“Really? Most of the African Jungle is gone and the demand for resources is sky rocketing?
I need to rethink my Mining Engineer biases.”
You know how you think Texas is filled with Long Horned Cattle and Cowboy? Well, it’s the same with Africa. There should be tons of Jungle and Bushmen. Right? Remaining is very little African Jungle and mostly beautiful cultures wearing farmer digs or working for middle class sun glasses.
So what, it’s just old trees and loin cloth, isn’t it? I found it represents much more.
I’ve also observed large growth trends in Consumerism, Westernization, and China-ization throughout Africa. A good thing. But it’s creating a grab for limited resources to satisfy the “needs” of the quickly expanding poor and middle class.
Are there wild places left in Africa?
We bought an old Land Rover expecting to weave and trudge through many a Jungle. Instead it’s 80% gravel and tar roads driving past people who farm for their dinner and sell a bit more. True trudging takes up the rest but only because we seek out these few wild places.
This year we made it to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, and even Uganda… BUT WHERE’S THE JUNGLE?
Bwindi the famous Gorilla tracking reserve seems a patch among the continuous small farms on steep mountain terraces and lowlands. The Serengeti is surrounded by over grazed dust and farming. Even the famous Mt Kilimanjaro has tea plantations and farming all the way up to the reserve boarder. It looks like a bald guy with a fringe… of Jungle.
Now don’t get me wrong. I honor the tenacity of these people and they are so happy in their work. But as I step back other surprises emerge showing worrisome steepening trends for Africa and all of us.
Let’s consider Rwanda. A country with one of the highest population densities in Africa with surprisingly small cities. From the time we entered from the southeast to exiting in the north it was totally covered with productive beautiful farms amazingly hanging on steep mountain slopes where the jungle used to be.
With farmers dividing their lands with their kids, most farms become very small and unsustainable in 2 to 3 generations (they have lots of kids). Then they either build a house or sell the land to other farmers. The results are an expanding poorer class or sometimes creating better work to join the middle class.
Either way the demands of population growth with limited resources is obvious as every square inch is farmed or the middle class swells.
And the African Jungle is all but gone here.
Haven’t we always wanted to bring the best of the West to the rest; hope, values, work ethic, ideas and processes all meant to help and sometimes decimate other cultures? Just like giving whiskey to Geronimo, our latest wave is consumerism from the West and China. It is robbing Africans of their heart.
Our gifts: Marketing. Malls. Must haves. Even Cell phone ads target the poorest people. Large and Mini Malls but mostly tiny shops pop up everywhere to fill the “needs”. The yearnings for stuff swells. People get the stuff they “need”.
And the Jungle disappears with it’s diverse resources.
Ever wondered what happens if China’s immense poor population suddenly become middle class with middle class needs? Well don’t blink. China quietly and aggressively partners with African governments to build infrastructure (highways, airports, railways, etc), harvest metals, timber and other resources, and spread consumerism by providing outlets for their products.
I’m sure the aim is to maintain their 10%+ GDP growth rate and export their bulging workforce overseas. Sounds like a new form of colonialism; benefit the motherland, the African heads of State and most often at the exclusion of the people. Different but the same.
And the Jungle disappears then reappears masquerading as our best gifts of cool sunglasses and head phones made in China.
Now here is the real kicker.
We all want the best for everyone. But with the existing stress on the planet, who can afford a doubling or a 100ing of the new “got to have it” world poor and middle class.
This is the point where this mining guy says, “The third rock from the sun can only handle so much digging.” Just the swelling need for cell phone precious metals and solar panel guts is a huge added stress. There is enough there for now but how far off is the tipping point?
Let’s put this in perspective. Only 60 years ago 450,000 wild lions roamed the African Jungle. Mostly farming stresses have reduced them to less than 20,000. That’s 95% gone. Now 60 years may sound like a lot to you but I’m 64. And guess what, you’ll be there soon. A mere 10 years ago villages were isolated. Now they all have cell phones and “needs”.
And remember little China with it’s poor and middle class moving rapidly upward as well.
Are these converging trends making sense to you?
In our travels the last 4 years we have seen a huge change from the African “us” to “me” cultures with all the benefits and ills that come with it. Most particularly in the pride of consumption and the “must have” mentality we gave them.
Sure they deserve it all too, but how quickly does it all become top heavy and start to tip.
Guys, I’m sorry. The dwindling African Jungle is the reality of flora and fauna resources over the past 60 years. This with little real demand from the world other than local firewood and food. Now everyone needs sunglasses. Do you get it? Exponential growth in Consumerism, Westernization, China-ization, and the “needs” of the poor and middle classes throughout the world.
I hope I am wrong. But looking at the trends and how quickly they are accelerating. What are the next 60, 20, or even 5 years going to bring?
Global warming move over.
Man is quickly demanding more from the earth than the CO2 and methane he can spew.
I would love to give you my perfect solutions. But given the rising momentum… I unfortunately have none.
By the way, WHERE’S THE AFRICAN JUNGLE? GOING, GOING, ___!! Just like the White Rhino and… you name it.