Conservation Refugees Book Review

6 08 2010

Conservation Refugees

This book should be read by everyone who works in (or donates to) conservation anywhere in the world, as it is always important to examine the work we do and think about how we can do it better. This book exposes some of the worst aspects of conservation, particularly some questionable practices that the Big 5 (TNC, CI, WWF, WCS and AWF) engage in to maintain their massive budgets.

There are some holes in the book, however, and I was disappointed to find that he gives no viable alternative approaches to conservation. The success stories he cites are primarily forest-based, indigenous cultures with low populations that are still practicing their traditional methods of survival through care of their primary resource, the forest. He does not talk about the very different reality of communities that are heterogenous due to immigration, resettlement, etc, and who have no common historical practices to rely on to preserve their environment. The forest communities he talks about are also not dealing with the massive population pressures of the savanna areas in East Africa, and they are not agricultural to the extent that some other areas are, which causes encroachment on forests and other landscapes.

This book could be the basis for an incredible graduate seminar about global conservation, both for what it does bring to the table and for what it doesn’t bring. Definitely read this book, but read it with a critical eye. Thanks to Mark Dowie for fearless reporting.

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala