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Foreign Policy May June 2017

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First, It Came for the
Polar Bears
Yeah, the Weather
Has Been Weird
People already believe
in climate change—the trick is
getting them to realize it.
The Watson Files
What if there were a blueprint
for climate adaptation that
could end Somalia’s civil war?
An English scientist spent his
life developing one—then he
vanished without a trace.
The Timely
of Climate
Change Denial
in China
From Western plot to party
line, how China embraced
climate science to become
a green-energy powerhouse.
The Radically
of America’s
Best Idea
The United States may have
invented national parks—but
the rest of the world helped
perfect them. Now, generations
later, that spirit of cooperation
and competition might just
be the thing that saves them.
Observation Deck
The Wages of Sin Is
the Death of the World
Lean In to
Climate Change
Mexico City’s Last
Living River
photographs by
The Inuit Whale Hunter
interview by ELAINE ANSELMI
Planned Parenthood:
Two philosophers discuss
the ethics of mitigating
climate change by
limiting procreation
The Ministry of
The Thucydides Trap
Out and About in
Bogotá, Colombia
interview by LAURA DIXON
Dispatches from around
the world by FP staff
004 Contributors
084 The Final Word
David Rothkopf
Rebecca Frankel
Benjamin Pauker
Amy Finnerty
Cameron Abadi
Keith Johnson
Adam Griiths
Thomas Stackpole
Dan De Luce, Colum Lynch
David Kenner
David Francis
Ty McCormick
Robbie Gramer, Elias Groll,
Jenna McLaughlin,
Paul McLeary, Emily Tamkin
Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer
Reid Standish
Benjamin Soloway
Ruby Mellen, Kavitha Surana
Shannon Schweitzer
Brian E. Stout
Edmon DeHaro, Matthew Hollister,
Jeff Lysgaard, Steve Walkowiak
Daniel Altman, John Arquilla,
Peter Bergen, David Bosco,
Ian Bremmer, Rosa Brooks,
Christian Caryl, Mohamed A.
El-Erian, Peter D. Feaver,
David E. Hoffman, William
Inboden, Charles Kenny, Christina
Larson, Aaron David Miller,
Thomas E. Ricks, James Traub,
Stephen M. Walt, Micah Zenko
Katie Gardner
Duc Luu
Maria Ory
Keith Arends
Tom Tempe
Allen Chin
Tianho He
Michael Crescione
C.K. Hickey
Christopher Cotnoir
Jessica Holzer
Noah Buyon, Christian Paz
Stephanie Cherkezian,
Grace Rooney
Alex Dor
Matthew J. Curry
Henry Riggs
Hanna Berman
Jonathan Chan
Saxon Stiller
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MAY | JUNE 2017
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Sharon Weinberger
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We are standing
at a crossroads.
Whether it’s a question of climate change, WKHWKUHDWRIQXFOHDUFRQȵLFW
The Global Challenges Foundation
GCF & thought leaders
sharing what you need to know on
Global Catastrophic
Risks 2017
is an atmospheric
scientist and director of the Climate
Science Center at
Texas Tech University, where she is
also a professor. In
2014, Hayhoe was
named one of TIME’s
100 Most Influential
People as well as
an FP Global Thinker.
She is producing
Global Weirding:
Climate, Politics and
Religion, a short
series for PBS Digital Studios.
Geoff Dembicki
is a freelance journalist and author
based in Vancouver,
Canada. His work
has appeared in the
New York Times,
the Atlantic, Vice,
and Mashable. His
first book, Are We
Screwed? How a
New Generation Is
Fighting to Survive
Climate Change, will
be published internationally in August.
Luc Forsyth
Laura Heaton
is a journalist based
in Nairobi. She is
contributing to a
book on the role of
women’s leadership
in post-genocide
Rwanda, working
with U.S. Ambassador Swanee
Hunt. Her work has
appeared in the New
York Times, NPR,
Newsweek, and
National Geographic.
Heaton is a climate
change reporting
fellow with The
GroundTruth Project.
is an independent
photojournalist and
filmmaker based in
Mexico City. Before
relocating to Latin
America, Forsyth
spent nearly a decade
in Asia, where he covered social, political,
and environmental
issues. His photography and videography
have appeared in
such outlets as the
New York Times, the
National Geographic
Channel, Al Jazeera,
and ESPN.
Goodall is a primatologist known for her groundbreaking work with
chimpanzees, which convinced her fellow anthropologists of the
individuality and human characteristics of primates. A U.N. Messenger of Peace, Goodall is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute
and the Roots & Shoots program, which brings environmental issues
to children around the world. She travels 300 days a year, arguing
for environmental and animal preservation. “We can stop this crazy
rush to extinction,” she says.
MAY | JUNE 2017
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June 5–July 27, 2017
Lionel Gelber Prize
2017 Winner
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
from 2007 until 2011. He is
raised in Manhattan, he now
The Lionel Gelber Prize was
founded in 1989 by Canadian
diplomat Lionel Gelber. The prize
is a literary award for the world’s
“The Arab Spring’s ebb and
consequence can be mistaken
5DJHIRU2UGHU makes the
years, perhaps decades, in
the Middle East to its core, telling the region’s
the Arab Spring has not receded, nor has the
Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and Foreign PolicyPDJD]LQH
Follow us on Twitter and
“It is morally uncomfortable to ask whether we should have smaller families.”
photographs by LUC FORSYTH
Mexico City’s Last
Living River
The most populous city in North
America has only one living river
not confined to underground
pipes: the fragile Río Magdalena.
The forest ecosystem that nurtures it is the same one that supports the majority of Mexico
City’s water sources, including
the vital Cutzamala reservoir
system. Though the Magdalena
feeds into the water grid, it turns
from clear to sludgy shortly after
it makes contact with the periphery of the city. The river becomes
a “disgusting sewer,” says photographer Luc Forsyth, as soon as
it hits the urban sprawl. “I have
never seen so dramatic a shift
in a river within a few hundred
meters.” Urbanites living along
its banks could easily go their
whole lives unaware that the
Magdalena remains pristine just
a few miles upstream. Farmers
and shepherds whose rural countryside the Magdalena passes
through have compelling incentives to protect the river.
Much is at stake. “People
make the mistake of thinking the
source of their water is the aquifer,” Forsyth says. But “the source
of their drinking water is the
forest—the ecosystem that feeds
the Río Magdalena.”
MAY | JUNE 2017
A discarded birdcage is exposed
in the summer, when the Río
Magdalena is at its lowest level,
leaving Mexico City with virtually
no fresh flowing river water. The
capital was once home to many
rivers, but governments unwilling to invest in their maintenance
drained and encased them in
underground pipes.
A car tire is half-submerged in a
pool of raw sewage. Quickly upon
entering the city, Río Magdalena
becomes too polluted to support
much wildlife, and far too repellent to invite recreation.
MAY | JUNE 2017
(Previous spread) An ofering of
fruit and flowers has been left on
the banks of the Río Magdalena.
Such rituals are typically performed only near clean water, a
resource in short supply in Mexico City, where drinking water is
pumped in from more than 90
miles away. Many rely on bottled
water even to bathe their children.
The crumbling remains of an electricity generating station along
the Río Magdalena. At one point,
four such facilities existed, supplying power to private factories
that have since shut down.
Cows graze in a field around the
unsullied stretch of river outside
the city center. Even during the
dry season, the Río Magdalena
supports life in the hills surrounding Mexico City, says Fermín
Vazquez, a tourist guide who
works in the area. If the river were
to dry up completely, very little
could survive the hot summers.
MAY | JUNE 2017
A tree’s eroded roots are choked
with plastic that has washed
along the banks of the Río Magdalena. Mexico’s urban poor buy
the vast majority of their drinking
water in bottled form, and never
drink the river water that flows
through the city. Living close
to the poverty line, many have
urgent concerns other than
keeping the river clean.
Mexico City residents travel to
the outskirts of the metropolis to
relax along the banks of the Río
Magdalena. The region is one of
the few places in Greater Mexico
City to enjoy clean river water
and an unspoiled landscape.
MAY | JUNE 2017
Horses drink from the Río Magdalena and graze on the grass that
grows on its banks. Around its
unpolluted segment, the last living
river in Mexico City supports
micro-climates that are relatively
unknown for the metropolis.
A small stream marks the
beginning of the Río Magdalena.
The fragile waterway is under
constant threat from the urban
expansion that brings pollution
with it. Stricter monitoring of
illegal dumping around urban
sections of the Río Magdalena
could reverse the worst of the
spreading damage.
The Inuit
Whale Hunter
Fire-starter kit
Every knife has a
different purpose.
One is for skinning, one is for caribou, and the two
commercial knives
are for cutting the
oil and muktuk
(strips of blubber
and skin) from the
You bring a little
extra grub, a little
thermos. I bring
hot water. You can
bring tea or coffee.
But hot water—you
can make anything
with hot water.
Every traveler will
have a scabbard
or another kind
of case. This one’s
nothing fancy. Normally you just go
for the day, and
you have all of your
travel equipment.
I’ve had this for
quite a while. It
was given to me by
my brother. A regular 30-30. (Shooters learn to aim for
a certain part of the
whale’s head, the
most humane kill.)
We make harpoons
from regular hardwood. You throw
the harpoon before
you shoot. Everyone practices that,
so you won’t lose
a whale. We ensure
that we get the
whale first.
We bring a lot of
kids out, so we try
to keep the natural things but also
the emergency
things. (To build a
fire using a traditional kit, rub the
bow against the
wooden post to create friction.)
MAY | JUNE 2017
the things they carried
around Tuktoyaktuk
in the Northwest Territories of Canada
melts in early July, hunters in the Inuvialuit community on the shore of the Beaufort
Sea head out in aluminum boats packed
sparsely to make room for their prey:
beluga whale.
Emmanuel Adam, a 64-year-old hunter,
trapper, and native of Tuktoyaktuk, says
calm weather helps the hunt. His community of 850 people can bring in as many
as 70 beluga in a season. However, he
says, “Numbers were kind of low last year
because of weather.” Among the effects of
the warming climate are melting sea ice
and permafrost, along with more storms.
Whale harvesting has been critical to
survival in the northernmost stretches of
North America since around the year 1100.
Today, country food—whale, seal, caribou,
muskox, and fish—offsets exorbitant prices
in remote communities. In the late 1800s,
U.S. whalers pushed bowhead whales in
the Beaufort Sea to near-extinction, critically altering traditional hunting practices
and the culture of the Inuvialuit. One bowhead whale a year can be harvested legally
around Tuktoyaktuk. There’s no such limit
Snow knife
for the more plentiful beluga population,
The snow knife is
for cutting blocks
and slicing through
hard-packed snow.
And the case—
you can find anything online.
Living near the
ocean, we have
to go out for only
the day to hunt
whales—not like
in Inuvik or Aklavik, where they’ll
camp out. You
don’t want your
camping gear
to get covered in
blood or oil.
We bring enough
ammunition to
harvest the whale.
You’re traveling
light with just
enough gas to get
there and back.
A whole whale
has to fit in your
boat. You don’t
want to bring too
much junk.
This is an AM radio.
We also have a
marine radio so
we can keep in contact with people.
But we always want
up-to-date news.
but hunting is kept to what’s needed for
Boys join expeditions when they’re 12 or
13. They learn to throw a harpoon before
they fire their weapons so that, once shot,
the whale doesn’t sink before it’s pulled
in. Adam hesitates to call the hunt a rite of
passage. “It’s just in the nature of the people to teach the younger generation how to
do things the right way,” he says.
the exchange
Is There a Case
to be Made Against
Baby Making?
As the effects of climate change become more pronounced
and overpopulation threatens the planet, individuals and
policymakers are increasingly forced to consider the
environmental implications of personal childbearing
decisions. Here, two philosophers, TRAVIS RIEDER of the Berman
Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins and REBECCA KUKLA of
the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown, discuss the
morality of deciding to have children in a world threatened
by environmental degradation and the fraught ethics of
encouraging people to opt for smaller families.
TRAVIS RIEDER: It is morally uncomfortable to ask
whether we should have smaller families—and for
good reasons. But so far, we have focused almost
entirely on per capita emissions: deeply decarbonize, change our infrastructure, until we’re not actually adding anything to the atmosphere. ¶ We could
also ask whether that gives me some kind of moral
obligation to have a certain size family. Should the
global community think about adopting family plan-
ning policies that would help to drive down population growth? REBECCA KUKLA: I agree that the rate of
cantly scarier, and so techniques for slowing it down,
of the opposite. Iran was facing population
all else being equal, would be a good idea. But there
pressures, joblessness, scarce resources, so
are pervasive assumptions in our culture that good,
the government decided that it needed to
unselfish people, nice people with good values, want
slow population growth by lowering fer-
to have kids, want to build things that look roughly like
tility. It adopted family planning policies
traditional families, and our informal social structures
that included opening rural health clinics
are set up around that assumption.
that served something like 55,000 villages
and promoting women’s education. All of
MAY | JUNE 2017
TR: In a recent paper, Jake Earl, Colin Hickey, and
the data say that this was a massively suc-
I explored the question: Should all of us try to pro-
cessful, noncoercive family planning inter-
mote small families through intervention? Procre-
vention. Is there anything between the two?
ative rights policy is very scary because it involves
¶ Among the globally wealthiest, negative
the possibility of coercion, and we have a history rife
incentives could include cutting the child
with coercion and with violating people’s procreative
tax credit and having a tax imposed on a
autonomy when considering family planning poli-
certain number of children. That is the
cies. The one that people almost certainly bring up is
most morally risky thing that we’re con-
China’s one-child policy, which was recently relaxed.
sidering, and we would be very sensitive to
It led to forced sterilization and forced abortion—all
empirical data that say it’s too risky and not
kinds of massive human rights violations. ¶ But there
worth trying. RK: Pretty much every aspect
are historical cases that we talk about less that are kind
of monitoring reproduction ends up falling
population growth is making climate change signifi-
bility. ¶ My male students might see this as
an interesting exercise. But the women in
the class are really overwhelmingly influenced by this sort of consideration. RK: On
the one hand, of course, it drives home the
point that women are the ones who feel
like they’re responsible for reproduction.
But it’s important to distinguish between
on women’s bodies, and what that’s actu-
individual decision-making and policies.
understand that comes with a massive cost
ally going to mean is putting pressure on
Having no children or even having small
that the world’s worst-off will be the ones
women to have smaller families and disci-
families are choices that are surrounded
to bear. Would it be selfish, or troubling,
plining and surveilling women in yet new
by all kinds of complicated pressures and
or irresponsible, or problematic to do it
ways. So it’s hard for me to imagine poli-
half-knowledge and bits of ideology. TR: It’s
again? And the answer that we came to—in
cies that wouldn’t turn out to dispropor-
not my job to tell people what to do pro-
our very contextualized and specific situ-
tionately burden women. The incredibly
creatively. Instead, what I do is I carry peo-
ation—was yes. RK: The method that you
sad irony is that poor women are also the
ple through a deliberative process that my
just described is lovely. But—this is the real
ones who have less sexual autonomy and
family has gone through because they’re
take-home punchline—the ethics of what
less ability to actually fully control when
relatively like me—wealthy high emitters
it’s OK to tell somebody is not the same as
they are and aren’t reproducing. They’re
with control over reproductive decisions.
the ethics of how we should reason about
the ones who are going to be held respon-
¶ And we got to have a child—we did it. We
our own situation. If you take somebody
sible, and they’re also the ones who are
who’s under enormous, complicated pres-
least in a position to live up to these norms.
sures to have a child, then you say, “Hey, I
heard this argument for why you shouldn’t;
TR: I endorse all of Rebecca’s worries. One
this is the right ethical conclusion,” you’re
of the things that I wonder: Is there some
inserting yourself into their ethical reason-
reason to think that this will always make
ing in a way that can be problematic and
things worse rather than better? Because a
stigmatize people.
lot of times, as cultures go through what is
often called a demographic transition, it’s
TR: The reason we’re in this problematic sit-
seen as a liberating force for women and
uation is that we’ve already made the wrong
a movement forward in terms of equality.
decisions. We should have mitigated the
RK: In principle, this could have positive
problem 40 years ago so that this was never
effects. I’m deeply worried because of the
on the table. We need a serious culture shift,
long, long, long history, despite all kinds of
and that will take time we don’t have. RK: I
cultural changes, of reproductive control
don’t see any of this working without culture
being used as a weapon against women.
change. If we focus more on concentrated,
Now we’ve got a whole literature about
vertical, urban development, not only is
how women are bad, irresponsible moms
that directly, dramatically better from a car-
if they let themselves have disabled chil-
bon-footprint point of view, but also people
dren. Which is also incredibly problematic
who live in small, active city spaces with
from the point of view of ableism.
tons of possibilities just tend to have fewer
children. ¶ In the short-to-medium term,
TR: My students’ personal deliberations
one thing we can be thinking about is ways
about these questions of their own pro-
of scaffolding different kinds of family struc-
creation is incredibly gendered. They
tures, making them possible and appealing
consider that having a child raises your
for people, so that they’re really choosing
lifetime carbon emissions by almost 10,000
them on their own because of the opportu-
metric tons, almost six times your non-
nities that they offer.
procreative average lifetime if you’re an
American. For me, when I think about that,
This conversation has been condensed
I am immediately just kind of slammed
and edited for publication. Go to FOREIGN-
with this massive sense of moral responsi-
REBECCA KUKLA to read the extended version.
dren line up excitedly each morning outside
the classrooms, a cheery contrast with the
drab life outside the school.
Here, I am rarely introduced as a
reporter or the Middle East editor of FOREIGN POLICY. Rather, I am ibn Carol: the
son of Carol. My mother is the head of the
How to Fund
a Refugee
Camp School
American nonprofit that raises money for
the Kayany schools.
So while I make no pretense of objectivity when discussing Kayany, I can provide
you with a few facts about the schools. I can
tell you there are seven of them, including
By David Kenner
two all-girls schools, enrolling more than
BAR ELIAS, LEBANON —The dirt paths in the
portion of teachers are Syrian refugees, and
3,400 students. I can tell you that a large
encampments turn into rivers of mud
that the schools serve 77,000 free meals
when it rains. Cold leaks through the can-
per month. I can tell you that many of the
vas tents in the winter; some refugees have
children who attend these schools would
frozen to death during particularly vicious
probably receive no education at all if it
storms. But now it’s spring, and the fields
weren’t for Kayany, and that every time
outside the town of Bar Elias are green
I have visited, clusters of children linger
incensed by the executive order. Jennifer
with budding wheat and potatoes. Inside
outside the chain-link fence around the
Patterson, the deputy executive director at
the blue-and-white tents dotting these
schools, hoping to be allowed in.
fields, however, the struggles to build a
life remain as daunting as ever.
a wave of “rage donations” by Americans
USA for UNHCR, which raises money for
Kayany operates on a mix of partner-
the U.N. Refugee Agency and other part-
ships with larger organizations and pri-
ners, said that the weekend after the travel
There are no well-ordered, state-run ref-
vate donations. For example, it received
ban, her organization experienced a 370
ugee camps in Lebanon; everything is hap-
financial support from the Malala Fund to
percent surge in traffic on its website and
hazard. The tent encampments are built
open the all-girls schools, and has partnered
the second-largest fundraising weekend
on private land, placing the refugees at the
with organizations like the Jesuit Refugee
in its history.
mercy of landlords, and scattered at random
Service to operate them. After salaries are
Kayany, too, has since seen a wave of
across the eastern Bekaa Valley, making it
paid, textbooks are bought, and meals are
donations. Money poured in from organi-
difficult for humanitarian organizations to
prepared, it costs Kayany $1.7 million per
zations of Arab-American college students;
coordinate support. Many of the 1.5 million
year to fund its operations. The organiza-
art dealers in New York were suddenly
eager to help organize charity auctions
Syrian refugees in the country live in con-
tion relies heavily on private donations—
ditions like this. It is as if an entire nation
and until recently, raising that money was
in support of the schools. “People were just
deposited itself in an area where one would
no easy feat. (It’s not just Kayany. The U.N.
aghast. It just hit a raw nerve,” said Jumana
expect to find nothing but agricultural land
humanitarian response plan, which is
Elzayn, a Syrian-American living in Cali-
or the odd farmer tending his sheep.
meant to provide support for Syrians who
fornia who has donated to Kayany. “This
haven’t left the country, suffers from a fund-
is not what our country is about.”
A cluster of buildings, the largest of
which is perhaps the size of a small barn,
sits on the edge of the tent camp surrounded
ing gap of $2.9 billion in 2017 alone.)
But in January, the efforts of Amer-
But in the Syrian refugee camps of Lebanon, there is still not enough—not enough
by a chain-link fence. This is the Kayany
ican nonprofits to raise money in sup-
schools, not enough psychosocial support,
Foundation’s Telyani School, where chil-
port of Syrian refugees received a boost
not enough money. Some students start
drifting away from school before they reach
dren 6 to 13 attend classes in subjects such
from the unlikeliest of sources: Donald
as English, Arabic, and math. The outer
Trump. The newly inaugurated U.S. pres-
their teenage years, because their parents
walls are adorned with cardboard cutouts
ident had just issued the first travel ban,
need them to work. Amina Al Zein, the
of pink, red, and blue flowers. “Welcome
which would have suspended the entry
administrator of the Telyani school and a
Spring” reads a rainbow-colored sign. Chil-
of Syrian refugees indefinitely, sparking
refugee herself, said there are roughly 100
MAY | JUNE 2017
bottom to a proper cup of tea.” (Sample
catchline: “More British than Stephen Fry
riding a swan.”)
But Union JACK began broadcasting in
September 2016, less than three months
Don’t Call It
Brexit Radio
after the country voted to leave the European Union, following a bitter campaign
that both divided the United Kingdom
and exposed anew some of the sources of
By Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer
its deepest collective anxieties, including
imperial nostalgia and English nationalism. These wounds have not healed in the
casts out of a low-slung, graffiti-covered
months since. And so, Union JACK has
structure that its staff affectionately refers
spent the first few months of its young life
to on the air as “the dumpy little build-
pushing back—always cheerful, always
ing.” On a nondescript Oxford Street, the
impeccably polite—against those who’ve
building is technically two stories but looks
dubbed the station “radio Brexit.” NME, an
shorter; the ceilings are low, the carpeting
influential British music magazine, cov-
Students at a Kayany Foundation school
funded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala
Yousafzai prepare for class.
worn. When I visited recently for a tour,
ered the first hour of Union JACK’s debut
one of the first things I learned was that
in an article that began, “If you liked Brexit
there are bomb shelters underneath dat-
but thought it lacked a decent soundtrack,
children in the school’s first grade, but only
ing back to World War II—the days of Chur-
you are in luck.” Another publication went
13 in the sixth grade. The rest, she says, have
chill, Spitfires, and Britain’s finest hour.
with the headline “Brexit Britain Radio
gone to work.
Had it launched at any other time,
Station Bans Foreigner[s].”
Eleven-year-old Aya worked in the
Union JACK might not have attracted quite
Today, that stream of press coverage has
potato fields last summer, rising at 4 a.m.
so much attention. The concept behind
mostly died off, but the station still fields
the occasional angry tweet. In response,
to begin her shift and then heading to
the station is straightforward. As the name
school at noon. She’s a slight, precocious
implies, it plays only British music, by Brit-
the social media team, which consists
girl who regularly drowns out her class-
ish artists. Its target audience is people
solely of a sunny 20-something named
mates in her determination to be heard.
45 to 59 years old. This demographic is
Phil, tweets back friendly responses that
Her favorite classes are Arabic and English,
reflected both in the choice of the listen-
insist on the station’s staunch neutrality
she says, because she “wants to under-
er-selected playlist (you’re more likely to
on all things Brexit.
stand everything.”
Only the most menial employment is
OXFORD, ENGLANDUnion JACK Radio broad-
hear Pink Floyd than grime) and in the
“We’re letting people shake their fists
smattering of British-inflected dad jokes
at us, and we’re just sort of waving back,”
available, and preteens work in factories
listeners are treated to between songs (the
program manager Giles Gear, an energetic
or the fields for as little as $10 a week. Her
station eschews DJs in favor of pre-re-
23-year-old with an unlikely enthusiasm
mother eventually stopped her from work-
corded promo material). On a recent morn-
for radio, told me. “No bias/Brexit under-
ing because Aya was experiencing back-
ing, the playlist included music by New
tones here. We’re more Mr. Bean than Mr.
aches. She might return this summer; her
Order, Queen, Radiohead, some very good
Farage,” the station’s Twitter account
father is dead, and her family needs the
punk by a band called The Members, and
recently chirped in response to a tweet
recorded voiceovers making quips about
calling the station another sign that “Brit-
But it will be only during the summer,
some of the things typically viewed as
ain has lost its mind.” “Nah, no bias here,”
Aya insists, not when Kayany opens its
essentials of Britishness: “popping out for a
it said in another. “All about celebrating
doors. She juts out her chin and smiles
curry,” MINI Coopers, excessive politeness.
the music, comedy and quirks from this
proudly. “I don’t let anything stand in the
According to its promotional materials, the
weird and wonderful island. Smashing!”
way of coming to school.” —David Kenner
station aims to celebrate “the quirky Brit-
My visit to Union JACK came in early
is Middle East editor at FOREIGN POLICY.
ish way of life … from Mary Berry’s soggy
April. It was just a few days after an episode
wrote, was presenting itself to the world
as “a nation secure in its own post-empire
identity” if “sometimes slightly insane.”
Walker, who is Australian but has lived
in the U.K. since 2002, said he saw in the
that, for many, signaled a new low in what-
spirit of these Games an opportunity.
ever post-Brexit madness had taken hold:
“When the Olympics came to London there
the unexpected flare-up between Britain
was such a groundswell of national pride,”
and Spain over the fate of Gibraltar. Ear-
he said. “It was really transformational.”
A Secessionist
By Benjamin Soloway
lier that month, former Conservative Party
Britain, he said, was a country longing for
leader Michael Howard had suggested that
a chance to celebrate and embrace its idio-
president of the government of Catalo-
Britain would willingly go to war over the
syncrasies. What if a radio station could
nia—bespectacled and shaggy haired at
rocky peninsula. This was followed, later
tap into that same enthusiasm?
the same day, by a report in the right-lean-
Puigdemont, the
54—surveyed the passing monuments
Five years later, Union JACK is still sell-
and museums as we skirted the National
Mall in his black SUV. This was his first
ing Daily Telegraph clarifying that while
ing a version of this Britain: a weird and
Britain’s navy was “far weaker” than it was
wacky island with certain cultural touch-
time in the United States. “Seven million
during the Falklands War, it could “still
stones that everyone, Brexiteers and
people visit here each year,” he informed
Remoaners alike, can love and share: tea,
me, gesturing vaguely toward one of the
cripple” Spain.
But Union JACK was not born out of
queuing, The Great British Bake Off. But
Smithsonian museums. “The same as the
this Britain, insisted CEO Ian Walker, 49,
it’s not yet clear that in post-Brexit Brit-
population of Catalonia.”
while sitting on a plush couch covered
ain, where once-simple patriotism has
It was early afternoon on a cloudy
with Union Jack pillows. Rather, it was
suddenly become politically fraught, such
Tuesday in March, and we were headed
a concept conceived in the wake of the
symbols can be universally embraced the
to The Monocle, a restaurant on Capitol
much-celebrated London 2012 Olympic
way they were five years ago.
Hill where generations of legislators and
Those Games were marked by an open-
Or maybe it is that simple, and maybe
their coteries have hobnobbed over steaks
they can. Jordan Bassett, who reviewed
and crab cakes, and where you might have
ing ceremony almost universally received
Union JACK for NME, for instance, started
to pass a signed photo of Dick Cheney to
as deeply strange but oddly stirring. Lon-
out his hour of listening with his tone set
use the bathroom.
don was hosting the Summer Olympics
firmly to snide. The first 30 seconds on the
“During the Women’s March, the Mall
four years after Beijing, which had seen
air, which included a man talking about
was covered with protesters as far as the
the occasion as a coming out party on the
“pork pies and pasties” (a Cornish pastry)
eye could see,” I told Puigdemont. He asked
world stage for a newly rich China. In its
and the TV sitcom Fawlty Towers, were
how many had attended. Maybe half a mil-
opening ceremony, Beijing had opted for
like “a moodboard from the mind of Nigel
lion, I said.
the spectacular: performances on a gigan-
Farage,” he wrote.
“In Catalonia, we get more than a mil-
tic, elaborate, $100 million, 15,000-per-
A few minutes later, however, the sta-
lion people in the streets on National Day,”
former scale. Now that it was Britain’s turn,
tion moved onto the music—and it proved
he said. “And that’s out of 7 million.” He
the world waited anxiously to see how a
hard to resist. By minute 10, following Era-
pressed his phone to the car’s window and
country—not a rising power, but one long
sure’s “A Little Respect”: “I’ve removed
snapped a photo.
in decline—would follow.
my shirt, and I’m dancing at my desk.”
When we got to the restaurant on D
The United Kingdom opted not for
Minute 36: He was swooning over Pulp’s
Street, the delegation made its way to a
grandiosity, but for quirk. The queen
“Common People.” By minute 49, it was all
white-clothed table toward the back of
parachuted out of a helicopter (or at least
over. British music, after all, is very good.
the wood-paneled dining room, a series
appeared to, with the aid of a royal stunt
“The accumulative effect of Erasure, Oasis,
of D.C. aphorisms emblazoned along the
double) accompanied by James Bond. Paul
Pulp and The Smiths is reason to believe
top of each wall. One of them read, “If you
McCartney made an appearance, as did
that maybe Union Jack is the best radio
want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
Mary Poppins and the National Health
station ever invented,” he wrote. Tallyho.
The restaurant was full of patrons, none
Service, in a celebration of British cul-
—Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer is Europe editor for
of whom seemed to recognize the almost-
tural icons. Britain, the New York Times
MAY | JUNE 2017
world-leader in their midst. An advisor
The National Day demonstrators that
Puigdemont mentioned take to the streets
each year to agitate for their region’s independence from Spain. Puigdemont—the
former mayor of Girona, one of Catalonia’s largest cities—is a staunch secessionist, and his ruling coalition in the regional
government wants to leave Spain. But
the region remains firmly under Spanish
Once we’d finished lunch—and the Catalans had paid—we headed over to CNN en
has its own parliament and executive bod-
Español for a quick taped interview, after
ies, with extensive control over its affairs.
which Puigdemont met briefly with a few
However, Catalonia produces more value
members of Congress in their offices. (I was
for the government in Madrid than it gets
not invited to these closed-door conversa-
back. Many Catalans believe they bear an
tions.) Later, Puigdemont told me they had
unfair tax burden and blame the central
discussed “normal things.”
government for the country’s debt crisis.
“We try to explain what’s happened in
Critics of the independence project see
Catalonia,” he said. They asked, “What do
the region’s identity politics as a mask for
you think of European Union or Brexit?”—
these economic concerns.
questions he called “neutral, without a
previous point of view.”
Protesters pose with Carles Puigdemont
during a pro-independence demonstration
in Barcelona on Sept. 11, 2016.
Catalan independence tops the list of
Madrid has indicated that it doesn’t
intend to let go of a fifth of Spain’s economy or Barcelona, its second-largest city. In
polarizing issues in Spanish politics. But in
March, Spain’s constitutional court barred
the United States, it’s met mostly with mild
Artur Mas, Puigdemont’s predecessor, from
passed around a phone so that the entire
curiosity. Puigdemont, who spent decades
holding office for two years because he
company—a group of eight that included
as a journalist before entering politics, is
ran an independence referendum in 2014.
Catalonia’s foreign minister and the head
versed in the contrast between this domes-
The poll he organized was symbolic and
of its delegation to the United States—
tic contentiousness and foreign indiffer-
nonbinding, but nonetheless constituted
could see the latest excitement: a tweet
ence. In 1994, he published Cata … What?
an act of criminal civil disobedience in
by a Washington Post reporter noting
Catalonia as Seen by the Foreign Press—a
the eyes of the justice system. That hasn’t
Puigdemont’s visit. The president ordered
book about articles like this one.
stopped Puigdemont’s plans to hold a ref-
salmon, followed by a generous portion of
Catalonia’s view of itself, and interest in
erendum in September. According to his
vanilla ice cream and an espresso, which
the way others see it, must be understood
vice president, he is willing to declare inde-
came not in an espresso cup, but at the very
in the context of Spain’s 20th-century his-
pendence unilaterally if Spain tries to block
bottom of an oversized mug, resembling a
tory. During his almost four-decade reign,
the vote. When asked about the possibil-
nearly finished cup of coffee. Puigdemont
Spanish dictator Gen. Francisco Franco
ity of meeting the same fate as Mas, Puig-
examined it quizzically.
suppressed Catalan identity and banned
demont answered with bravado. “This is
not important,” he said. “If we are barred
When Matteo Renzi, then the Italian
the Catalan language. Since the drafting
prime minister, visited Washington last
of democratic Spain’s constitution in 1978,
from public office, there will be another
year for Barack Obama’s final state din-
the region has enjoyed a degree of auton-
person, and another person, and another
ner, the White House rolled out the red
omy, continuing a centuries-old tradition
person. … Nothing will change.”
carpet. It’s not hard to imagine a president
of self-governance.
Western Europe is no stranger to inde-
of Catalonia—which is just larger than Bul-
In recent years, support for the indepen-
pendence referendums. Scotland held one
garia and just smaller than Switzerland in
dence movement has grown, with more
in 2014, choosing narrowly to remain in
population, has a higher gross domestic
people in favor than against, according to
the United Kingdom, and may well hold
product per capita than Spain, and con-
a poll conducted last year by the regional
another one soon. Independence sup-
tains Barcelona, one of the largest cities in
center for sociological research. For many
porters hope to save Scotland from Brexit
Europe—receiving similar treatment. But
Catalans, the current configuration is
entirely or rejoin the EU independently.
one fact gets in the way: Catalonia isn’t a
unsatisfactory. The region claims only
That’s where Catalonia comes in. Some
real country.
limited fiscal and political autonomy. It
have suggested that Spain could play
A Bodega Once
Stood Here
By James Palmer
BEIJINGThey began bricking up my street,
a quiet alley in central Beijing, on a Sunday morning. Behind a half-built wall,
the middle-aged owner of a small phone
accessories and knickknack store sat
glumly, minding his stock as he watched
his vocation disappear brick by brick. The
construction workers sent by the city govspoiler to the EU’s speedy reintegration
ernment weren’t technically evicting him—
of Scotland to avoid the precedent it would
just sealing off the only entranceway from
set for Catalonia.
the street. What could he do? The hair-
“No one now in Europe is questioning
dressers across the road had made plans
that independent Scotland will remain an
to move back to Shandong, their home
EU member,” Puigdemont told me. “No
province; they’d been in the capital for 16
one [except in] Spain disagrees with this
years only to have their livelihoods vanish
point of view.”
on a government whim.
Just over a mile from the Spanish
Riot police leaned against their plastic
Embassy, the imposing edifice of which
shields next to piles of teetering bricks.
takes up nearly a block on Pennsylvania
There didn’t seem to be any chance of
Workers put up a brick wall at the site of a
former restaurant near the Forbidden City in
Beijing on April 20.
Avenue, is the Delegation of Catalonia to
trouble. Word of the Beijing govern-
the United States, Canada, and Mexico. I
ment’s upcoming “cleanup” campaign,
the pavement. In the chaotic and corrupt
met with Puigdemont in that office, on
and the demolitions that would go with
early 2000s, it was often impossible for
the third floor of a nondescript 12-story
it, had already gone through the neigh-
business owners to get legitimate paper-
office building on K Street above a Potbelly
borhood a few weeks before. But it wasn’t
work. Even if they did, the city could still
Sandwich Shop, the morning following our
just our street. Across central Beijing, post-
brick up their doorways. Out of a dozen
lunch at The Monocle. A map of Catalan
ers announced plans to demolish “illegal
stores in the first 100 yards of my street,
borders and cities in some bygone time
structures” made by “building walls and
two survived.
hung in an otherwise empty corner of the
digging holes.”
sparse office. The cartographer had left off
the rest of Spain.
Puigdemont and I sat in the delega-
Yet “illegal” is a shifting term in China.
On the third day of construction, the
builders didn’t look happy about their
Business operates in a permanent gray zone,
work. Like many store owners, they were
where the rules can shift at any minute. The
migrants trying to make their way through
tion’s small conference room and dis-
smaller a venture, the more vulnerable it is.
an expensive and confusing capital. They
cussed his previous evening. The day
There’s no definite protection, only layers
were mostly small men, ill-fed and badly
earlier, he told me he’d planned a night
that can provide some shield from a change
shaven. In streets elsewhere in the city,
out on the town, mentioning his love of
in the authorities’ mood. With this cam-
they’d put up improvised shelters to sleep
theater and gospel music, and asked for
paign, it took a new level of legitimacy for
in even as they tore down other people’s
shop owners to save their businesses—the
shops and homes. “We don’t like the work,”
He and some friends had hoped to get
right papers in the right zone, ideally with
one of them told me as his friends nodded.
into a jazz club near his hotel in George-
the right city listed on their personal resi-
Two were from Shandong and the other
town. “But it was full, and also expensive,”
dence permit.
he said. So they stood outside, where he
three were from Anhui, both among the
Restaurant owners, who believed that
poorest provinces in China. “But it’s work.
could hear that the music “was very good,”
they had the necessary food permits, came
What can you do? Outsiders never have a
then gave up.
to terms with the fact that they were now
home in Beijing.”
“I went to the hotel to sleep,” he said.
in blocks zoned only for residences. Fruit
By Wednesday, the brickwork was fin-
—Benjamin Soloway is assistant editor at
vendors found that their stalls, which had
ished and the demolition had begun. Yards
been operating for years, were obstructing
of new alleyway appeared as frontal expan-
MAY | JUNE 2017
mination to present a clean face to the
leadership’s upper echelons, who drive
through Beijing on their way between palaces in the city center and villas elsewhere,
has nothing to do with what people—both
foreigners and locals—want. Nor does the
unrestrained gutting of small businesses
throughout the city seem very practical.
my old Beijing neighborhood, Tuanjiehu,
“They can’t close us down!” a stallholder
to count the businesses. Photo shop, gone.
argued naively. “Where would people buy
Pizza parlor, gone. Hand-job salon, gone.
their vegetables?”
Brick walls were in their place, blocking
Perhaps there’s a fear there, too. Authori-
former doorways made from identical-col-
tarian states have never liked tangled alley-
ored bricks.
ways. That’s one reason most of Beijing’s
The goal of the campaign has been to
traditional neighborhoods have been
drive out as many of Beijing’s incomers
replaced by the vast, bleak highways that
as possible. Local government’s popula-
pierce the city—designed like the ave-
tion figures are consistently fake, as the
nues of Paris under Napoleon III for the
National Bureau of Statistics frequently
easy marching of soldiers. “Paris sliced
sions were torn down. The building next to
complains. Officials in rural areas try to
by strokes of a saber: the veins opened,
my house, once a mahjong parlor, shrunk
keep their numbers up to get more central
nourishing one hundred thousand earth
by a third. Two members of the demolition
government funding, and urban areas try
movers and stone masons; crisscrossed by
crew shared a companionable pack of cig-
to lower theirs on paper to fulfill promises
admirable strategic routes, placing forts in
arettes with the manager of a bathhouse
to control migration—and to prevent peas-
the heart of the old neighborhoods,” Émile
as they tore down his neighbor’s home.
ants from using the superior hospitals and
Zola wrote in 1871 of the city’s redesign.
Fresh mounds of dirt littered the sidewalk;
schools of the metropolises.
These measures are disastrous for Bei-
on one of them, three children played as
Beijing’s nominal population of 23
happily as if they were on a sandy beach.
million is in reality far larger, as judged
according to 2011 data quoted by the Finan-
The next night, I found Mrs. Yang, the
by proxy figures such as the use of pub-
cial Times, make up 35 percent of the city’s
owner of the diminished mahjong par-
lic transport. But population quotas are
economy. But top-down order is prevail-
lor, staring drunkenly at what used to be
being issued district by district, motivating
ing yet again over the determination and
her front door. “I don’t know where all the
local officials to clear out their neighbor-
intelligence of small-town Chinese in the
wires go now,” she said, looking at the tan-
hoods in the service of their own careers.
big city.
gle of cables running across the street. In
Breaking up small businesses makes life
This economic hollowing is visible in the
the former barbershop, now half-rubble,
in the capital deliberately harder for the
Yashow Market, once a bustling bazaar in
the builders had pulled down the ceil-
poor. If the cheap street-side dumpling
the foreigner-friendly Sanlitun neighbor-
ing-high mirror stand and were using it
joints are gone, what’s left behind are the
hood. After the city government pushed
as a place to eat their noodles. I saw the
chain restaurants that serve the same food
out clothing markets, a popular business
former owners packed and ready to head to
at three times the price.
the train station. Their small dog, Jingjing,
after my alley was torn down I returned to
jingers. The small businesses targeted,
for migrants, to the far reaches of Beijing,
But there’s also a determination to
Yashow was closed and redone as a fancy
ran to me to say an unknowing goodbye.
“civilize” the city, to turn the streets into a
mall full of empty boutiques. The only thriv-
The same process has been going on all
uniform slate-gray frontage broken only
ing business is a Burger King. The shopping
over the city center. On the edge of Guan-
by Costa Coffee outlets and luxury malls.
center’s management has already resorted to
offering shops free rent to stay. However, the
ghua SOHO, a glitzy mall, another set of
Small businesses are the veins of a city,
restaurants had been bricked up but was
but the authorities’ vision of the Chinese
successful strip of shops behind the mall—
still operating behind the wall. “Come on
capital as “an international city” doesn’t
with its tailor, kebab stand, and cheap booze
round, we’re still going,” the owner of one
include New York-style bodegas or Lon-
—has just been bricked up. —James Palmer
eatery said cheerfully. On the weekend
donesque corner shops. Their deter-
is Asia editor at FOREIGN POLICY.
Sponsored Report
On the road to stability and development
With its return to the international scene, 2016 stood out
as a key year for Madagascar and 2017 is forecasted to be
the country’s year for reconstruction
There is no question that Madagascar made progress in 2016, as highlighted by the Malagasy President,
Hery Rajaonarimampianina: “Looking back at 2016, we can really talk
about political, social and economic
achievements, as demonstrated by
the strengthening of our relations
with donors and the hosting of
world-class summits which, in turn,
helped consolidate the country’s
stability.” At the Francophonie and
COMESA summits, the country hosted more top international
representatives than ever before.
Furthermore, the successful ‘Donors and Investors Conference for
Madagascar’ held in Paris resulted
in record funds (10 billion USD) being promised to the country. With
6.4 billion USD of the total coming
from international funding agencies,
it is clear that the private sector has
also pledged extensively to contribute to Madagascar’s development.
2017: A year for reconstruction
Although Madagascar has the resources necessary to become a leading African nation, it has lacked the
means to turn these resources into
a sustainable source of income and
growth. However, the country has
now been given the means to rebuild
itself. The Malagasy Prime Minister,
Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasa1
na, stresses, “We aim to achieve a
growth rate in GDP of 4,5%, and
we believe that our current policies
will help us reach this goal in 2017.
We are trying to attract investors
by improving the business environment. We are a country blessed with
resources of wealth, but we cannot
claim that we can achieve our goals
without external aid.” The government will be investing the funding
into specific sectors. Agriculture will
be at the forefront, a sector which
80% of the population depends on.
Others sectors that will play an important role in the country’s growth
include infrastructure, energy, livestock, fishing and tourism.
The Malagasy government is
currently implementing initiatives
to favor investment into the country
– it has made significant progress
with regards to public finances, including the improved collection of
taxes, and in modernizing a number of the country’s public companies. Eric Razafimandimby, the
Malagasy Minister of Public Works
says, “2017 is a year of stimulus and
continuity. At the level of the Ministry, we will strengthen road quality
controls, increase partnerships to
raise the funding required, through
agreements between the private
sector and public authorities. Our
priority is to encourage investors to
work with us.” There are already a
number of US companies working
with Malagasy partners, such as
Caterpillar, Ford and Symbion Power, who have all chosen to do business with local players, and Groupe
Star, Coca-Cola’s oldest partner in
the world dating back to the 1950s,
is the leading beverage manufacturer and distributor in the country.
Sara et Cie is a Malagasy company specialized in working with international donors. As a leader in construction, the company is a prime
example of a Malagasy business that
managed to survive the 2009-2013
crisis period, during which it lost
80% of its turnover and was close to
bankruptcy. Sara et Cie’s strategic
turnaround was triggered by foreign direct investment which had a
tremendous impact on the company, and has since led it to become a
reference in the eyes of international
institutions investing in Madagascar. The company particularly
seeks to build partnerships with US
counterparts, in order to buy technologies that will help Madagascar
develop its infrastructure. Sara et
Hery Rajaonarimampianina
President of the Republic
of Madagascar
Cie’s Managing Director, David
Ranaivo, believes foreign investors
would benefit from working with
local partners: “If foreign investors
choose to do business in Madagascar, they have a vested interest partnering with Malagasy local companies which, whatever the situation,
will always be present in the country. Sara et Cie has existed for more
than 50 years in Madagascar, and
foreign companies regularly request
partnering with us.” He says that
this shift should happen as soon as
possible: “What we need is an acceleration of the process, so that the
donors concretize new projects with
the Malagasy State, and that private
foreign investors return as quickly
as possible to Madagascar.”
The Société du Port à gestion
Autonome de Toamasina (SPAT)
has also made successful PPP agreements with international partners.
The government authority is responsible for three quarters of the
maritime trade on the island and
in charge of managing and modernizing the Toamasina port, Madagascar’s most important gateway
to the Indian Ocean. The Japan
International Cooperation Agency
(JICA) has been the principal investor in the development of this port
and this year it will be launching a
plan for its extension, which will
enable port traffic to increase fivefold upon completion. The port
has become the largest provider of
jobs in Toamasina, Madagascar’s
second largest city, accounting for
more than a third of the total employment. Christian Eddy Avellin,
Managing Director of SPAT emphasizes, “The Indian Ocean is becoming a major hub, so we need to take
advantage of this strategic opportunity… It is the PPP that brought
us where we are today. PPPs create
win-win situations: the private sector gets the required return on investment, and at the same time the
infrastructure development benefits
the country and the population.”
Other key PPPs in Madagascar
include projects with the Swiss
group SGS, which provides world
leading inspection, verification, testing and certification services, and
with one of its subsidiaries, Gasynet, which played an important role
in the modernization and digitalization of trade in the country.
To help concretize the initiatives
presented during the Paris Conference and to support foreign investors with the launch of new projects
in the country, BMOI, a subsidiary
of the French bank BPCE, stands as
a partner of choice for top companies, institutions and high-end clients wanting to settle in Madagas-
car. The bank provides value-added
services such as mobile and online
banking, and is the first bank in
Madagascar to be ISO 9001:2015
certified on all of its banking operations. BMOI’s Managing Director,
Alain Merlot, is truly optimistic
about the country’s potential and
says that the Malagasy economy is
on the verge of accelerating drastically: “The potential of Madagascar
has existed for a long time, and everyone is convinced: the question
that arises is not why Madagascar
has not developed, but when the
country is really going to take off,
because this is inevitable.” With
regards to the Paris Conference he
says, “The promises have started to
be realized in 2017, primarily those
involving the budget releasing. Despite the crisis, the Malagasy economy was able to resist mainly due
to a resilient private sector. The injection of these funds from donors
will have a very important multiplier
Developing the mining sector
With gold, nickel, cobalt, chrome,
sapphires and rubies, and new projects foreseen in uranium, Madagascar has extensive mining potential.
The government has made notable
progress in enhancing the ease of
doing business in this sector and
according to the Malagasy Minister
of Mines and Oil, Ying Vah Zafilahy,
“We are in the process of finalizing a
new mining code and we will establish a mining observatory to ensure
better traceability. All relevant ministries and governmental bodies at a
provincial and regional level should
be involved so that we can guarantee
that the extracted resources benefit
the population of Madagascar.” The
government’s overall objective is to
ensure a sustainable exploration,
which will benefit future Malagasy
generations, whilst ensuring that
the environment is protected. Zafilahy says, “Madagascar is a blessed
country in terms of biodiversity, and
we all know that open pit mining
has a great environmental impact.
However, the mining code that we
are going to ratify in the near future
attaches great importance to the
protection of environmental and
social resources.”
BCMM has managed mining
permits, administration fees and
the distribution of taxes for decentralized territorial authorities in
Madagascar for 16 years. The stateowned company is a central platform for the Malagasy mining business. With its overall goal to turn
Madagascar into a destination for
mining projects and investments,
the company works to improve the
synergies between public authorities and mining companies across
the country, promote the interests
of the mining sector and enhance
mining investments.
In 2016 it issued almost 10,000
licenses. BCMM’s General Manager David Ratsimbazafy says, “2017
is a pivotal year as several companies will move from the research
stage to the exploration stage, particularly in the field of graphite and
rare earths”. He adds, “We believe
that in the longer term, the exploration of five major mines in the
Sponsored Report
country will strengthen the contribution of the mining sector to the
economy, which to date amounts
to 2% of GDP. By 2018, the share
of the mining sector is expected to
reach 12-15% of GDP.”
In 2017, BCMM will achieve a
major milestone with the opening of
its new Mining Business Center, set
up to facilitate investments, communication and interaction between
mining stakeholders. All of the Malagasy mining administration structures related to mining operators
will now be gathered on one site
and the Mining Business Center is
expected to become the gateway to
mining investments in Madagascar,
as well as a platform for trade and
exchange with domestic and foreign companies in the sector. This
is bound to increase the potential
for the forging of partnerships with
companies and international operators. Ratsimbazafy says, “Thanks to
this new business center, BCMM is
able to accompany investors in all
back office procedures, throughout
the whole value chain (research,
exploitation, exportation, etc.), and
even help them set up a company
under Malagasy law.”
BCMM: A platform for trade and exchange
The Mining Business Centre is a public mining entity managing
extraction licenses. We are a platform for trade and exchange for mining
operators, serving as a central meeting point
for investors and for forging local and
international partnerships.
50 years of infrastructure excellence
Sara et Cie
Avenue du General Ratsimandrava TANANARIVE MADAGASCAR
Tel: +261(0)20 222 1832 |
Contact us: Bureau du Cadastre Minier de Madagascar
Phone : +261 20 22 400 29 | Email :
Website :
Sponsored Report
An improved climate for oil
investments in Madagascar
Madagascar is exploring and exploiting oil blocks to
boost economic development and strive towards energy
independence, spearheaded by OMNIS
In the words of the President of the
Democratic Republic of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina,
“Madagascar is a country under
construction, if not reconstruction.
So, there are infinite economic and
social opportunities.” Oil exploration in the country is currently
a booming sector. Madagascar
was ranked 2nd place in Africa’s
top destinations for oil and gas
investments at the inaugural Africa Oil and Power conference in
2016, the purpose of which is to
facilitate investment and turn the
spotlight to Africa, arguably the
world’s most overlooked oil and
gas region. Madagascar’s reputation for its petroleum and mineral
resource potential is certainly grow-
ing steadily, and it is achieving the
increased interest from foreign investors that it desires.
Mining in the hands of OMNIS
The Malagasy state agency, OMNIS (The Office of National
Mining and Strategic Resources),
was created in 1976 to promote
and exploit strategic natural resources and extractive industries
across Madagascar. Oil exploration
has a long history in the country,
dating back to 1900 with the dripping of shallow wells at Tsimioro
and Bemolanga. OMNIS has been
managing, developing and promoting Madagascar’s petroleum
and mineral resources for the past
40 years, and is responsible for
Point of View
FP 1976-2016: How has OMNIS developed?
BR For 40 years, OMNIS has worked towards developing strategic natural resources in Madagascar. Since its
foundation in 1976, it has undertaken several studies on
the country’s strategic mineral soils and analyzed the potential of resources such as uranium and crude oil.
Bonaventure Rasoanaivo
Managing Director
FP What are OMNIS’ key priorities?
BR OMNIS intends to carry out new studies of Madagascar’s basins and resources. We hope that these studies
will increase Madagascar’s potential. In addition, several
seismic studies have already been carried out, and we actively encourage potential investors to use the data made
FP With 20 out of 200 potential oil blocks having been explored, how will new
investors be attracted to increase exploration further?
BR OMNIS, in consultation with all concerned entities, is currently working on the
reform of the petroleum code. Once this code is adopted, OMNIS will start promoting and
issuing calls for tenders for the unexplored oil blocks. OMNIS will focus on providing
incentives to attract investors, and on providing technical and administrative assistance.
As soon as the revised oil code gets the official go-ahead, we intend to launch a bidding
campaign for 40 additional offshore blocks.
FP Do you see Madagascar becoming an oil-producing economy in the future?
BR The various exploration works that have taken place in Madagascar since 1900
attest to Madagascar’s oil potential. The continued arrival of new companies also supports this potential. There is therefore no reason why Madagascar should not become an
oil-producing country in the years to come; perhaps not as big a producer as the OPEC
member countries, but with considerable potential nevertheless.
100,000 to 150,000 barrels per day is anticipated (Block 3104 Tsimiroro)
upstream oil sector and strategic
mining products. OMNIS’ overall
mission is to enact Madagascar’s
petroleum and mining policy and
in turn contribute to the development of a prosperous nation.
Four years after the foundation of
OMNIS, the first oil code was adopted in 1980. Over the years, the
company has acquired seismic data
and drilled wells, often in collaboration with partner companies. Its
first discovery of gas was in 1987
in West Manambolo in the Morondava basin. In 1996 a revision
of Madagascar’s oil code led to the
signing of a number of new oil contracts. Since then there have been
various international companies
succeeding one and another in the
field of oil exploration in the country. With the aim of increasing
investment into Malagasy oil sector, a revised oil code is on process.
The great Malagasy subsoil
The potential for further oil exploration in Madagascar is vast.
The Great Red Island has five
sedimentary basins, covering an
be sold to companies interested in
OMNIS celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016, and its successes
to date are widespread, with heavy
oil and dry gas among them. At
the start of 2017, 13 international
oil companies were working on 20
offshore and onshore oil blocks.
The exploration work has reached
an advanced stage and, as a result,
many have been granted a license
Heavy oil represents one of the
biggest successes in the country’s oil exploration history.
Following the discovery of an oil
deposit, a commercial authorization was granted in 2014 for Block
3104 Tsimiroro, which has a certified reserve capacity of around
1.7 billion barrels. Production is
expected at 6,000 to 10,000 barrels
per day, which will be dedicated
to local consumption. In the long
term, a production of 100,000 to
150,000 barrels per day is anticipated for exportation. As a result of
this success, a 25-year exploitation
license has been granted, which has
“Madagascar was ranked 2nd place in Africa’s top
destinations for oil and gas investments in 2016.”
2016 Africa Oil and Power conference
area of 820,000km2, with a strong
hydrocarbon potential. Yet, the
oil system is under-explored, and
today there is only one oil well for
an area of 10,000km2. The basins
are very similar to those recently
uncovered in East Africa, where
oil and gas were discovered in
Mozambique and Tanzania. Geophysical prospecting companies
are currently leading speculative
surveys to demonstrate exploration possibilities, and the data will
led Madagascar to enter the exclusive list of oil-producing countries.
The future output of heavy oil will
contribute to the development of
the Malagasy economy, allowing
the country to reduce imports and
save on foreign exchange.
Developments in dry gas are also
underway. In 2012, high-quality
dry gas was discovered 2900m deep
in the South West region. A deposit of around 20bn m3 was also
discovered in the south, for which
Sponsored Report
Opening the doors for
increased investment
The Malagasy mining hydrocarbons code is being revised
to facilitate foreign investment into the sector
Pura Vida
Seismic operations
a feasibility study for the electrification of the region is currently in
progress. Once an advanced stage
of this development is reached, it is
expected that the gas produced will
provide sufficient energy for all of
Fostering partnerships
Today, Madagascar Oil is OMNIS’
most advanced exploration partner.
Created under Malagasy law in
2004, the company operates on major oil blocks such as the Tsimiroro
Block 3104, which is currently in
its heavy oil pilot production and
sale phase and has approximately
160,000 barrels in stock.
OMNIS highly values the formation of partnerships with
international oil and mining companies. For more than 40 years, the
company has sought to diversify
Madagascar Northern
Petroleum company
(ONHYM) visited Madagascar
for the Malagasy hosted 2016
Francophonie Summit. Moroccan
experience in the field of mining
and oil is evident, and ONHYM
identified OMNIS as a partner of
choice, which led to the signing
of an agreement between the two
This is one example of many to
come: several US companies have
also already expressed their preference for some of the future oil
Varun Energy
Madagascar Oil SA
Madagascar Oil
Belo profond
South Atlantic Petroleum/
Madagascar Oil
Grand prix
OMV Exploration and Production/
Madagascar Oil
Madagascar Oil
Amicoh Coorporation
Tullow Oil
Madagascar Southern
Petroleum company
Madagascar International
Sustainable development
OMNIS’ future prospects include
the assessment of the oil potential
of sedimentary basins. The company and its partners continue to
study and evaluate oil blocks by
reprocessing past data to highlight
the current configuration of the
“OMNIS, in consultation with all concerned entities,
worked on the reform of the petroleum code. We are
now promoting and issuing calls for tenders for the
unexplored oil blocks.”
Bonaventure Rasoanaivo, Managing Director, OMNIS
its partnerships with entities from
all over the world. According to
the President of the Democratic
Republic of Madagascar, “Looking
back at 2016, we can really talk
about political, social and economic achievements, as demonstrated
by the strengthening of our relations with donors and the hosting
of world-class summits, which in
turn, helped consolidate the country’s stability.”
Last year, the Moroccan National
Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines
Madagascar Petroleum Energy
Efforts are focused on offshore basins that are known to present high
potential and have already been
subjected to exploration analyses.
Geophysical service companies
will be contracted for seismic data
acquisitions. Looking ahead, the
overall objective is to establish
good governance and transparency
and ensure for the sustainable development of Madagascar, whilst
safeguarding the interests of the
Malagasy people.
Onshore block granted (14)
Offshore block granted (3)
Onshore free blocks (110)
Offshore free blocks (307)
OMNIS december 2016
The Malagasy government set
out clear objectives for 2017: The
Malagasy Prime Minister Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana said
“We aim to achieve a growth rate
in GDP of 4.5%, and we believe
that our current policies will help
us reach this goal.” The revised
version of the mining and hydrocarbons code aims to improve the
conditions for exploration and
exploitation of hydrocarbons to
facilitate FDI and offer incentives
to potential investors. The Prime
Minister adds: “We are convinced
that foreign investment is key to ensuring the growth of Madagascar.”
Director Bonaventure Rasoanaivo emphasizes that “the objective
of the revised oil code is first and
foremost to implement an incentivizing law that encourages investors
to come to Madagascar.”
According to Ying Vah Zafilahy,
the Minister of Mines and Oil,
“Our objective is to ensure a rational and sustainable exploitation
for future generations... The code
attaches great importance to the
protection of environmental and
social resources.” The Minister
adds: “We encourage foreign companies to participate in the tender
offer we will be launching.”
OMNIS is continually carrying out studies of Madagascar’s
basins and potential resources in
the aim of attracting increased
foreign investment. Managing
Office of National Mining and Strategic Resources (OMNIS)
21 Lalana Razanakombana Ambohijatovo, Antananarivo, Madagascar | Tel: +261 20 22 242 83 | |
For further information please visit www.
the climate change issue
“Held up to a light, his old slides offer a glimpse into another time: broad, hundred-year-old trees in
southern Somalia, vines creating a thick canopy over the road...” THE WATSON FILES, P. 46
Has Been
People already believe
in climate change—the trick is
getting them to realize it.
by Katharine Hayhoe
Illustration by Justin Metz
MAY | JUNE 2017
happen in poor countries where people
I found myself at a bustling diner in Salt
The life of a polar bear revolves around
price of food doubles, families go hungry.
Lake City sitting across the table from Ste-
sea ice. It’s where they feed in the winter
Amstrup was right: What’s happening
ven Amstrup. Lanky and affable, he was
on seals, their preferred prey. But today,
to the bears is happening to people, too.
eating a plate of fried eggs cooked just the
Arctic sea ice is in a kind of death spiral.
way he liked them: with smashed yolks, as
As the top of the world warms, its ice cap
if they’d been “stomped on.”
thaws, exposing the ocean beneath it. That
brisk morning in March, two years ago,
already live on a few dollars a day. When the
We were in Utah to talk about climate
dark water absorbs more of the sun’s energy
Despite the fact that the impacts can be
change. As chief scientist for Polar Bears
than the reflective white ice—so the Arctic
observed today, a frustratingly large num-
International, Amstrup was there to give
heats up even more, triggering a cycle that
ber of Americans think climate change is
a series of lectures at Brigham Young Uni-
is causing the Arctic to warm twice as fast
a hoax. But the largest obstacle we face
versity on the threat climate change poses
as the rest of the planet.
isn’t those who dismiss and disregard the
to conservation. My next appointment was
The bears’ feeding ground is literally
science of climate change, or attack scien-
with local decision-makers to discuss car-
melting. As sea ice disappears earlier every
tists like me as alarmists, or worse. It’s not
bon pricing and free market solutions.
spring and forms later each fall, more polar
even the emotionally immediate about-
Though we’d emailed and spoken over the
bears are spending more time onshore. But
face in the U.S. government’s approach to
phone, Amstrup and I had never met. But
the prey they catch on land isn’t a viable
climate policy and scientific research. No,
scientists are a naturally curious bunch,
substitute for what they catch on the ice.
the most dangerous myth we’ve bought
so I was eager to pick his brain in person.
That’s why polar bears are one of the first
into is the idea that climate change is a
Amstrup has been researching polar
and most visible species to suffer the effects
future concern, one that we can address or
bears for nearly 40 years. He’s tagged and
of a warming climate. When I went to the
ignore without immediate consequence.
examined hundreds of individual bears
Arctic with Amstrup and his team in 2015,
and published more than 150 scientific
I saw this with my own eyes.
papers, including the ones that led to polar
Historically, the ice on Hudson Bay
bears being listed under the U.S. Endan-
refreezes in early November. But when we
gered Species Act. I asked Amstrup jokingly
made the nearly 2,000-mile trip to Chur-
how many bears he’d given mouth-to-nose
chill that year just in time for Halloween,
resuscitation to, expecting him to laugh.
there wasn’t a piece of ice in sight, just
Instead, he did some mental math before
plenty of ravenous bears. My 8-year-old
replying, “As many as a dozen.” And then
son had come along, wide-eyed at the sight
he told me about the trip his team takes
of grown-ups patrolling every corner that
every fall to Churchill, Manitoba, to observe
night to keep trick-or-treaters safe from
the bears in their natural habitat.
hulking bears that often stray too close
“Why not come see the bears for yourself?” he asked.
into is the idea
to civilization. During our first morning
out on the tundra, he shook me awake as
I wanted to go—who wouldn’t? But I
the sun appeared over the horizon. “Look
hesitated. I already had a hectic schedule
outside!” he said, pointing. “This bear has
The idea that we’re invulnerable to any-
planned for the fall, and my focus is on
been waking me up all night, standing up
thing the planet might throw at us isn’t
how climate change affects people—real
and peering in the window at us.” And, sure
unique to climate change. In Lubbock,
humans, in the here and now. Not only
enough, there was a giant bear right outside
Texas, where I live, no one doubts the real-
that, but I’ve often said that when the polar
our window: curious, bored—and hungry.
ity of tornadoes. Yet as the warnings for the
bear is the most visible mascot of climate
Many consequences of climate change
devastating 1970 tornado—to this day, one
change, it does the rest of us a disservice by
are far more subtle than a famished bear
of the strongest tornadoes to hit the busi-
making the issue seem remote and distant.
inches from a third-grader, but they are no
ness district of any American city—went
My reluctance must have shown on my
less proximate and life-threatening. And
out, veteran west Texas broadcaster Bob
face because Amstrup then said something
they impact us even more directly. From
Nash dismissed them, saying, “You have
that completely changed my perspective.
1981 to 2002, for example, it’s estimated
less chance of being hit by a tornado than
“We care about the polar bears because
that warming temperatures were respon-
being trampled by a dinosaur.”
they’re showing us what’s going to hap-
sible for an average of $5 billion worth of
We see this attitude reflected in opinions
pen to us,” he said. “If we don’t heed their
wheat, maize, and barley losses each year
about climate change. In a recent Gallup poll,
warning, we’re next.”
around the world. These crop losses often
68 percent of Americans surveyed said they
MAY | JUNE 2017
believe humans are causing climate change,
can’t pick them up and move them farther
but only 42 percent agreed that global warm-
inland. We prepare for extreme events—the
I’m a climate scientist. When I’m asked
ing will pose a serious threat in their lifetime.
drought of record, or the 100-year flood.
about global warming, my answer is
When asked if we think climate change will
What happens when a stronger drought
unequivocal: It’s real, we’re causing it, and
affect us personally, fully 50 percent of us
comes along, or much more frequent
it’s serious. Every week, I receive bile-filled
respond with a resounding no.
floods? When water resources dry up, in
messages—through email, Twitter, Face-
This is a bigger problem than whether
many places there isn’t a new source to
book, and even handwritten letters. They
we accept the science of climate change.
move on to; it’s already taken. By assuming
accuse me of getting rich off my research, or
Even for many of us who acknowledge
that the climate will continue to be stable,
perpetuating a hoax, or even aiding the Anti-
that global warming is happening—and
we have built our vulnerability to climate
christ. Or simply of being stupid, corrupt, or
we should, because it is—chances are we
change into the very foundation of our
evil (or all three!). There are days when it all
still see it as just one more item on our over-
infrastructure and socioeconomic systems.
seems too much, and I consider quitting. But
flowing list of priorities. News headlines are
messengers than heeding their warnings.
I can’t, because too much is at stake.
I V.
ing the truth about what’s happening to
energy, and finite resources. As individuals
For more than 150 years, we’ve known that
our planet. I’m not committed to this only
our daily attention goes to our health, our
burning coal, gas, and oil produces carbon
because I’m a scientist, but because I’m a
safety, our jobs, and our families.
dioxide, an important heat-trapping gas.
human. As a child growing up with one
And here is where we need to alter our
Heat-trapping gases occur naturally in the
foot in a developed country and the other
approach if we’re going to tackle climate
atmosphere. They keep our planet habitable;
in a developing one, I learned the value of
change successfully. It’s not a question of
without them, it would be a ball of ice. But
clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and
moving climate change “up” our priority
by digging up and burning massive amounts
healthful food to eat. Today, I’m a mother
full of urgent problems: refugees, immigration, and the threat of war; the economy,
The most
I get these messages because I’m stat-
dangerous myth we’ve bought
is a future concern.
list. I don’t think climate change needs to
of carbon, we’re wrapping an extra blanket
who wants a safe world for her child to grow
be an issue on our lists at all. We care about
around our planet, a blanket it doesn’t need.
up in—and everyone else’s as well. I’m a life-
a changing climate because it affects nearly
And that’s why the world is warming.
long Christian who believes that we should
every one of those things that are already
By the 1890s, we knew how much global
love others as Christ loved us and care for
temperature would increase if we continued
those who are suffering, their vulnerability
Almost 7.5 billion of us have built our
to burn fossil fuels. Yes, there’s always more
exacerbated by a changing climate.
cities and our countries under the implicit
to learn when it comes to understanding
Americans are more deeply divided
assumption that climate is stable, and that
this complex planet we live on. But it’s been
along political lines than at any time in
the conditions we’ve experienced in the
more than 50 years since U.S. scientists felt
recent history, and climate change may
past are reliable predictors of the future.
the evidence was sufficient to formally warn
be one of the most critical casualties of
Today, though, that assumption is no lon-
President Lyndon B. Johnson about the
this divide. The United States is an outlier
ger true. Earth’s climate is changing far
dangers posed by global warming. Climate
among developed countries: The major-
faster than at any other time in human
change isn’t a future problem anymore. It’s
ity of a political party holds that climate
history. Two-thirds of the world’s largest
happening here and now, but lately every-
change isn’t a real problem. As a direct
cities lie within a few feet of sea level. We
one seems more interested in shooting the
result, the No. 1 predictor of what we think
on our priority lists.
about climate science isn’t how much we
know about science, but where we fall on
Last year, in a hotel ballroom in San
Antonio, I gave a talk on climate to some
the political spectrum. The further to the
I live in Texas, where many of the world’s
300 water conservation experts from across
right we are, the more likely we are to reject
largest energy companies have settled. The
the state. The record-breaking 2011 drought
it as a hoax.
biggest carbon emitter in the United States,
had awakened them to the challenge that
So it’s no surprise that one of the most
Texas would be the seventh-largest polluter
water poses for Texas’s growing population.
frequent questions I’m asked is: “Could
on the globe if it were its own country. The
But most Texans still question the link to
you explain the science to my elected rep-
Lone Star State also has Rep. Lamar Smith,
human-induced change, and my presen-
resentative? If they knew the truth, I’m
who opened a March hearing of the House
tation followed that of a state senator who
sure they’d get it.” But the biggest thing
Committee on Science, Space, and Technol-
rated an F on the League of Conservation
I’ve learned during the past 10 years in
ogy, which he chairs, with a diatribe against
Voters’ scorecard, and the executive direc-
talking to farmers, Rotary Club members,
climate scientists. “Far too often, alarmist
tor of a state agency that maintains “the sci-
city planners, and petroleum engineers is
theories on climate science originate with
ence of climate change is far from settled.”
that science won’t convince many of those
scientists who operate outside of the prin-
I started with water, how we never have
who are in denial. This may sound strange
ciples of the scientific method,” said the
enough unless we have too much. I talked
coming from a scientist, but agreeing on
Republican, who later added, “All too often,
about how temperatures are increasing
the impacts and solutions matters much
scientists ignore the basic tenets of science.”
throughout the state, and how rainfall is
more than agreeing on the science. Aston-
If there was ever a state that might seem as
becoming more erratic in many regions.
ishingly, it is often easier to concur with
if it needs new values, sound science, and a
I showed predictions of drier and hotter
actions that will increase our resilience to
smack upside the head, Texas is it.
summers as the world warms by one, two, or
current risks and actions that will lead us
Yet when we add up all the weather
even three degrees. Then I focused on what
to the new clean-energy economy than to
and climate disasters since 1980 that have
we can do: Make smart water choices, plan
put faith in scientific facts that are more
caused over $1 billion worth of damage—
than a century old.
droughts and floods, wildfires and torna-
By following this train of thought, we
does, hurricanes and hail—Texas stands
arrive at a simple yet potentially revolution-
out as having the most such events of any
ary understanding: Getting people to care
state. For many of these weather extremes,
about a changing climate doesn’t require
climate change is loading the dice against
adopting “new” values. Gone is the burden
us. In some areas, heavy rainfall is becom-
of inspiring people to “care” about defor-
ing more severe, increasing flood risk. In
estation and melting ice caps. No need to
others, droughts will get more intense
teach them to hug a tree, respect a polar bear
and more expensive. Hurricanes, fueled
(hugging not advisable), or throw them-
by record warm ocean water, are ramping
selves into land conservation. Most remark-
up, and Texas is right in the crosshairs of
ably, the implication of this new perspective
this increasing risk.
to connect the dots
is that imparting urgency and concern is just
Incrementally, attitudes are changing,
a matter of showing people how to connect
too. The other day, while waiting to pick
the dots among the issues they already care
up my son, another parent came up to me.
ahead, and prepare for a water-scarce future.
about, and how those issues are affected
“Can I ask you something?” he said. “Do you
During my presentation, I avoided the
by—and in many cases are threatened by—a
think our weather is getting weirder?” Yes,
words “climate” and “change” in sequence,
changing climate.
I said, I think it is. “I knew it!” he exclaimed
even though that’s what the talk was about.
I’ve seen it work. I’ve watched people’s
triumphantly. “I’ve lived here more than
The event went well. No one interrupted
attitudes change, going from flat denial of
30 years, and I can tell.” This year’s winter
to object, and everyone clapped at the
global warming to jumping into the fight to
was the state’s warmest on record, as the
end—even enthusiastically. Afterward,
prepare for it or even stop it. I’ve seen farm-
much-beloved bluebonnet season began
quite a few people wanted to chat with me.
ers talk about why they prefer wind turbines
and peaked a month earlier than usual.
First in line was an animated woman in a
to oil pump jacks. Water planners who work
Across the country, nearly everyone has
tailored Chanel-style suit who shook my
for an organization that doesn’t officially
a bluebonnet story now. The majority of
hand vigorously before saying, “You know
acknowledge climate change have asked
people in every single congressional dis-
those people who are always talking about
me for future projections. And all this has
trict, red or blue, recognize that, yes, things
global warming? I don’t agree with them at
happened in the most unlikely of places—
are changing, including the severity of our
all. But this? This makes sense.”
the place I call home.
summers and the length of our droughts.
MAY | JUNE 2017
Other people who may not be as
concerned about the effects of warming
Although Texas is not doing much to
see the benefits of transitioning to clean
address climate change—Gov. Greg Abbott
energy. The fastest-growing job in the
dismisses the science of climate change, as
I traveled to Paris a few weeks after Hud-
United States is wind energy technician,
does state Attorney General Ken Paxton—I
son Bay to witness a very different event—
according to Bureau of Labor Statistics
have been heartened by the changes I have
the world negotiating a plan to keep global
projections. That’s particularly true in
seen throughout the state. City managers
warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.
Texas, which had almost 12,000 wind tur-
recognize that climate change is affecting
Two degrees isn’t a magic number that
bines as of the first quarter of 2017, more
us now, and they know it is only exacerbat-
will avert all negative consequences, but
than any other state. Wind generated
ing the problems we face. It isn’t a priority
it puts a limit on this experiment we’ve
about 15 percent of our power last year
on their list; it affects everything already
been conducting inadvertently. The Paris
and 23 percent in the first quarter of 2017,
on their list. That’s reason for us to care,
Agreement on climate change gives us a
according to data from the Electric Reli-
whether we recognize it or not.
viable target, and 145 countries have rat-
ability Council of Texas, the grid operator
the warning scientists delivered to LBJ on
that day in November 1965.
ified it (though 41 of the original signers
V I .
still need to do so).
are being installed every week. Along with
wind, Texas has huge solar potential. New
When I saw the polar bears in Churchill
the world and polar bear welfare makes
clean-energy installations, both solar and
with Steven Amstrup, Hudson Bay didn’t
these animals an iconic messenger for the
wind, are powering Army bases like Fort
freeze until December. “The ice-free sea-
risks of climate change, but it’s one that’s
Hood (saving taxpayers some $168 mil-
son is nearly a month longer than it was
entirely consistent with humans as mes-
lion over the life of the contract), Face-
three decades ago,” he said, which means
sengers, too. Both of our fates hinge on
book’s new data center in Fort Worth, and
the bears’ time to hunt and feed is consid-
living in a safe, secure place that provides
places like Georgetown, Texas. As oil patch
erably—and detrimentally—shorter. There
access to the resources we need. This is why
for most of the state, and more turbines
The link between human warming of
showing people how
It’s just a matter of
among the issues they
ALREADY care about.
workers have lost their jobs due to falling
are many important research questions to
Amstrup and his team are so focused on
prices, solar companies have taken them
answer. But, he said, we know what we need
telling people about the threats posed by
in to retrain them.
to do to save the bears. If sea ice continues to
global warming and what we can do about
A poll conducted by the Yale Program
shrink, the bear population on Hudson Bay
it. And this is why I’m so focused on com-
on Climate Change Communication in
could be gone by the middle of the century.
municating the risks of a changing climate.
2016 showed there are wide swathes of the
As the polar bears see their world chang-
Together, we confront both a challenge and
country where less than 50 percent of peo-
ing around them, so do we, but with one big
a hope. Although some impacts are inev-
ple agree that climate is changing mostly
difference: We have the capacity to recog-
itable, by acting now it’s possible to save
because of human activities. But when
nize why this is happening, how it’s affect-
the polar bears—and ourselves.
they asked another question, they got a
ing us, and how we can respond. Since the
different, and more encouraging, answer.
Industrial Revolution, we have been con-
KATHARINE HAYHOE (@KHayhoe) is an atmo-
More than 80 percent of people across the
ducting an unprecedented experiment
spheric scientist. She has conducted
country agree that it makes sense to invest
with our planet. We can’t guarantee a safe
climate impact assessments for organi-
in renewable energy, and 66 percent would
future if we don’t bring it to a close. Now’s
zations, cities, and regions, from Boston
require utilities to do the same.
the time to pull the plug and finally heed
Logan Airport to the state of California.
A policeman stands beside a riverbank outside the Somali town of Geerisa the day after a deadly flash flood.
MAY | JUNE 2017
What if there were a blueprint for climate
adaptation that could end Somalia’s civil war?
An English scientist spent his life
developing one—then he vanished
without a trace.
by Laura Heaton
Photographs by Nichole Sobecki
Watson knew the dangers of working
kidnappers, whom the journalist by then
in this region, but over the years he had
believed to be members of al-Shabab. The
honed a set of instincts that usually kept
man’s demands ranged from $2 million to
him out of harm’s way. He had lived in
$4 million for the ecologist’s safe return.
Somalia on and off for more than a decade
Watson’s family couldn’t pay, his country
(from the late 1970s until the government
wouldn’t, and the trail has been quiet ever
collapsed in 1991), spoke basic Somali, and
since. No group has claimed his killing. No
was married to a Somali-Kenyan woman.
remains have ever been found.
He was fluent in the country’s ever-shift-
For years after the kidnapping, the small
ing power dynamics. But no amount of
cadre of environmentalists still working in
local knowledge could have saved him
Somalia had assumed that decades’ worth
that spring morning.
of scientific knowledge compiled by Wat-
About an hour after they left the hotel,
son had also been lost. Without vital land
as they bumped along a dirt road that ran
surveys that vanished during the civil war,
parallel to the Jubba River, Watson and
it would be hard to determine precisely
Amukhuma came upon a vehicle block-
how or at what rate the country’s climate
ing their path. Six gunmen lay in wait. The
was changing—and therefore difficult to
driver attempted an evasive U-turn but got
design measures that could limit the dam-
stuck in a gully as the attackers opened fire.
age. But a recent discovery, made more
Watson was hit, and blood soaked through
than 4,000 miles away in Britain, has sud-
the sleeve of his shirt. One of the guards
denly resurrected the possibility of con-
surrendered his weapon; the other fled on
tinuing Watson’s environmental work. It
after sunrise on April 1, 2008, the
foot after firing a few rounds. The gunmen
renowned English ecologist Murray Wat-
tied up the driver and translator, leaving
son left the Saakow Hotel, a modest con-
them behind. Then they pushed Watson
crete guesthouse in rural southern Somalia,
and Amukhuma into the car and sped off
heading off for work in a Nissan Patrol.
deeper into the wilderness.
He and a Kenyan colleague, an engineer
One of the guards managed to call the
named Patrick Amukhuma, along with a
Saakow Hotel and a band of local mili-
translator and two guards, were on their
tia quickly mobilized to search for the
way to finish up a survey of flood-prone
researchers. When they got to the scene
areas for the United Nations using an aerial
of the ambush, they found Watson’s driver,
and ground survey technique Watson had
the translator, and the guards. The kid-
pioneered decades earlier.
nappers and their victims were long gone.
country wouldn’t,
One of the more lush regions in a largely
For days, authorities from Britain’s
arid country, the area covered by Watson’s
embassy in neighboring Kenya worked
survey was also among the most hazardous.
to track them down. So did a number
It was crawling with al-Shabab extremists,
of Watson’s friends and acquaintances,
has also revealed the extent to which his
who had taken to extorting the banana and
including the veteran BBC reporter Owen
legacy may be intertwined with the fate
sugarcane farms that unfurled along the
Bennett-Jones, who was based in London
of Somalia itself.
banks of the Shabelle and Jubba rivers.
but had contacts at the BBC Somali Service.
Increasingly erratic rainfall, a phenomenon
The Brits sent at least two search parties to
scientists have linked to climate change,
case the area around Jilib—a town where
was further threatening the farms by caus-
they believed he was being held, about 100
beset by extremes. In its harsh and arid
ing frequent floods that Watson hoped his
miles south of Saakow—and assess the
scrublands, where temperatures can
survey could help mitigate. Though the
feasibility of an extraction, but they were
exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit, nomadic
69-year-old Englishman wouldn’t have
never able to establish exactly where the
people eke out a living on just inches of
described it as such, he was leading a
kidnappers were holding Watson.
rainfall each year. The margin for survival
is a country long
groundbreaking climate adaptation effort
A few days after the abduction, Ben-
is razor thin, and drought has often sparked
in a country that is among the most vulner-
nett-Jones started getting calls from a
bloody conflict over livestock and other
able to climate change—and to the conflict
Somali man who spoke excellent English
resources. When the rains fail, herds of
that often follows in its wake.
and claimed to be a negotiator for the
camels and goats wither and die, often wip-
MAY | JUNE 2017
Watson with his Piper Super Cub bush plane.
the country’s first national parks, most
famously the Lag Badana National Park
in the fertile southern region, where the
Jubba River sustained old-growth forests
and visitors could see giraffes, elephants,
and lions. The agency also protected pastures from overgrazing and banned charcoal exports in order to protect trees. “He
was a dictator—I know that,” Karani said
of Barre. “But actually he was doing very
good things [for the environment].”
Under Karani’s leadership, the National
Range Agency blossomed from a tiny organization with just one Somali forestry specialist to a government agency with about
2,000 people on its payroll by 1988. The
agency put 3,000 more employees to work
in the countryside on forestry and sand
dunes projects in exchange for food rations.
Karani’s goal was to get all Somalis to see
Watson’s family
couldn’t pay, his
and THE TRAIL has been quiet
ing out the communities that depend on
stayed for a long time,” Karani explained.
conservation as their duty: Environment
them. Somalis “give names to the droughts,
Some 19,000 people starved to death, and a
Day was celebrated three times a year, with
and they give names to the wars,” said
quarter-million nomads lost most of their
the main event in April, the start of the
Abdullahi Ahmed Karani, whose work as
livestock, leaving them destitute.
rainy season. Throngs would gather at the
one of Somalia’s pioneering environmen-
After the Dabadheer drought, Soma-
National Theatre in Mogadishu to hear
lia’s president, the Marxist-Leninist mili-
Barre’s annual speech about the value of
It was a massive drought that propelled
tary leader Siad Barre, decided that more
trees, and the following morning, people
Karani, who is now almost 80, into the job
needed to be done to help people cope
would turn out to public spaces in their
that defined his career. Somalia typically
with recurring dry spells; they should be
neighborhoods to plant seedlings.
has two wet seasons each year: The long
prepared for the next inevitable drought.
Like other government agencies, the
rains, gu, last from April to June and the
So Barre established the National Range
National Range Agency benefited from
deyr from October to November. But in 1974
Agency to spearhead conservation efforts,
Somalia’s Cold War alliance with the United
and 1975, the rains never came. The Dabad-
and he tapped Karani to run it. Housed
States, which channeled hundreds of mil-
heer drought, as it became known, trans-
in a beautiful building with arching ara-
lions of dollars into Barre’s coffers. Leading
lates to “the long-tailed one,” because “it
besque corridors, the agency established
researchers and technicians from around
talists spanned too many of both.
firmed that the plastic hippo appeared to
pline, and he resolved to learn as much as
nists from Pakistan and Sweden, Indian
be female. “If I was a hippo, at 10 meters,
he could from the senior scientist. They
forestry managers, a Canadian ecolo-
I’d consider this one of the more attractive
worked together on more missions, and
gist. Donor countries sent staff to proj-
specimens,” he said. “So whoever’s in the
Ali’s admiration for Watson grew. He
ects housed at the agency, and foreign
back better be ready for action.”
became a friend and a mentor, encour-
universities set up partnerships. A young
Watson engaged easily with all types,
aging Ali to pursue a master’s degree at
Somali named Abdi Dahir, who had stud-
possessing a kind of dynamism that won
New Mexico State University in the United
ied plant curation at the Royal Botanic Gar-
him a vast social circle. He was friendly
States before returning to the National
dens in London, came home to direct the
with British commandos, with whom he
Range Agency in the late 1980s. Watson
new national herbarium that contained
loved to talk aviation; Somali elites includ-
was also the rare foreigner whom even
50,000 plant specimens, all displayed in
ing President Barre’s son; and even the
Somali elders respected. After he and his
wooden boxes.
future militia leader Mohammed Farah
team had surveyed a given region, they
Of all the international experts attracted
Aidid, whom American soldiers would tar-
would always show local authorities their
to the National Range Agency, a Cambridge
get in the infamous “Black Hawk Down”
maps. When Ali approached them, com-
University-educated British ecologist
operation in 1993. But he was close to few
munity elders would sometimes ask, “Who
stayed the longest. With his mop of curly
aside from his researchers. Together, Wat-
gave you our names? How did you get our
hair, signature khaki vest, and a penchant
son and his team crisscrossed the country
wells, our mountains, our valleys?” When
for flying low over the savannah in his Piper
by Land Rover and airplane to document
Ali would reply that a British man was
Super Cub bush plane, Murray Watson had
the environment in minute detail at some
doing this work, they were often stunned
already made a name for himself in Africa,
1,400 sites. They divvied up tasks by spe-
in disbelief: How could an outsider know
tracking herds of wildebeest in Tanzania
cialization—flora, water, soil, wildlife—and
the land as intimately as they did?
and hippos in Zambia. But it was Somalia
produced intricate, hand-drawn maps of
As the 1980s wore on, political turmoil
that captured and held his fascination.
vegetation and topography, conducted a
began to overshadow the work of the
Watson arrived in Mogadishu in 1978,
census of livestock, gathered thousands of
National Range Agency. Barre, whose reign
just as the National Range Agency was
samples of flora and soil, and took nearly
had long been characterized by discrimi-
starting its work. Through much of the
10,000 slides and photographs. Though
nation along clan lines and suppression of
1980s, he led a small team of scientists
they didn’t know it at the time, they were
dissent, began a brutal counterinsurgency
who, with international funding and Soviet
creating a detailed record of a place on the
campaign to stamp out potential threats to
maps, carried out the most comprehensive
cusp of calamity.
his rule. The government engaged in wan-
land and natural resource survey of Somalia ever completed.
Watson took his work seriously, and he
ton bombings and indiscriminate killings
of civilians. During this period, hundreds of
Ali was a
thousands of Somalis fled their homes. As
expected diligence and even perfection
20-something-year-old soil analyst at the
reports emerged of Barre’s abuses, donors
from his researchers. In many ways, he was
National Range Agency when he flew his
began pulling their support for his govern-
like a strict father: On the rare occasions
first mission with Watson. Ali had never
ment. The United States slashed its annual
they returned from the field to stay in Mog-
been on an airplane before, and his stom-
aid to Somalia from $100 million in the
adishu—then a cosmopolitan hub known
ach leapt as Watson banked low along
mid-1980s to less than $9 million in 1989.
as the “pearl” of the Indian Ocean—cavort-
the Indian Ocean, snapping aerial pho-
“Clearly the present situation is a disas-
ing with other expats was discouraged. But
tographs of the coastal vegetation on his
ter-in-waiting,” Watson wrote in a typed
rather than alienate his team, Watson’s
Olympus OM-1 camera. The day was sunny
memo dated Dec. 27, 1990, that he mailed
dogged commitment won him their fierce
and windy, and the Cessna bounced to a
to donor contacts in Western countries. A
loyalty. There was also a lighter, irreverent
landing near the town of Hobyo.
loosely aligned coalition of rebel groups
side to him. During the 1970s, he appeared
There was no airport, just acres of sand
was gaining against Barre’s forces. Thou-
on Jacques Cousteau’s hit adventure tele-
and scrub. The team set up camp and
sands of people had died in street battles in
vision series, which featured Watson in his
relaxed. But Watson didn’t join them,
element, studying hippos in Lake Tang-
recalled Ali, who at 61 is now a leading envi-
anyika in Zambia. As the crew unveiled a
ronmental consultant in Somalia. Instead,
life-sized hippo costume intended for the
he worked late into the evening, using a
photographers who were attempting to
ruler, a compass, and a Rotring technical
get close to the animals, Cousteau asked
pen to make detailed maps of the region
Watson for his expert opinion on the suit.
they had just surveyed.
The scientist’s grin broadened as he con-
MAY | JUNE 2017
Ali was impressed with Watson’s disci-
On the left are images taken from Watson’s
land surveys of Somalia; on the right are
images of these same sites taken 30 years
later. From top to bottom: the town of Borama;
a working hospital in the distance and a livestock market, outside of Berbera; highlands
near the town of Ceerigaabo, Somaliland;
an airstrip in Qardho, where Watson’s land
survey team once had its field base.
the world were drawn to the work—bota-
the capital. “The future holds little hope of
a rapid return to proper governance,” Wat-
Watson stands beside one of his company’s
vehicles at the Qardho airstrip in 1980 (left);
Abdi Dahir, the former director of the herbarium
in Mogadishu, inspects a yeheb nut bush during
a research trip in the mid-1980s (above); an
old photo from Abdullahi Ahmed Karani’s
personal archive shows the former head of the
National Range Agency talking with Chinese
contractors at the 1981 opening of the agency’s
new headquarters in Mogadishu (right).
son predicted in the same memo.
The National Range Agency—its elegant
building nestled between foreign embas-
month of intense fighting, rebels stormed
sies in an upscale part of town—met the
the presidential palace in Mogadishu and
same fate. On the ground floor, the herbar-
brought Barre’s 21-year rule to an end. Wat-
ium was looted and burned; Dahir’s neat
son, one of the few foreigners still in the
wooden boxes lay crushed.
country, called the BBC with an eyewit-
“Nothing exists today,” Karani said.
ness report that aired the day after the
“Everything after the war, the civil war in
coup. “You cannot imagine the carnage
Somalia, was…” He couldn’t finish the sen-
that the president … is wreaking on his
tence. “That makes me very sad. That’s why
own people,” he said over a rasping phone
I never talk about those things, because
line. “I took some photographs of bodies in
what we built was demolished.”
the street just now. There are not so many
bodies in the street because the dogs have
eaten most of them, but there’s still hands
were with him.
The United States backed Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006, plunging the coun-
try back into a civil war from which it has
is often cited as
yet to emerge. Today, those elements of the
the longest-running real-world example of
Islamic Courts Union that most worried
Soon after the president fell, the rebels
anarchy, from the coup in 1991 until 2006,
the United States continue to fight under
turned on one another and destroyed huge
when a federation of Islamic courts took
a familiar moniker: al-Shabab.
swaths of Mogadishu. Footage Watson shot
control of the southern half of the country
The environmental work headed up
on his camcorder shows residential blocks
and briefly imposed order. But the Islamic
by the National Range Agency has long
reduced to rubble; pickup trucks loaded
Courts Union, as the group was known,
since come to a halt. Karani fled Moga-
with heavily armed rebels careening past
governed by sharia, or Islamic law—a shock
dishu in 1991. He made his way to a refu-
burned-out cars; a lone fighter wandering
to Somalia’s more moderate Muslim sensi-
gee camp in Kenya and eventually on to
through the wreckage of a government
bilities—and some of its elements had ties
India, where his children re-enrolled in
building, documents littering the floor and
to al Qaeda. That made neighboring Ethi-
school. Ali also ended up in a refugee camp
blowing through its abandoned corridors.
opia and the United States deeply uneasy.
in Kenya, resigned to the fact that environ-
sticking through the sand.”
MAY | JUNE 2017
Watson’s pessimism would prove an
understatement. On Jan. 26, 1991, after a
mental work wouldn’t be a priority. “These
uted to more frequent drought across East
of Mogadishu in ruins, he quietly packed
people were just a bunch of gangs,” he said
Africa. Somalia’s relatively flat landscape
up the records of his land surveys—pho-
of the various factions vying for control of
leaves it even worse off than its neighbors,
tographs and slides, maps, field notes, and
Mogadishu throughout the 1990s and early
Kenya and Ethiopia, which can reliably
natural resource reports, thousands of doc-
2000s. They were not interested in land
expect to get at least some rain in moun-
uments in total—and spirited them out of
management. Watson stayed in Somalia
tainous areas where clouds get trapped
the country. He let Karani in on the plan,
until 1992, working on a nutrition survey
among the peaks.
but few outside his inner circle knew. Exfil-
as the country was wracked by famine.
The link between climate change and
trating state documents would have been
Finally, when it became clear his scientific
conflict is still poorly understood. But
a serious offense had the government still
expertise was being ignored, he moved to
last year, the African Union’s Peace and
been functioning, and doing so meant tra-
Laos and restarted his surveying business
Security Council held a session on cli-
versing territory controlled by unpredict-
there under the name Resource Manage-
mate change, warning that the warming
able warlords.
ment and Research. Several of his devoted
of the planet was a potential trigger for
“Watson was telling me that he was
researchers went with him.
intercommunal violence. U.N. experts
saving something important to Somalia,
As the years passed and Somalia
have reached a similar conclusion, as has
something very valuable,” Karani recalled a
descended further into chaos, no one
the U.S. Defense Department, which in a
quarter-century later. “I told him I felt safe
enforced the ban on charcoal produc-
2014 strategy document referred to climate
knowing those documents were with him.
tion that was designed to halt deforesta-
change as a “threat multiplier” because of
Otherwise, like everything, all other doc-
tion. No one monitored pasturelands to
its potential to exacerbate everything “from
uments—nothing would have been left.”
prevent overgrazing. And no one noticed
infectious disease to terrorism.” In Somalia,
How exactly Watson moved the survey
when an old Barre-era project aimed at
where fishermen-turned-pirates troll the
documents out of Somalia remains a mys-
stopping erosion—by introducing an inva-
coastline looking for cargo ships to hold
tery, though it seems likely he flew them
“I told him
I felt safe
knowing those documents
nothing would have been left.”
sive species of mesquite—went haywire
hostage and farmers-turned-insurgents
into Kenya in a bush plane. Eventually,
and snuffed out indigenous plants across
menace civilians on land, these reports
Watson brought them to Britain, where
hundreds of thousands of acres. Most large
simply confirm the obvious. “The fact
one of his most trusted researchers stored
mammals migrated or died, as war and
[is] that many of our youth have lost jobs
them in her attic. For more than a quar-
environmental degradation ravaged their
because of desertification, deforestation,”
ter-century, Watson’s work sat there gath-
habitats. Illegal fishing and toxic waste
said Buri Hamza, who served as Somalia’s
ering dust, untouched in carefully labeled
dumping increased as foreign companies
top environmental official. “This is one of
boxes and binders. Over the years, word of
took advantage of Somalia’s lawless waters.
the major causes of radicalization.”
their existence spread to a small group of
In a punishing confluence, climate scientists also recorded a persistent drop in
environmental researchers, most of them
employed by the United Nations, but few
he left in 1992, Watson
inside Somalia knew that the blueprint
spring gu rains that are vital for agricul-
carried out the most daring mission of his
for understanding how and why the envi-
ture. Meanwhile, the warming of water
career—and perhaps his greatest service
ronment was changing—and, possibly,
and atmospheric currents in and over the
to Somalia. With the wholesale looting of
for reversing the damage—had survived.
Indian and western Pacific Ocean contrib-
government agencies underway, and much
On an unusually sunny morning in 2015,
rainfall during these years, especially the
he spent the rest of our interview quizzing
succulent branches reaching skyward, as
home in the British countryside. (She asked
me about the contents of the attic, almost
captured in the slides he took that day. But
not to be named.) We spent hours in her
as if he didn’t believe the survey documents
as I drove along the escarpment 35 years
study flipping through Watson’s field notes,
had survived.
later, I couldn’t find a single candelabra
poring over his maps and photographs.
Held up to a light, his old slides offer a
glimpse into another time: broad, hun-
tree. Most had died out long before, locals
said, as the earth dried up and people fed
road through the Cal Madow
branches from the remaining trees to their
dred-year-old trees in southern Somalia,
Mountains, home to the highest peaks in
camels. Near a cluster of houses made from
vines creating a thick canopy over the road,
Somalia, snakes through highland juni-
skinny logs and blue corrugated metal, I
Mogadishu’s cathedral—now an iconic
per forests bounded by dramatic lime-
stopped to ask if even a single candelabra
ruin—intact and majestic.
stone cliffs. When Watson traveled along
remained: A man selling coffee pointed
Months later, at a café in the Somali
this route in 1981, likely in his gray Land
toward two trees in the distance, one of
city of Garowe, I told Ali what I’d seen. He
Rover, the junipers were interspersed with
which had lost all of its branches. Those
was quiet at first as the news set in. Then
abundant candelabra trees, their thick,
were the very last, he said.
MAY | JUNE 2017
I visited Watson’s former researcher at her
From Watson’s 1980s files (clockwise): an aerial photo of
livestock grazing on plentiful green pasture; a photo of traditional Somali homes and livestock pens; field notes from
Watson’s land survey, including photographs and hand-drawn
maps; aerial photographs of the city of Hargeisa taken by
Watson, pieced together to create a pre-satellite cityscape.
But it wasn’t candelabras that had
drawn me to the Cal Madow Mountains;
it was a murder. In the plains that slope
gently down from the range, where the
deep jangle of hand-carved wooden bells
announces roving herds of camels, violent
clashes have grown more frequent as pastoralists increasingly abandon their traditional migration routes in search of water
and pasture. When they encroach on the
lands of settled farmers, as they did near
the town of Aynabo about two weeks before
I arrived, bloodshed often follows.
The community there is built around a
single well. A few small farms—each just
several rows of beanstalks, watermelon,
and tomatoes—pump their water from
it through hoses connected to a central
Left: Abdirisak Ali, the former Watson acolyte, in
an office where he worked in Garowe, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.
Right: Abdullahi Ahmed Karani, who ran the
National Range Agency for more than a decade,
in Nairobi’s Karura Forest in April.
generator, which the farmers invested in
together. The population, which for most
members of his own family. “Fencing of
of the year is small enough to squeeze into
land and [claiming of] water are the major
a handful of dome-shaped houses made of
factors that start conflict,” he said.
wood, reeds, and cloth, swells slightly when
Adan worries about the cycle of violence
nomads arrive in anticipation of the rains.
that his cousin’s killing could spark. Some
Last year, a pastoralist named Mohamed
of the men in his family have gone in search
sought to graze his herd on a patch of land
of the shooter, who fled right after the inci-
claimed by another member of the com-
dent. Tradition dictates that there must be
munity. With most of the pastures barren
restitution for Mohamed’s family. If the
and the rains still weeks away, both men
shooter doesn’t return—alive or dead—
knew the survival of their animals hung
someone else will likely be killed. Revenge
in the balance.
is a powerful force in the way justice is prac-
“Both men lived in the same area. They’d
ticed in Somalia, far beyond the reach of the
had a fight before, and the shooter went to
state. “Cases like this are becoming more
the victim’s family to resolve the conflict,
and more common, which worries me,”
but none acknowledged his arguments,”
said Farax Arab, a health worker who pre-
said Ali Yusef Adan, a muscular farmer in
pared Mohamed’s death certificate. “It’s
a white tank top and loosely laced boots.
like a chain. It goes on and on.”
and violence leads
Adan is a cousin of both the shooter and
Across the country, the cycle of retri-
in 2012, and al-Shabab has been chased
the victim. “The shooting came from that
bution often plays out between clans in
out of most cities—some have started to
direction,” he said, gesturing to a deso-
an intricate pattern of revenge killings.
trickle back. A small group of environmen-
late clearing still strewn with empty car-
Twenty years from now, if tit-for-tat killings
talists, some of whom got their start at the
tridges. “He fired four bullets, and two of
escalate in the wake of Mohamed’s death,
National Range Agency, is trying to revive
them hit the man.”
few will remember that a grazing dispute
the conservation work that began there.
was the cause of the first bloodshed.
grew older, persistent lack of rainfall made
that lifestyle increasingly difficult. When
Adan inherited his father’s livestock after
Watson returned to Somalia to undertake
the fateful survey of the Jubba and Shabelle
rivers. Abdi Dahir, who long ago directed
of those who fled Somalia
the herbarium in Mogadishu, came back
his death, he decided to settle and start a
during its quarter-century civil war never
briefly in 1994 to work on a survey of Somali
farm. It wasn’t an easy decision. Claiming
returned, making new lives as migrants
flora and then moved home permanently
plots of land goes against tradition in many
and refugees abroad. But as the country
in 2012, joining an aid group called Adeso
Somali communities, and Adan realized
inches toward stability—the transitional
that focuses on environmental projects.
that doing so might cause friction with
government became a permanent one
Abdirisak Ali, Watson’s former acolyte, also
MAY | JUNE 2017
Adan’s father was a nomad, but as he
returned, serving from 2014 to 2016 as the
In June 2016, a month after we spoke,
of scientists and historians studying the
director-general of the Ministry of Envi-
al-Shabab detonated a car bomb outside
link between land degradation and con-
ronment, Wildlife, and Tourism in Punt-
the Hotel Nasa Hablod in Mogadishu,
flict in Somalia. The field notes and pho-
land, one of Somalia’s semi-autonomous
where Hamza had lived for the past eight
tographs are especially valuable, he says,
states in the northeast. Later, he was offered
years. Militants then stormed the complex,
because they are the only known baseline
another prestigious ministerial post but
shooting civilians and taking hostages. At
data on vegetation, water, soil composi-
turned it down in order to continue working
least 15 people were killed in the attack,
tion, and erosion. “To hear there’s this
as a consultant on environmental projects.
including Hamza, who was crushed as the
potential gold mine of scientific informa-
Ali worries that the overwhelming focus
walls came tumbling down.
tion sitting in someone’s attic.… It’s just
on security issues means that the Somali
With Watson likely gone forever and the
government and its international backers
infrastructure that once supported his work
mind-boggling to us.”
Last summer, not long after I told him
are treating the symptoms rather than the
in disarray, it has fallen to the next gener-
about Watson’s archive in London, Ali trav-
causes of the violence. “Yes, we need the
ation of Somali scientists to pick up the
eled to the World Agroforestry Centre in
military. We need the police. But what are
mantle and do what they can to help break
Nairobi, Kenya, which has one of the larg-
the root causes? What is actually driving this
this deadly cycle.
est collections of tree seeds in Africa. For
transformation in Somalia—the poverty,
The trove of documents Watson left
months, he and one of the directors of the
war, clan conflicts?” he said. “And I came to
behind could prove the key to doing so—
seed bank, Ramni Jamnadass, had been dis-
the conclusion: It’s the natural resources.”
though it might seem odd or even crazy
cussing the possibility of working together
This is the vicious cycle Somalia’s gov-
to place the hopes of a war-torn country
to reintroduce several extinct species of
ernment finds itself locked in nearly a
on a decades-old land survey stashed in
trees to Somalia, starting in some peace-
decade after Watson’s disappearance:
a house in the English countryside. But
ful pockets of Puntland. One of the trees,
Environmental changes spark violence,
Watson’s archive is both a unique histor-
the yeheb nut bush, was a kind of wonder
Environmental changes spark violence,
to FURTHER environmental
and violence leads to further environmen-
ical record and a vital scientific resource,
plant that could survive in arid climates.
tal destruction. Foreign governments and
one that environmentalists believe can
It had yellow flowers that animals ate and
institutions, which gave $1.3 billion in offi-
help them understand the impact of cli-
nutritious nuts that fed humans. But with-
cial development assistance last year, can
mate change in Somalia, begin to repair
out a record of where these plants had once
be reticent to invest in environmental ini-
its degraded environment, and possibly
thrived, and in precisely which conditions,
tiatives as long as bombings and assas-
to alleviate conflict.
they were planning to enlist the memory of
sinations are still a regular occurrence.
“The potential is huge, because this
local elders and draw on Ali’s own recollec-
Buri Hamza, Somalia’s top environmental
kind of historical information is needed
tions—a method that boiled down to guess-
official at the time, told me last year that
for any country—or any society—to
work and that both of them feared might
he struggled to get donors to come and
understand processes of ecological change
fail. Now Ali had news to share.
witness the scale of the country’s conser-
in some sort of systematic and dispassion-
vation crisis. “They say, ‘Until you guys
ate way, which is fundamental for effective
LAURA HEATON (@lauraeheaton) is a writer
bring about security in your country, we
resource management,” said Sean Fox, a
and journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.
won’t really be able to come,’” Hamza said
lecturer in geography at the University
Reporting for this story was made possi-
of international donors.
of Bristol in Britain who is part of a team
ble in part by The GroundTruth Project.
MAY | JUNE 2017
Illustration by Eddie Guy
From Western plot to party line,
how China embraced climate
science to become a green-energy
for the minister, vice minister, and various other subordinates in the immediate
aftermath, and obtained by the Guardian
in February 2010. The report’s authors concluded that the plan pushed by the United
States, which proposed cuts on all countries
instead of just developed ones, had been “a
conspiracy by developed nations to divide
the camp of developing nations.” The report
also lauded China’s decision to oppose a
by Geoff Dembicki
legally binding climate treaty, trumpeting,
“The overall interests of developing countries have been defended.” Far from being
the destructors of a progressive plan for climate change policy, the view from within
China was that its delegates had possibly
faced down a vast Western plot.
It was a strong reaction but one mostly
rooted in diplomatic objections—a rejection of a deal that could be seen as asking China and India to pay for the sins of
countries that had grown rich and mod-
against Copenhagen
December 2009, climate-watchers the
the country added 500 new 600-mega-
world over were trying to make sense of
watt coal plants; it was responsible for
how the most promising attempt to date at
more than 40 percent of global coal con-
preventing a global climate disaster went
sumption in 2009. From the outside, the
so horribly wrong. The Copenhagen Cli-
rationale for China’s alleged resistance
mate Change Conference had just come to a
was rather simple. It just wasn’t in Chi-
close, and the summit, which had brought
na’s interest to put the brakes on its rapid
ern by their bad behavior. But just over a
together 192 countries, was meant to cre-
growth for environmental considerations.
month later, the idea of the Western plot
ate the world’s first legally binding treaty
What could the country possibly gain by
took a strange, sharp turn. While speak-
on global warming. But in its final days,
capping emissions?
ing at a diplomatic event in New Delhi,
during negotiations between China and
Back in Beijing, however, there was no
Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate change
the United States, talks had sputtered, tee-
doubt about the threat of climate change.
negotiator—as well as vice minister of Chi-
tered, and ultimately collapsed. To observ-
Behind closed doors, officials were telling
na’s National Development and Reform
ers eager for good news, the result came as
a different story about the failed negotia-
Commission, the country’s economic plan-
a stunning and disheartening anticlimax.
tions in Copenhagen.
ning agency—surprised an audience of
To most of the West, it appeared that
“It was unprecedented for a conference
foreign environment ministers by saying
China had come intent on playing the
negotiating process to be so complicated,
that “we need to adopt an open attitude”
spoiler. The country’s coal consumption
for the arguments to be so intense, for the
about whether humans or natural atmo-
had been growing steadily for decades as
disputes to be so wide and for progress to be
spheric changes were to blame for the cli-
the government pushed industrialization.
so slow,” observed an internal report com-
mate’s warming. It was a shot against the
In the four years preceding Copenhagen,
missioned by the Environment Ministry
very foundation of climate science.
MAY | JUNE 2017
Though the remark flummoxed the dip-
and colder, but they are still lying through
life story in school textbooks. In the early
lomats in the crowd, it could have been
their teeth. These disgusting Westerners
1970s, toward the tail end of his career, he
written off as a negotiating ploy. Chinese
never stop trying to topple China,” argued
drew from historical Chinese records to
leaders had been cagey about the politics
one online commenter in response to
hypothesize that global temperatures had
of global warming and had assented to sign
Lang’s show. “These foreign bastards are
risen and fallen by several degrees Celsius
the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen’s
so worried that China will rise and sur-
during the past 5,000 years—due to natural
predecessor, on the condition they not
pass the United States. Because they are
fluctuations. It was a different conclusion
be forced to limit emissions. It was known
jealous of China, they even made up lies
from that reached by researchers in the
that there were still powerful forces in the
about China … the scientists are all pup-
United States and Europe, some of whom
government that were antagonistic toward
pets controlled by politics,” read another.
speculated that the planet was cooling.
any plan that could curtail the country’s
The commenter continued: “Copenhagen
Others were already finding links between
freedom to burn fossil fuels. But this was
liars! American liars!”
human activity and the steady rise in global
something new. Back in China, the pub-
Over the next year, more than a half-
temperatures. And though to most, Chu’s
lic backlash against Copenhagen—and
dozen books on the West’s climate con-
work on cooling was a footnote at the end of
climate science in general—had already
spiracy were published in China. Social
his career, China’s climate skeptics latched
media posts theorizing an American con-
on—less for the particulars of his conclu-
spiracy proliferated.
sions than for the fact that he’d reached
On Jan. 17, 2010, a highly popular—and
provocative—television host named Larry
Then something strange happened.
Hsien Ping Lang devoted an entire episode
After 2011, no more climate skeptic books
It is hard to overstate how critical that
of his current affairs talk show, Larry’s Eyes
were published. China’s state leaders
distinction would become in validating
on Finance, to the “great swindle” of global
stopped their skeptical statements, and
Chu’s work in his native country. The con-
warming. Lang, a University of Pennsyl-
the intense online discussions dimin-
viction that Western powers are trying to
Back in China,
them independently of the West.
the public backlash
and CLIMATE SCIENCE in general
had already begun.
vania-educated economist who was once
ished. Just as it was gaining steam, the
control and humiliate the country is a
described as China’s version of Larry King,
conspiracy theory seemed to disappear.
recurring theme of China’s modern polit-
told his millions of viewers that the goal of
And along with it, any public mention of
ical development—and closely linked to
Europe and the United States at the Copen-
climate change denial. As climate skep-
its wave of climate skepticism.
hagen negotiations was to prevent China
tics were gaining a steady foothold in U.S.
This sense of aggrieved nationalism has a
from being a global leader.
politics, why did China’s suddenly vanish?
legitimate historical basis. China was often
“The Western countries manufactured
the climate myth without any scientific
integrity,” and they have proceeded to
treated like a lesser power by Europe and
Japan in the mid-19th and early 20th cenorigins of climate change
turies. Even as the Communists opened
“demonize and constrain China in the
skepticism in China can be traced to a sci-
China to globalization in the 1970s and
name of climate,” Lang said. Clips of the
entist named Coching Chu. A pioneering
1980s, wounded national pride remained
episode were viewed tens of millions of
meteorologist in the 1920s and 1930s, Chu
a potent undercurrent of political life. It
times on Youku, China’s YouTube.
later became vice president of the Chinese
would eventually give rise to an intellec-
Lang’s worldview seemed to resonate.
Academy of Sciences and attained national
tual movement that started in the late 1990s
“[The weather] is obviously getting colder
fame after authorities decided to teach his
loosely known as the “New Left.” Members
of this cadre believed China had too firmly
na’s delegation snubbed the meeting by
United States invented the idea of climate
embraced Western-style capitalism, and
sending a lower-level diplomat in the place
change as a way to exercise control over
that to address widening inequality the
of the premier Wen Jiabao. Then it opposed
China. “Behind the back of the demonizing
state must take more control over eco-
targets such as a peak in worldwide emis-
of ‘carbon,’ we must recognize that it is the
nomic life.
sions by 2020 and a long-term emissions
sinister intention of the Developed Coun-
In 2006, after decades of unchecked
drop of 50 percent. Merkel appeared to
tries to attempt to use ‘carbon’ to block the
industrial growth, China’s cities were
be furious, Lynas later recalled, and at
living space of the Developing Countries,”
choked with smog and the country was
one point then-Australian Prime Minis-
he wrote. In another section, he argued,
poised to surpass the United States as the
ter Kevin Rudd banged his microphone
“We can see it clearly from the Copenha-
top emitter of greenhouse gases—a super-
in annoyance. In Lynas’s opinion China
gen Summit that the struggle between [the]
lative it would claim the following year.
was “torpedoing” hopes of an effective cli-
two camps has intensified.”
The Communist government responded
mate treaty to ensure its access to cheap
Liu had never seen anything like it. He
by enacting the Renewable Energy Law
supplies of coal. He recounted the meet-
bought as many of the books as he could
that same year, which ordered that 15 per-
ing in a Guardian article: “China wrecked
cent of the country’s electricity needs be
the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack
met by alternatives to fossil fuels. It cre-
Obama, and insisted on an awful ‘deal.’”
Later, as a sociologist at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he did an exhaustive
ated some paradoxical numbers. In 2009,
Wen said his name was never included
search for conversations about climate
air pollution was so bad that China spent
on invitations to the meeting Lynas
change denial on Weibo, a popular Chinese
an estimated $110 billion dealing with the
attended. And China Daily, a govern-
social networking site, and sifted through
health impacts, according to the World
ment-run English language paper, later
decades’ worth of issues of China Daily. Liu
Bank. At the same time, it had quickly
argued that China “played a vital role” in
has published his findings on climate-skep-
become the biggest global investor in clean
salvaging the talks by convening a last-min-
tic literature in a 2015 journal article titled:
energy, spending nearly $35 billion in 2009
ute meeting with Brazil, India, and South
alone, compared with about $19 billion in
the United States. There was a strong eco-
In the immediate aftermath of Copen-
nomic rationale for doing so. Former Pres-
hagen, China’s foreign ministry spokes-
ident Hu Jintao argued that China must
woman Jiang Yu accused Britain of
“seize preemptive opportunities in the new
demonizing and isolating China on the
round of the global energy revolution.”
world stage. “We urge them to correct mis-
the country was
These competing forces of distrust of
takes, fulfill their obligations to developing
the West, a nascent but promising commit-
countries in an earnest way, and stay away
ment to clean energy, and a willful belief
from activities that hinder the interna-
in the country’s right to develop came to a
tional community’s cooperation in coping
head in Copenhagen as negotiations stalled
with climate change,” she said. It rein-
over the disagreement about who should
forced the narrative that the Communist
bear the burden for cutting emissions.
leadership had been teaching for decades
Though China was at least theoretically
in China’s schools: The West was conspir-
primed to support action against climate
ing against them. Some far-left national-
“Low-Carbon Plot: Climate Change Skep-
change, the particulars of the deal—and
ists took it further. They began to argue
ticism With Chinese Characteristics.”
even the negotiations—were equally set to
that global warming is a hoax.
Before long, he was considered the fore-
derail an agreement. “It was a very frenetic,
emotional, high-pressure time,” said Mark
Lynas, a U.K. writer and environmental-
most expert on China’s denier community.
When I met him earlier this spring at
Chung-En Liu first stum-
the university, he was dressed in a but-
ist who was in Copenhagen as an advisor
bled upon China’s particular brand of cli-
ton-down shirt, slacks, and glasses—the
to Mohamed Nasheed, then president of
mate denial in 2013, when he walked into
typical outfit of academia. In his small,
the Maldives.
a bookshop in Beijing and saw Low-Car-
tidy office, he produced a stack of eight
At one point during the talks, Lynas
bon Plot: The Life and Death Battle Between
oversize paperback books that, after years
found himself in a room with then-Presi-
China and the West displayed prominently
of research, he has concluded are the most
dent Barack Obama, German Chancellor
on a shelf featuring a host of similar
influential and widely read skeptic books
Angela Merkel, and two dozen other heads
tomes. Written in 2010 by a then-rela-
published in China. “[They] all came out
of state. Posted against a wall, Lynas was
tively unknown Chinese writer named Gou
right after Copenhagen,” he said.
shocked by what he witnessed. First, Chi-
Hongyang, it argues that Europe and the
MAY | JUNE 2017
With titles like In the Names of CO2,
whose cover depicts a flaming dollar sign
cations of climate science. They argued
hurtling toward Earth, and The Global
that the West leveraged its scientific
Low Carbon War raises similar con-
Struggle Behind the Low-Carbon Hoax,
authority to impose restrictive policies
cerns about shifting to renewable energy.
Liu believes the books are crucial to under-
on China. This position is central to a 2011
“Because developing countries do not have
standing the worldview of China’s climate
book by Deng Guangchi titled Low Carbon
leading new energy technology, in the end,
skeptics: Science isn’t neutral, and which-
War: The Transformation of the 4th Indus-
they have to spend an enormous amount
ever country produces it controls the world.
trial Revolution. “The United States uses
of money to purchase it from the European
“The Europeans have made great effort
[climate policies] as camouflage to force
Union,” it reads.
on climate science for so many years,”
developing countries, China in particular,
But as Liu points out, underneath all
In the Names of CO2 argues. “They have
to lower carbon emissions and halt their
the vitriol and paranoia, the core of this
tons of publications and an enormous
industrialization processes,” it reads. Liu
climate change movement was less about
amount of data to back up their claim.”
disagrees, but he can see where this line of
science and more about power politics. As
This, it explains, gives the West “discur-
thinking originates. “For such a long time
the author of The Empire of Carbon Bro-
sive power”—a Chinese buzzword used
China has had this antagonistic relation-
kers: Carbon Capitalism and Our Bible—
to describe Western domination of global
ship with the U.S.,” he said. “This is not
whose cover displays a big red grenade
about the science. It’s about who can emit
in the shape of Earth with a smoking fac-
how much, and it’s about the West trying
tory on top—writes: “The key is that China
to contain China’s development.”
should not argue whether climate change
Here, the skeptics Liu studied do have
something of a point. When the Intergov-
driven by a strong economic incentive?”
ernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
This argument is being driven by a wider
is real or not with the West, but be part of
produced its fourth assessment report in
distrust of the capitalist system that China
the game.” In the end, “many of them are
2007, only 28 Chinese scientists partici-
has been embracing over the past decades.
agnostic,” Liu says. “It doesn’t really mat-
pated in the review, representing less than
One of its most outspoken critics is the pop-
ter if climate change happens or not. It’s
After decades of unchecked industrial growth,
than the United States.
2 percent of the report’s contributors. Three
ulist and conspiracy theorist Song Hong-
years later, the deputy director general of
bing, who wrote the 2007 best-selling (in
really about this huge power play.”
China’s National Climate Center, Xuedu Lu,
China) book Currency Wars. It argues that
said: “The majority of the IPCC’s references
Western financial elites, such as the Roth-
came from Europe and North America.
schild family, are trying to dominate the
Developing countries also want their voices
world under the guise of open borders and
to be heard in the drafting stage.” Only two
free trade. The book’s 2011 sequel claims
University, Beijing’s Renmin University
of the climate skeptic books that Liu stud-
that the adoption of financial markets
of China conducted a rare national climate
ied were written by scientists. Their aim
for greenhouse gases—in the form, say,
survey that resulted in some seemingly
was to make technical critiques of the IPCC
of a cap and trade system—is part of this
contradictory findings. On the one hand,
consensus. One argued that global “tem-
plot. “Who would spend so much time
it suggested that 93 percent of Chinese
perature change is different from what the
and money spreading the idea about car-
people think climate change is happen-
IPCC [predicted],” Liu said.
bon emissions?” Song says. “How can we
ing and the majority of respondents believe
Most of the authors in Liu’s collection,
believe that things like carbon currencies,
it “will harm themselves and their own
though, focused on the geopolitical impli-
carbon trading, and carbon tariffs are not
family.” (For comparison, a Yale survey of
And if China has to compete against the
West, it might as well win.
2012, with assistance from Yale
Americans taken around the same time
Leaders in China also saw global warm-
DeSmogBlog. And Greenpeace estimates
found that only 70 percent believe in cli-
ing as a looming threat to domestic sta-
that Koch Industries has spent $100 mil-
mate change, and a far smaller portion says
bility. “In China’s thousands of years of
lion over a similar period. “In the United
it will affect them.) Yet the Renmin study
civilization, the conflict between human-
States, casting doubt on the human cause
found that just 55 percent of Chinese peo-
ity and nature has never been as serious as
of climate change has been one of the major
ple think humans are the primary cause
it is today,” Environment Minister Zhou
strategies of industry,” said Anthony Lei-
of global warming, a percentage roughly
Shengxian said.
serowitz, the director of the Yale program
comparable with the United States.
China’s new climate policies were
on Climate Change Communication, who
The numbers were surprising, says Bin-
accompanied by extensive state outreach,
helped provide academic assistance for
bin Wang, co-founder of the Beijing-based
Wang says. It appears many Chinese peo-
Wang’s study. “There’s been a very con-
China Center for Climate Change Commu-
ple were receptive to the message—and the
certed disinformation campaign.”
nication, who helped design the survey.
messenger. Renmin’s 2012 climate survey
It’s possible the Chinese skeptics played
She had anticipated high rates of belief,
found that 86 percent of respondents trust
a similar, if truncated, role during a period
but the response she found was off the
the central government as a source of infor-
of internal debate in the government, with
charts. Though the months and years fol-
mation about global warming. Similarly
fossil fuel-friendly interests in the govern-
lowing Copenhagen marked a high point
high percentages trust scientific institutes
ment helping to get the books published.
for China’s climate skeptics, internally
and China’s news media, which are largely
In China, when the party line cohered
the Communist leadership was coming
controlled by the state. This helps explain
around the greener path in 2012, the space
to a consensus that global warming war-
why so many of the people Wang surveyed
for that debate disappeared. The leader-
ranted serious action, quietly but decisively
accept global warming.
ship in the state-run energy companies was
pushing out nonbelievers. Without a big
As for the 45 percent of respondents who
largely purged during a recent anti-corrup-
announcement of change, the subtle but
aren’t sure if humans are to blame? Wang
tion campaign and now they would have
steady shift in messaging had gone largely
says it’s lack of education. The 4,200 Chi-
unnoticed by the rest of the world. “The
nese adults she and other researchers con-
leaders needed to rethink where China
tacted came from affluent urban centers
should go,” Wang said. One of their main
along with poorer and less-educated rural
considerations was China’s slowing eco-
regions, whose dwellers can plainly see that
nomic growth and whether green technol-
droughts and extreme weather are becom-
ogy had the potential to reverse it.
ing more common—even if they’re unsure
The survey revealed that most of the
exactly why. “Many Chinese have at least
public did not agree with the skeptics.
heard about climate change because most
Climate change denial was no longer an
of them experience it,” she said.
acceptable opinion. Indeed, this seems
Liu has tried to find out what happened
to be the moment that China’s climate
to his once-buzzing hive of deniers. “I tried
skeptics vanished. The authors Liu stud-
to hire a student to look into ‘Do we have
ied stopped writing books about global
any new things coming in from this camp?’
warming; no new titles were published
and so far nothing really,” he said.
the conflict between
after 2011. The pockets of intense online
There’s the possibility of a de facto cen-
very clear incentives not to promote denial,
discussion they’d inspired appeared to
sorship. Although “we can assume that the
even if state-owned fossil fuel companies
subside. A new perspective had taken hold.
Chinese government does not actively sup-
like Sinopec and China National Offshore
By the time China adopted its 12th Five-
press such skepticism,” Liu said in a 2015
Oil Corp. wanted to question the existence
Year Plan in 2011, a green strategy had
academic article, it certainly does not pro-
of climate change. “Top [oil and gas] exec-
begun to crystalize. The plan proposed to
vide the conditions that would allow for
utives have always been very much aware
turn low-carbon industries into a major
the kind of climate denial you see in West-
of the fact that their promotion depends on
driver of the economy. China aimed to
ern countries to flourish: a large network
the Party,” a report from the Oxford Insti-
spend $761 billion by 2020 transitioning
of anti-government think tanks heavily
tute for Energy Studies stated.
off fossil fuels. “It is a historical moment,”
supported by oil, gas, and coal companies.
In the years leading up to the 2015 cli-
Beijing-based economist Hu Angang wrote
ExxonMobil, for one, has spent $33 million
mate change negotiations in Paris, China’s
at the time, “the point at which China
since 1998 funding organizations like the
government made low-carbon growth one
launches—and joins—the global green
Heartland Institute, which questions the
of its top priorities. “It’s a totally different
revolution and adopts a concrete plan of
link between humans and climate change,
situation in China than the U.S.,” Wang said.
action for responding to climate change.”
according to research from the publication
Another reason China’s skepticism
MAY | JUNE 2017
receded is that climate change stopped
old times to become the weapon to con-
lion into renewable energy. All this “is
serving the same ideological purpose.
strain, oppress, and exploit poor countries.”
likely to widen China’s global leadership
In Copenhagen, China felt attacked and
But nobody in China’s government is
in industries of the future,” concluded a
humiliated by the United States and
publicly echoing those opinions. In the
recent report from the Institute for Energy
Europe. But in Paris, China worked closely
media and academia, they have also all
Economics and Financial Analysis. Yet
with the United States to negotiate the
but disappeared. “It’s really fringe,” Liu
the United States is still the most import-
world’s first comprehensive climate agree-
said. “It’s not mainstream.” It seems likely
ant global actor on climate change. “All
ment. Obama phoned Chinese President Xi
to stay that way, too.
the rest of the world, including China, we
Jinping shortly after the talks “to express
If climate change has been a piece of the
are looking at Trump—what will he do?”
appreciation for the important role China
larger game that China was playing with
Wang said. But no matter what happens,
played,” the White House said in Decem-
the West, it’s possible that, almost a decade
she added, “the green transformation for
ber 2015. Climate change no longer made
after the collapse at Copenhagen, Beijing is
China and the world is a reality.”
China look weak. It was now a story of Chi-
finally—and decisively—winning.
During the U.S. presidential campaign,
na’s strength. “The current leadership is
Shortly after Donald Trump won the
reporters dredged up a 2012 tweet that
really setting its sight on having China be
presidency, Xi told him in a call that China
sounded as if it might as well have been
the preeminent global power of our time,”
will continue fighting climate change
drafted by one of Liu’s writers. “The con-
said Victor Shih, an associate professor at
“whatever the circumstances.” Though the
cept of global warming was created by
the University of California at San Diego
new U.S. president has staffed his admin-
and for the Chinese in order to make U.S.
and a well-known commentator on China.
istration with skeptics such as Scott Pruitt,
manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump
“[Fighting climate change] does give China
the head of the Environmental Protection
wrote. But perpetuating hoaxes and plots
the opportunity to do so.”
Agency, China released data suggesting it
won’t win the coming fight against climate
could meet its 2030 Paris targets a decade
change. It’ll be the ability—and the will-
But it doesn’t mean climate skepticism
“In China’s thousands of years of civilization,
been as SERIOUS as it is today.”
in China has disappeared—not completely.
early. “The financial elites I talk with,”
ingness—to adapt. And while China has
When Liu and his colleague Bo Zhao, an
Shih said, “they think that the fact that
seized onto climate change as the issue on
assistant professor at Oregon State Uni-
the Trump presidency has so obviously
which it could be both a technological and
versity, did an extensive search of all the
withdrawn from any global effort to try
moral leader, the United States has taken
Weibo posts mentioning climate change in
to limit greenhouse gases provides China
a great leap back.
the months before and after the Paris nego-
with an opportunity to take leadership.”
In November, the world will come
tiations, they found contrarian opinions. A
The paths both countries are taking
together again in Bonn, Germany, for the
U.S.-educated physics researcher named
couldn’t be more divergent. While Trump
latest United Nations conference on cli-
Wan Weigang speculated in one of the more
rescinded Obama’s Clean Power Plan with
mate change. We’ll have to wait and see
popular climate denier posts that, “Maybe
a promise to end America’s “war on coal,”
who the spoiler will be this time.
in five years, the global warming theory will
China aims to close 800 million tons of
be cited as a joke.” They found other state-
coal capacity by 2020. The U.S. Office of
ments that could have been lifted right out
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy is
author of Are We Screwed? How a New
of the skeptic books in Liu’s office: “Climate
facing a budget cut of more than 50 per-
Generation Is Fighting to Survive Climate
replaces guns, cannons, and warships in
cent when China is pouring over $361 bil-
Change, out in August.
(@GeoffDembicki) is the
History of
The United States may have
invented national parks—but
the rest of the world helped
perfect them. Now, generations later,
that spirit of cooperation
and competition might just be
the thing that saves them.
by Tim Murphy
Illustration by Kevin Tong
MAY | JUNE 2017
free-for-all at the time of his visit. The
The United States may have been the
government had let private owners set up
first country to christen a national park
bathhouses on the grounds, which might
with the founding of Yellowstone in 1872,
not have been so bad except those own-
but it did so not out of intrinsic brilliance
ers were rarely around. In their absence,
or wisdom passed on from the Founders.
bathers were at the mercy of one another.
Rather, America’s parks got their start
January 1886, a Canadian bureaucrat
Someone with rheumatism “may enter a
through a series of fortuitous—and often
named John R. Hall was dispatched on an
tub immediately after it has been vacated
shameful—events. Certainly, by modern
urgent mission to Hot Springs, Arkansas.
by some one afflicted with a contagious dis-
standards, many users of the early parks
The Dominion government had recently
ease,” Hall noted in his report. The federal
were decadent and depraved, hunting
protected 10 square miles outside Banff
government had disbursed little money for
wolves and chipping off pieces of geo-
in Alberta, Canada, having learned of the
staff or improvements. “I have mentioned
logical features to bring home. U.S. law-
“remarkable curative properties” of the
the apparent laxity of management,” Hall
makers were not environmentalists then.
area’s steamy, sulfur-rich waters. Given the
wrote. “[I]t would be more strictly accurate
Federal protection began in earnest only
close proximity to a railroad depot there, the
to say that there is no management at all.”
after the Civil War, when the U.S. Army
Canadian Pacific Railway Co. had prodded
Despite Hall’s disparaging assessment,
pivoted to fighting American Indians. The
the government to act in the hope that the
the Canadians decided the problem lay in
campaign of ethnic cleansing and reloca-
new preserve would boost tourism on its
the execution, not the idea. When park sup-
tion that followed opened up expanses of
recently completed transcontinental line.
porters in the Canadian Parliament finally
the West to exploration for the first time.
But the cart had gotten ahead of the iron
made the country’s parks official in 1887,
Reports from the region confirmed its nat-
horse. Visitors who hoped the waters would
beginning with Banff, lawmakers plagia-
ural grandeur, and the government started
restore their health began descending on
rized their enacting language from the U.S.
carving out land for posterity. By the time
the springs before the government could
legislation that had authorized the “public
figure out how to manage its new posses-
park” at Yellowstone.
sion. To further complicate things, squat-
Whether Canada or the United States
ters (some of whom had helped construct
gave it much thought at the time, the delib-
the railroad) had made their own claims to
eration over Banff marked one of the first
the land and built shacks near the springs.
acts of national-park diplomacy. The two
So, the Canadians turned their gaze south
nations had broken ground on a new way
to Arkansas where the U.S. government
of thinking—not just about the ways gov-
had been running a similar operation for
ernments interact with their land, but also
some 50 years; its popularity was widely
how they interact with each other. Though
known. Hall’s instructions were to study the
the Canadian and American systems would
workings of America’s first protected pub-
stumble through missteps over the next
lic land and report back on how the Yanks
half-century (Banff would even host a World
had done it.
War I internment camp), Hall’s early visit
“America’s Best Idea”
Hall’s train was held up by a snowstorm
shed light on a fundamental and valuable
in Missouri, but he eventually made it to
lesson. Commerce could be an essential
Theodore Roosevelt left the White House in
the then-912-acre preserve in the Ouachita
lubricant for getting new parks off the
1909 there were eight national parks, nine
Mountains and promptly panned it in a note
ground, but government was essential to
national monuments, and an expanding
to his superiors. He declared that the springs
keep them running.
network of national forests.
lacked “intelligent supervision, modern
appliances, cleanliness and civility.”
The story of public lands in the United
Word of these parks and their stunning
States hinges on the tension between the
attractions quickly spread, hurried along
President Andrew Jackson had origi-
country’s most entrepreneurial impulses
by private sector advertising. Beginning in
nally signed a bill setting aside the land
and its most utopian ones, and the parks
the late 19th century, visitors came to the
that would become Hot Springs National
could not exist without either. That tension
American West from around the world and
Park as a federal reservation in 1832. But
has not diminished. If anything it may be
returned home as converts, determined to
after enacting protections for the site, Old
more heightened than ever, and it’ll take
start their own parks. A former New Zea-
Hickory and Congress seem to have left the
a new, more muscular brand of conserva-
land premier was moved to preserve his
area mostly unregulated. Conditions had
tion and diplomacy to keep two centuries
country’s geothermal hotspots after an
reached rock bottom in the years before
of slow, complicated progress from crash-
1873 painting expedition to California’s
Hall’s mission, and it was still largely a
ing down.
Yosemite Valley and Hot Springs. The
MAY | JUNE 2017
long road to a national park system in the
alism about U.S. parks, has often been
he encouraged Washington to devote full-
United Kingdom began with a visit in the
attributed to the prolific American novel-
time attention to its crown jewels. Here was
1920s to three American parks—and two
ist Wallace Stegner, whose writings on the
a Brit suggesting that the United States
Canadian ones—by a British lord. When
West helped promote conservation. Docu-
adopt an idea that Canada had embraced
Poland opened its first park, the govern-
mentarian Ken Burns credited the novelist
the previous year, 1911—the Dominion
ment proudly cited the motto above the
with the phrase and used it as the name of
Parks Branch. The roles were now reversed.
north gate of Yellowstone: “For the Bene-
his 2009 series about the parks. Actually,
The Americans followed Canada’s exam-
fit and Enjoyment of the People.” Because
Stegner ascribed the original description to
ple, and the U.S. National Park Service was
Europe was already densely populated, its
someone else—a British ambassador, Lord
authorized four years after Bryce’s address.
parks first took hold in colonial enclaves
James Bryce, a friend of Teddy Roosevelt
Complementing this regulatory trend,
that, like the United States, had dispos-
and an amateur explorer who claimed to
a capitalist strain, more concerned with
sessed native populations of vast swathes
have discovered a plank from the remains
commerce than ecology, was glamorizing
of land and then deemed it wilderness.
of Noah’s Ark. If Bryce did say it, he tem-
the parks. In 1906, a group of railroad exec-
Australia’s first park, which was creatively
pered his admiration with constructive
utives, entrepreneurs, and representatives
called The National Park, came a few years
criticism. During a 1912 speech in Balti-
from the U.S. government, Mexico, and
after Yellowstone’s founding. The Dutch
more, he praised the American system of
Canada had met in Salt Lake City to hash
created a preserve in Java in 1921, and King
parks, but warned of the perils ahead if
out a plan to compete with the booming
Albert set aside more than 59,000 acres of
the nation didn’t take a stand against new
European tourism market. Their solution
the Belgian Congo in 1925.
threats being pushed by some of the parks’
was called “See America First,” a simple
boosters in the tourism industry.
slogan that for its isolationist echo was
Today, there are more than 209,000 designated protected areas across virtually
Railroads had lobbied for Yellowstone,
in key ways international. It wrapped the
every country on Earth. By almost any
Glacier, and other parks in the late 19th cen-
country’s northern and southern partners
They would never have been mythologized as
if the parks HADN’T BEEN SHAPED
by foreign influences.
metric—square miles covered (more than
tury, recognizing them as a major source
in its embrace, inviting tourists from across
12 million) annual visitors (a record
of revenue for their lines. The automotive
the Atlantic to visit all three countries in a
330 million in U.S. national parks last year
industry and attendant motels and drive-
North American version of the grand tour.
alone and some 8 billion to natural areas
throughs soon followed, and would turn
The founding document emphasized the
internationally each year), wildlife selfies
the great Western road trip into a national
plan’s economic benefits and “vast amount
(data unavailable)—they are bigger, and
rite of passage.
of good” to Mexico and Canada in addition
more crucial, than ever.
But Bryce presciently wondered where
to the United States.
It’s worth remembering that in typical
such developments might end. He pro-
The result was that at a critical moment
American fashion a lot of what made the
posed the radical idea of banning auto-
in history, with the park service soon to
country’s parks great was borrowed from
mobiles and paved roads in parks like
be established and the West still empty
somewhere else. They would never have
Yosemite, anticipating, in some form,
enough to save, the United States went
succeeded or been mythologized as “Amer-
the wilderness areas that would sweep
big—and inclusive. What followed was the
ica’s Best Idea” if the parks hadn’t been
public lands decades later. And at a time
flowering of an intracontinental conserva-
shaped by foreign influences.
when parks were overseen haphazardly
tion movement, focused on drawing tour-
by a patchwork of government bureaus,
ists to North American wonders as opposed
That slogan, which captured the ide-
to European ones. (The slogan was ubiq-
Every spring tourists encounter spectac-
of the 21st century is omnipresent and
uitous enough to inspire a 1916 Broadway
ular evidence of the internationalism that
existential. You can keep condos out of
romantic comedy by the same name, with
shaped America’s parks: the very cherry
Yellowstone; you can’t easily keep sum-
music by Cole Porter.) Under the auspices
trees lining the National Park Service’s
mers from getting warmer. The balance
of “See America First,” the United States
walkways that were a gift to the United
between development and conservation
quintupled its number of parks (with 34
States from Japan in 1912. The park area
has been thrown way off kilter. If the per-
by 1968) and coaxed its neighbors to do
was championed by first lady Helen Taft,
ils facing parks are no longer local or even
the same. After the establishment of Gla-
who was inspired by a similar arbor she
national, then the way we address them
cier National Park in Montana in 1910, by
had visited—not in the United States, but
can’t be either. Protecting the parks in a
which time Canada had already designated
on a visit to Japan. This year, though, the
moment of global environmental upheaval
its own park, Waterton Lakes, across the
canopy of pink blossoms appeared weeks
means thinking of them as the global insti-
49th parallel, the two countries agreed to
ahead of schedule because of the chang-
tutions they are.
a “peace park” spanning both sides of the
ing climate. What started as a symbol of
It remains to be seen whether Trump,
border. At the same time, the United States
peace has become evidence of something
who seems determined to alienate many of
sought a similar arrangement with Mexico,
more ominous.
the nation’s oldest allies, can be persuaded
and the U.S. government set aside public
to temper his most destructive impulses.
lands in the hope of forming a southern
Who knows? Maybe a businessman as
peace park. The dream was never quite
obsessive about branding and building
realized—at least not in so explicit a form.
big things could understand the value of
However, borderland preserves, such as
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
in Arizona and Big Bend National Park in
Today, with the U.S. National Park Ser-
Texas, are enduring descendants of this
vice still on a victory lap for last year’s cen-
aspirational moment.
tennial celebration, America’s parks may
Parks and land preserves had become a
global currency by which countries com-
“See America First” to include the country—an entrepreneurial experiment on the
grandest scale. Since he became president,
be on their shakiest footing since their
pete, negotiate, and curry favor. In more
President Donald Trump, elected on a
recent decades, for good or ill, natural
promise to put “America First,” is working
preserves have remained political the-
to roll back air and water regulations and
aters—the terrain on which nations fur-
open public lands for drilling and mining.
ther dialogue, coerce, or extend influence.
Republican members of Congress recently
In 2009, when the United States wanted
pushed for legislation that would allow
to demonstrate progress in post-Taliban
for a fire sale of public lands to state gov-
Afghanistan, it pointed to the establish-
ernments. The new administration is also
ment of that nation’s first national park,
moving to change the protected status of
Band-e-Amir. Bill Clinton grew U.S. influ-
some two dozen national monuments,
ence in Eastern Europe after the fall of the
including a 1 million-acre swathe border-
Iron Curtain by sending park rangers to the
ing the Grand Canyon, that were estab-
though, his actions have been cause for
Carpathian Mountains to rebuild the out-
lished by Presidents Clinton, George W.
alarm. At an impromptu ceremony for the
doors economy. Ecuador and Peru averted
Bush, and Barack Obama. There are plans
White House press corps in April, Press Sec-
conflict in the late 1990s by setting aside
to build a 20-foot wall through one of the
retary Sean Spicer announced that Trump
their disputed border region, the Cordil-
most ecologically diverse regions in North
would donate his first paycheck—$78,333—
lera del Cóndor, as a peace park. In 2013,
America. Meanwhile, the parks are facing
to the park service for the purpose of main-
Israel hastily designated a new national
a new threat. Climate change will cause
taining national battlefields. But that was
park near Jerusalem to serve as a buffer
Joshua Tree to lose its Joshua trees and
a pittance compared with the $1.5 billion
against Palestinians moving into a tense,
Glacier to lose its glaciers.
he proposed to cut from the Department
global environmental
disputed neighborhood. (One Israeli press
When unwelcome or unlawful develop-
of Interior’s budget in March. That bud-
headline referred to the project as the “Stra-
ers began to encroach and sully America’s
get, incidentally dubbed “America First,”
tegic National Park.”)
picture-perfect landscapes in the 19th cen-
also forecasted a smaller role for the park
There may be no more powerful sym-
tury, the solution seemed simple enough:
service, deemphasizing land acquisi-
bol of cultural diplomacy in a national
Draw red lines on a map and cordon off
tion and advocating for increased reve-
park than Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin.
selected areas from intruders. The crisis
nue from “environmentally responsible”
MAY | JUNE 2017
energy development. Before his donation,
ment on climate change, perhaps Obama’s
Roosevelt’s dream of a peace park, Amer-
the administration’s first interaction with
most important contribution to the parks.
ican and Mexican officials announced a
the park service was to chide the agency for
Trump hasn’t abandoned the landmark
compact to commit to its long-term protec-
posting a photo of the thinned-out inau-
accord, but has taken steps that would pre-
tion. In lieu of a toast, they released 267,000
guration crowd on Twitter.
vent the United States from meeting the
Rio Grande silvery minnows into the river
Trump’s experience with conserva-
carbon-reduction requirements mandated
to celebrate. Before they left in the 1940s,
tion has mainly been limited to an over-
by the treaty. Energy Department staffers
ranchers in the Big Bend had culled much
grown state park outside New York City
have been instructed not to use the term
of its wildlife—bears, wolves, and bighorn
that he donated to the state of New York
“climate change” in their work.
sheep. But more than four decades after the
in exchange for a massive tax break after
Meanwhile, the Department of Home-
last one lived in the park, a mother bear
acquiring the land for about $3 million.
land Security has begun preliminary plan-
that had wandered across the river was
His green spaces are golf courses, not for-
ning for a wall along the southern border,
spotted with two cubs that had evidently
ests, and the cultural heritage he chooses
through some of the lands proposed for a
been born in the Big Bend. In the 1990s
to celebrate is often one of his own cre-
peace park in the early 20th century. One
and 2000s, that transient population grew
ation. When Trump unveiled a newly ren-
early proposal obtained by Reuters calls
into a stable community. As of the most
ovated golf course on the Potomac River
for the wall to (somehow) pass through
recent count, there were some 30 bears in
outside Washington, he added a histori-
the canyons and mountains of Big Bend
the park, an unassisted species recovery
cal marker—not to any of the dozen or so
National Park, although the actual route is
that is almost unprecedented along the
park service-protected forts or battlefields
uncertain. From a conservation standpoint
southern border. Bighorn sheep have been
nearby, but to a fictitious Civil War bat-
the idea seems almost cruel, because there
reintroduced to the area; wolves might be
tle that had been conceived for the pur-
may be no better example than the Big
a bit further off.
poses of selling the course. Conservation
Bend of what a collaborative, international
Megafauna do not recognize political
Protecting the parks in a moment of
UPHEAVAL means thinking of them
as the GLOBAL INSTITUTIONS they are.
for conservation’s sake has never appealed
approach to the parks can accomplish.
boundaries. The parks are international
to him; the land is only as valuable as what
In the 1990s, the Mexican government
in their origin and in their function—mon-
finally established two small preserves
uments to cooperation, commerce, and
Obama, by contrast, viewed himself as
along the Rio Grande, across from Big
soft power. America’s early conservation-
a steward of the land, and actively con-
Bend—and added a third in 2009. Just as
ists recognized that borders could be pro-
cerned himself with the climate science
importantly, the cement giant CEMEX,
tected not as heavily policed barriers but
relevant to its protection. While visiting
which owned an entire mountain range on
as shared, global public trusts that man
Yosemite last year, he expressed alarm that
the Mexican side of the border across from
and beast could roam across freely, and
“Bird ranges are shifting farther northward,
the park, announced that it, too, would
that responsible stewardship of the land
alpine mammals like pikas are being forced
be setting aside its property for conserva-
makes nations more—not less—prosper-
farther upslope to escape higher tempera-
tion. The result was the creation of what
ous. That’s a pretty radical idea—maybe
tures,” and “Yosemite’s largest glacier—
conservationists call a “transboundary
even one of America’s best.
once a mile wide—is now almost gone.”
mega-corridor,” an interlocking series of
he can sell it for.
The Trump administration has been
public and private protected borderlands.
TIM MURPHY (@timothypmurphy) is senior
foggy about the future of the Paris Agree-
In 2011, invoking President Franklin D.
reporter at Mother Jones.
“ GMAP helped me become a relentless learner.”
– Guilherme Athia, GMAP13
Senior Director, Government and Public Affairs: Europe, Middle East and Africa,
Nike, Inc.
Geneva, Switzerland: June 1–2
Visit us at and
contact us at
I was one of our nation’s hungry kids growing up. Today, 1 in 5 children in
America struggle with hunger. But when they get breakfast, their days are
bigger and brighter. Learning, attention, memory and mood improve.
Together, we have the power to get breakfast to kids in your neighborhood—
let’s make it happen. Go to and lend your time or your voice.
Viola Davis, Hunger Is Ambassador
Hunger IsÆ is a joint initiative of the Albertsons Companies Foundation and the
Entertainment Industry Foundation, which are 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.
Photo By: Peggy Sirota
for more information, to RSVP, or to
schedule a Skype or phone call with
a member of our admissions team.
“Unfortunately, the Trump administration is bowing to the old special-interest line that
the United States must choose economic competitiveness over environmental protection even though
history says otherwise.” GINA MCCARTHY, P. 76
deep state cafe
The Wages of
Sin Is the Death of
the World
The biggest threat
to a fragile planet is
human frailty.
This is the theory known as the butterfly effect—the notion that
a butterfly batting its wings on one side of the world could trigger
violent storms on the other. Pair this theory with “human warming” and we arrive at a corollary that could be called the “Weinerfly effect,” which would explain how the small movements in the
vicinity of Anthony Weiner’s fly could have an impact on the global
environment. (Past examples include the Berlusconifly effect, the
Strauss-Kahnfly effect, and, most relevant to this discussion, the
Clintonfly effect.) This might seem like adolescent humor (and
it is), but bear with me: The politics of sex has had an impact on
our climate, and they illustrate an even bigger challenge we face.
To understand the Weinerfly effect, we have to first understand
its consequences, then work backward to the causes. Today, we
have an administration in Washington that is resolutely committed to battling not climate change but the idea of climate change.
President Donald Trump has done more than openly question
climate change. He has appointed an Environmental Protection
Agency head who has been an anti-climate activist throughout
MAY | JUNE 2017
And what triggered this investigation?
An unrelated inquiry into the sexting of former Rep. Anthony Weiner. That’s right. As
virtually everyone knows by now, because
Weiner was a perv the FBI investigated him,
and because he had some emails from his
wife, Huma Abedin, on his laptop and Abehis career; he has signed executive orders
din was a top aide to Clinton, those emails
one of the seven deadly sins applies, first
undermining the climate protections that
were relevant to the FBI’s investigation into
and foremost: greed (the attempts by Exx-
Barack Obama put in place; he has actively
the then-Democratic presidential nominee.
onMobil, the former company of Secretary
promoted the use of coal (one of the worst
So, the FBI not only reopened the investi-
of State Rex Tillerson, to battle and under-
among our major energy sources) as well
gation into Clinton, but announced it in
mine climate change activists and scien-
as promoted the myth of “clean coal”; he
a way that may have tipped the results in
tific findings). Sloth plays a role (People in
appointed the head of one of the world’s
Trump’s favor. Indeed, it seems likely it
the United States and in many countries
largest petrochemical companies as sec-
did. Which means that the uncontrolled
around the world have failed to make bat-
retary of state; and he has threatened to
impulses of Anthony Weiner will have
tling climate change a priority). Gluttony
pull the United States out of global cli-
directly led to grievous damage being done
is there, too (Cattle ranching has caused
mate accords. And through all of this,
to the environment.
tremendous environmental degradation,
the Trump administration has been sup-
The most distinguished champion of
threatens water supplies, and is linked to
ported by most of the GOP leadership who
the environment to achieve high office in
global warming). And envy and pride drive
have made it a point to take the bold stand
against science and facts.
In fact, no administration in modern history has done so much so fast to endan-
ger the environment, and it is committed
to doing more—for all the wrong reasons.
But how did such outliers (and outrageous liars) come to hold positions of
power? According to recent studies, Americans strongly believe global warming is
occurring, and, according to recent polling data, over two-thirds of Americans
modern times in the United States may
the consumption of petroleum byproducts
want to limit carbon emissions from coal
well be former Vice President Al Gore. He,
and the acquisition of cars and jet planes.
power plants. The president and his team
like Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote
In other words, while emissions create
remain firmly outside the mainstream even
and narrowly lost the Electoral College. He
global warming human behavior creates
as obvious changes to the planet—shrink-
was also a victim of the indiscretions of a
the demand for the emissions, the impulse
ing ice caps, increased extreme weather,
politician, in this case his former boss, Bill
to continue to violate the environment, the
record- breaking temperatures—receive
Clinton. Had Clinton not taken advantage
lack of political will to act with sufficient
of an intern and created a scandal, perhaps
urgency, and the success of politicians who
Trump won the election by a margin
Gore would not have been afraid of politi-
are faithless stewards of the environments
of just under 80,000 votes in three states
cal contagion and asked him to campaign
that have been entrusted to them.
(affording him the Electoral College edge).
in Arkansas, which might well have won
The biggest threat to a fragile planet is
Experts like Nate Silver have since indi-
that state for Gore and made him president.
human frailty. Regulations and laws and
cated that this difference could have
Now, I am not suggesting for a moment
policies and international agreements won’t
resulted from then-FBI Director James
that sleazy politicians are responsible for cli-
change that. Only a good long look in the
Comey’s decision, just days before the elec-
mate change. What I am trying to illustrate
mirror (or the rising seas around us) will. Q
tion, to publicly reveal that he was inves-
is that bad behavior unrelated to climate
tigating a previously unknown batch of
issues can actually have profound effects
DAVID ROTHKOPF (@djrothkopf) is CEO and
Hillary Clinton’s emails.
on the climate. Certainly, more than just
editor of the FP Group.
green politics
Lean In to
Climate Change
To maintain an edge
against China, America
must continue to be
an environmental leader.
eventually pushing the Chinese government to respond by better connecting the dots among clean air, climate change, and
economic growth.
International relationships have always been influenced by
the availability (or constraints) of natural resources essential to
public health, well-being, and economic growth. Unfortunately,
the “America First” mantra touted by the Trump administration
seems blind to the fundamental need for clean water, air, and land.
There are vast economic opportunities and diplomatic leverage
the United States can either seize on or cede to China through
climate leadership.
The proven economic benefits of domestic action to advance
clean energy, such as tax incentives for wind and solar energy,
have supercharged our fast-growing clean-energy industry, added
hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs, and promoted significant economic growth. Clean energy helped pave the way for
the Obama administration to lower greenhouse gas emissions
to 1994 levels, while managing to create 11.3 million jobs with 75
MAY | JUNE 2017
requires multilateral cooperation, which
will always demand a strong, global leader.
Without a path paved by nations bold and
considerate enough to set terms, craft solutions, and sell them to the rest of us, we
will all suffer the consequences of inaction.
straight months of employment growth.
In short, the current administration
In the past, the United States has been
that leader.
doesn’t seem to get it. It argues that the
As a country, we became stronger and
Environmental Protection Agency needs
more competitive because of our unflinch-
ucts. During the Obama administration,
to return to its “core mission,” as if carbon
ing action, not in spite of it. When the
we set a course with the auto industry to
double fuel efficiency and prevent mil-
pollution doesn’t threaten public health
thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer
and safety—never mind its impact on clean
threatened the well-being of all people,
lions of tons of carbon pollution. Today,
air and water.
the United States seized an opportunity to
the industry is thriving.
If the Trump administration fails to
lead. In 1988, the Reagan administration
Bullish environmental leadership and
show leadership on domestic climate
led a historic charge to institute a global
climate action are not costs; they’re invest-
actions and support the Paris Agreement
agreement to attack the pollution causing
ments. By weakening or withdrawing our
on climate change, it will cede a competi-
the problem. To this day, the global regime
nationally determined contribution to the
tive economic edge to nations like China.
to combat ozone-depleting substances is
Paris Agreement, we would be sending the
It would place the health and safety of our
hailed as one of the most successful mul-
wrong signal to clean-energy investment
families, communities, and country at risk
tilateral agreements ever.
dollars and the rest of the world, which
and waste our international expertise and
Unfortunately, the Trump administra-
leverage, which are essential to ensuring
tion is bowing to the old special-interest
historically looks to us to set the pace and
tone of the global economy.
Under President Barack Obama’s leadership, we tactfully secured China’s support for a joint climate agreement before
striking the Paris climate deal. In sharp
contrast, climate change was not a topic
of discussion during Chinese President Xi
Jinping’s visit to the United States in April.
And the Trump administration refuses to
name a special envoy for climate change,
a key U.S. position in international climate
that each country is accountable to its com-
line that the United States must choose
Although the EPA and American cli-
mitments and achieves lower emission lev-
economic competitiveness over environ-
mate diplomacy may be less relevant under
els that science may demand over time. It’s
mental protection even though history
this administration’s regressive brand of
misleading of this administration to point
says otherwise.
scorched-earth leadership, no one per-
to China’s 2030 reduction goal under the
During the EPA’s 46 years, the United
Paris Agreement, as if it gives the nation
States experienced record growth while
son—not even the president of the United
States—can reverse global economic forces
a free pass until then. China must act now
curtailing pollution. For every dollar spent
moving toward a lower carbon economy.
to meet its commitment, and it is already
on lifesaving regulations, we’ve seen up
The train to our clean-energy future has
making substantial investments in renew-
to $9 in health benefits—a boon for eco-
left the station.
able energy and disinvestments in coal-
nomic welfare. Conventional air pollutants
If we want to lead the world and reap
fired power plants. In fact, during the next
have been reduced by 70 percent, while
the benefits, the United States must lean
five years, China is expected to remain the
our economy grew by about 250 percent.
into climate action, not away from it. We’ve
largest player in wind-energy growth.
By 2008, the environmental technologies
been that nation before, and we can be
Combating environmental health risks
and services industry supported 1.7 million
that nation again.
is an exercise in addressing the “tragedy
jobs and generated $300 billion in revenue.
of the commons.” Pollution, like carbon, is
That year, the industry exported goods
GINA MCCARTHY (@GinaEPA) was the head
diffuse and blind to borders. Addressing
and services worth $44 billion, topping
of the Environmental Protection Agency
global environmental health risks always
U.S. sectors like plastics and rubber prod-
from 2013 to 2017.
national security
The Ministry of
To stop security breaches
before they happen, U.S.
intelligence agencies are
surveilling everything.
the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), which
reports directly to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
For decades, from the first World Trade Center bombing to 9/11
to the recent Syrian poison gas attack, U.S. intelligence agencies
have consistently been caught off guard, despite hundreds of
billions of dollars spent on spies, eavesdroppers, and satellites.
IARPA’s answer is “anticipatory intelligence,” predicting the
crime or event before it happens.
Like a scene from Minority Report, the 2002 film where criminals are caught and punished by a “precrime” police force before
they can commit their deeds, IARPA hopes to find terrorists,
hackers, and even protesters before they act. The group is devising robotic machines that can find virtually everything about
everyone and issue automatic “precrime” alerts.
That’s the idea behind the agency’s Open Source Indicators
(OSI) program: Build powerful automated computers, armed with
artificial intelligence, specialized algorithms, and machine learning, capable of cataloging the lives of everyone everywhere, 24/7.
MAY | JUNE 2017
the NSA as the deputy national intelligence
officer for signals intelligence connected to
weapons of mass destruction.
To process such mammoth amounts of
information, both open and secret, IARPA
is racing to develop the world’s fastest computer, one capable of “beyond exascale”
Tapping real-time into tens of thousands
speeds—1 quintillion (a million trillion)
are already in place, and that administrative
of different data streams—every Facebook
operations per second—program manager
decision can be changed at any time by the
post, tweet, and YouTube video; every toll-
Marc Manheimer told the Next Platform, a
Trump administration, which has shown
booth tag number; every GPS download,
news site that covers high-end computing.
little regard for privacy issues.
web search, and news feed; every street
Under IARPA’s Cryogenic Computing Com-
During his confirmation hearing last
camera video; every restaurant reservation
plexity program, the agency is focused on
February, Dan Coats, the new director of
on Open Table—largely eliminates surprise
moving from traditional semiconductors
national intelligence and the head of the
from the intelligence equation. To IARPA,
to an energy-efficient superconducting
office to which IARPA reports, expressed
the bigger the data, the fewer and smaller
supercomputer able to crunch data and
his support for the NSA’s warrantless
the surprises.
break encryption at unimaginable speeds.
overseas internet spying, which has also
If all this sounds familiar, it is. In 2002,
But collecting the data is useless without
scooped up some domestic communica-
the U.S. Defense Department created Total
analysis, and that’s where the dangers of
tions. The authority, contained in Section
Information Awareness (TIA). Similar to
anticipatory intelligence and “precrime”
702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
IARPA’s OSI, TIA’s goal was to create a “vir-
policing are myriad and growing, with
Act, is due to expire in December, but Coats
tual, centralized grand database” made up
the shape of a subject’s face now the lat-
vowed to make reauthorizing it his “top leg-
of unclassified, publically available infor-
est determinant of his or her likelihood
islative priority.” And, as a senator, Coats
mation. But following press reports and
a public outcry, Congress killed it. However, the Pentagon secretly shifted some
resources to the National Security Agen-
cy’s own research center, the Advanced
Research and Development Activity
(ARDA). Then, in 2007, ARDA quietly morphed into IARPA.
Even more troubling is IARPA’s secretive program Mercury, which focuses on
data mining private communications collected by the NSA. Last year, for example,
to be or become a terrorist. That capabil-
voted against the USA Freedom Act, the
the agency collected more than 151 million
ity is, at least, the assertion of Faception,
bill that prohibited the bulk collection of
phone call records involving Americans,
an Israeli company that says its software
Americans’ phone records.
according to a U.S. intelligence commu-
uses “advanced machine learning tech-
In Minority Report, the precrime pro-
nity report released May 2. Worldwide, the
niques” and “an array of classifiers” to
gram was shut down after the system was
number is likely in the billions.
“match an individual with various per-
proved to be subject to manipulation. That
Like OSI, Mercury is outsourced to pri-
sonality traits and types with a high level
plot provides a lesson for IARPA. In Decem-
vate contractors who develop computerized
of accuracy.” Thus, according to the com-
ber 2016, Sean Kinion, a scientist working
robots to scan the ocean of NSA intercepts
pany’s website, its program can simply
on a program for IARPA, was sentenced to
for clues to potential terrorists, hackers,
pick out the likely terrorists, pedophiles,
18 months in prison after pleading guilty
social unrest, and war. According to IARPA,
and white-collar criminals from “video
to faking data.
“The Mercury program seeks to develop
streams (recorded and live), cameras, or
methods for continuous, automated anal-
online/offline databases.”
JAMES BAMFORD (@WashAuthor) is a colum-
ysis of SIGINT in order to anticipate and/or
To its credit, IARPA claims that the open-
nist for FOREIGN POLICY and the author of
detect political crises, disease outbreaks,
source data it collects is anonymized to
The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA
terrorist activity, and military actions.” The
protect privacy—but the group makes no
From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on Amer-
program manager for the Mercury project,
mention of the NSA intercepts. Neverthe-
ica. He also writes and produces docu-
Kristen Jordan, had previously worked at
less, the hardware, software, and algorithms
mentaries for PBS.
history lesson
The Thucydides Trap
When one great power
threatens to displace
another, war is almost
always the result—
but it doesn’t have to be.
Of the cases in which war was averted—Spain outstripping
Portugal in the late 15th century, the United States overtaking
the United Kingdom at the turn of the 20th century, and Germany’s rise in Europe since 1990—the ascent of the Soviet Union is
uniquely instructive today. Despite moments when a violent clash
seemed certain, a surge of strategic imagination helped both sides
develop ways to compete without a catastrophic conflict. In the
end, the Soviet Union imploded and the Cold War ended with a
whimper rather than a bang.
Although China’s rise presents particular challenges, Washington policymakers should heed five Cold War lessons.
Lesson 1: War between nuclear superpowers is MADness.
The United States and the Soviet Union built nuclear arsenals so substantial that neither could be sure of disarming the
other in a first strike. Nuclear strategists described this condition
as “mutual assured destruction,” or MAD. Technology, in effect,
made the United States and Soviet Union conjoined twins—neither able to kill the other.
MAY | JUNE 2017
and China today might involve limits on
cyberattacks or surveillance operations.
By reaching agreements on contentious
issues, the United States and China can create space to cooperate on challenges—such
as global terrorism and climate change—
in which the national interests the two
powers share are much greater than those
Today, China has developed its own
that divide them. Overall, leaders should
robust nuclear arsenal. From confronta-
understand that survival depends on cau-
NSC-68, which provided the road map for
tions in the South and East China Sea, to
tion, communication, constraints, com-
countering this threat, U.S. officials devel-
the gathering storm over the Korean Pen-
promise, and cooperation.
oped a winning Cold War strategy: contain
insula, leaders must recognize that war
would be suicidal.
Lesson 2: Leaders must be prepared to
risk a war they cannot win.
Although neither nation can win a
Lesson 4: Domestic performance is
What nations do inside their borders
Soviet expansion, deter the Soviets from
acting against vital American interests,
and undermine both the idea and the prac-
matters at least as much as what they do
tice of communism. In contrast, Ameri-
abroad. Had the Soviet economy overtaken
ca’s China policy today consists of grand,
nuclear war, both, paradoxically, must
that of the United States by the 1980s, as
politically appealing aspirations that seri-
demonstrate a willingness to risk losing
some economists predicted, Moscow
ous strategists know are unachievable. In
one to compete.
could have consolidated a position of
attempting to maintain the post-World
Consider each clause of this nuclear par-
hegemony. Instead, free markets and free
War II Pax Americana during a fundamen-
adox. On the one hand, if war occurs, both
societies won out. The vital question for
tal shift in the economic balance of power
nations lose and millions die—an option
the U.S.-China rivalry today is whether
toward China, the United States’ real strategy, truth be told, is hope.
In today’s Washington, strategic thinking is often marginalized. Even Barack
Obama, one of America’s smartest presi-
dents, told the New Yorker that, given the
pace of change today, “I don’t really even
need George Kennan.” Coherent strategy
does not guarantee success, but its absence
is a reliable route to failure.
Thucydides’s Trap teaches us that on
the historical record, war is more likely
no rational leader could choose. But, on the
Xi’s Leninist-Mandarin authoritarian
other hand, if a nation is unwilling to risk
government and economy proves superior
than not. From Trump’s campaign claims
that China is “ripping us off ” to recent
war, its opponent can win any objective
to American capitalism and democracy.
announcements about his “great chem-
by forcing the more responsible power to
Maintaining China’s extraordinary eco-
yield. To preserve vital interests, therefore,
nomic growth, which provides legitimacy
harrowing roller coaster of U.S.-China
leaders must be willing to select paths that
for sweeping party rule, is a high-wire act
relations. If the president and his national
risk destruction. Washington must think
that will only get harder. Meanwhile, in
security team hope to avoid catastrophic
the unthinkable to credibly deter potential
the United States, sluggish growth is the
war with China while protecting and
adversaries such as China.
new normal. And American democracy is
advancing American national interests,
exhibiting worrisome symptoms: declin-
they must closely study the lessons of
ing civic engagement, institutionalized
the Cold War.
Lesson 3: Define the new “precarious
rules of the status quo.”
istry” with Xi, he has accelerated the
The Cold War rivals wove an intricate
corruption, and widespread lack of trust in
web of mutual constraints around their
politics. Leaders in both nations would do
GRAHAM ALLISON is director of the Harvard
competition that President John F. Ken-
well to prioritize their domestic challenges.
Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science
nedy called “precarious rules of the status
Lesson 5: Hope is not a strategy.
and International Affairs. This article is
quo.” These included arms-control treaties
Over a four-year period from George
adapted from his book Destined for War:
and precise rules of the road for air and sea.
Kennan’s famous “Long Telegram,” which
Can America and China Escape Thucy-
Such tacit guidelines for the United States
identified the Soviet threat, to Paul Nitze’s
dides’s Trap?, available May 30.
the fixer
interview by LAURA DIXON
Bogotá, Colombia
Álvaro Andrés Cardona Gómez
on where to find the best
cafés, libraries, and manly manicures
of the new post-FARC era.
ON A HIGH PLATEAU in the Colombian Andes,
some 9,000 feet above sea level, Bogotá,
a bustling capital of 8 million, is a city to
rival New York, Mexico City, and São Paulo.
Colombia’s largest city is flush with culture—vibrant cafes, plentiful libraries and
bookshops, art galleries and museums.
It has earned a reputation for car bombs
It is impossible for
politicians and people like that to pop
into a Bogotá bar.
They would have to
arrive with 25 bodyguards. The powerful go to places
although it, too, was
bombed in 2003 by
the FARC. These
clubs offer a wide
selection of beverages, including coffee and whiskey, as
well as a spa where
they look after you
completely. To
spot celebrities, try
a disco called THE
END on the 30th
floor of the Hotel
and violent left-wing guerrilla movements,
but it is also known as the “Athens of Latin
The country’s 52-year conflict with the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) officially ended with a peace deal
last November. Today, Bogotá’s colorful
if gritty colonial center, the Candelaria, is
being revamped. In some neighborhoods
skeletal future high-rises mark nearly every
block. There is a buzz in the air, and a sense
that after decades of conflict this is a place
you get a feel for the
history of Bogotá,
from the ugliest
parts to the most
beautiful. THE PAL
11 Supreme Court
judges were killed
during a 1985
hostage crisis, is
worth seeing. The
on the corner
of the square tells
you more about
the siege. Those
with their eyes on
the city skyline
will find 33 sculptures of Jorge Olave
fixed to the roofs
of the colonial
buildings in the
set to boom if the deal can hold.
The peace agreement, which was more
than four years in the making, brought
to an end the longest-running war in the
hemisphere, but the hard work continues:
clearing this country of landmines, tackling land reform, and reintegrating guerrilla soldiers who have only ever known a
Alberto Salcedo
Ramos is one of the
most important
journalists in
Colombia. He won
the Rey de Asturias,
and his “cronicas,”
or stories, have
been very important. As for novelists, Juan Gabriel
Vásquez, who wrote
The Sound of Things
Falling, is very popular at the moment.
country at war.
In the wake of the peace agreement,
fixer Álvaro Cardona has never been busier.
Everyone wants an interview either with
the FARC or the leaders of the narco gangs
that operate in Colombia’s jungle zones.
In 2011, Cardona, tired of photographing
grisly murders for a tabloid newspaper in
the coffee-region city of Manizales, moved
to Bogotá with just $150 in his pocket. He
has worked as a fixer for journalists from
Brazil, Finland, the United Kingdom, and
the United States. His work has afforded
a quick intimacy with his adopted hometown, a place he calls “a city of opportuni-
MAY | JUNE 2017
ties” and terrible traffic.
the Candelaria is
a great place for
live music and
salsa dancing. On
the roads between
Caracas Avenue
and Calles 53 to
72, musicians play
all types of music,
such as romantic
Colombian and
ranchera. If you’re
having a party, ask
them how much
for an hour of music.
They will serenade
your wife or play
at your daughter’s
Visitors looking to
kick back inside
the city limits can
while away an
afternoon in SIMÓN
Bogotanos picnic
and walk by a
meandering lake or
along winding trails.
In most cities,
beauty salons are
the domain of
women, but in
Bogotá, they are
packed with men
having manicures.
Even Colombia’s
most macho men
have transparent
polish painted on
their fingernails.
At 3 a.m. It used
to be that places
would be open all
night, but the new
mayor has tightened things up.
That said, hidden
discos go until 10
in the morning.
Visitors who want a
gallery experience
will enjoy the BOTERO
MUSEUM, as well as
Colombia’s artists
have long created
masterpieces that
deal with the
country’s troubled
past. Doris Salcedo
recently put up a
temporary work in
a massive white
shroud printed
with the names of
war victims.
Bogotá is known for
its many libraries.
All are worth a visit.
market is 120 years
old and a popular
area for crafts, like
wicker baskets and
woven bags from
around the country.
Nearby is the CAFÉ
PASAJE, which politicians frequented
during the times
of Jorge Eliécer
Gaitán, the popular
leader of the
Liberal Party who
was assassinated in
1948. Now it is an
almost sacred place
to sit and have a
coffee or beer.
The ZONA G, which
stands for the Gastronomy Zone, is in
a restaurant-packed
area north of the
city where movers
and shakers like to
eat. For fine dining,
try EL CIELO, run by
the award-winning
Colombian chef
Juan Manuel Barrientos, whose dishes
include coal-blackened river fish and
prawns cooked
with the local fruits
lulo, papaya, and
passion fruit.
Stay away from pan
con chicharron—
salty bread with
pork fat. It will give
you indigestion.
Colombian food is
very heavy. Bandeja
paisa, one of our
national dishes, is a
plate of beans, rice,
chorizo, fried pork
belly, eggs, avocado, and mincemeat. Not everyone
is going to feel good
after that. Watch
the chichi, too,
a drink made from
fermented corn or
pineapple. It’s nice
when it works,
but it can make you
ill for a week.
FP (ISSN 0015-7228) May/June 2017, issue number 224. Published six times each year, in January, March,
May, July, September, and November, by The FP Group, a division of Graham Holdings Company, at 11 Dupont
Circle NW, Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20036. Subscriptions: U.S., $119.99 per year; Canada and other
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the final word
monocultures ruins the soil, polluting
streams and groundwater.
We’ve harmed this planet most grievously. No wonder young people are losing hope. I meet students who seem
apathetic, depressed, or angry. They all
say more or less the same thing: “Well,
you’ve compromised our future. There’s
nothing we can do about it.” Indeed, we
have compromised their future.
There is a saying: “We haven’t inherited this planet from our parents. We
borrowed it from our children.” But we
haven’t been borrowing—we’ve been
The Trees of Gombe
stealing. And we’re still stealing. When
we elect leaders who promote economic
development over the protection of the
environment and buy products made with
unsustainable practices, we betray the
future of our children.
Certainly there are reasons to despair,
but there are also reasons to hope. Per-
I arrived in Gombe Stream National
Park, in what is now Tanzania, in
1960 to study chimpanzees.
were more people living there than the
haps the most driving reason for hope
land could support, cutting down the
is the commitment of young people.
trees as they struggled to grow food. And
I’ve seen how their behavior can change
that’s when it hit me: If we didn’t improve
once we empower them to take action.
At first they were afraid, but eventually I
the lives of these people, we couldn’t save
Everywhere I go around the world, young
won their trust. As I came to understand
the chimps.
people involved in our Roots & Shoots
them, I found they are like us in so many
The greatest threat to chimpanzees is
movement greet me and, with shining
ways; they are intelligent with personal-
the destruction of their habitat as a result
eyes, share what they’ve been doing to
ities, family bonds, and emotions simi-
of human population growth—people tak-
make this a better world for people, other
lar to our own. They can be brutal to one
ing over more and more of the forest for
animals, and the environment.
another, but also compassionate.
human settlements and farming. Then
Nature, if given the proper care, has
During those early years I spent hours
there is the commercial hunting of wild
great resilience. Animals and plants
alone in the rainforest. I came to see how
animals for food, the international live
on the brink of extinction can be given
everything is interconnected, each spe-
animal trade, mining operations by for-
another chance when people take action.
cies with its own special role. I always
eign corporations and destructive logging;
The human spirit is an indomitable thing,
found a great sense of a spiritual power
all put the chimpanzees as well as the for-
visible in those who tackle what seems
when I was out in the forest. That’s when I
ests’ natural resources at risk.
impossible and succeed. Like the peo-
concluded that if I have a soul, these other
Forests elsewhere in the world are
ple in Gombe, who were able to conserve
creatures have a soul: If I have it, so does
threatened by the expansion of palm oil
their land with the help of the Jane Good-
the chimpanzee. I sometimes wondered
operations, which have devastated thou-
all Institute’s TACARE program. Now the
about the trees as well—about every liv-
sands of square miles of Asian rainforests
hills are no longer bare, and the trees of
ing thing.
and is beginning to in Africa. In addition,
Gombe flourish once again.
At that time, Gombe was part of the
intensive livestock operations that have
We have a window of time when we can
equatorial forest belt that stretched from
grown to meet the world’s demand for
heal some of the harm. Maybe it’s wish-
western Tanzania and Uganda, through
meat penetrate the forest, destroying new
ful thinking. I don’t know. But I choose to
the Congo Basin, and on to the west coast
growth and causing soil erosion. Further,
believe that if we get together and develop
of Africa. About 30 years later, I flew over
industrial agriculture using chemical pes-
a new way of thinking we can start put-
Gombe in a small plane and was shocked
ticides and herbicides on vast areas of
ting things right.
to see it had become a small oasis of forest surrounded by bare hills. Clearly there
MAY | JUNE 2017
As told to David Rothkopf. This conversation has been edited for publication.
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