The environment and Africa: recent stories

Treehugger often feels like a pretty random “environmentalist” website. Half the time, I feel like they are trying to sell me something I don’t need (eco-consumerism is not necessarily a good thing).  That said, they also occasionally have very interesting stories.

This week I noticed they had a couple posts about Africa.

One does a fantastic job of playing into the stereotype of “Africa as exotic”.  It is a series of photos about “Socotra: The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth”? That said, it clearly is a beautiful and unique place. And I’m surprised I had never heard of it before.

The other post is on the trade in Rosewood from Madagascar. The title mentions that the Rosewood is headed to China but the text never discusses that point. What it does suggest (but not really substantiate) is that the coup last year created an opportunity for outsiders to step in and exploit Madagascar’s natural resources. Once again, a familiar portrayal of Africa, this time as “victim”.

Africa as the exotic victim, plagued–in these cases–by environmental problems, is a refrain that persists. My question is whether — as Lakoff argued for liberals  — this is a frame that can be changed.

News and comment: Madagascar and the African Union

The BBC and others have been reporting over the past day or so that the African Union has suspended Madagascar’s membership since the coup earlier this week.  This echoes the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) decision not to recognize the new “interim” president, Andry Rajoelina.

Alistair Thomson, at Reuter’s Blogs, notes that between starting in 2005, there was a period of three years without coups in Africa, a trend that changed in 2008. I believe he is likely referring to a period bookended by the bloodless coup in Maurtiania in August of 2005 and the more recent coup there in August of 2008.  However, the relevance of that stastic is probably undermined by attempted coups during this period (alleged attempts in Cote d’Ivoire and the Gambia, for instance) and major election fiascoes in places like Kenya and Zimbabwe. Nonetheless, it is clear that 2008 and 2009 (so far) have not been great years for Africa’s political systems.

The consequences of this? Alistair rightly mentions that the recent spate of political instability does not help Africa’s investment climate.

Will this change?  Alistair also rightly notes that the recent financial crises are only likely to increase the pressures current governments face and the disatisfaction of opposition groups within the countries. And while the AU is clearly on the right side in condemning the coup, its current leader, Gaddafi, is unlikely to promote the kind of democratic stability in Africa most Western observers would like to see.  And we can wonder about the future of African leadership on these issues. Mbeki, for all his faults, could at least be credited with having a vision for responsible African leadership on the continent, but he is no longer in a position to promote his African Renaissance.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Africa rejects Madagascar ‘coup’.