“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief.

I previously posted about Madagascar’s dire political state. In that post, I questioned whether Rajoelina’s despotic rule was perhaps the lesser of two evils, since it kept the socially and ecologically destructive MNC Daewoo at bay. Turns out I was wrong. Although I commonly, and in this case erroneously, like to blame MNCs, industry and rampant capitalism as the primary drivers of ecological destruction, the case in Madagascar has proven that a divided and utterly impoverished population, led by a desperately corrupt, illegitimate government is far worse than I could have ever imagined.
As I read through today’s Globe and Mail (my weekly Saturday treat), I finally came to the Focus and Books section, tucked all the way in section F of the paper. I had chills running down my spine, and fought to hold back tears of anger and despair as a I read through “The gangs of Madagascar: Armed looters invade fabled forests.” Gangs of armed criminals are taking advantage of the political disarray and are “assaulting the fabled forests of Madagascar, one of the world’s most sensitive biological zones.” Foreign businessmen (mostly Chinese) are organizing thousands of illegal loggers and animal traders, who are stripping the forests of any remaining rosewood and ebony, smuggling out rare animals, and in so-doing, destroying the habitat of endangered wildlife.
Many of you know that I spent the greater part of this year writing a thesis concerning community-based natural resource management in rural Madagascar. My conclusions spelled out that community-based organizations are generally a good way to organize existing knowledge and recouple societies with ecosystems. Communities have taken the protection of the rain-forest seriously, as they themselves directly suffer the consequences of a rising water table and eroding soils. No doubt, these communities face incredible challenges, and the associations are far from perfect. But with support from the national and local government, and international donors, the protection of the vulnerable rainforest by communities was becoming a common and fairly successful management practice. One way in which communities were protecting the forest was through local dina, or laws. However, the current situation has park staff and communities discouraged by the non-existant state support. In fact, it seems that the state-armed militia is supervising the transportation of the wood.
“It’s very alarming. We’ve been working with the local communities for years to better manage the parks, and now they suddenly see that the law is unenforced and you can break the law and even be paid for it.” –Nani Ratsifandrihamanana
Enter deep collapse
For someone who is in love with the island, its lore, its nearly unfathomable beauty and its bounty of endemic organisms, this news is devastating—Madagascar and all of her ‘hotness’ (of biodiversity) seems to be on an unstoppable spiral of decline. For those of you that are resilience followers, Madagascar is falling into what Buzz Holling would describe as a DEEP collapse.
But as I hang onto the memories I have of the island, I refuse to give up hope. There must be some way out of here—out of this downward spiral. I read yesterday in a book chapter by Alcorn et al. (2003) that despite the potential for local peoples’ movements to form the basis for a global movement, local/indigenous peoples cannot focus their energies on nurturing a global social movement from the grassroots. “They are struggling to survive.” The authors argue that support for local/indigenous people’s survival and social movements could nurture allies for a global social movement to recouple Earth’s societies to ecological feedback across scales.
The discourse that was emerging among local people regarding environmental protection has been crushed. Is it not then, the responsibility of national and global actors to reengage with this local discourse and protect not only the vulnerable ecosystem but also the local livelihood to which it is necessarily coupled?
The gangs of Madagascar: Armed looters invade fabled forests

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