Debunking the colonial myth of the ‘African Eden’

As the clamor to protect vast portions of Earth’s lands and waters grows louder to meet upcoming international goals, a newly translated book critically examines the first principles of global conservation in Africa and ways forward to avoid past pitfalls. According to Guillaume Blanc, author of The Invention of Green Colonialism, one of these pitfalls is the idea of an “African Eden” that casts an entire continent as the site of pristine wilderness instead of a region populated and shaped by humans for millennia.

Blanc, who specializes in environmental history at Rennes 2 University in France, lays bare the history and contradictions of the European project to secure and, at the same time, exploit Africa’s land during direct colonial rule. He goes on to show how these contradictions continue to play out into the present. Across the continent, pre- and postcolonialism, people who lived in areas designated as national parks or other conserved areas faced expulsion because they were treated as a threat rather than collaborators in the conservation project.

The scope of the challenges we face — from biodiversity loss to climate change — is global, but that doesn’t mean the solutions must originate from a clique of NGOs or

— source | Malavika Vyawahare | 23 Sep 2022

Nullius in verba


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