech may be for Democrats and progressives, it doesn’t exist for Trumpians.
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Wars Woke

Wars Woke

I love Biden but boy do I wish Bernie were President. So do progressives throughout Africa and much of the rest of the world, including … Canada.

“The American polity is cracked, and might collapse. … some experts believe it could descend into civil war. What should Canada do then?” This is not social media garbage; it’s the editorial board of Canada’s biggest newspaper.
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Desmond Delivered

Desmond Delivered

There’s an intersection in the middle of Nairobi city which we used to call the Square of Churches years ago. There’s only one church there, the city’s main Catholic Cathedral, Holy Family Minor Basilica, and it’s a roundabout so I have no idea how the moniker developed.

Kitty-corner from the Basilica is Jomo Kenyatta’s Mausoleum. Between the two on the north end is the Intercontinental Hotel, and kitty-corner from that, City Park. If the new highway didn’t obscure my nostalgic memories I’d suggest that the name of the place be changed to the Desmond Tutu Plaza.
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Whoa Nelly!

Whoa Nelly!

Travelers squeezing hope out of several reports from South Africa that the Omicron variant declines as fast as it surges need to calm down.

Being cautious about this does not mean I don’t believe the reports. I do. This morning DMC News’ excellent summary highlighting South African scientists’ excellent field studies absolutely shows me that Omicron might be insignificant in South Africa in as few as a couple months. Why, then, the caution?
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Divide & Conquer

Divide & Conquer

If Boris Johnson hadn’t closed down his country and if scientists were organized well enough to give us a quick determination that the disease caused by Omicron is – as claimed by the South African Chief Medical Officer – mild, and/or that existing vaccines offer as much or better protection against Omicron than the flu vaccine does for the flu… the world would be in a much better place, today.

Whether Johnson’s policies and all those who followed him were well thought-out or reactionary doesn’t matter anymore. The die is cast. This latest blow to tourism in sub-Saharan Africa could be lethal. It’s spreading far beyond tourism. The influential Sowetan-Live news published, “Travel bans smack of colonialism.” The war’s begun.

WHO’s exhausted arguing that Omicron can’t be stopped by travel bans which do however impede research and implementation of global initiatives to stem the virus. The organization concluded a special meeting yesterday begging western nations to open their borders and share more vaccines.

This is no longer just an epidemiological debate. It’s political, economic and cultural.

Think of all the American governors who refused to shut down, to issue mandates or even publish statistics. The “Trump Front.” And the Trump Front’s base is rural, poor and feels disenfranchised from the America we know and love. The Front becomes most vociferous and dynamic where the demographics of the under-privileged meet the urban Mar-A-Lagos. There, the victimized poorest and the criminal richest don’t collide but collude.

Excluding politicians, hedge-funders and other evil exploiters, the common denominator between Mar-A-Lago and The Front is ignorance and the fear that creates when something new and threatening emerges like Omicron. Self-interest becomes muddled when you don’t know what to do. That’s the worst terror for the selfish.

So whether you’re Ted Cruz fleeing to the Caribbean or Donald Trump admitting he obstructed justice, or any of the nameless 600 being hunted down for storming the Capitol on January 6, you’re scared and … reacting.

Like Boris Johnson and the dozens of countries that followed that closed their “borders” to a virus that sneaks through steel mesh. The ramifications weren’t thought out before the bridge was lifted from the moat: Jail for the insurgents. Loss for the politician. Disharmony for the world. The perfect cesspool for a couple more variants to form. (Is war with Russia part of this?)

“Hate for Africa is unscientific, mindless” writes another correspondent in the Sowetan.

”Donald Trump called Africa a ‘shit hole’… Western nations have treated Africa with total and utter disrespect. From monumental human rights violations …to the ruthless exploitation of Africa’s mineral wealth, these racist policies continue… Today, Southern Africa is being ruthlessly punished for discovering and alerting the world for identifying a new variant.”

There is one earth and the virus attacked earth, not Brooklyn, not Torres del Paine, not Stellenbosch. As it divides and conquers us it heaves us into raw and hurtful divisions and those with either nothing to lose or the most to lose begin to fight to the death.

Should You Go?

Should You Go?

What’s the greatest risk to an international traveler right now? Obviously, Covid, but NOT for the reason you think! A vaccinated traveler is very unlikely to get sick from Covid. More vaccinated travelers are going to get hurt and some die from slipping on the stairs of the jetway than from Covid. More vaccinated travelers headed into wild jungles (who are taking malaria pills) will still get sick from malaria than from Covid.

The Covid vaccine is as much a game changer as Delta. Its efficacy is better than all the vaccines before it, better than malaria pills, better than attending daily mass, better than practically anything! So what’s the problem?
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Too Many

Too Many

There are too many elephants. So says, among others, the CEO of Elephants Without Borders, Mike Chase.

“Too Many” is awfully subjective. But many countries share Kenya’s just published wildlife census confirming its population of elephants increased 12% in the last seven years, Zimbabwe has revealed plans to cull up to 50,000 elephants, and Botswana is “deporting” thousands of elephants back to their home country in Angola, as absurd as this sounds. (Do they have ID cards or passports?)

There are somewhere between 450- and 500,000 elephants in Africa, almost all in sub-Saharan Africa and three-quarters of them in only five countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

This is probably about half what it was when I started guiding in Africa almost a half century ago. But consider this. The human population has more than doubled in that same time. Who should get the land?

The elephant population was actually very worrisome hardly three decades ago. The steep decline from poaching of the early 80s represented the peak of black-market ivory. It’s quite possible that the world population of elephants fell below 200,000.

That horrible trend line of the 80s and early 90s represented the abject stupidity of our species, concerned more with its immediate vanities than sustainability. Tens of thousands of wonderful individuals and countless excellent organizations responded by harassing world opinion, and global leaders were forced to create the CITES convention.

CITES was the turning point, not just in the decline of elephants but of many other species and as well, the great positive changes in the public’s perceptions of the wild.

I’ve written dozens of articles about CITES and its local law spin-offs, but several of my favorites were about a “dump roper” in Texas, another side-lining crook cowboy in Illinois and the end to selling Grandma’s necklaces on eBay!

All of these stories were of aggressive enforcement of local state laws essentially spun-off from CITES.

So the nosedive towards elephant extinction was stopped. The techniques were wildly successful and have probably contributed now today to the opposite problem: too many elephants.

By 2010 it was becoming apparent to me and many others that “poaching” was no longer such an evil enterprise as the criminal manifestations of local Africans with little or no hope for a decent future.

Instead of the giant corporate poaching of the 80s, with chartered helicopters and battalions of mysterious workers using bazookas and supersized nets, later poaching became a one-off affair of a group of disenfranchised and disenchanted young men.

One at a time the elephant tusks would find their way to some intriguing broker like the Queen of Ivory rather than dozens/hundreds of tusks packed into containers. Still the black-market was tenacious until China finally cracked down and forced its largest online retailers to remove all ivory products from sale.

At that point things turned quickly, and that was around 2016-2017. The trend line towards extinction was reversed long before, but the down line for annual populations clearly and unmistakably popped up.

And it’s been improving even more ever since, yet the “conversation about elephants” continued to be dominated by grandiose conservation organizations still panning the extinction theory! You can put practically every big conservation organization into this category.

This conservation pitch is woefully similar to the political “Big Lie.”

What was once a genuine plea to save our biggest land mammal has become the biggest conservation scam of the last hundred years. And guess what. It’s not helping elephants.

The Conversation. The conversation that we better start having is the natural competition between a growing population of humans and a growing population of elephants that is not sustainable without careful refereering.

“We need to take a holistic view of elephants and their long term effects on an entire system while considering changing landscapes, human beings living with elephants, anthropogenic changes to the land and the elephants themselves,” correctly states African Geographic.

And its pointless for Botswana and Angola to trade their excess back and forth, or for Zimbabwe to mass slaughter. What I think is needed is South Africa’s Kruger policies, which have changed over the last century always for the good of the overall ecosystem, including elephants. African Geographic’s excellent article linked to above details much of this successful strategy.

But it’s complex and sometimes necessitates a population decline. Sometimes, there’s culling. This is such an emotive issue that it’s hard to garner public support. It also becomes awfully divisive, pitting hunters against animal lovers.

Single issue politics is usually bad. Single issue conservation is, too.

When we migrate from “Save the Elephants” to “Save the Planet” we’ll discover quite quickly that elephants are an important part of that new mission and that the odds of saving both improve substantially.