Cut a Forest and Put a Man on the Moon

11 01 2011
Illegally cut mahogany log

Illegal sawpit logging in Uganda

Yesterday a Ugandan man and I were planning an environmental education training for teachers.  He was lamenting the poor state of the environment in Uganda and said that he wished Ugandans had the same sense of responsibility towards the environment that Americans have.  He said “why can’t we Ugandans see the value of the environment and the forests?”

I pointed out to him that the United States has actually cut down 98% of our original forests, and that we aren’t exactly model citizens from an environmental perspective.

His response was “Yes, but you have something to show for it.  We cut down our forests and have nothing – you cut down your forests and put a man on the moon.”

He has a certain point.  The rampant resource extraction of the 1800s in the United States made us a very rich country, and until recently that wealth was spread much more evenly across society than it is in many other parts of the world.

So here’s my question to you:  Why was the United States able to create national wealth from our resources when Uganda’s resources are just making a few people very rich?

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

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