I write this post with sadness. As I am typing, one of my friends and former colleagues is in surgery in a Nairobi hospital, a round from an AK having ripped off half his face and a second round through his shoulder. Another former colleague has just been buried in the red sands of Tsavo. This is the human price of plunder.
In the last two years, the massive escalation of elephant and rhino poaching in eastern and southern Africa has resulted in the emergence of powerful cartels which fund and control the wealth generated from the sale of the ivory and horn. There are various theories as to where the money ends up with some experts claiming that the money funds Al-Shabab activities in nearby southern Somalia. Others believe that there is at least complicity, if not full involvement, within the local government structures in order to allow for the massive scale of the current crisis. The crisis that is emerging erodes the natural ecosystems on which Kenyans are intrinsically tied and on which forms the foundation for the future.
Often, brave men like my two friends are all that stand between the widespread plundering of the environment by powerful groups of criminals. They have selflessly given their lives for that cause and will be remembered as heroes.
In Paul Collier’s book, The Plundered Planet, he asserts that the developing world’s greatest asset is its natural capital. Collier claims that the governance and management of natural assets can have one of two impacts: either to buoy the country towards a sustainable development path, or in the absence of regulation, result in the absolute plunder of the natural environment. In the past, too often, the latter has been the case. Governance (regulation), technology and natural capital form the three main components of his argument. A poignant reminder of this paradigm comes in the form of one of Collier’s simple equations: Nature + Technology – Regulation = Plunder. I will write more on this at a later date.
As one man’s family mourns him, and another man’s prays for his recovery, the plundering of the environment continues unabated. If the environment is crucial to our development, and the foundation of our future, it is my hope that we soon come to realize that the price of plunder is ultimately a human one.
Rest in peace brother.