An article from Do or Die Issue 7. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 76-78.
These Batac people of Palawan are being forced from their homes into settlements by WWF
All around the world, as you read this, children of other cultures are being kidnapped and forced into schools against their will and that of their tribes. People from Indonesia to Zaire are being forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands into shoddy shanty towns with poor sanitation and bad food. These people want to stay in their homelands, living as they always have; with no leaders and no civilisation; hunting and gathering.
But the land they live on contains rich minerals and trees. The greedy eyes of westerners want it, so they take it. A familiar story? Corporate aggression? Despotic governments? Missionaries? Martian invaders? Yes, all these things (well, maybe not martians), but one other thing that may surprise many people: the World wide Fund for Nature, which is instrumental in these invasions the world over. Behind the nice caring fluffy panda logo lies a nasty evil empire that would make Ghengis Khan look like a local mafia hood.
The WWF (World Wide Fund for nature) with its Panda bear logo is well known. It was created some 25 years ago. Trophy hunters like Prince Bernhard from the Netherlands, top managers in industry and the money business and top politicians saw that one of their most beloved trophies, the tiger, had been chased to the edge of extinction.
This dilemma for the trophy hunters and the need for a good reputation as conservationists brought one hundred of the biggest multinationals to the decision to donate one million US Dollars each (of course under attractive tax exemptions). WWF was born with this 100 million Dollar stock. Prince Bernhard became the first WWF President, now followed by trophy hunter Prince Phillip from England.
Since the beginning of its work the WWF has received much appreciation from all governments on earth. It even acts in many nations as a de facto ministry for the environment. For good reasons:
1. WWF is able to polish up the governments' good environmental image.
2. WWF helps to protect very small areas as nature reserves and therefore gives space for the indiscriminate destruction of huge remaining areas, by industry and small scale land grabbers. Their bluster about 'illegal' logging is merely a smoke screen to cover up the 95% of logging that is legal.
3. WWF helps to develop remote places with large areas of intact nature and get control over it.
4. As these remote areas are generally tribal lands of non-assimilated peoples WWF assists governments to get control over them and to assimilate them into the mainstream.
5. WWF promotes a very profitable tourism industry.
As a result of all this, the losers are savage peoples and - it may look paradoxical at first glance - wild nature in general due to the sacrifice of most of the land. As usual, the winner is the wealthy world.
The oppression of savage tribal peoples done by nature conservationists has never been a focus of discussion. Results of nature conservation activities have always been spin doctored to imply that the damages done to the savages were properly redressed. Shanty towns and coca-cola are no replacement for a three million year old culture. The point here is that compensation is irrelevant anyway, since these people should not be forcibly removed in the first place. The argument about compensation is a red herring to divert attention from the genocide being conducted by NGOs who pretend to support human rights.
In Zaire the Barhwa Pygmies were driven out of their ancestral land in order to establish the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. WWF has been deeply involved. The victims formerly lived, in dignity, in their traditional ways but are now exposed to alcoholism, prostitution, extreme poverty and exploitation by the neighbouring Bantu people. Likewise Bambuti Pygmies were driven out of the Maiko National Park as result of joint Government and WWF activities.
Similarly in Cental Africa, the Dzangha-Sangha Project which has been directed by WWF since 1988, has resulted in the destruction of the livelihood and loss of dignity of the Baka Pygmies in this area and in the loss of their ancestral homeland.
In Rwanda the Batwa Pygmies were driven out of the Nyungwe Natural Forest in 1994 to make way for a Nature Conservation Site. WWF was involved in the creation of this area and as a result the Batwa of Rwanda have lost their ancestral land and last refuge.
In Kenya the Tsavo East National Park has been established and is managed with the help of WWF, on the Sanye ancestral land. The Sanye have been severely prosecuted as poachers on their own land. As a result the Sanye peoples have been virtually destroyed as a society of hunters and gatherers.
In Namibia the Hai'om Bushmen have been driven out of their ancestral land, the Etosha Pan, which WWF is involved in securing as a conservation area!
In consultation with WWF the Government of Botswana declared, at the Xane kotla meeting in February 1996, that the 3000 last remaining Bushmen, in broadly traditional hunting and gathering lifestyles, have to leave their ancestral land and their traditional lives. The reason being that their ancestral land is now proposed as a new game reserve.
In South Africa the 40 last remaining Bushmen have been chased out of their ancestral land which is now largely used as the Kalahari Gemsbock National Park. WWF has been and still is involved. Furthermore they continue to discount the land claims of the evacuated Bushmen.
In India the Gujjar nomads in Uttar Pradesh are victims of a Nature Conservation Project, where WWF is directly involved. Also the last few aborigine peoples, belonging to the Negrito race, have been victimised by National Park projects in the Nilgiri mountains where WWF was and still is active.
In the Philippines the Haribon Foundation acts with WWF as a partner and receives considerable financial support from them. In 1988 the Haribon Foundation tried to chase the Batak, aborigines of Palawan island, out of their forested ancestral land all around Mount Puyos (Cleopatra's Needle) to make space for an extension to the Mount Saint Paul's National Park. The Batak were supposed to be resettled on a denuded area to help in tree plantations, commonly termed as reforestation projects. FPCN (see below) was able to put a stop to that plan, but the Haribon Foundation continued, using WWF money, to 'develop' the Batak. The money was raised mainly in the "debt-for-nature swap" business.
This resulted in a more or less forced settlement of the formerly free moving Batak and with this an almost complete loss of their culture and traditions. IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature - the umbrella organisation of which WWF is a part) is presently carrying out a study on the impact of the Batak on the remaining natural forest, regardless of the fact that thousands of Filipinos intruded on the Batak's ancestral land, making meaningful analysis unfeasible.
In Malaysia the Mannee, the very last aborigines still holding on to their traditional lifestyle, have lost access to half of their ancestral ground in the Banthat range due to a National Park project on Mannee tribal land, for which WWF is largely responsible. The remaining land is open to loggers, farmers and settlers.
WWF planned to evacuate the Papuan people from the area of the Lorentz National Park in Indonesian-occupied West Papua. WWF is in partnership with the Indonesian Government and the destructive American intruders holding the Freeport mine and is responsible for the killing of at least seven OPM (Organisation for a Free Papua) freedom fighters, who were killed during the rescue of WWF staff taken as hostages last year. Still though, WWF does not recognize OPM interests and land claims.
There are many more cases of small peoples victimised by joint Governmental and WWF 'nature conservation' activities and policy. As with most other conservation programs, this is a front for corporate expansion and destruction. These peoples have very few friends on Earth. Friends of Peoples Close to Nature, a non-hierarchical network, exists to rectify this situation, both by direct action and by political lobbying. If the process of civilisation and globalisation is allowed to wipe out the last remaining non-western cultures, we will be left with a human monoculture. If biodiversity is important, then human diversity is too. We must make alliances with and give support to these last bastions of hope for the future of humanity.
Whilst we in the 'first' world are trying to get our land back, these people still have it. They live as they have always done. As they die, our dreams die with them. Without them, the future of humanity is sealed in its present course, all alternative futures will be gone and the aberration of ten thousand years ago in Mesopotamia (see agriculture article in this issue) will have parasitised the whole planet. We need people to get involved. Not to be told what to do, or to buy t-shirts, but to actively join in the resistance of wild peoples around the world by attacking the heart of the problem right here in the 'rich' world. There can be no social justice within a culture that commits genocide on its neighbours.
Some of these peoples now number only a few hundred, in a couple of years they will be gone for ever, and part of our own humanity will be gone with them - unless we act decisively now. For more information and to find out what you can do to help, send an SAE to FPCN England & International Office, 50 Hillside Crescent, Whittle-le-Woods, Chorley, Lancashire, PR6 7LT, ENGLAND, Tel/Fax: +44-(0), 1257-230218