Dispatch #14: A Speech Given for Adirondack Voices For Peace at the John Brown Homestead, North Elba, New York, on August 16, 2003

I am now [having sung and strummed a few peace songs with my three little boys] going to give a brief speech that is probably going to get me audited and sent to Guantanamo, but here goes :
      The John Brown Homestead seems a somewhat strange venue for a peace rally, considering that Brown’s approach to social change was anything but peaceful.
But perhaps violence was what was needed to rid our noble democratic experiment of the greatest evil of the day—slavery– whose bitter legacy is still poisoning our society.  Today our society is plagued with other evils. One is our own unbridled capacity for violence. We need to evolve beyond the point that we think we can bomb innocent civilians in other countries in order to get rid of regimes we installed in the first place that are no longer to our liking. We’ve got to get over this penchant for “bombs bursting in air” that’s right there in the national anthem. As Bob Dylan puts it in Blowin’ in the Wind, “How many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned ?… How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry ? How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died ?” And the solution to these horribly violent times is not more violence. I’ve been waiting for a prophetic voice of the stature of Dylan to arise. That’s someone we could really use about now. 

        Our second problem is that our government has been hijacked by some very dangerous people. The president we have now is not the one that the majority voted for, so this is no longer a democracy, and the reason he got in is because the Supreme Court has been bought, and the media, which should raising holy hell about the situation, is embedded with this illicit regime and scared to make a peep because they will lose access. It’s a very serious situation. America has lost its moral leadership in the world, and is morally adrift in savage capitalism and hyperconsumption and protofascistic militarism and our democracy, everything that makes this country great,  is going down the tubes. What can we do about it ? What should I as an American citizen who loves this country and the people and animals and plants  in it  be doing is something that I’ve been asking myself every day since we bombed Iraq again and this time  invaded and occupied it, despite the clear global consensus that this was not anything we had any right to do, but the attitude of the illicit junta was :  what are you going to do about it ?

     So what are we going to do about it ? One thing is for those of us who are deeply disturbed about what is happening to our country to gather in peaceful protest rallies like this, and I want to thank Michele Syverson for putting this one together and everyone who has had the courage and conviction to come here this afternoon. We need to make it clear that not every American is going along with the agenda that this regime is trying to force on us and on the entire world. Then we need to get rid of these creeps, not by force, but by exposing what they’re doing, the way Woodward and Berstein exposed Watergate and brought down Nixon,  and speaking out and organizing a viable alternative and voting them out and making sure this time that the election isn’t rigged and the majority gets the people it voted for in office. 

       But before we can do that we need to inform ourselves about what is going on, the impact that we are having on the rest of the world and what the rest of the world thinks about it. I can tell you something about this because for the last thirty years I have been traveling all over the world and writing about what I encountered. All too often I have traveled to some remote magical corner of the world and instead of finding the beautiful, pristine, exotic cultures and ecosystems I was expecting to be there, I have come upon scenes of appalling destruction. It started with a trip to Jamaica in l970. I was staying with some friends in a bungalow in the hills above Oche Rios that belonged to Reynolds Aluminum in a lush rainforest full of birds and butterflies but right behind the bungalow were two hills that had literally been decapitated and were oozing  blood-red bauxite rich lateritic soil that had been trucked off and processed into aluminum foil and other products. When I returned to America I saw how obliviously and wastefully my countrymen were using aluminum foil without having a clue of the cost that it was taking on places like Jamaica.
Since then aluminum foil is not something I have bought or used. 

        Six years later, in l976, I went to the Amazon and saw a fire raging out of control on the King Ranch there that was bigger than Belgium. It was so hot that the huge trees of the rainforest were being sandblasted into the air and landing upside down with their huge flaring buttresses looking like the fins of crashed rocket ships. The rainforest was being burned off and converted to pasture for cattle so we could have our Big Macs, an unknown number of animal and plants species were being wiped out before they could even be identified—this particularly sad type of oblivion is known as Sentinelan extinction–   and the smoke from the fires was spewing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I learned about the greenhouse effect that this co 2 was causing, heating up the planet, when it was still known to only a handful of scientists and environmentalists,  and I realized that it might not be a bad idea to move north a few hundred miles, so a few years  later I moved from Westchester County, where I was born and raised, to the Adirondacks, which is why I am here today. But most Americans didn’t learn about the fires in the Amazon until the scorching record breaking summer of l988, when the fires were incorrectly blamed as the main cause of what was happening. In fact the single greatest cause of global warming are the millions of cars that are on the road in America at any given moment. 

       The more I traveled, the more I saw the incredible disparities between the lucky few who live in America and the other developed countries and the rest of  the world. Here are some examples : the c.e.o of Dell computer (one of whose laptops I  own) makes more than $16,000 an hour, while two billion people in the developing world are struggling to survive on a dollar a day. 400 superrich Americans have an average income of nearly $174 million, a combined income of $69 billion, which is more than the combined income of the 166 million people in the four African countries that President Bush recently visited : Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda. The U.S. average life expectancy is 77 years. In Africa it’s 50 years, 40 in some AIDs-ravaged countries. There’s a guy called Ira Reinnert who’s building a 100,000 square foot mansion in the Hamptons of a sumptuousness not seen since Versailles. He makes his millions by buying up toxic mines that contaminate everybody for miles around. Many of his mining ventures aren’t doing too well because of the enormous number of lawsuits they have provoked from  people they have made sick, but Reinnert still owns the company that makes Humvees, which get like six miles to the gallon and have replaced the Jeep as the vehicle of our armed forces, so he’s not going belly-up any time soon.

    To continue : The U.S. consumes 25 million barrels  of oil a day. The next biggest consumer is Japan, which consumes 7 million barrels. Big industrialized countries like Canada and Brazil, as well as England, France, and Germany, consume only 1 million barrels a day. The pulp and paper industry is responsible for 7 percent of the co2 emitted globally into the atmosphere per year. The production, consumption, and disposal of paper products contributes  420 additional million metric tonnes of atmospheric co2 annually. The average American consumes 337 kilos of paper a year, 111 times what the average Indian does. 

      I wrote a story about sturgeons, which are so endangered that it is criminal to eat caviar any more. The same is true of the Atlantic salmon. There are only a hundred thousand of them left in the wild. The Atlantic codfish, which once number in the billions, has been fished out, as have many of the other large commercial fish.
I am not a radical, and you are supposed to become more conservative as you get older, but in my case the opposite has happened. As Edward Hoagland recently wrote about himself in Harper’s magazine, I have become radicalized by the wholesale destruction of nature and traditional cultures that I keep encountering on almost every trip that I take. I am more radical than I have ever been in my life, and I’m becoming more radical by the minute. Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have been caught dead on the same podium as the pinko treehugging head of Greenpeace. Today I’m proud to be here and ready to be of any service to my buddy  Passacantando that I can [Passacantando was the main speaker at the rally. The master of ceremonies was Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature. The last time the three of us had been together was in Kyoto.] 

       Three years ago I was so distraught by the situation that I founded a Web Site dedicated to raising consciousness about the worldwide destruction of species and cultures. It’s called DispatchesFromTheVanishingWorld.com and it contains lengthy, indepth articles about what it happening to the fish in the Gulf of Maine, the prairie dogs in Chihuahua, the Ukrainian Orthodox churches in the plains of Manitoba. Next time you’re on the Web, please check it out. DispatchesFromTheVanishingWorld.com .

    One of the first Dispatches was commissioned by Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundations, which was contributing three million dollars  to keep going the national parks in eastern Congo  during the civil war that has ravaged that country for the last seven years. These parks contain some of the crown jewels of the animal kingdom, like the okapi, or forest giraffe, and the mountain gorilla. The UN Foundation wanted me to do a site report before the funds were being dispersed. What I found is that these parks are havens for not only many guerillas groups and bandits, the deserters of four different armies, tens of thousands of fugitive killers who committed the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in l994, but also the miners of a rare mineral called coltan, which has a very high melting point and is needed for every cellphone, laptop, solid-state electronic appliance, satellite, shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket, and ballistic missile. The miners of this metal are roasting and eating the last mountains gorillas and okapis and forest elephants on earth.   Most of the coltan goes guess where—the USA. There’s a company called Cabot High Performance materials in Boyerstown, Pennsylvania that makes a hundred million dollars a year just grinding coltan into a purified powder and selling it to companies that stamp it into capacitors. The other big player in the coltan trade is Carlisle, which has George Bush Senior, ex-Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, the good, capitalist bin Ladens, Howard Baker and other Republic stalwarts on its board. Carlisle’s biggest customer is the American military. A whole lot of coltan was just used in the attack on Iraq. As a small-time African coltan dealer observed to me, “Isn’t it ironic that the people who are protecting the parks are the same ones who are destroying it ?” 

       When you put all this together, start connecting the dots, a clear and horrifying picture emerges : we are sucking the marrow out of the rest of the world. The 4% of us who are fortunate to be American are consuming anywhere from 25% to 66% of the world’s resources, depending on whose numbers you go with. This is obviously not right, and it can’t go on. We have become the hated, selfish upper class of the world. And when one small group has too much and refuses to share it, what happens : revolution. That’s what happened in Russia in l917. I know about that revolution,  of  belonging to an elete that had a good thing going and was violently overthrown, because my people belonged to the Russian nobility that was exterminated by the Bolsheviks. My immediate family was driven out of the country where we had lived for a thousand years, and ended up here, but whole lines of my kin, aunts, uncles, cousins, were slaughtered, and the same is true of my wife, a Rwandan Tutsi, so I am not a fan of violent social change, believe me, because what it ushers in, even with the best intentions, usually ends up worse that what was there before. The one thing that revolutions have in common is that they are betrayed, as the new guys get a taste for power, and this is what is happening in our country now : the American revolution is being betrayed. The principles that our republic was founded on, like the separation of church and state, are being overturned. Genesis establishes the supremacy of man over nature, a Roman Catholic archbishop heading the committee that decided the Vatican should come out in favor of genetically engineered food, declared recently.   I don’t condone Al Quaida at all, I  would rather, all in all, see the world run by our boys, creepy as they are, than by Islamic fundamentalists who I think need to do some serious rethinking about their intolerance, their readiness to kill anyone who doesn’t worship their god or obey their rules,  and  their attitude toward women,  but I can understand why a devout Muslim might be offended by Calvin Klein ads in which thirteen year old girls are dressed in skimpy underwear and made up to look like sluts. 9/11 in my opinion is the end of the American imperium. Al Quaeda is simply the violent activist expression of a much more widespread discontent with what America is doing all over the world.  The crashing of the planes into the World Trade Center can be likened to the bomb that was thrown into the carriage of Tsar Alexander 2 in l882. That was the end of tsarist Russia, even though the revolution didn’t happen for another thirty five years. America is going to hold on as  only superpower with the world’s most powerful military and keep bullying everybody with impunity as long as it can, maybe for another decade or two, but it’s over. The empire that began with Teddy Roosevelt and spawned the banana republic attitude to the rest of the world, that it only exists for us to exploit its resources and cheap manpower,  has had its day, just as the Roman, Spanish, French, and British empires came and went. We and the entire world are in for some dire times, not only more acts of violent terrorism, but blackouts of the grid that 50 million people depend on like the one that just happened. I read in the New York Times that the grid is antiquated and overstrained by more demand for energy that it can supply, but that no one in the current deteriorating economic circumstances has the will to spend the couple of billion dollars it would take to fix it. But what about the attack on Iraq which we were told was carried out at the bargain price of a billion dollars a day ?

      What are our priorities here ? This totally uncalled for and unjustified war was not about the liberation of the Iraqui people. If Sadam had been the president of Rwanda do you think we would have lifted a finger ? Did we lift a finger in l994, when a million Rwandans were being slaughtered and the timely deployment of a couple of hundred peacekeepers could have prevented that genocide from happening ? No : in fact we blocked the UN from sending peacekeepers because, having been burned in Somalia, a disastrous attempt to keep the momentum of Desert Storm going in the name of “humanitarian intervention,” we didn’t want to get involved. And the same is true of our dithering over Liberia and finally sending a couple of dozen of marine ashore once the coast was clear. 

      I was in Paris last week. It was a hundred and four. A few days later the temperature hit  106 degrees in Switzerland. Switzerland ! The land of the Alps and glaciers that are melting like ice-cream cones. Europeans have no problem believing in the reality of global warming and have been taking steps to curb their CO2 emissions for years, but the country that is mainly responsible has reneged on the Kyoto protocol. Do you think this is adding to our popularity ? 

      What can we do as individuals to minimize the damage to us and the other cultures and species around the world ? Understand the terrible cost of the American good life to the rest of the world, reduce our consumption on all fronts, don’t switch on the air conditioning when the temperature rises, for instance, because that is only burning more energy and creating more emissions and adding to the problem.  Make every effort to get to know and understand the people from other cultures in their own countries and in our midst and to respect their belief systems, curb the runaway violence in our society by starting on eliminating the violence in ourselves, getting rid of our guns, being there for our teenage kids so they don’t run amok in their schools, respect and appreciate the beauty and the right to exist of all sentient beings, hold peaceful consciousness-raising rallies like this, exercise our precious freedoms before we lose them, the right to free speech,  speak out, protest vote fraud, savage capitalism, military madness,   vote out the people who are selling out the domestic and global environment for their own personal gains and adding millions more to their personal fortunes every time we bomb somewhere, and who  are destroying the future of our children, and give peace a chance. 

Dispatch #20: The Rape of the Cumberland Plateau

(originally appeared in the Winter 2004 issue of On Earth, the Natural Resource Defense Council’s magazine)

   The Flyover      If there were an international tribunal that prosecuted crimes against the planet, like the one in The Hague that deals with crimes against humanity, what is happening on the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Tennessee would undoubtedly be indictable.
         The crime—one of many clandestine ecocides American corporations are committing around the world—has taken place over three decades. About 200,000 acres on this tableland have already been clear-cut by the paper industry, and the cutting continues. Where some of the most biologically rich hardwood forest in North America’s temperate zone (which extends from the Gulf of Mexico to southern Canada) once grew, there are now row after row of loblolly pine trees genetically engineered to yield the most pulp in the shortest time. But  the paper industry’s insatiable appetite for timber has met with unexpected competition from an equally voracious insect. In the last four years, an estimated  50 to 70 percent of the pines planted on the plateau have been devoured by the southern pine beetle. The entire South has been ravaged by the worst outbreak in its history of this native predator of pine trees, caused by the tremendous increase in the amount of pine available for it to eat on the industry plantations that have replaced the native forest. Unable to salvage its dead timber, the paper industry has been losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet it seems still committed to destroying what remains of the extraordinarily lush forest on the Cumberland Plateau, which, along with eastern Tennessee’s Great Valley and the Cumberland Mountains, has the highest concentration of endangered species in North America. The loss of biodiversity is tragic, but also absurd economically; it doesn’t even make good business sense. 
         Not many people are aware of what is taking place. Nearly ninety percent of the Cumberland Plateau is in private hands and exempt from all but a few government regulations. The federal and state agencies that are supposed to be regulating the paper, timber, and mining industries are populated with former timber executives and have come to view them as clients whose permits and projects should be facilitated rather than scrutinized. The cozy relationship that exists between Tennessee’s public and private sectors, and the impunity and magnitude of the environmental destruction that is taking place on the plateau, is something you might expect in Guatemala or deep in the Brazilian Amazon, not in our republic, where there are supposed to be laws that protect our wilderness treasures and prosecute conflicts of interest. But a quarter of the world’s paper, and 60 percent of America’s wood products,  are being produced in the South,  and the will to address the abuses of the paper industry, which contributes millions of dollars to the campaign coffers of politicians around the country, just isn’t there— certainly not in Tennessee.
       There’s another reason for the lack of public awareness: Much of the devastation is  hidden from view by thin “beauty strips” of native forest that have been left along the plateau’s highways. The only way to get the full picture is to go up in a small plane and see it from the air.  

           SO EARLY THIS PAST SEPTEMBER I took off from Knoxville, Tennessee, in a Cessna 180 piloted by Hume Davenport, the founder of  a nonprofit, conservation-minded aviation service called SouthWings. Hume, whose ancestors came to the Cumberlands in l801, has provided his” flying classroom” to dozens of journalists, environmentalists, and policy-makers trying to grasp the enormity of what is happening on the plateau.  
           The Cumberlands (some dispense with the s) are made up of the Cumberland Plateau and the mountains and foothills on its edges. The plateau itself is a 400-mile-long tableland that is the tail end of the Appalachian Plateau, and extends from West Virginia and Virginia down into Kentucky and Tennessee on a southwesterly diagonal, and peters out in Alabama.  The part in Tennessee tapers from 55 miles wide to about 38, and contains 6,875 square miles— an area larger than the state of Connecticut). About 85 percent of  it  is still covered with the native woodland. Some of the last remaining large stands of the Appalachian mixed mesophytic forest (where a variety of hardwoods grow in moderately moist conditions) are here, but the plateau was “pretty much raked over the coals a century ago,” Hume explained, and most of the trees are second-growth.  East of the plateau, plunging a thousand feet in a steep escarpment that was a formidable barrier for the westering pioneers, until Daniel Boone forged a route through the Cumberland Gap in l769, is the Great Valley of East Tennessee, where Knoxville and Chattanooga are, and where the Tennessee River winds. 
     Soon we were over the Cumberland Mountains, whose peaks range from 2,000 to 4,000 feet.  Hume’s aeronautical map indicated  “numerous strip mines,” and   we could see that some of the mountains had been cored like apples. Others had been decapitated, or “cross-ridge mined,” in the industry’s euphemism. The heyday of the mining was between l920 and l970, and its scars were mostly overgrown with vegetation. But recent improvements in smokestack filters have renewed interest in burning coal, and mining is making a comeback. We circled Zeb Mountain, which the Robert Clear Coal Corporation had just gotten a permit to cross-ridge mine. Roads and sediment ponds had been put in on its slopes, and the trees had been clear-cut, like a person being shaved before an operation. Mud was oozing down into a stream below, smothering the habitat of a striking little fish called the black-side dace, which is only found in 30 streams on earth.
            “Mining and clearcutting go hand in hand,” Hume explained.  
            In nearby Pioneer, we made a few passes over the Royal Blue chip mill, which is owned by International Paper, the biggest paper company in the south. A chip mill is a satellite facility, where hardwoods of smaller diameter and plantation pines are diced into wafers that are taken to a mother mill, to be dissolved into pulp. The larger hardwoods are sawed up into boards at a sawmill. 
There are 259 chip and pulp mills in the 13 southern states. More than a hundred of them were constructed between l987 and l997, when chip exports (mostly to Japan) escalated by 500 percent. Five mills get their wood from the plateau. Royal Blue alone eats up 7,000 acres of hardwood trees a year—oaks, tulip poplars, and half a dozen other species— from within a 75-mile radius. We could see  two miniature logging trucks coming down the highway far below us, another being unloaded, and four waiting behind it. The logs were being picked up by a huge claw suspended from a crane that fed them into the chipper, which spewed the chips out a pipe directly onto railroad cars that would take them to International Paper’s mother mill in Cortland, Alabama. Most of the wood here is “gatewood”: No questions asked about where the timber comes from or the manner in which it was harvested. 
     WE BANKED southwest, and heading right down the middle of the plateau, began to see massive devastation. “This isn’t ma-and-pa, let’s-clear-40 acres stuff,” Hume yelled through the headphones. “It’s big, industrial tree-farming.  When they took out the big trees a century ago, at least they left the little ones to take their place. But now they’re scraping off the soil, right down to the bedrock. Because it’s thin and sandy, they have to spray massive amounts of fertilizer from crop dusters so the pine trees can grow. It’s complete insanity. Most of the trees they’re planting are being chewed up by beetles. Look at these plantations. It’s a graveyard.” 
      Below us vast stands of dead gray loblolly pine, covering hundreds of acres, had been skeletonized by the southern pine beetle, Dendroctonus frontalis. The beetle breaks out every 10 to 30 years—what triggers the outbreak is not understood—and attacks native longleaf, shortleaf, Virginia, black, yellow, Table Mountain, and white pines that are sparsely scattered in the hardwood forest. But with many tens of thousands of acres of monoculture pine on the plateau, the beetles have been having a field day.  The beetles are even chewing up saplings and the prize conifers in people’s yards.  In a race against the plague, the paper companies are being forced to cut their timber before it is mature, creating a glut of scrawny “bugwood” on the market. This has brought the price of pulp to a record low. Coupled with the hundreds of millions of dollars of lost revenue from the timber the beetles have beaten them to, and competition from Canada’s timber industry, the South’s paper companies are in deep trouble.
       The biggest landowner on the southern plateau is Bowater, the largest manufacturer of newsprint in the country and one of the largest of the free-sheet coated paper that cut glossy magazines and catalogues are printed on. Now, as we flew south over Crossville, the commercial hub of the southern plateau and a burgeoning retirement community, houses abruptly gave way to Bowater’s industrial tree-farms and huge squares of mangled wasteland that had been hacked out of  the forest and not yet planted. “This plateau has been ransacked,” Hume said sadly. He took us over a particularly vast mutilated swath that some activists have dubbed the Triangle of Destruction, but it is only one of many. 
     The only clear-cutting I have seen on this scale was in the Amazon 25 years ago. Every merchantable stick below us had been taken, streambeds and banks had been torn up and gouged by recklessly driven machines, and the understory shrubs and stripped-off branches and other debris had been bulldozed into windrows, some of which had been torched and were shooting up sooty flames. “It used to be just Bowater,” Hume said, “but in the last few years International Paper and J.M. Huber—another paper company—have gotten into the act. When Huber showed up in ’97, we saw a vast increase, maybe a doubling, of the clear-cutting.” Four million additional acres of the South’s forests are being converted to pine plantations each year, according to the U.S. Forest Service, and the conversion rate is expected to double by 2040. 
       On the plateau, this translates to an annual holocaust of about fourteen million trees. What’s driving this? Consider that a quarter of the world’s paper is consumed in the South.  The average American consumes about half a ton a year— that’s factoring in toddlers and oldsters, people on life support. This is 111 times the per capita consumption in India, 300 times that of some African countries.  Much of this is glossy catalogues and other junk mail, which I get a two-foot stack of each week; the sections of the paper that I chuck without even glancing at them (the Washington Post and other newspapers are printed on Bowater paper taken straight from the Plateau); the inch-high stack of napkins we’re handed whenever we get take-out; the 10 feet of toilet paper we rip off to wipe ourselves. As one environmentalist put it arrestingly: “We’re wiping our asses with habitat.” 

The Forest Primeval

      The Appalachian mixed mesophytic forest, which still covers five-sixths of the Cumberland Plateau, evolved without disturbance for hundreds of million of years, because the glaciers never got this far south.  Genetically distinct populations of plants, salamanders, and other organisms arose in the hollows, coves, and gulfs that pleat the plateau.  There are nine endemic species of lungless plethodon salamander here.  But amphibians are among the first victims of deforestation and of the dessication and silting up of streams that ensue. The plateau also boasts 20 mussel and 40 crayfish species that evolved here and are found nowhere else. Even more diverse are the fish: 231 species, of which 67 are endemic: 16 minnows, five suckers, two cave springfish, one killifish, one pygmy sunfish, one sculpin, and an incredible 41 darters, and new ones are being discovered all the time. Others are probably being wiped out before they can even be identified. 
      The Cumberland Plateau has the highest concentration of caves and of cave-dwelling invertebrate species in North America. Three species of bat are endangered or threatened, and 12 of rodent. The plateau is also a major nexus for migratory birds, a pit stop for many species as they wend their way back and forth from South America or the Caribbean to the Canadian boreal, as well as the home of many year-round inhabitants. 
       The original forest still stands in only a few places on the plateau. Starting in the l870’s, as the Northeast was industrializing and its cities were mushrooming, there was a great demand for wood. The agents of coal and timber corporations came down and hornswoggled the local unschooled people of the Cumberlands out of their trees, paying 40 cents (in the coin of the day) for a 175-foot-tall tulip poplar, offering a new squirrel gun for 3,000 acres of timber rights. Pretty much every decent-sized tree, except the ones in the most inaccessible coves and hollows, was sawed down and floated down the Cumberland or Sequatchie rivers, or beginning in the l890’s, taken out by rail. The logging boom ended in l901. Then they went after the coal, and in the seventies, when most of that was gone, they started in on the trees again.  

      HUME BROUGHT HIS CESSNA DOWN at a small air strip belonging to the University of the South, in Sewanee, 50 miles south of the Triangle of Destruction. The university has a 10,000-acre campus that includes most of Shakerag Hollow, where some of the last virgin, old-growth forest in the state survives.   We picked our way down a steep trail into it with Jonathan Evans, a plant ecologist at the university, and his colleague David Haskell, who is an animal ecologist.
      David, a lanky, long-bearded Englishman who looked like the young Alfred Russell Wallace, or one of the other Victorian naturalists, said he’d like to get his hands on the local fishermen who came down into the hollow with buckets and filled them with salamanders for bait. Mountain dusky, spotted, marbled and slimy salamanders live here.  A dozen or so large, dazzling butterflies were flapping around: pipevine swallowtails, red-spotted purples, tiger swallowtails, a gulf fritillary, and a lone monarch fueling up for the long flight it would soon be taking to its winter hibernaculum in the volcanic highlands of central Mexico.  
       A hundred feet down we paused on a ledge under an overhanging, algae-greened wall of sandstone, whose cracks David said were home to  “a mysterious green plethodon.”  Jon pointed out a rare perennial fern,  Silene rotundifolia. Another 30 feet down we came upon several pawpaw trees. Papaw must be one of the least- known fruits in America— it tastes like a cross between papaya, banana, avocado, and mango—as well as one of the few that can ripen without direct sunlight. It needs to be shaded by bigger trees; its future depends on the survival of the hardwood forest. 
       As we continued our descent, the trees began to get very tall, 150, even 200 feet high or more: soaring, pencil-straight red oaks, tulip poplars, black walnuts, buckeyes, sugar maples, mockernut, pignut, and shagbark hickories. Some were cabled with grape vines so thick you couldn’t enclose them with your hands. 
      Jon pointed out some wild yam, a yellow mandarin (in the lily family), rattlesnake ferns, a rack of ghostly-white oyster mushrooms on a fallen, rotting log. David identified curiously approaching Carolina chickadees and tufted titmice, the flirtatious tawee-tawee-tawee-tee-o   of a hooded warbler, the wheeze of Acadian flycatcher, and found a mountain dusky salamander and a green frog below a spring spurting out of the steep slope of the hollow. Jon picked up a stout, five-inch-long, green caterpillar, whose head was bristling with menacing red horns. This was the biggest caterpillar I had ever seen or imagined could exist. He said it was called a hickory horn devil, and would become a royal walnut silk moth. “We have the full complement of silk moths here,” he told us proudly. 
      I ducked behind a boulder that had broken off from the cliffs above to find a four-foot-long black rat snake frozen in mid-slither and staring at me intently. It looked as if it had just eaten something, probably another snake. Black rat snakes are expert climbers and spend much of their time in trees, looking for nestlings or bird eggs. They kill by constriction. Very agile and fast, they are also known as pilot black snakes, because they den with timber rattlesnakes and copperheads (also denizens of Shakerag Hollow) and lead them to safety when the den is threatened. We returned up the path a few minutes later and  peered behind the boulder where the snake had been. It was gone.
   The forest was so lush and teeming with life, I half-expected to see monkeys flinging themselves through the trees. Shakerag Hollow has one of the most riotously species-rich forests in the South. By contrast, the pine plantations that are rapidly replacing these fecund ecosystems have 95 percent fewer species, according to one estimate by Harvard biologist E.O.Wilson. Who in their right mind would sanction this devastation, I wondered. Why? So we can have more reading matter, more toilet paper? So the beetles can have another smorgasbord? Is this a reasonable trade-off, or a kind of blasphemy?

Spinning the Landscape 
        We had not come to Sewanee to take a walk in Shakerag Hollow. That was my idea: I wanted to get a clear picture of what is being lost. We had come to talk to Jon about the study he and his colleagues at the university’s Landscape Analysis Laboratory put out last year. Called “An Assessment of Forest Change on the Cumberland Plateau in Southern Tennessee.” It is the first scientifically rigorous quantification of the havoc that the paper industry has been wreaking, going back to l981, in the seven southernmost of the 16 counties on the Tennessee part of the plateau. Jon was the principle investigator. David assessed the impact on the birds and the salamanders. Not surprisingly, he found that the salamander populations in the clear-cuts were dramatically smaller, and that the bird communities in the native forest, which have some of the highest biodiversity in the Southeast, could not be supported by the pine plantations and residential areas taking its place. 
       Jon had come from Rice in l994, attracted by the size of the campus and the opportunities it offered to study natural forest change. One day, he went up in a plane to see what the forest looked like from the air, and he saw, as we just had, the clear-cuts on Bowater land bordering the campus. “It’s sickening, isn’t it?” he asked us. “I can’t go up there any more.  When we started our study, in the late 90’s, the plateau wasn’t on anybody’s radar. Zack Wamp, the congressman from Chattanooga, had been hearing from his constituents who were alarmed by what was going on, but the paper industry was spinning the landscape. It was saying there’s always been pine on the plateau, we aren’t doing anything up there.
        “So we put a macroscope on this landscape and showed it for the world to see,” Jon went on.  In numerous flyovers and by poring over satellite photos and aerial shots taken by various federal and state agencies, Jon and his colleagues studied a 616,000-acre area, comprising about 38 percent of the seven southernmost counties that had originally been plateau forest (as opposed to the less accessible cove forest like Shakerag Hollow). They discovered that 12 to 15 percent of their study area—or about 73,000 acres—had been converted to pine farms. They also found that the conversion rate had doubled in the last three years of the study, from l997 to 2000. Only three years prior to Jon’s study, the Tennessee Division of Forestry and the University of Tennessee Forestry Extension Service were maintaining that an extensive conversion of native forest to pine was not taking place.  Using state-of-the-art computer mapping, Jon’s data precisely documented, for the first time, the horrible reality. A veil that had been kept in place by industry, state foresters, and industry-friendly academics and number-crunchers, had finally been lifted.

        Climbing back into the Cessna, we rose above the University of the South’s Gothic spires and flew southeast, off the plateau and into the Great Valley.  Before long an enormous industrial complex—Bowater’s Calhoun Mill—hove into view. The largest manufacturer of newsprint in the United States, it has been operating since l954 and sits on the Hiwassee River, a tributary of the Tennessee. As we circled it from several thousand feet above, the rotten-egg fumes of methyl mercaptan and hydrogen sulfide emitted by its digesters penetrated the cabin of the Cessna and made us all nauseous.  This is a pervasive smell in much of the rural South.   Bowater alone has 12 pulp and paper mills in the U.S., Canada, and South Korea, supported by 1.4 millions acres of owned or leased timberland in the U.S., the bulk of which—about 700,000 acres—are in the Southeast. It also owns 32 million acres of timber-cutting rights in Canada. Besides manufacturing 18 percent of North America’s newsprint and 7 percent of the world’s, Bowater produces five kinds of “market pulp,” one of which—Calhoun southern bleached hardwood Kraft pulp—is made here, from “premium grade southern mixed hardwoods,” as the company’s website explains.  The hardwoods come from the Cumberland Plateau, where Bowater owns about 160,000 acres. We could see a continuous procession of logging trucks entering and exiting the compound, adding their loads to a pile of logs the size of several football fields and three stories high. “The scale of this operation is intimidating,” Hume said. “It’s hard to fathom how many trees, how many acres of forest, it must take to feed it.” 
       After being unloaded, the logs, both the native hardwoods and plantation pines—scrawny bugwood, for the most part—are debarked in a drum. What happens next is no different from any pulp and paper mill.  The bark is used with coal  (which there was a small mountain of near the entrance of the complex) to fire the plant. The logs are fed into a chipper, and the chips conveyed to digesters, where the natural glue that binds the cellulose together in rigid columns of wood is dissolved in a soup of highly toxic chemicals (including the ones we were gagging on). The broken-down fiber then undergoes varying stages of pulping, from gray to off-white.  The lower-grade, softwood pulp is pressed into newsprint and wound on rollers, which are trucked to the printing plants of the Washington Post, or one of Bowater’s dozens of other customers.   Some of it is sent to the Kimberly Clark mill in nearby Loudon, Tennessee, to be made into an assortment of tissue   products, including  Cottonelle toilet paper. 
      Converting  the timber that comes to the Calhoun mill into pulp and paper  requires tons of chemicals a day. These are produced by a plant that the Olin chemical company has built close by. Instead of having to deliver the chemicals in hundreds of truckloads, they are piped directly to the mill. The residue after the wood is broken down includes some of the most hazardous and toxic substances in existence, such as polychlorinated dibenzo P dioxins (PCCD’s), mercury, and lead. Most of the mill’s contaminated effluent is discharged into several huge sludge ponds that we could see beside the river.  There it is broken down  chemically and eventually discharged into the river. 
“Generally, the paper industry’s view is that the solution to pollution is dilution,” explained Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  
Recently, the Calhoun Mill had a “color issue”TK: its effluent visibly changed the color of the Hiwassee River. “But the state worked with them on it,” an activist told me, “by raising the threshold of permissible visible color change so that the mill could meets its water-quality standards.” 
       A FEW DAYS LATER I put in a call to Barry Graden, Bowater’s southeastern woodlands operations manager. I asked him if I could come down and talk to him and get a tour of the mill and maybe go up with him to the plateau and take a look at Bowater’s operation up there. We did a little Tennessee waltz, with me proposing six days, one after the other, when I could come, and Barry telling me that he was booked on all of them.  
           “What about somebody else, then ?” I asked. “Is there somebody else who could show me around?” 
           “I’m running into a brick wall on that one,” Barry said.
          “What about Dave Smith, your timberlands manager?” I suggested. “He must know all about the operation.”
          “Dave isn’t authorized to talk to the media,” he said. “We have a strict policy regarding the media.” 
           “Well then, could you just tell me someplace that I could go to on my own where I could see what you’re doing?” I asked. Here he was no help either.
Barry and I  did end up having a long talk on the phone, during which he described all the good things Bowater was supposedly doing on the plateau. But it bore little resemblance to what I had seen from the air and from the ground. Barry explained that Bowater subscribed to something called the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), whose objectives “protecting wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and watersheds, conserving soil,” and attending to the “visual impact” and “the aesthetics” of the timber  operation.” Barry himself was in charge of Bowater’s compliance with the initiative for the Southeast. More than 100 million acres of American forestland are enrolled in the program. But not everyone shared Barry’s enthusiasm for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Activists contend that it competes with—and intentionally obscures—another protocol known as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which was developed in the late 1990s by environmental groups fighting to save to save the coastal rainforest in British Columbia. One hundred Fortune 500 companies, including Home Depot, now participate in the Forest Stewardship Council by agreeing not to use wood from endangered forests and to buy only FSC-certified wood harvested in accordance with sustainable logging and plantation practices cut. 
       “The paper industry’s response was to confuse the issue,” Allen Hershkowitz explained, “and counter the market momentum generated by the Forest Stewardship Council. International Paper will stamp on its paper we are complying with the SFI, and people will think it’s the FSC. It’s a classic weakening technique. But the SFI sucks. It’s a fig leaf that tolerates all kinds of bad practices, business as usual. Everything that is happening on the plateau is SFI-certified.”
   Barry assured me, “Everything we do is verified by an environmental auditor, and we provide our customers and the media and environmental organizations the opportunity to see for themselves that we are doing what we say we do.” But apparently, that didn’t include me. 
Barry also claimed that Bowater made every effort to protect endangered species, but Lee Barclay, the supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s field office in charge of protecting the federally-listed endangered and threatened species in Tennessee, complained that he often can’t get on cut the paper companies’ land to see what is there.  
        “They have to give us permission to enter;” Barclay told me.”It’s private land, so we have no authority unless we have proof that they are knowingly thumbing their noses at the Endangered Species Act, and you need dead bodies to do that.  Their attitude is, if we let them get a foot in the door, we’ll never be able to close it.”  
       Just this October the discovery of a new species of salamander on the plateau was announced. Who knows what other unknown flora and fauna are on the ninety percent of it that is in private hands ? And as Barclay said, “What does it cost to work around a small area that is the critical habitat of some rare snail ?”
The Neighbors

        I spent a week poking around on the plateau, talking with activists, spraying victims, government bureaucrats, local people in the “hollers.” In the Cumberland foothills, west of the plateau, near Pleasant Shade, which is near Difficult, which is near Defeated (where Confederate soldiers lost a battle to the Union), I walked out on a knife-edge ridge into some plateau forest that had never been cut. I saw some of biggest black walnuts and beeches in the country, so thick a class of 15 school kids would have had trouble encircling one of them with their joined hands. Twenty or so wild turkeys were scratching and rooting around in the leaf litter.  Pileated woodpeckers were calling exultantly, having just ripped into a dying tree and slurped up a meal of carpenter ants. It was like the sound of jungle. I came across an old, fallen-down farmhouse and barn that had been built with massive, dovetailed chestnut planks eight inches thick, two feet high, and fifteen feet long. Straight-grained, rot-resistant, easy to split and to plane and lasting forever, chestnut was an almost perfect wood, and the first tree that the settlers and loggers went after. 
I bought some watermelons from 84-year-old Willard Bouldin, who lives on a farm above the Triangle of Destruction. “That clear-cutting was the worst thing that ever happened around here,” Willard told me. “I mean they took everything, till the only thing left was burrs. What’re they gonna do when they run out of wood?” he mused. “I guess they’ll have to make paper out of something else.”
           I spent a night at Rita Pruett’s bed and breakfast, on the edge of Fall Creek Falls State Park, which is in the heart of the plateau and boasts the highest waterfall east of the Rockies. “Most of my guests are out-of-state leaf-peepers,” said Rita, whose people have been living on the plateau since the l830s. “They come over from the Smokies and say that our leaves are the prettiest. They don’t come here to see clear-cuts or pine plantations.” She took me for a drive, past the one-room schoolhouse that she had walked to as a child, past the boarded-up garment factory where she had worked to put herself through college, past her parents’ homestead up on Spencer Mountain, where we looked out over thousands of acres of Bowater clear-cut. “This is where it really hits me,” she said sadly. “The devastation is so vast, and it’s all happened in the last few years. It seems like they just jumped on all of Van Buren County at one time.” 
     Joe Rogers, whose people have lived up the road from Rita, in Spencer, for generations and now look out on thousands of more acres of Bowater clear-cut, drove me out to the park’s Caney Creek Gulf overlook. It was a magnificent wilderness vista, like a canyon in the Southwest except that it was full of trees. Its rims bristled with native old-growth conifers that had escaped the beetle and never been cut because the terrain was so rugged. Joe had worked for the national park service, training its employees how to combat highly invasive exotic species like kudzu and Japanese honeysuckle, until was terminated by the Bush regime last year. “This is what it all looked like,” he told me, “and given the right circumstances, it could all come back like this. But  the forest isn’t being given time to renew. I’ve seen this clear-cutting going on for years, and it’s just greed from my point of view. There’s a way to farm these forest products, as they’re called, without decimating the environment. But they’re just looking at their quota sheets, trying to generate money.”
            We drove down to Highway 8 and headed up Rocky River Road, which runs right through the Triangle of Destruction. Because it’s a back road Bowater hadn’t bothered to leave beauty strips, so you could see the mutilated wasteland spreading in every direction.  Much of it was bare earth, with a few branches and other debris scattered on it. We passed three flatbeds loaded with scrawny bugwood waiting for trucks to come and take them down to the Calhoun Mill, and stands of dead gray pine, and long lines of smoldering windrows separated by naked earth. 
        “This is all SFI-certified, if you can believe it,” Joe said.  We saw no effort to prevent erosion by  revegetation. No buffers of native forest along the streams (the stream management zones touted by Barry Graden). The machines had just ploughed right into the water, destroying the banks and streambeds. 
       “We gotta have more stringent laws here,” Joe said. “A lot of the loggers”— locals that Bowater contracts to cut their trees—“have only an eighth-grade education and don’t know any better. There has to be environmental education, too, starting in elementary school, so when the kids grow up they can educate their parents.”
   “The northern corporations have taken advantage of these people for a hundred years,” another long-time resident told me. “They feel powerless, and they are.  When a corporation opens up a mine, they line up for a job that lasts five years, then they’re right back where they started, except the land’s all chewed up.” 
       EVEN LOCALS  whose health has been damaged by the aerial spraying of herbicides and fertilizers hesitate to come forward. After an area has been clear-cut, herbicides  like Arsenol, Roundup, and Escort, are routinely sprayed to keep the hardwood sprouts from competing with the pine that is going to be planted. Then, and repeatedly during the pine’s 12-15 year growth cycle, fertilizers like diammonium phosphate and urea are sprayed to help them grow. The spraying is done by helicopters or AT-802 crop dusters with 58-foot wingspans that fly low over the clear-cut or right over the growing trees, delivering 20 or 30 loads per flight. The main outfit contracted by the paper companies  AirTech, which in the fall of l999, its first season of operation, sprayed over three million pounds of fertilizer on Bowater lands in eastern Tennessee. 
“The local residents are not notified, and the toxic compounds frequently drift over their property and cause physical ailments like headaches, nausea, burning lungs, nosebleeds, skin rashes, and SARD, or severe airway restrictive disorder, with which dozens of plateau people have been diagnosed,” said Mike Knapp, who is working on the issue for an organization called Save Our Cumberland Mountains. “Many others have been sprayed but haven’t come forward because they don’t think they can do anything about it, and haven’t gone to doctors because they can’t afford insurance. Only a few have substantiated their claims with blood tests and a full toxicological profile, which cost several thousand dollars.” In April, however, 14 families in Cumberland County filed a class-action suit against Bowater and AirTech. 
         Mike Crews was sprayed four years ago, and again on the 9th of last September, along with his 77-year-old mother and his 10-year-old grandson. They are preparing to sue Aerotech and International Paper, which owns the clear-cut bordering his mother’s land in Pinkney, west of the plateau, where the latest incident took place. Mike is a 53-year old employee of Murray International, where he transfers garden tractors from the paint line to the final assembly line, but he hasn’t been able to work for a year because of his poor health. “We went over there when they were putting more poison into the helicopter and pleaded with them not to spray, ” he told me. “I was already exposed to drift in l999 and my health was weakened. I got heart and respiratory problems, and they have to keep an eye on my liver as well.   I told them the way you’re spraying, it’s going to drift over our trees and kill them, and over the cattle in our pasture and our hayfields. They aren’t supposed to spray when the wind velocity is more than 10 miles per hour, and I showed him how the leaves on the ground were blowing and said the wind velocity must be more than that. But the man kept filling the chopper with poison, and the pilot said to me, ‘We have the right to spray and we’re going to proceed.’ So we drove over to the pasture and parked there, hoping that would stop them. My mom went into the woods, thinking it would shelter her from the mist. They flew over us seven times. We could feel the mist hitting our faces.
      “The next morning all three of us were having trouble breathing, so we went over to the clinic in Columbia and had blood and urine tests. My hemoglobin was dangerously low, which it had never been before.” Crews contacted a researcher at the Organic Crop Improvement Association, which investigates pesticide contamination. “He took samples off our shoes, clothing, and hats, and found traces of  2-4 D,  Bromacil, and another herbicide,”Crews continued.  “He hadn’t compiled all the poisons last time I talked to him. And I had a light stroke a week ago last Wednesday, so I haven’t been able to find out if he’s finished the report.
       “I’ve been battling this thing since l999. Someone in my shape, it kills you pretty quick. But I just want to say on behalf of the communities of Pinkney and West Point, that we’re keeping vigil. We’re all trying to work together to do something about this.” 
The Forest Watchers 
       I spent a day tromping around in the Cumberland Mountains with Doug Murray, the founder of a grassroots organization called Tennessee Forest Watch that he runs out of his house. An easygoing, cut chain-smoking, 59-year-old Californian, Doug took me to his favorite beautiful places and showed me the horrible things that had been done to them. He objected to being described as an activist. “Activist to me implies some kind of a tree sitter or banner hanger or professional environmentalist,” he said. “We are forest watchers,” which in this case includes Doug, two naturalists, and a 13-year-old neighbor’s boy, among others; none are paid. Doug, who has a masters degree in animal behavior and biology from U Cal Sonoma,  puts in 10-hour days, walking in the mountains by day, and by night writing up reports of the violations of forests and streams and the laws protecting them. 
        “We are just ecokeepers, housekeepers of the larger house,” Doug explained. “No expertise or PhD is required. It takes nothing to recognize a ruined stream; it’s innate, like the ability to recognize a bleeding wound or an ugly growth.” 
       When Doug first settled in the Cumberlands 20 years ago, he built himself a cabin deep in the woods, but no sooner had he banged the last nail when chainsaws started screaming all around him. The Champion paper company was cutting the 75,000-acre forest next to his land. They were his neighbors.  “I discovered that there were no regulations, no notification of intent to cut, no protection for endangered species, a complete hands-off policy, because it was private property, and private property rights are sacred in this part of the world,” Doug recalled. “Nobody knew what was happening, and nobody cared. Nobody was minding the store, so who was going to do it? Concerned citizens.”  Doug started to monitor and systematically document what he saw.  “It was dicey,” he recalled. “Who wants to march through private lands in the South, to tattle on really bad abuses? A guy could get his head blown off.” He called his one-man watchdog organization the Center, “to keep it as low-key and ambiguous as possible.”
       Doug gradually became an expert on the intricacies of the Clean Water Act. “It’s the only hook we have,” he explained. “People think we’re out to protect the water. We are, but it’s only a mechanism for stopping the rape.”
        Doug took me into the Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area and showed me where an orange, highly acidic brook from an abandoned mine was pouring into a hemlock-lined creek called Straight Fork, wiping out the aquatic life downstream. This is what is known as a point-source pollution and is a violation of the Clean Water Act. So are the destruction of stream banks  and the diversion of their channels. These are the main things that Doug looks for. But getting anybody to do anything about such localized abuses is a major battle. Doug wrote up dozens of detailed reports and documented them with photographs and affidavits from natural scientists. Finally, five years ago, the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation,  which had maintained that point-source pollution is only something that comes out of a pipe, began to come around and decided that point-source pollution is, as Doug put it, “anything you can point a finger at.”
                 Doug’s latest battle is to save the blackside dace from being wiped out by the sediment from Zeb Mountain. But the judge who denied the motion for a temporary injunction to stop the mining until an environmental impact assessment was done is one of the Bush administration’s new right-wing, anti-environmental appointees, who came from a firm that represents polluting companies and other bad actors like Bowater in precisely this sort of suit from environmental groups. So the outlook for the dace in this stream is not looking good. 

        IN 1993 DOUG STARTED COMMUNICATING with an equally dedicated forest watcher named Cielo Sand. A Hoosier, she changed her name to Cielo after a vision quest in northern New Mexico in the late sixties. “I had no intention of becoming an activist,” she said, “but the river called me.”
         Cielo is married to Leaf Myczack, who plies the 652-mile long Tennessee, looking for bad actors, in a 30-foot sailing ketch that he and Cielo built in the late eighties, issuing homemade tickets  that have no official status or financial clout, but are, rather, “moral wake-up calls,” as Cielo explained. 
A few evenings after my day with Doug Murray, I pulled into the marina at Sale Creek, on the north bank of the Tennessee, half a mile of north of Chattanooga. Cielo had invited me for dinner on their boat, the Riverkeeper. The sun was setting as we boarded it and headed upriver. We passed three brand-new mansions perched on a bluff, each of them 15,000 or 20,000 square feet and mostly glass. Three-story, swept-back cabin cruisers were moored at the docks beneath them. The new American rich—a stark contrast to the dirt-poor plateau people living only 20 miles northwest.
      On the other side of the river was a lower middle-class waterfront community. We cruised past a family—a man and his wife and their three grown kids, all five of them in the 300-pound range– were sitting on their dock in aluminum deck chairs, drinking beers in the twilight. 
Cielo has a disarming way of hanging out at convenience stores and getting information out of loggers. Under her gauzy New Aginess is a woman of grit and determination. She developed a relationship with the Environmental Quality Staff of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and they alerted her to the fact that 17-24 new sites were being considered for chips mills on the Tennessee. 
     Cielo and other activists demanded an environmental impact statement be done for three mills that were to be built on the river; as a result, in 1993 the TVA denied them permits. It was a huge win; since then, no other chips mills across the Southeast have applied for river permits. But off-river permits, which don’t require an environmental impact statement, continued to proliferate.        
      In l996, Cielo and Danna Smith, who had worked on forest-protection campaigns for Greenpeace, founded the Dogwood Alliance, an umbrella group of 72 grassroots religious, student, and community activist organizations concerned with protecting the forests of the South. Last year Dogwood got Staples, the $11 billion office supply company, and one of International Paper’s biggest customers, to commit to phasing out products from endangered forests and to use an average of  30-percent post-consumer recycled fiber for all its paper products—an enormous victory. Dogwood considers “market strategy”—leveraging the paper companies through their consumers—as the best way to stop what they are doing on the plateau. “Hitting them where it hurts is the only language they understand,” Allen Hershkowitz agreed. “Some of Staples’ paper probably comes from the Royal Blue mill, and they need to know this. A lot more chain-of-custody work—tracing the fiber from the forest to the mill to the consumers—has to be done. Office Depot is another big customer of International Paper, and it also buys from the Weyerhaeuser paper company’s mill in Kingsport, Tennessee, which is just off the plateau and probably sources from it. Office Depot has to be pressured into making the same commitment that Staples and Home Depot have. Then we can get the three of them competing to have the greenest paper on the block. But first, a lot more dots have to be connected.”
       As for Bowater, because it supplies its newsprint or market pulp to practically every major publication in the country—The New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Knight-Ridder and Gannet chains; The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, Conde Nast Traveler (which gives an annual environmental award), and the rest of the Conde Nast empire; Golf Digest, TV Guide, even the Utne Reader—the leveraging potential is very promising. With the Dogwood Alliance  as its main local partner, Allen is organizing an NRDC campaign that will invest five to seven million dollars into saving the Cumberland Plateau over the next 10 years. 
        “So what’s that going to do for it ?” I asked.
        “It means we don’t leave until we win,” he said. 
          So things are starting to move. The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund have initiatives of their own to save the plateau, and a new democratic governor in Nashville, Phil Bredesen, and his progressive circle offer a window of opportunity for passing regulatory legislation with some teeth. The Cumberland Plateau is poised at a critical moment in its history. If the opportunity is squandered, if everyone simply keeps playing the Tennessee Waltz, they will awaken one day to an irreversible tragedy, just as the song says: Now I know just how much I have lost.

Dispatch #21: Introduction to Keeper’s Memory : The Kim Esteve Art Collection and a Narrative History of Chacara Flora

by Edward Leffingwell

      I had heard about this great scene in Sao Paulo revolving around a man called Kim Esteve. In February of l999 the opportunity came to check it out. Kim is a bosom buddy of the New York-based photographer Jonathan Becker, and Jonathan and I   were doing a piece for Vanity Fair on the fabulous estancias in the lake district of northern Patagonia, so we stopped at Chacara Flora on the way down and spent a few days with Kim and his companion , Barbara Leary, and their interesting and entertaining friends. The scene was physically, esthetically, and in terms of sheer boisterous bohemian geniality, everything it was cracked up to be. Kim himself was an affable, unflappable man of about sixty,  a benevolent, Buddha-like Cheshire cat,  who in the Brazilian expression, não esquenta a cabeça, doesn’t get worked up about things,  a  magnanimous soul who  genuinely seemed to derive more  satisfaction from  nurturing the talents of others  than from basking in any personal limelight of his own. A great deal of vision and erudition, an extremely refined esthetic sensibility, had obviously gone into creating such a magnificent   space as Kim had done on his property, but Kim gave you the impression that it had all just sort of happened.   He referred to himself modestly as its “keeper,” when  in fact, the whole thing, down to the last detail, was Kim’s vision and energy and it deserves to be regarded as an epic, world class work of art in its own right.        Kim calls his compound McMillen’s Place in homage to its previous owner, an adventurous and original American who pioneered the first transcontinental passenger plane route due north from Rio and Sao Paul through the Amazon. Before that, early in the twentieth century, it was the homestead of a German landscaper, who grew ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers on the property for his business, which is why the whole forested district then still on the outskirts of the city was called Chacara Flora. In the thirties Chacara Flora was developed into a residential community which attracted mainly foreigners living in Brazil.  Kim grew up down the street, where his parents had a large property, part of which is still wooded with the original forest and is said to be the home of several sloths. 

     Today Chacara Flora is the Bel-Air  of Sao Paulo, a lush, magical district of sumptuous homes secreted behind high walls and exuberant tropical vegetation that is a world apart and a welcome respite from the relentless verticality of most of Sao Paulo. In the middle of it is McMillen’s Place, a little Garden of Eden the size of several football fields, planted with a spongy lawn of Bermuda grass, roses and a vegetable garden. The walls of the buildings are covered with the little dark green leaves of intricate vines.   At the top of the property is a large copper-roofed gallery hung with the work of some of Brazil’s most provocative and seditious modern artists, which and whom Kim collects.  Many of his close friends— the ones we were entertained by for several nights in a row–  are the very artists whose works are on his walls, like the  magic realist Wesley Duke Lee, a  descendant of Robert E. and the tobacco Dukes whose father brought Methodism to Brazil and who perhaps to counterbalance the radical anarchy of his art is a staunch monarchist (So was Richard Evans Schultes, the legendary Harvard ethno-botanist who spent years in the  Amazon collecting and personally taking hallucinogens used by various local Indians.)  , and the fiendishly ingenious surrealist Bulgarian-Brazilian Antóno Peticov, who during the military dictatorship lived in exile in London with Caetano Veloso and  Gilberto Gil, and was a prime mover in the formation of the iconoclastic music group, Os Mutantes. Other local characters  rounded out the raucous klatch at Kim’s bar  like the jovial expat photographer James Granger, son of the British actor James Stewart Granger, who fetched up in Sao Paulo twenty years ago and has been living there, “by the seat of my pants,” he told me, ever since. They called themselves the macacos velhos, the old monkeys, who have seen it all. Jonathan belongs to this fraternity. Had MacMillen been alive, he undoubtedly would have been a member. You can almost feel his presence at the bar. 

         Late in the morning we would walk over to Kim’s parents’ property for a swim with Barbara’s white Labrador, Harry, growling and raising his leg at the gate of each passing high-walled compound along the road as if he owned the place, activating the guard dogs within, shattering the sultry silence until all of Chacara Flora was a cacophony of frenzied barking. Harry is a dog’s dog, who leaps into the air and snags tennis balls swatted way out over the lawn. Dogs have always been an important part of the scene, since the days of McMillen. 

        There are not many people in Brazil who have a sense of the past, a sense of place, and a preservationist, curatorial leaning the way Kim does. It is a now-oriented, sensual tropical society. The past is soon forgotten; as per the expression já era,” it’s history”.  Not many Paulistanos would have left their parents’ house and the pool house as originally constructed and furnished, so it is a hacienda-style, art-deco time-warp of the forties.  The décor, with its heavy brocaded curtains and dark wood-paneled study and somber colonial portraits and furniture, is that of a conservative businessman who takes his Spanish heritage seriously.    The Esteves are of old Catalan hidalgo stock. They made their mark as cotton shippers in Savanna and New Orleans. In the thirties, Kim’s father (Kim is the Catalan nickname for Joaquin, decided to light out for Brazil, the last frontier, and made a fortune exporting cotton and coffee, leaving his family comfortably off for the foreseeable future. This property, which is waiting for approval to be developed is interesting because it contains some of the last few acres of the original tropical rainforest in Sao Paulo—I suggested that Kim get in touch with Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, the assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution who coined the term biodiversity and is conducting a long-term, ongoing study of the minimum critical size of ecosystems, monitoring various-sized fragments of rainforest outside Manaus. It is also interesting because it shows how the esthetic sensibilities of both Kim and Charles, who did the pool house and then Kim’s gallery fifty years later,  have come light years. 

        Kim purchased McMillen’s place in l972. It was in shambles. There he was able to envision something on a scale and in a grand style that not many people attempt any more.  Only Stanley Marsh of Amarillo and a few others come to mind. The heyday of this sort of thing was a few centuries ago.  Kim’s scene—perhaps that’s why I felt so immediately at home in it—reminded me my ancestor’s estate in the Ukraine before the Russian revolution. There was a superb collection of Old Masters in the big-columned house; one of the ancestors had collected for the Hermitage, and formal banquets, with a liveried servant behind each chair, inside a huge hayloft. The painter and poet Taras Schevschenko, who became Ukraine’s greatest culture hero, was a regular guest. Schevschenko was a serf, and one of my great grandfathers bought a painting from Bryulov and Bryulov used the money to buy his freedom. Schevschenko, I imagine, was probably like Neil Williams, the Navajo abstract painter, a vital down-to-earth working- class man who painted in the same rebellious spirit that Chet Baker, say, played the trumpet and shot heroine. Kim befriended Williams on Longf Island and invited him to Brazil and even built a studio for him on the property.  One of my great uncles inherited a fortune in real estate from his uncle and sunk it entirely into butterflies, financing 80 some collecting trips around the world, much the way Kim sunk his inheritance into Brazilian modern art.

       Barbara, the last wife of Timothy Leary (and the second I know, Nena Thurman who left him to marry Robert Thurman, Tibetan professor at Columbia, their daughter the stunning Uma) is a serious cook, and she served up one ambrosial meal after another. A close friend of Helmut Newton, she was also a fine portrait photographer and took great pictures of all the guests. Guomar a radiant, loving woman in her fifties who possessed Kim’s Buddha-like calm, helped her and did the housecleaning and laundry and was an indispensable presence on the scene, an angel. 

       After a few days we went down to Kim’s beach house in Camburi here the party continued, with a crowd of lively Brazilians, several of whom were velhos macacos. Then we continued to Buenos Aires. Jonathan had persuaded Kim to join us for a few days, and he was a great traveling companion, going along with the flow, never impatient or complaining. He arranged for us to visit the Helft collection of mostly Argentine modern art. Marion Nelft, Jorge’s ex-wife, showed us around. Jorge Helft in the MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art’s, international council with Kim.  It was a real treat.  Then we continued to the estancias, which in the summer become a revolving house party, with endless people visiting back and forth for days at a time.  Then Kim went home. I thought he was one of the nicest people I’d ever met. I didn’t see him again for three years, until this spring, when my wife and I took our three little boys, who were on spring break, to see the teeming wildlife in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso.  We stopped for four days at Chácara Flora on the way back to Rio. This time I noticed details I hadn’t the first time, like the wainscoting in the McMillen house which Kim designed himself and had done by two local master carpenters. Most of it is painted green, and it is the most elegant wainscoting I have ever seen. There is nothing to compare with it in the Adirondacks. I think Kim was inspired to do this when he lived in Wainscott, Long Island, on Georgica Pond, where the use of thin beaded paneling first came into vogue. 
       There is a new school of art criticism that studies the psychology of collecting.  Hans Magnus Ensterberger, for instance, argues in Collecting: An Unruly Passion, that people collect to compensate for early childhood traumata. One of Henry Clay Frick’s great-nieces has recently written a book whose thesis is that every painting Frick acquired was an attempt to replace his daughter, who died at the age of nine when a safety-pin lodged in her throat.  Susan M. Pearce’s book, On Collecting: An Investigation Into Collecting in the European Tradition, has chapters on Collecting Culture, Collecting Oneself, Collecting Relationships, Collecting in Time, Collecting in Space; Collecting the Other, Within and Without; Collecting the Other, Beyond and Before; Collecting The Shape of Things to Come. Of these, the one that most applies to Kim is collecting relationships. Like the old breed of publishers—Alfred Knopf, Roger Straus– who formed close friendships with their favorite authors, Kim has gotten personally involved with his artists. I see no evidence of any deep-seated, subconscious drive; his motives for collecting seem straightforward.   “I collect contemporary art because it is what is happening now, and I collect what speaks to me,” he explained one evening. “I don’t collect as an investment, to have names on the wall, although of course you don’t want to lose money. Usually I know the artist personally, so I have some sense of the mind that produced the work.” 

        What about the mind that produced the scene?  Kim is someone who transcends national identity and the confines of any one culture; he is what my wife calls “an international human being.” On the one hand, he is completely Brazilian, the epitome of Brazilian paciência and sweetness. He speaks Portuguese with great relish for the expressiveness and playfulness of the language, and has the Brazilian sense of the absurd.  But he is also completely American. His mother was from Dallas, so he has Texan traits, as well:  a slow laconic delivery that misses nothing, a tendency to think big and go for it. Then there is another strain of Kim’s American-ness, which was forged in New York and  on Long Island: artsy, haut-bohemian, old WASP, sea- and sailboat-loving. Kim is what my grandmother, who lived in Locust Valley for the second half of her life, used to call “cozy.” This is a characteristic of old money, of people who are so secure in who they are that they don’t have to impress you, so they are completely relaxed and easy to be with.
Some of them cut end up having a radiance verging on enlightenment, and Kim I would say is one.  

          Added to this Northern graciousness is a Southern one— from when the Esteves lived in Savannah and New Orleans—  impeccable, instinctive manners of the Spanish blueblood and this begins to suggest what a multi-layered yet completely unassuming and accessible individual Kim is.  


         I am already scheming to write a Dispatch about the sertão for my Website: DispatchesFromTheVanishingWorld.com, which will occasion further interaction with Kim and his scene and will hopefully bring me into contact with one of his most interesting artists, Maciej Babinski, who lives up in this torrid northeastern desert backland. On my last visit, Kim and I spoke a lot about Brazilian and world politics, which I hadn’t realized before he takes a keen interest in and is very much up on. We agreed that Brazil is looking pretty good at the moment, relative to the rest of the world, even though it has its own problems, like the twenty-three million people who are living on less than a dollar a day and the still pervasive mordomia and coronelismo in the government.  Brazil is far from the fray, a huge, complete, bustling world of its own. There is a lot of one-on-one crime, but no ethnic violence. People on the whole are very loving to each other.    Some of the wildest and most inventive art is coming from Brazil, so I am glad that Kim is finally getting his due with this fine, detailed appreciation by Edward Leffingwell. As Peticov put it, “Kim had the opportunity to do something, and he did something very interesting and important.”   

Dispatch #27: Manitoba’s Many-Headed Hydro

By Alex

Original Magazine Article

The Bloodvein, a Canadian Heritage River, flows 186 miles through Manitoba’s roadless wilderness to Lake Winnipeg.

Manitoba Hydro wants to build transmission lines (that no one needs) through a proposed World Heritage site. First Nations and conservationists have a better idea.

It is the beginning of September, and my 10-year-old son Oliver and I have flown from Montreal to Winnipeg, the capital of central Canada’s province of Manitoba. We are going to spend eight days canoeing a river called the Bloodvein. This is the third Canadian river I’ve run this summer. I’ve been trying to get a sense of the vast wilderness known as the boreal, which covers 53 percent of the country’s land surface and is blanketed by one of the last still largely undisturbed forests on the planet. Dotted with 1.5 million lakes and drained by innumerable rivers, the boreal drapes across the continent, from the Yukon to Labrador, like a green collar 3,000 miles long and 600 deep.

Eleven others are going down the Bloodvein, and we all meet at the downtown offices of the Boreal Forest Network, a small but vociferous not-for-profit whose executive director, Don Sullivan, has put the trip together. Sullivan is a droopy-mustached, slow-talking, chain-smoking 49-yearold who, for 15 years, has been in the trenches advocating for the boreal and its native people, grappling with multinational corporations and provincial bureaucrats.He is a winner of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for making an outstanding contribution to his commonwealth country, but it doesn’t seem to have gone to his head.

We first met several months earlier, when he took me and a group of activists to visit two native communities north of the Bloodvein, one of which—the Pimicikamak Cree of Cross Lake—is fighting a new series of dams that Manitoba Hydro, the province’s energy utility, wants to build. I’ve come to think of it as Manitoba’s many headed Hydro: You don’t quite know where this serpent is going to strike next, and it isn’t telling you. In addition to the new dams, Hydro wants to run several high-voltage transmission lines that would cut across a proposed UNESCO World Heritage site: 10.6 million acres, virtually untouched, on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

The Bloodvein winds right through the proposed site, which is why we are here. It is considered by canoeing cognoscenti to be one of the top runs in Canada, not because of the technical challenge of its rapids but because of its beauty. David Pancoe, a young outfitter who is supplying the canoes, tents, and food,will be responsible for getting us down the river in one piece. Louis Young, the 48-year-old former chief of Bloodvein First Nation, a community of 1,100-some Ojibways at the mouth of the river, will be escorting us through his people’s traditional territory, which includes both banks of the Bloodvein for three miles back.

The World Heritage designation is crucial, because it would offer added protection from not only the transmission lines but also the timber and paper and mining companies, the vacation cottage developers, the hunters and snowmobilers who are dying to get in here. There are currently 788 sites in the World Heritage system. These are places of “outstanding universal value” for either natural or cultural reasons. But it is up to the 134 countries where they are located to protect them with whatever conservation laws they have in place. Canada already has 13 World Heritage sites; none include any part of Manitoba’s vast boreal forest. There are still a few years of bureaucratic hurdles that have to be cleared in Winnipeg, in Ottawa, and at UNESCO before the 10.6 million acres in question receive World Heritage status. The problem is that Hydro would love to get its transmission lines in before the designation is secured. So the race is on.

On our first night we drive about three hours northeast from Winnipeg to an old gold-mining town called Bissett. It is an isolated outpost in the forest and the farthest in you can get by car, a jumping-off point for the roadless primary wilderness. Our headlights shine into the blazing orange eyes of a great gray owl standing right near the road—the largest owl and one of the most elusive in North America: a lucky sighting. I’d love to see a merlin, too, but those little falcons are as furtive as the wolves and foxes, the pine martens, lynx,wolverines, and fishers, the abundant moose and black bear that roam the proposed World Heritage site.The largest remaining herd of woodland caribou, 500 strong, is scattered in the depths of this forest as well.There are only 7,000 of these animals, a different species from the caribou up in the tundra, and the transmission lines would traverse their migratory routes, setting the stage for their possible demise.

In the morning we fly in shifts to a lake 55 miles up the Bloodvein. Pancoe lashes the canoes to the pontoons of our float plane. Ollie and I are in the last group, and as we wait for the plane to come back, he casts a Mepps spinner into the water off the dock and ties into a thrashing 26-inch pike—or jack, as they are known in these parts—and then another. They are like freshwater barracuda, long and thin with big eyes and lots of retrorse teeth.

From the window of the float plane an ocean of trees, spattered with lakes and riddled with rivers, spreads east to the hazy vanishing point.Low granite domes,bristling with jack pine and balsam fir,offer the only visual relief.These domes are surrounded,wherever there is enough soil, by pure stands of trembling aspen, and by sinuous brown bands of muskeg with clumps of sedge, dwarf birches, and stunted tamaracks.After 20 minutes we reach the Bloodvein.

We can see that the river meanders a lot and has long stretches of quiet water. Every few miles,where it steps down another five or ten feet on its leisurely 200-mile westward journey to Lake Winnipeg, there is a rapid.Pancoe takes Ollie and me with him in the 18-footer, the largest of the six canoes, and hands me a beautiful wooden paddle, a modified beavertail made by a friend of his. Its blade widens at the top, where you grab the most water. Pancoe’s blade is short and broad, better for the quick manoeuvring that will be called for in the rapids. For five miles the river weaves serenely through marshes and muskeg. There is a lot of wild rice standing in the shallow water along its banks, and each time we round a bend, we scare up a gaggle of Canada geese that have been flattening it with their floating bellies and gobbling up the kernels, fuelling up for the long trip south they will soon be taking.

We glide past bulrushes, tall cranberry bushes sagging with fruit, eutrophicated ponds that have become shimmering green meadows of equisetum, water lilies with chalices of luminous white petals like small artichokes. It is so peaceful that after a few hours I realize my head has been cleared of all the mental spam that I came here with. I feel a calm that in the days to come will only deepen.

By the end of the afternoon the river is sliding quietly and darkly between 10-foot-high walls of pinkish granite. It has entered the trough that it will stay in for the rest of its course, an east-west fault line in the glacier-scraped, half-a-billion-year-old bedrock known as the Canadian Shield. This Precambrian rock, which underlies 1.6 million square miles of boreal forest, is some of the oldest on the planet. Eons of winter freeze-ups and thaws and torrential spring runoffs have fractured and prized it, shearing off sharp-pointed boulders that stand in the water like miniature mountain peaks. Some of the rock is encrusted with rubbery brown rock tripe, which Pancoe says is edible in a pinch—after you’ve eaten your shoelaces. He steers us into a side channel that the canoe can barely squeeze through, to an alcove where barn swallows have plastered a nest on a little ledge. The rock below it is covered with a bright orange lichen that he calls poop lichen. It grows only where swallow droppings streak down the rock, because it needs the enzymes in them—a very specialized lichen.

Ancient, twisting jack pines are growing in the narrowest cracks and leaning out over the river; 50 feet back from the banks are thickets of close-packed jack pine, but ramrod-straight. It is hard to believe that all these trees, so variable in their physiognomy, are the same species. The boreal has been described as the Amazon of the north. Both forests are vast and teeming with life, but the boreal teems for only half the year, and there are far fewer species. They have been edited by cold. Where there are five models of kingfisher in the Amazon, here there is only one, and only during the summertime. Where there may be 200 species of trees per acre in that mind-boggling rain forest, some of them perhaps not even identified yet, here there are half a dozen or fewer. Only plants and animals that can handle a 110-degree temperature swing live here, and this scarcity of life forms makes each of them stand out. Everything in this pageant of flux that we are paddling through, each bizarre cleavage of the granite, each tortuous branch pattern of a pine, has a luminous singularity, a distilled, heightened purity. It is a Zen landscape, sculpted by chance and the laws of cause and effect, by processes that have been going on for millions of years in which we are nothing. There is little conversation among the 13 of us. We are in awe.

We pull the canoes ashore and pitch our tents on a granite dome that is covered with blueberry bushes. Ollie and the three other hard-core fishermen go off to catch supper—seven chunky, succulent walleyes. They also catch a 20-inch dusky brown black catfish and a moonfish: discoid, with enormous milky eyes. The river is choked with fish. It has the sort of pullulating abundance that was once everywhere and is now found in only a few places on earth.

I wander down into the elfin forest on the back side of the dome. Half the trees are dead, and there is a flourishing community of detritivores: pallid, saprophytic Indian pipes and many kinds of mushroom. I nibble a bright crimson russula, and it is very peppery. Not one of the good russulas. There are several kinds of lactarius, and a yellow boletus that is partial to the caribou lichen, but its porous undersurface bruises blue when I press my thumb into it.Not a good one either. But I find three species of boletus that are, including the delectable Boletus edulis, and two kinds of chanterelle. This will be my gastronomical contribution to the expedition: to provide mushrooms to be sautéed with the walleye, which Louis Young deftly fillets. We wash it down with Labrador tea that Young has picked and brewed. Dessert is blueberries, and as we sit around the crackling fire, agreeing that this was one of the best meals any of us has ever eaten, the clear, liquid fluting of a hermit thrush, close at hand but hidden in the trees, pierces the gathering dusk. It is a song of the most exquisite purity, its sustained tonic embroidered with brilliantly improvised rising and falling arpeggios.

Don Sullivan and Gaile Whelan-Enns lead the efforts against new dams.

None of us has to be persuaded that this is a version of Eden, one of the last great wildernesses to have barely known the hand of man, and unquestionably worthy of World Heritage designation. But what about the average Joe, who will never get to go on a trip like this? Why should he care about a wilderness in northern Canada? What does it matter to him if the boreal forest exists or not?

To begin with, it is a vital habitat for birds, and thus for the overall biodiversity of the Western Hemisphere. Three to five billion birds, including a hundred million shorebirds, millions of ducks, half a billion warblers, a billion sparrows, and one-third of all North American land birds summer and raise their young in the Canadian boreal. Precious, too, are the trees. The boreal forest, especially its bogs, soaks up vast amounts of carbon dioxide and therefore acts as one of the world’s most important defences against global warming. If you cut the trees down, as loggers are doing elsewhere in the boreal and are threatening to do here, the effects are swift and calamitous. The whole ecosystem collapses. The mossy floor shrivels up, the rains wash the soil into the rivers, and there is less rain because there is less moisture in the air,  so the entire moisture regime changes. The rivers become lower and opaque with sediment, which means the fish can’t see their prey, and the gravel beds where they lay their eggs are silted over. In northern Alberta, 62 million acres of boreal forest have been clearcut since 1975 by multinationals, much of it to produce toilet paper, so Manitoba’s huge, pristine tract is especially significant and worth fighting for. The removal of the boreal forest could have far-reaching effects on continental, perhaps even global, weather patterns, exacerbating the droughts already afflicting the American West and the Midwest, for instance.

But to really understand what is at stake, and the possible consequences of losing this magical forest realm, you have to comprehend the power and reach of Manitoba Hydro. Canada is the world’s largest producer of hydropower—15 percent of the total. There are already 279 large dams in the boreal; 85 percent of its river basins have been altered by hydro development. Most of the dams are in First Nations’ territories and were built without the native people’s consent or even consultation. Now Hydro wants new dams and new transmission lines—an assault not seen in Manitoba for the last 30 years. But this time, the opposition is also strong: a coalition of First Nation activists and several environmental groups in Canada, led by Don Sullivan’s Boreal Forest Network and another scrappy little Winnipeg-based organization, Manitoba Wildlands, whose executive director, Gaile Whelan-Enns, also received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. They’re getting significant support from two groups in the United States— the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Minnesota- based organization JustEnergy. “We in the U.S. are the main consumers of Canada’s energy, its paper and wood products,” says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, a senior attorney at NRDC who is leading the group’s Manitoba campaign.“ The U.S. market is driving this need to exploit the boreal. There’s a clear link.”


In the 1960s and 1970s Manitoba Hydro undertook massive hydroelectric projects in the Nelson River system, 150 miles north of the Bloodvein. The Nelson drains Lake Winnipeg, running from its northeastern corner up to the vast Hudson Bay, and is the biggest river in the province. Seventy-five percent of the flow of the Churchill, the next big river to the north of the Nelson, is diverted into the Nelson via the Rat and Burntwood Rivers, and five dams with a total output of 3,925 megawatts were put in along the Nelson itself, producing more than enough juice to power a metropolis the size of Minneapolis–St. Paul. Two channels were dredged at the beginning of the Nelson to speed up and strengthen the outflow from Lake Winnipeg, and a control structure called Jenpeg was installed 40 miles downriver to regulate the releases of water from the lake into the rest of the Nelson.

These alterations unleashed a cascade of consequences, most of them unforeseen. The flow and level of the Nelson were now artificially controlled at Jenpeg, and their natural, seasonal fluctuation patterns were reversed. There were, and still are, sudden releases in the middle of the winter, when the demand for electric heat in Winnipeg (where 60 percent of the province’s population lives) is at its peak.“ You get different layers of ice forming, and you can’t go out to your trap lines in a Ski-Doo because you’ll fall through,” explains Jackson Osborne, a 53-year-old member of the Pimicikamak of Cross Lake, a nation of 3,000 Cree living on the Nelson, only five miles below Jenpeg. “Animals get caught between the layers. In the spring when the ice breaks the stench is unbearable.” He shows me a picture of himself standing between layers of ice, one at his knees, another over his head, and a third layer that he is standing on. Osborne produces another picture, of seagull eggs lying in a foot of water, taken right after a torrent was suddenly released from Jenpeg. He doesn’t know how many other nests have been drowned, but a study at South Indian Lake, the Cree community most affected by the first round of dams, concluded that most of the aquatic birds there were wiped out. In the same vicinity, a herd of woodland caribou, swimming across the Rat River at its historic crossing, was swept to its death because the Rat’s flow had been strengthened about tenfold after Manitoba Hydro diverted the Churchill into it. The accelerated flows and more frequent fluctuations have eaten away at the banks of the Nelson and the shores of South Indian Lake, toppling trees into the water and creating floating islands of mud. One evening during our June visit Osborne shows us a documentary he’s made about an old burial site that was washed away by the rising water. “I filmed the skulls and bones of my ancestors in the water,” he says. “When I saw our human remains desecrated like that, I got really mad. Many of our cultural and burial sites have been destroyed since the dams were put into service.”

All the trees and other eroded vegetation build up and rot behind the dams, and the tannic acid they release lowers the pH of the water and leaches out the naturally occurring mercury in the bedrock. Bacteria turn the mercury into methyl mercury, explains Daniel Green, an environmental toxicologist with the University of Quebec in Montreal, who consults for Sierra Club Canada. “Methyl mercury accumulates and bioconcentrates at higher levels in the tissue and muscle of fish, delivering a lot of mercury to whoever eats them—minks, loons, or humans,” Green says. The mercury levels of the fish that are caught at Cross Lake are so high that breast-feeding mothers are warned not to eat them. “If a company had a pipe that discharged as much mercury as these dams do, it would be prosecuted for toxic pollution,” Green goes on. “So there’s a double standard. We’re getting the mercury out of car emissions, hospitals, and thermometers, but these mega hydroelectric projects are one of the most efficient ways to contaminate the boreal ecosystem, and once the mercury is in the food chain, it takes a very long time to get rid of it. Birds carry it south, so there is also the problem of biological transport of contaminants.”

Manitoba Hydro’s Jenpeg generating station, left, regulates the flow of water from Lake Winnipeg into the Nelson River system; above, the resulting fluctuations in water level seriously erode shorelines along its waterways.

“The beauty, we cannot get it back,” 82-year-old Charlie Osborne, Jackson’s father, tells me in June as we are getting a tour of the devastation. Charlie speaks in Cree, which someone has to translate for me; he has forgotten the English he learned 40 years ago, when he worked for the crew that was scoping out the site for the Kelsey Dam, the first that went in on the Nelson. “We had no idea what the dams were going to do until much later. The engineer from Hydro promised that the water level would not go up any more than the length of his pencil. Our land was very beautiful and healthy. Our water was clear. If you dropped an object into Cross Lake, you could see it on the bottom. Now you can’t see nothing. The fish is not the same quality. It tastes different. Even today, if I don’t eat fish, I don’t feel well. When you eat it, your body rejuvenates. There’s a lot of medicine in that fish. But now you boil the meat and it kind of dissolves, like sugar in water, and tastes mucky, like silt.”

“You have to be here year round, season to season, to get the full picture,” the younger Osborne says. “In the fall,when the river is lowest, the pollution gets concentrated and the kids who swim in it get scabs and rashes.”

The dams, because of the mercury and the fluctuations, destroyed the flourishing whitefish industry of five native communities, including South Indian Lake and the Pimicikamak Cree of Cross Lake. “In the 70s personal income in those native fishing communities was on a par with the rest of Manitoba; today it is about one-third,” says Don Sullivan. “The social infrastructure for these people to have a traditional economy—the entire culture, which depends on a healthy ecosystem for everything—was wiped out.” As the dams destroyed the river systems, Coke and junk food, welfare checks and big TVs, took the place of fishing and hunting and trapping, and people sat at home and became obese and developed diabetes and got in trouble—depression, drugs, spousal and child abuse. There was an epidemic of suicide at Cross Lake in the 1980s.

Hydropower at work: Sudden elevations in water levels at places like Cross Lake, above, can submerge nests and destroy the eggs of sandpipers, plovers, and other waterbirds that nest along the Nelson River system.

These acts of despair cannot be attributed directly to the dams, as much as to the process of cultural evisceration that has been going on much longer. First came the Hudson Bay fur traders, then the Anglican and Roman Catholic missionaries in the nineteenth century, competing for the natives’ heathen souls. They forbade the people to conduct their ceremonies and even to use their medicinal plants, while trying to convince them that everything about their culture was bad. Then in the twentieth century, from 1920 to 1960, several generations of children were taken from their communities and forced to attend residential schools, where they were beaten if they spoke their own language. The dams were the coup de grâce, the final flail.

“The way we have treated our First Nations is our dirty little secret,” Sullivan says. “These people should be the richest in Canada—they have all the resources—but they’re the poorest, because they’re not getting any of it. It’s all going to you guys.”

Roughly 85 percent of everything Canada exports flows to the United States. Denver-based Xcel Energy, the fourth largest energy company in the United States, buys about 40 percent of the electricity exported by Manitoba Hydro. This represents only 4 percent of Xcel’s total energy grid. But it is one reason why Manitoba Hydro is such an important cash cow for the province. In 2002 the provincial government took an additional $162.5 million from Hydro to cover its spending for 2002–2003. (Manitoba’s government is entitled to requisition funds from its utility as needed.) Hydro and the other “crown corporations,” or public utilities, are schizophrenic enterprises, ruthlessly capitalistic and profit driven, yet ultimately socialistic in intent: The profits help fund services like free health care and education, and the electricity itself is very cheap. “As the government becomes more dependent on Manitoba Hydro to make up its shortfalls, there is a strong incentive to build more dams,” says Sullivan. “It’s hard to wean a baby off a bottle once it has had it for so long.”

Hydro’s plans bear this out as the company prepares for a new round of dam building.Hydro hopes to start with a $720 million, 200-megawatt dam on the Burntwood River called Wuskwatim. (These new dams, ironically, have Cree names, a sort of consolation prize to the Cree for having their homelands compromised.) But Wuskwatim is only the beginning. Hydro wants to build another dam to go into service by 2013, the 640-megawatt Keeyask, and another one by 2017, the 1,250-megawatt Conawapa. Both would be located on the Nelson, with Conawapa way up near the river’s mouth at Hudson Bay. All told, Hydro has identified 12 new sites for dams and generating stations.

I want to understand the rationale for all these new dams, so I sit down with Manitoba Hydro’s CEO, Bob Brennan, in his office in the corporation’s glass headquarters in Winnipeg. A man who strikes me as supremely comfortable in his own skin, he has been at Hydro for 40 years. Brennan assures me that “Wuskwatim is going to flood only 0.2 square mile—smaller than a golf course—and it’s purely for domestic consumption. The juice will flow to northern population centers like Le Pas and Flin Flon, down as far as Dauphin. Electricity is like water flowing through a tube: It goes wherever there is an opening.”

In a second conversation in February Brennan tells me that Wuskwatim’s energy, and that of the two other proposed dams, is going to be exported until 2020, feeding a revenue source that has become crucial for both Hydro and the province. But so far, no one has signed up for the new offering. Xcel renewed its contract with Hydro in 2002, but for no more than what it is already buying. Other utilities serving Minnesota, which lies just south of Manitoba, are feeling pressure from state officials, and from the grassroots outfit JustEnergy, to ensure that sources of electricty would do no further damage to Canada’s boreal wilderness or violate the rights of the native people who live in it. “We don’t know who the energy will be sold to— Saskatchewan, Ontario, or the States—but there will be a market for sure,” Brennan says with genial optimism.

This sounds to me like speculative capitalism, supply in search of demand—not a good enough reason to destroy more of the boreal or to do further damage to its rivers. Ken Adams, Hydro’s vice president in charge of power supply, seems to agree. He tells me, flatout, “There’s really no need for these new dams, in the sense that the energy for Manitoba isn’t going to run out.” Hydro’s plan is to maintain its levels of revenue from exports (even though there is no on to sell the energy to at this point) and to build dams because it is still profitable to build them.

What is most dubious about Hydro’s agenda is that there are more sensible choices. Even Adams is able to tick off alternative ways that Hydro can produce more energy without putting in these new dams. It has already created a 292-megawatt “virtual dam” by helping its big industrial customers do simple things like replace their commercial T-12 lighting with energy-saving fluorescent T-8 bulbs, and it has initiated a conservation project that will provide 640 more megawatts within 13 years. Hydro has signed a contract to buy 99 megawatts from a private wind-energy company and is expecting to buy at least another 150. At the moment, 10 percent of Hydro’s electricity is lost in the transmission lines—a solvable problem. But Brennan claims that building the dams now rather than later fixes the price of energy for the lifetime of those plants. “It’s like building a house and selling it in 10 years. You can’t help but make a profit.”

“To a certain extent you are fixing the price of energy 10 years from now by building now, because with inflation the construction costs are bound to be higher,” explains Philip Raphals, an expert on the economics of dams and director of the Helios Centre, a research group in Montreal. “But if by the time you’ve laid out your construction costs your cost to generate energy is six cents per kilowatt-hour and the Midwest is paying only four cents, you’re in trouble.”

Political leaders in Manitoba and neighbouring Ontario support the new spate of dam building, though they have their own reasons. Last September the premiers of both provinces unveiled Manitoba Hydro’s $1.6 million feasibility study for Conawapa to a gathering of industrialists and potential investors at the Empire Club in Ottawa. Manitoba’s premier, John Doer, argued that Conawapa would provide the single largest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Canada, unlike the United States, is a party to the Kyoto Protocol and is taking seriously its commitment to return its emissions to l990 levels by 2010. If energy from Manitoba Hydro were to replace coal-fired plants In Ontario—and that is a big if—it would reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 7 megatonnes per year. But toxicologist Green points out that if you flood forests and bogs to create reservoirs for dams, you lose significant carbon sinks; and flooded bogs release methane, whose global-warming impact may be 20 times more potent than that of carbon dioxide.“ It is true that hydropower’s carbon emissions are much less than coal power plants,” says Casey-Lefkowitz at NRDC. “However, hydropower’s impact on the environment and people has to be measured in more than carbon emissions; it must also be measured in terms of its impact on the land and the people living there. We don’t need to choose between the land and climate change—that’s as false a dichotomy as the old division between economic development and the environment.”

A great gray owl (Strix nebulosa) lurks in a black spruce in northern Manitoba.


After nine weeks of heated public hearings, Manitoba’s Clean Environment Commission last fall recommended the licensing of Wuskwatim. “This is the first domino; if it goes, the next all go with it,” says Don Sullivan.“Wuskwatim would be the only dam so far subject to environmental review. The prior ones never went through any provincial, federal, or public review process and have no environmental licenses. If they get an easy ride with this one, they’ll keep on going.”

But Hydro could face other opposition: Five Cree nations, including South Indian Lake and the Pimicikamak Cree of Cross Lake, which were slammed by the previous dams, have the right of advise and consent on any large hydro project that would have an impact on their territory.“ You can drive a Mack truck through our environmental laws,” Sullivan asserts. “They’re full of weaselling out language. But since the Canadian Constitution of 1982, aboriginal rights are inviolate.”

Hydro knows this, of course, and has been assiduously courting these ravaged communities to get them on board. In 1975, prior to the new constitution, the utility, along with the federal and provincial governments, was pressured to sign a compensation package called the Northern Flood Agreement with the Cree nations. But by 1992 most of this treaty’s terms had not been fulfilled. Four of the nations—including the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) and Tataskweyak Cree Nation—agreed to a cash settlement, which is referred to in official documents as an implementation agreement. Others refer to it as an “extinguishment agreement,” because it potentially frees the company of everything it was obligated to do by the 1975 pact, thus weakening the nations’ leverage to resist Hydro’s new projects. But one nation, the Pimicikamak, did no sign an implementation agreement and therefore remains in a stronger position to oppose the construction of Wuskwatim.

The Pimicikamak are not alone in their opposition to Wuskwatim. The dam would lie in the territory of NCN, whose 5,000 members are bitterly divided over a statement of understanding the leadership signed with Hydro. Elvis Thomas, a pro-development and pro-dam member of the band council (as some First Nations call their deliberative body), explains the terms he negotiated for his community: To gain one-third ownership of the dam, according to Thomas, NCN would invest $59.3 million in Hydro; $39.8 million of that would come in the form of a 25-year loan from the company. NCN would have to raise the other $19.5 million. Once the dam is built, the First Nation could expect to earn $21 million to $46 million per year in energy revenues.

“Hydro in the 60s and 70s made the decision to tap into the existing river system with no discussion or involvement of the native people,” Thomas says. “The federal and provincial governments gave their blessings and proceeded as if we didn’t exist, and caused a lot of damage to the Nelson River system, which we live in. People have been scarred and impacted in ways you wouldn’t believe. As the leaders of today, we have to contend with that. But that was done, and these dams have been in existence for 34 years. I can’t live in the past and complain about it forever and a day, because I have real live human beings that I represent who are pressing on me their needs in today’s life— health care and other services that modern society takes for granted.”

In order for Hydro to proceed, the Wuskwatim deal has to be approved by a referendum of the whole community. Its critics claim that the leadership has delayed the vote until this summer because it is afraid Wuskwatim won’t get enough votes. One critic is Carol Kobliski, spokeswoman of the opposition group Nelson House Justice Seekers—and Thomas’s sister.The dam hasn’t even been built, but already it is dividing families.

“Elvis is on the other side of the fence,” Kobliski says. “It’s very hard, but I have the support of the community, and we’re getting help from all over. We don’t want Wuskwatim because it’s going to destroy our land and water even more. Money isn’t going to give back what’s gone or make our people happy.”

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz at NRDC emphasizes that since 1982, when the new constitution was ratified, aboriginal rights, as affirmed by Canada’s Supreme Court, have been the best means to achieve conservation goals and to foil Hydro’s plans, so she and the Canadian groups are supporting these First Nations’ rights. Still, it’s too early to predict the outcome. “Manitoba Hydro is a state unto itself,” Sullivan tells me. “It’s even more powerful than the provincial government, and it’s always gotten a get-out-of-jail card for its transgressions. I wouldn’t count it out just yet.”

Among the collateral effects of the dams are the three or more transmission lines—perhaps running in two separate corridors— that Hydro wants to run straight through the proposed World Heritage site. Each corridor would cut a swath 150 yards wide, for hundreds of miles through undisturbed wilderness. The lines would cut across caribou migration routes and curtail their seasonal, food-driven movements (caribou rarely venture out of the woods so they don’t become easier prey for wolves and other predators). The swaths could then open the way to roads, which eventually open the door to large-scale exploitation of minerals and timber. “That’s what always happens,” Sullivan says dolefully. The visual impact alone would be horrific— a procession of monstrous metal bipoles marching across the landscape, over hill and dale, shattering the wilderness. But Premier Doer of Manitoba seems to be coming around. In December he said that a World Heritage site would be great for the province, although he stopped short of saying that the transmission lines should be kept out.Was he speaking with a politician’s forked tongue, or does he think he can have it both ways? Stay tuned.


Floating down the Bloodvein is like time travel—returning to the primordial boreal, the forest primeval, where there are no dams or transmission lines. But it also offers a glimpse (if reason prevails) of a different future—one of undisturbed splendour.

All the ominous projects and prospects seem very abstract and far away as we make our way down the hauntingly beautiful river. There are 43 rapids, and we run all of them except four that we portage and six that we line, leaving the canoes in the river and pulling them along the rapids with ropes. All of us capsize at least once and are baptized by the Bloodvein, and in this way we are gently reminded that we’re all here on nature’s sufferance. I begin to imagine that the river has a spirit—a capricious one who, while we are having our coffee, is having hers and figuring out the fun she will have with these foolish mortals today. Our canoe swamps in one choppy stretch, not because we’ve done anything wrong but because there is too much weight in the bow: moi. As I sit on the bank like a wet rat, Louis Young joins me and asks, out of the blue, “Whatever happened to Ollie North?” The question hits me like a funny koan, a Zen riddle. When I recover from laughing, I say, “You know, Louis, that’s the best question anybody’s asked me in years.”

The weather is extremely variable. One day the sky is clear blue, the next day there is driving rain. I have never seen such lavender-pink sunsets as are mirrored on the glassy surface of the river. One night we see the aurora borealis. Auroras are caused by charged solar particles hitting the upper atmosphere and glowing as they are deflected by the earth’s geomagnetic field. No two are the same. This one is like a huge green curtain tinged with reddish purple; it starts in the north and moves across the sky like a spotlight, disappears, and returns after 10 seconds or so.

Charlie Osborne, a member of the Pimicikamak Cree, says even the fish in Cross Lake don’t taste the same.

We see lots of beavers and their lodges, and the sharp spikes of aspens and jack pines that they have gnawed off. Once, in a scalloped bay, three otter stand up on their hind legs and chatter adorably, like a vaudeville conga line. But it is probably a threat display.

Up in the front of the canoe, my field of vision unobstructed by anything human for eight days, I get into a rhythm of maybe a stroke a second, not using the muscles in my arms but letting the rotation of my torso move my paddle through the water. It is meditative, almost trancelike. “This is what the body is made for,” David Pancoe, our outfitter, says when I ask him why he has chosen this arduous, ill-paid line of work. Between getting us down the river and doing the cooking, he’s been putting in 12-hour days.

On my knees, I focus on how the paddle makes a little swirling whirlpool as it bites into the water, and how it casts off two more little whirlpools when I take it out at the end of the stroke, with a slight twist of my wrist that turns the blade vertical and makes it easier to take out of the water. For long stretches the only sounds are the drops of water falling from the paddle as I bring it forward and bite the water again, and the little straining sound, like a tiny, trickling rivulet, that the bow makes as it parts the water. “Soft is the song my paddle sings,” Canada’s beloved, half-Mohawk poet E. Pauline Johnson wrote. Canoeing is one of the gentlest, least disturbing, and most unobtrusive ways of moving through physical space, and these rivers are the corridors that the native people have used for many centuries, their blue highway, their county road.

I can see in my companions’ faces that they, too, are in a rapturous state. We are going to be together for only a short time, and most of us probably are never going to meet again, but we are experiencing something that will be with us always—an order of wildness and purity, a system so vast and ancient that the distinction between individual existence and nothingness is almost meaningless. By the time we get to the Bloodvein community, where several of Young’s female relatives have prepared a fabulous feast of goose and moose, wild rice and blueberry pie and where Louis will heat some boulders red hot and conduct a sweat lodge ceremony for us, a powerful, unspoken bond has grown among our group.

Many have been drawn to the mysticism of canoeing, including Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s charismatic prime minister in the 1970s. Trudeau had fantastic technique and liked nothing better than to take off alone in his cedar-strip canoe and his fringed buckskin jacket. “Paddling a canoe is a source of enrichment and inner renewal,” he wrote. “It carries a man to the truest part of himself.” It was Trudeau who urged young Canadians to participate in the Wild River Survey from 1971 to 1974, which led to the creation of a conservation program called the Heritage River system and to the Bloodvein’s eventual inclusion in it, along with 38 other rivers of special magic and merit.

Rivers like this are our lifeblood, not only ecologically and economically, but also spiritually. We need them—as is. This is a time not only of massive extinction of the myriad forms of life on this planet, but of extinction of experience, particularly of the natural world, for those of us who are living in modern society. Perhaps this is why the river trip has been so powerful for all of us—we were nature-deprived, and all these dormant responses were reawakened. It may not be my place, as an American, to tell Canada that the age of dam-building is over, or that it is being criminally short sighted to sacrifice its boreal wilderness and its magnificent gushing rivers so that the United States can have a backup source of power that it may not even end up wanting. On the other hand, my family and I live in Montreal these days, and, in any case, aren’t we all citizens of the world? What happens to the boreal affects us all, wherever we happen to call home.



These organizations can provide more information on the campaign for Manitoba’s proposed World Heritage site:

–          Natural Resources Defense Council: www.nrdc.org

–          Manitoba Wildlands: manitobawildlands.org

–          Boreal Forest Network: www.borealnet.org


Don Sullivan e-mailed me with the great news, as per the article below, that the provincial government has nixed Manitoba Hydro’s plan to run Bipole III down the east side of Lake Winnipeg, because it would compromise the proposed World Heritage Site. He thinks that this Dispatch/onearth piece may have played role in turning the government around. He also points out several errors: the premier of Manitoba is Gary Doer, not John Doer, and that he (Don) is 47, not 49. “Let’s not make me any older than I already am, if you don’t mind.” Another important point is that the boreal in the last ten years boreal forests have switched from being a carbon sink to a contributor of atmosphere carbon due to climate-meditate increases in water stress, pest outbreaks, and wildfires (see the Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s November, 2004 publication,  “Observed Impacts of Global Climate Change in the U.S.,” by Camille Parmesan and Hector Galbraith).


Hydro won’t get cheapest route

Province rejects line down east lakeshore

Sunday, May 29th, 2005

Winnipeg Free Press

By Dan Lett


THE province has ruled out construction of a power line down the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, dashing a plan Manitoba Hydro has touted for nearly two decades. Energy Minister Dave Chomiak says his government will not allow construction of Bipole 3 — a third major transmission line to bring power from Manitoba Hydro’s northern generating stations to the south — through the pristine wilderness east of the lake.

“I think that in life, as in politics, you never say never,” Chomiak said in an interview. “But the reality is that when we weighed all the options, we couldn’t support going down the east side. It’s not going to happen.”

Hydro has long argued it needs to build a new transmission line, preferably along the eastern edge of the lake, to shore up its aging main lines that run through the Interlake region.

The east side route is Hydro’s choice because it would be hundreds of kilometres shorter and hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper than routes around the west side of Lake Winnipegosis. It is also more secure for Hydro than running it along the path of existing lines in the Interlake.

However, Chomiak said an east-side route for Hydro’s new line would bisect a tract of virgin wilderness that is being considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for designation as a World Heritage site.

Environmentalists applauded Chomiak’s statement as the biggest step the NDP government has ever taken to protect the wilderness east of the lake.

“This is a very big deal,” said Don Sullivan, executive director of the Boreal Forest Network, a major supporter of the UNESCO World Heritage designation. “(Chomiak) made a definitive statement and we commend him for taking this bold step and taking the flak for this. It’s not every day that the government goes up against the interests of Manitoba Hydro.”

Sullivan said less definitive messages from the province have allowed Hydro to continue quietly encouraging support for Bipole 3 among aboriginal communities east of the lake.


In fact, a campaign by the Island Lake Tribal Council to form a native consortium in support of an east-side route, led by former MP Elijah Harper, is receiving limited support from Hydro.

Harper said he is aware the NDP government has rejected an east-side line but has been told by Manitoba Hydro a final decision has not yet been made.

The potential spinoffs from a transmission line, including greater all-weather road access, make this the most important economic-development project for the region, he added.

“We are the poorest region in the country,” Harper said. “We can’t continue to look at government handouts. We have to look at developing the resources in our own backyards.”

Manitoba Hydro president Bob Brennan said he is aware that an east-side route is not supported by the current government. Brennan said the utility is currently committed to studying other transmission routes that would avoid the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

However, Brennan said the east-side route will likely have to be examined again in the future. ”

At this point we couldn’t entertain anything involving the east side,” Brennan said. “That doesn’t mean we’re ruling out the east side. But we’re looking at other options at this time.”

Development of the lands east of Lake Winnipeg has been a political lightning rod for decades.

Despite a strong message from the province, government sources confirmed Manitoba Hydro has never lost its appetite for a transmission route east of the lake. The sources said Hydro is preparing updated feasibility studies on the Interlake and western Manitoba routes that will show how much more expensive these options are. The end game, the sources said, would be to embarrass the province into re-thinking its policy.

Chomiak said he is fully prepared for some backlash from Hydro, political opponents and the business community for using environmental concerns to trump economics.

“It would be cheaper to go down the east side,” Chomiak said. “But you don’t make these decisions on the straight economics …We’re going to stand on our environmental concerns.”


Secondly, here is an interview with Peter Kulchyski, head of the Department of Natives Studies at the University of Manitoba, which gives a good dispassionate overview of the rights of  native people in the province with respect to their land, water, and resources :

“There have been aboriginal rights since 1763, before the formation of Canada. The British royal proclamation of l867 said it was the federal government’s responsibility to protect Indians and their land. Between l870 and l921 numbered treaties, each covering a particular geographical territory, were made. All the first nations in the new dams and World Heritage dispute are in Treaty 5. After l877, when the Indians were subdued and posed no military threat, the government increasingly and systematically ignored the treaty rights. The minister of the interior in l910 or 12, I think it was Siston, said, “we will never let an Indian right become a white man’s wrong.” Treaty 5 “ceded, released, and surrendered to the crown all rights, titles, and interests” to the Indians’ land.” But it says nothing about the water, as later treaties do, so it could be argued that they still have aboriginal water rights to the Nelson River system, and thus grounds to sue Hydro for violating them. And the treaty also says that the aboriginals can “pursue their avocations of hunting and fishing on the surrendered lands,” so in effect they have rights to them. But it also says that the government can take any part of the lands and use them for any purpose.

“During the first round of dams, Manitoba Hydro, like Hydro Quebec, just went ahead and built them, and as the communities realized their impacts, they formed the Northern Flood Committee in the early 70s to fight what was happening. There were six communities, including South Indian Lake, which is a sub-community of Nelson House. It got it the worst and was completely flooded out [now it is in its third relocation. The Displaced Residents of South Indian Lake are stridently opposed to Wuskwatim]. This fight never got the international attention that the one over the first set of dams in Quebec or the pipeline in the Northwest Territories did, but with help from people all over, they forced Hydro, the province, and the feds to sign the Northern Flood Agreement with a hefty compensation package for each community. The feds were in support of Hydro and the province. They were shirking their responsibilities to the aboriginals; officially they said they were taking a position of “alert neutrality,” as they did in Quebec.

“Over the next 15 years, after the signing of the NFA in l975, the aboriginal communities thought the promises they had been made were much broader, that there was going to be money to solve all their problems, even ‘the eradication of poverty.’ Hydro read the NFA very narrowly and dragged its feet on implementing it. By the late 90s the frustrated communities were picked off by Hydro by “implementation agreements,” which were actually cash buyouts; I call them “extinguishment agreements,” because the  communities that took them had all their rights under the N.F.A.  extinguished. One of the clauses said the communities will not take hydro, province, or the feds to court over anything having to do with the NFA.

“In l982 the aboriginal treaty rights were recognized and affirmed by the new Canadian constitution. This means you need a constitutional amendment to change any particular right. One clause says that the Charter of Freedom’s can’t be interpreted in a way that limits aboriginal rights, and section 35 says that existing treaty rights are recognized and affirmed. The supreme court is now saying that there should be a liberal interpretation, “a liberal and generous view,” of the spirit of the treaties, because the aboriginals did not understand their legal nuances. The ‘honor of the crown’ is at stake in interpreting these treaties compassionately. The courts are looking at the oral history of the treaties, what the aboriginals were orally promised. If a chief told his son we were told we could maintain our lifeways forever, and the son told this to his son, this has documentary weight in court. It is the courts in their liberal interpretation that have developed the doctrine of meaningful and bone fide consultation.

“Cross Lake did not sign an implementation agreement, so it has the right to protest Wuskwatim. As one of the six communities, it has the right to be consulted in  any project in their collective area. In Treaty 5 they didn’t surrender their water rights, so they do have a veto on Wuskwatim or any of the dams in their territory. But nobody is pursuing this argument. I plan to bring it into play.

“Pauingassi and Little Grand Rapids are not in a position to fight the dams because they are not in their territory. But they can fight the power lines. They, too, are in Treaty 5. If they have the right to pursue hunting and fishing, and they can make the case that the lines will destroy enough habitat, they could stop them. Practically, they are trying to create the World Heritage Site so it will be very difficult for Hydro to drive lines through their traditional territories. They have a much better chance of stopping the lines on the east side than the opponents of Wuskwatim do. But Nelson House has to have a referendum, and the leadership has agreed that if they vote against the dam, they will not partner with Hydro in the project. It’s hard to call the [outcome of the] referendum, but the fact that the leadership isn’t holding it suggests that they know they don’t have the necessary votes. Hydro is doing the hard sell in Nelson House, offering jobs right and left. The Premier even went up there.

“There’s a better chance to stop the lines on the east side because Hydro is more committed to and has invested a lot of resources in Wuskwatim and is more prepared to bite the bullet on the lines and send them down the west side. Poplar River has been very smart to get its protection status 10 years ahead of time, and it’s going to be hard for Hydro to fight them. Interim park status gives you more protection, and being enshrined in World Heritage status builds up the notion that this is sheer wilderness. The Manitoba government belatedly and begrudgingly last November supported the site, and that becomes something for hydro to work around [as Bob Brennon says himself in the same words]. They can drive the line from Conawapa to northwestern Ontario, which will avoid the site, and run the others down the west side if they have to. As long as they can go along with their projects they’re happy and willing to put up with some constraints.”

One very important point, which did not get its due in the Dispatch/onearth piece solely because of space constraints, is the seminal role that Poplar River First Nation played in putting together the World Heritage proposal. It began with Poplar River getting interim park protection for its own traditional territory, in response to an invitation to the province’s first nations from the Manitoba Parks department to propose wilderness areas for protection. Here is the section on Poplar River that didn’t make the final cut :


The route and impact of the transmission line from Conawapa  was the next issue on our delegation’s itinerary.

[This was in June, 2004, the first of three trips I would make to the boreal that summer]  Leaving Cross Lake, we flew two hundred miles down to Weaver Lake, fifty miles up the Poplar River, in the heart of the proposed World Heritage site.

If Ontario ends up buying the dam’s 1200 megawatts,  Bipole 3, as the succession of behemoth steel towers strung with fourteen sets of interbraided high-voltage wires is called, would run southeast for 1200 kilometers, to the nearest point where Ontario’s grid can be upgraded to take the juice, and it would not pose a problem for the Ontario site. But if it ran for 1000 kilometers due south to the existing line between Ontario and Manitoba (this was the “critical east-west juncture” Doer was referring to), it would run right through the proposed site and have a whole concatenation of ghastly impacts. Hunters would pour in in four-wheelers and skidoos, hewers of wood, miners of ore, and developers would run off side roads, and the wolves would have an advantage over the woodland caribou, whose numbers are already parlous. It would be the beginning of the end for that magnificent wilderness. But Bob Brennan and the two premiers clearly felt this was the sensible way to go, not only because it was considerably cheaper, but because it would integrate with the mid-western grid more effectively at this point.  “As far as the World Heritage site is concerned,” Brennan told me, “we can work around that when we get there.”

The story of how this particularly tract of the boreal shield’s impenetrable vastness became a candidate for World Heritage designation begins in l995, when the provincial Parks Department invited the twenty-six first nations in the province to propose new areas for protection.  Poplar River First Nation decided to take it up, and started by proposing its own traditional territory, as defined by the trap-line districts that its extended family groups had historically worked. The proposal was accepted, and in l999 their homeland was declared a provincial “park reserve,” a provisional status that had just been renewed for five years, buying time for Poplar River and its partners, which include the NRDC,  to work on securing the World Heritage status for it and the territories of Pauingassi, Little Grand Rapids, and Pikanjikium first nations and the Woodland Caribou and Atitaki provincial parks of Ontario and Manitoba, respectively.

This would save 4.3 million hectares—more than ten million acres—but it is by no means in the bag. There are quite a number of bureaucratic hoops that have to be gone through. At this point the Woodland-Caribou-Atitaki-four nations accord cluster, as it is mellifluously called, is on Parks Canada’s  tentative list of sites that may be nominated in the next ten years. The cluster has in its favor that is it the only example of the boreal shield ecozone, and that it would be partly managed by the provinces, and partly by the local native people, which is sexy these days (the conservation movement has come a good way since the days of the old African game parks of the twenties, from which the local people were evicted and their hunters became poachers). Also in its favor is the fact that the IUCN has done a study of the entire boreal and identified it as an area of special concern and high priority from the global conservation standpoint. Once it is nominated—which will require advocacy and political pressure in Ottawa—UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has to decide whether to place it on the World Heritage list. But before it goes to UNESCO, both provinces have to be on board, and it was not clear from talking with Gordon Jones, the head of  Manitoba Conservation’s parks department, that Manitoba is yet.

Jones told me that he appreciated where Pauingassi and Little Grand Rapids (Pikangikum is in Ontario) were coming from when they proposed their traditional trapline districts for provincial protection, but “we can’t recommend it in the context of our protected areas initiative, which has a scientific basis for where a park should be established. Ours is a representative protected-area system,” he went on, “with twelve percent of each ‘landscape unit’ designated for protection. With the existence already of two provincial wilderness parks and a park reserve [Poplar River], we can say this boreal forest type is adequately represented, so we don’t have the rational to say that Pauingassi and Little Grand Rapids should be protected as well.”

So you’re not endorsing the candidacy ? I asked. This doesn’t sound like it would be very helpful to the cause.

“I’m not saying that,” Jones said. “The World Heritage business is kind of another layer. I’m just saying that it can’t be justified at the provincial level. But we need to think how the site would be managed. It would be the first World Heritage site in Manitoba. The thirteen existing sites in Canada have highly-protected management regimes because many of them are national parks. So this proposed site will have to go a whole process [employing scores of people, generating thousands of pages of reports, and taking years, I thought] to get a clear understanding of what a site might mean. What are the other land use interests and what do they mean ? There is a possible hydro line—how does that get factored in ?  Poplar River may end up a provincial park or something new entirely, like a first nations preservation area.”

Don Sullivan said that Jones’s “heart is in the right place, but he is incapable of making his mind up about anything. The twelve percent solution, as I call it, was part of a biodiversity inventory of all of Canada commissioned from the World Wildlife Fund. The program is defunct, but  the provinces still use it. But the WWF recommended a minimum of twelve percent, and the provinces are adhering to it as the maximum. It has some objective criteria, but it basically a bunch of hooey that has less to do with science than politics and chutzpah. It depends on whether you’re for it or not.”

Unlike Cross Lake, Weaver Lake was absolutely pristine. We hopped off the float plane onto a granite slab  draped with half a dozen  yard-long jack (northern pike in the states) caught that morning. This was  the heart of the boreal (as NRDC has called its biogem, which embraces the 4.3 million hectares of the World Heritage Site and an as yet undefined part of the surrounding area), a spectacular wilderness teeming with the abundance  of life that was once everywhere.

Here the Poplar River First Nation runs a traditional healing camp, and its director,  Ray Rabliauskus, welcomed us along with fifteen others, including a group of  giggling women who were frying up some scrumptious pickerel (walleye in the States) under a tarp. The twelve hundred people of this nation are Ojibway, or Anashinabe, as they call themselves, historically mortal enemies of the Cree.  Originally from Sault St. Marie, between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, the Ojibway moved west, spurred by the fur trade, across the forested boreal shield to the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg and down into Wisconsin, where they displaced the Lakota and are known as the Chippewa. This was  one of their northernmost communities.  Until they were sedentarized at the mouth of the Poplar by missionaries at the turn of the nineteenth century, they had been semi-nomadic, spending the summer fishing at the mouth of the Big Black River, the next one up the lake, and hunting and trapping on showshoes  around Weaver Lake, in the winter.

A gentle, softspoken man, Ray wasn’t Ojibway, but the son of Lithuanian immigrants to Ontario who had come to the community twenty-five years ago and stayed because it needed a licensed carpenter to qualify for a housing grant and because he fell in love with Sophie. By now he  an “albino Indian,” one of the men kidded. He was living the way of humility and reverence and had a sort of Gandhian glow about him. Ray was also spearheading the World Heritage Campaign. Don Sullivan said that Poplar River decided to join the provincial protected-area system “to make them play by their own rules, so  there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises like development licenses.”  But Ray  described the collaboration in a much less confrontational way, “We’re partnering with the Manitoba government, and they’re good people. The Ojibway way is not to fight, but to work with people, to go with the flow instead of against it; we don’t believe in negotiating in anger. But if they do come to log, we’ll die for it. Poplar is a unique place, and the people’s strength and humility and way of operating in the world has kept it that way. Every living thing has a job, and so far humans are the only ones who aren’t doing it right. The sun comes up every day; it does its job. The leaves come out and clear the air, and all the insects do what they’re supposed to do; it’s only us.”

I was dying for some exercise, after three days of one feast after another, so Don and I and a young woman named Juanita Murdoch went for a walk in the woods, but the path stopped at the outhouse, and it was hard slogging, with brambles and brutal, bloodthirsty mosquitoes, and every fifty feet a huge pile of moose droppings, so we only went till we came to a muskeg, a marsh with tall brown sedge and a few small trees in it , and turned back.  300-pounds, with a beautiful, child-like, open face Juanita had been born in Poplar, but at the age of two had gone with her mother to Winnipeg, where she grew up in the mean streets of the North End. I’d driven through the North End, seen the drunks and the sniffers of  aerosols in plastic bags passed out in doorways, the fathers selling their daughters. It is the most depressing native ghetto in Canada, like Gallup, New Mexico,  or Sidney, Australia, where  Navajos and  aborigines stumble  between cosmologies.

Juanita had got into a  gang called  Indian Posse, and “I lost my four kids to care,” she told us. She had come back to Poplar to regroup and get back to her roots. “We’re just getting to know Juanita again,” Ray told me. Buoyant, brimming with laughter and irrepressible joie de vivre, she was clearly going to make it.

These were the kind of people who came to the healing camp. Diabetes, drug addictions—all the modern toxins were treated by traditional means,  with the help of modern psychotherapy. There was a big teepee where everyone sat in a talking circle, with a fire burning in the middle, and let it all out. Some of the sessions were  heavy, like when a woman would vent her pain to her father, who had had incest with her when she was little. As with all the native people in Canada,  the people of Poplar were sent away to residential schools, where they were beaten if they talked their own language and sometimes sexually abused. “Two or three generations lost the knowledge of how to nurture and be a parent,” Ray explained, and they were taking out what had been done to them on their kids. The worst time was from the twenties to the fifties.  Forbidden to use their medicinal plants and to have their ceremonies, they went deep into the woods to do their drumming and dancing, but the drumming and dancing and the knowledge of the medical plants gradually died out. But they still had their language and  this small group was trying to recover the old ways. Don called them “born-again traditionalists.” The largest religious group in Poplar were the hundred-or-so born-again Pentecostals, the Shakers, as they were called,  who held revivals almost every night.  The Shakers regarded the healing camp as pagan and satanic, which is why the chief hadn’t come; it would have gotten him in political hot water.

We had several talking circles, each of us explaining why we were here and getting comfortable with each other. There was some drumming and dancing, but it was pretty self-conscious and inhibited,  because it was not a living tradition, but something they were trying to reconstruct. One of the young drummers kept losing the beat and with a look of desperate mortification trying to get back into it. But still you could hear that this was something very ancient, an exulting in being alive, a declaration of the right to be here,  that went back ten thousand years,  to the paleo bands that followed the caribou. Something that was at first alien to Western ears, too “primordial” than anything he was prepared for,  as  D.H.Lawrence described the singing and drumming he heard at Taos Pueblo, New Mexico,  in 1921.

“Listening to the pat-pat of the drums, and the hie-hie-hie-away of the singers, an acute sadness and a nostalgia, unbearably yearning for something, and a sickness of the soul came over me. The gobble-gobble chuck in the whoop surprised me in my very tissues. Then I got used to it, and could hear in it the humanness, the playfulness, and then, beyond that, the mockery and the diabolical, pre-human, pine-tree fun of cutting dusky throats.”

The elders, one of whom  sang some old mournful country songs, accompanying himself on my little traveling guitar, had helped a botanist from Winnipeg put out a little book of Poplar River’s medicinal plants, but they hadn’t told her everything. These people hadn’t lost the core of their  culture, I realized. They were taking back control of their lives,  dealing with the modern world on their terms, like the Pimicikimak. They would make perfect stewards of the World Heritage site.

The next morning the delegation flew out, and I stayed on for a couple of days, knowing how faulty impressions from quick zips through unfamiliar terrain can be.   We all  sat around in the teepee, joking and chilling, until the time came to leave. Without a word, everyone got up and switched into on-the-move mode, swiftly and surely packed the boats, slid them into the water, pull the starting cords of the outboard motors, and headed down the river. Aluminum outboards had arrived only fifteen years ago, but the men had already become experts at shooting rapids in them, which they hadn’t been able to do in their canoes, so we only had to portage four of the twelve rapids in the fifty miles between Weaver Lake and the community of Poplar River and were able to make the trip in four hours. It was a thing of beauty to watch how they read and unerringly threaded the roiling water, the grace and pride with which they all worked together, the women just as hard and effectively, sliding the boats over the log skids at the portages. The Saulteaux, the People of the Rapids, as the French Voyageurs called the Objiway, were in their element. Juanita was in another boat, and had never done anything like this. Tripping over roots and rocks, she was having the time of her life.

The river was as wild as a remote tributary of the Amazon, or the Epulu, which flows through the Ituri Forest in eastern Congo, only there were no crocodiles or colobus monkeys hurtling through the trees. Up here, edited by cold, there were far fewer species, and their sparseness accentuated their purity and perfection. The only fauna we saw in any number were bald eagles. There was another one around every bend, perched in a tree or winging over the water. We must have seen a hundred.

The only outside intrusions were from Thunderbird Lodge, on a lake above Weaver, which American fishermen paid big bucks to be flown into, and once a year a party of Swiss teenage prisoners was taken down and put through a three-week wilderness survival ordeal in the hopes of straightening them out. Perro had heard the success rate was high. At one point several miles of forest along the left bank, ignited by lightning, had burned during last summer’s severe drought. Already a thick sea of luminous green poplar saplings was competing to replace the charred poles. But this was natural (unless the drought was linked to global warming, which it probably was), and we are told good for forest regeneration that sections of it burn down every once in a while.

How lucky these people are, I thought, despite their sense of irreparable loss and the  social and environmental havoc that came with the arrival of  Europeans. They have what they need from the modern world, and they still have their homeland, their language, and  the basic continuity, though minus many elements, of  a culture that goes back thousands of years. Unlike us Salty Ones, as the Cree call white European people (those who came from across the ocean). Most  Salty Ones—there are two hundred “cultural communities” of us in Montreal alone–   are exiles who have lost our culture, our homeland (which we usually had to leave under duress), our community (in our post-industrial  neolocal society, we don’t  settle down and raise our families in the place where we grew up if we can help it), or our family (our grown-up children having scattered to the winds). Maybe it was because we lost a deep spiritual connection to a natural landscape, internalized and developed over many generations,  that we treated so horribly the people who still had one. Or maybe we just wanted the riches and the land they were on.

The river made the case for itself. Anybody who made this trip would leave with the certain conviction that this wilderness is very special and eminently deserving of World Heritage designation.  I have been to many World Heritage sites around the world, and this richly drained (not poorly drained, as the boreal shield is often described, but swiftly and strongly drained by a web of seething torrents) woods is right up there.  There was a  logic and an unfathomable subtlety  to the flow of the land and the water. The shape and placement of every tree and rock,  every sound that pierced the silence, seemed completely random, yet just right. It was not hard to believe, as the Ojibway, Cree, and all native people do, that there was a Creator, because this was a creation. “Everything has a spirit, even  rocks,” Ray Rabliauskus had told me. “The goose knows when to go south. This is how nature works. The Creator [Semanito, for whom Manitoba is named] made a system better than any we can devise.”

He was right, I mused.  Nothing anyone could do to this boreal Eden could possibly make it any better than the way it was. I was glad it was in the hands  of people who believed , as Victoria explained, “that the Creator gave us these resources to take care of them. This is what defines us as first nations.” and the best way to do this was to disturb and take as little as possible, to let it be for all of us.

“Well keep it up,” I told her. “You’re doing a beautiful job.”

Dispatch #33: The Amazon Research and Conservation Center on the Rio de Las Piedras, in the Peruvian Amazon

By Alex Shoumatoff

From the plane we catch glimpses of the Urubamba River, below Machu Picchu, plunging thousands of feet, then snaking through an ocean of trees that spreads east until it is lost in haze—the Amazon, the world’s largest and most diverse rainforest. We land in the humid furnace of Puerto Maldonado, the fourth-largest city in the wooded eastern half of Peru, known as the selva (the jungle). The airport is full of foreign tourists, mostly European and American, in jungle safari garb, and the parking lot is packed with kitschy jungle safari buses with thatched roofs, waiting to chauffeur them to boats on the Tambopata River, 15 minutes from here. One or two planeloads of tourists a day are shuffled in and out of 15 ecolodges with capacities of 16 to 60, or more. My 11-year-old son, Zachary, and I are embarking on a more unusual adventure. We’re on our way to the Amazon Rainforest Conservation Center (ARCC), an ecolodge and research center located eight hours up the Rio de las Piedras, a left-bank tributary of the Madre de Dios that has almost no other ecotourism. Within a half-hour of landing, we are speeding down the Madre de Dios in a roofed-over, 50-foot boat with a 60-horsepower outboard engine. It’s a strong, brown river, but only one of the Amazon’s thousands of sub-tributaries. The Amazon Rainforest Conservation Center was built, with financing from the U.S. conservation group Tropical Nature, by Pepe Moscoso Garcés, a strapping 41-year-old local Peruvian of European descent. Pepe is accompanying us with his 12-year-old son, Frank, a playmate for Zach. Also on board are Juan de Dios, the head of the guild of Puerto Maldonado ecotourist guides; an Ese’eja native woman named Daisy, who will be our cook; a Machiguena Indian named Narciso; nature photographer Mattias Klum; and his assistant, Lars-Magnus Edjeholm. There are 52 forest tribes in the selva speaking 25 different languages. The native people on the Rio de las Piedras are called the Yine or Piro. The rest of the boat is crammed with boxes full of fresh Yine or Piro. The rest of the boat is crammed with boxes full of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and drink that will enable us to live in style for the next five days.We pass a small floating gold-mining operation that is sucking up the river bottom with a thick hose. Inside, in a room full of diesel smoke, shirtless men, glistening with sweat, are picking the mud over for nuggets or gold dust. Then we enter the mouth of the Rio de las Piedras, which is 100 yards wide after its 200-mile journey. The river is way down because the Amazon is experiencing the worst drought in its recorded history, and the rainy season is overdue. Tree trunks, snags, and the occasional sandbar that Narciso pries us off with his pole slow our progress. Narciso is a smallish, lean, muscular man who never speaks but is always there when you want him, and he wears a perpetual mischievous smirk.

Two russet-backed oropendolas are flying around in panic as five black caracaras raid their sock nests. None of our field guides does justice to the extraordinary vocalizations of the oropendola. They sound like watery gurgles fired from a creaky slingshot.

Two russet-backed oropendolas are flying around in panic as five black caracaras raid their sock nests. None of our field guides does justice to the extraordinary vocalizations of the oropendola. They sound like watery gurgles fired from a creaky slingshot.

For the first four hours few native trees are visible except on the inner banks of bends, where solid stands of cecropia and another pioneer species called pájaro bobo have sprouted in the mud precipitated from the slower water. The forest has been converted to plantations by homesteaders from the Andean highlands. In the early 1990s the government of Alberto Fujimori gave 74 acres, with 984 feet of river frontage and 3,280 feet back into the forest, to any family willing to make a go of it in the selva.

We pass through blizzards of lemon-lime and orange sulphur butterflies and small, striped brown swallow-tailed nymphalids known as many-banded daggerwings. Thousands upon thousands are puddling on exposed sandbars and on the lowered banks. “I have never seen so many butterflies,” says Pepe. 

Two russet-backed oropendolas are flying around in panic as five black caracaras raid their sock nests. None of our field guides do justice to the extraordinary vocalizations of the oropendola; they sound like watery gurgles fired from a creaky slingshot. 

Capybaras, the world’s largest rodents, can be more than four feet long and top 100 pounds. They are herbivores and eat mostly grasses and aquatic plants. Courtesy of WildlandAdventures.com

We put in at dusk at Tipishca Camp, a small overnight lodge Pepe built a few hundred yards in from the river on one of its cast-off loops that is now a small eyebrow-shaped lake. Something is missing: the searing pungency of leaves decomposing on the forest floor that is so characteristic of rainforests. In fact, there is no smell at all, only the crackle of shriveled leaves underfoot, and the usual birdsong that I’d expect after spending years traveling in the Amazon is much muted. Juan identifies the catcalls of a screaming piha; the low, minor-key melancholy whistles of a tinamou; the doglike yelps of a white-throated toucan; and the vocalizations of jacamars, trogons, wrens, antbirds, and nunbirds. But compared with the usual din, it’s eerily quiet. “The silence is because of the secas, the drought,” Pepe explains. “The last rain was two weeks ago, and before that there wasn’t a drop for two months straight. It is mid-September. The rainy season should have started by now.”

The camp has screen walls, a thatched roof, and two rows of alcoves with beds canopied with mosquito netting. Pepe was clever to make use of one of these oxbows that the river abandoned for a new, faster route on its seaward descent. The lake is like a lost world, a teeming microcosm of one of the planet’s most intricate and complex ecosystems. Even in its present drought-stressed state, the biodiversity here is mind-boggling. Zach and I paddle a dugout in the failing light, looking for caimans and anacondas in the marsh grass that is closing in on the open water, but we see only a pair of sungrebes paddling around. Distant relatives of rails and coots, they are small and boldly patterned. After dark Zach shines his light on the blazing orange eyes of a yard-long caiman on the lake’s edge and catches an enormous canetoad. 
At 4:00 a.m. we are awakened by a chorus of red howler monkeys from the other side of the lake. It sounds like wind rushing through the portals of Hades. We continue upriver, passing an intently motionless white-necked heron standing knee-deep in water, then 20 jabiru storks having a confab on a sandbar. One of them seems to be their cacique and is strutting around like a dictator. Thirty red-and-green macaws, headed for their clay lick, overtake us. Every mile or two there is another flock of these glorious, large vermilion parrots, which Juan calls guacamayos rojos. This river should be called the Rio de los Guacamayos.

We pass through blizzards of lemon-lime and orange sulphur butterflies and small, striped brown swallow-tailed nymphalids known as many-banded daggerwings. Thousands upon thousands are puddling on exposed sandbars and on the lowered banks. “I’ve never seen so many butterflies,” says Pepe..

The last finca, or plantation, of the Andean homesteaders ends, and the river becomes pristine, a corridor winding between two walls of densely packed trees, some 130 feet tall. Juan points out a king vulture—huge, with a bare, highly colored blue and orange neck and face—a kestrellike plumbeous kite, a sunbittern, and a yellow-headed vulture. Rounding one bend, we find 30 swallow-tailed kites, more than I have ever seen in my whole life, circling gracefully over the water. White heads and underbellies sharply contrast with their black forked tails and outer wing feathers. 

Pepe tells me he grew up on the edge of what is now Manu National Park, upriver from Maldonado. “My father was a logger.  I studied electric engineering in Cuzco, but there were no jobs, so I set myself up as a river merchant, running food and beer to gold miners up tributaries of the Madre de Dios. They paid me in gold, and by the time I was 24, I had a small fortune: $45,000.” But Pepe went through it all mounting expeditions during the next two years to look for the lost city of Paititi, the legendary Inca city in the jungle. All he found was a couple of stone towers. 

Ecotourism was beginning to boom in the selva, and for eight years he worked on the Tambopata for Rainforest Expeditions, “until I became aburrido—sickof it,” he continues. “Moving all those bodies in and out becomes like a human zoo. But I loved meeting people from all over the world and showing them the beauty and the richness of the forest. So I decided to start my own company with funding from Tropical Nature and a 40-year concession from the government for 15,000 acres on the Rio de las Piedras.” The land includes a large eyebrow lake, Lago Soledad (“solitude”), named for a little settlement of which there is no longer a trace. “We are taking a big risk, because the Las Piedras is in a free zone,” Pepe says. “There are no restrictions. The river turtles are not protected, and the loggers and Brazil-nut gatherers live off peccaries, tapirs, and macaws, whose flesh is unfortunately delicious.”

A small sign on a tree marks the ARCC’s boundary, and 10 minutes later we dock at an inconspicuous set of wooden stairs coming down to the water from a dark path that leads into an emerald-forest Eden. There are six bungalows set back from the lake and a large lodge with a kitchen, dining room, bar, and lounge. The facility has a capacity of 16, and after two years of business, it is hosting 200 guests a year. “I want to keep it a low-volume, high-quality experience—no more than 600 a year,” Pepe says. 
The most visible and dramatic action is on the lake, which is ruled by three giant otters, seven feet long from snout to tail. They drape themselves like leopards on dead tree branches sticking up in the water, frolic incessantly, and cruise the lake with their heads held high, sending rings rippling out over the still surface. There are a few 12-foot caimans here, which look like floating logs, approaching imperceptibly until they’re within striking distance of their quarry.

The border of the lake is packed with soaring trees and shrubbery cabled with vines that sag with the vegetation of other plants using them for scaffolding. As we paddle along, a mixed troop of squirrel and brown capuchin monkeys comes out of the understory. One curious squirrel monkey teeters out to the tip of a branch, 10 feet from us. Seeming no less threatened by our approach, the hoatzins flap to a perch 50 feet away. They are primitive birds with unkempt cockades. Young hoatzins have claws on  their elbows to pull themselves up branches. We pass a wattled jacana picking its way over the vegetation tumbling into the water, and a rufescent tiger heron standing on a low branch a hundred feet from a juvenile agami heron. With its wispy, light-blue crest, glossy green and chestnut back, and long rapierlike bill, it is one of neotropical America’s most dazzling birds, as well as one of the rarest members of the heron tribe. 

It rains hard through our second night, breaking the drought. By daybreak the forest has sprung back to life. Joyous bursts of birdsong blend with the pulsing quake of frogs and insects. Rising with the howlers, we head up the still mist-shrouded river to a ccollpa (clay lick) visited by half a dozen species of parrot. The ccollpa is a smectite- and bentonite-rich, yellow-brown cliff on a bluff 300 feet above a sweeping bend. Pepe has built a blind 150 feet from it, and we spend the morning inside being as quiet and still as possible. We watch a tapir swim across the river below, and, rounding the bend, a thatched peque peque, a river skiff with a lawn-mower engine, carrying a family of loggers with some beams in tow.
At about 6:30 a.m., 30 white-bellied parrots (actually golden-green), with a few mealy parrots mixed in, land on the cliff and peck out balls of clay. The clay is thought to help the parrots’ digestion, neutralizing the alkaloids and other toxins in the seeds they eat. At 7:00 two red-and-green macaws come flying up the bend and double back, apparently scouting out the situation. They fly over the blind several times, seeming to note that there are humans in it. The question is, what kind of humans: hunters or birdwatchers? They land in the crotch of a cecropia tree that is growing out of the cliff. We can see the red lines on their white cheeks.

The Peruvian Amazon is rich with birdlife, including blue-and-gold macaws. Courtesy of WildlandAdventures.com

More macaws arrive in twos and threes until there are 30 of them. Several couples hang upside down from branches and groom and snuggle, stealing glances at us. Then by turn they swoop down to the cliff and return to their perches with clay balls, which they hold in one foot and nibble. After half an hour they all leave, and it is the turn of a similar number of smaller scarlet macaws. At the ccollpa there seems to be a literal pecking order.

More macaws arrive in twos and threes until there are 30 of them. Several couples hang upside down from branches and groom and snuggle, stealing glances at us. Then by turn they swoop down to the cliff and return to their perches with clay balls, which they hold in one foot and nibble.

Zach and I walk along the six miles of trails that loop around the lake with Juan and Narciso, who moves slowly and quietly, pointing out things that Juan interprets for us. Juan could be mistaken for an Indian with his mixed Japanese and Brazilian parentage, but he is a modern, urban Peruvian. He is a step removed from the world of the forest, but he has fallen under its spell and is good at spotting big birds like a Spix’s guan (a dark-brown, turkeylike bird with a featherless ruby-red throat), the razor-billed curas-sow (sheeny steel-black with a red bill), and a herd of collared peccaries that we creep up on and watch from behind a huge garlic tree until they sense our presence and bolt. He shows us medicinal plants for treating arthritis and rheumatism, diarrhea and constipation, kidney and prostate ailments, hangover, headache, and fever, as well as the cashapona, or walking palm, with a mesh of thin, splaying prop roots that, like the adjustable legs of a tripod, move the slender, straight trunk around to give it the best shot at the sunlight. 

Zachary is focused on the forest floor. He notices things that elude even Narciso, like a yellow-footed tortoise and a five-inch-long baby fer-de-lance, the snake responsible for the greatest number of fatal bites in the Americas. Juan and Narciso agree it is a type of fer-de-lance known as the jergonsacha. Its dark- and light-gray diamonds blend perfectly with the sun-mottled leaf litter. Narciso nudges it with a stick, and it plays dead.

Zach picks up a batrachian the size of a fingernail—a toad, he pronounces. How do you know? I ask. “Frogs are wet, and toads pee on you,” he says. He discerns a nightjar so well camouflaged among the leaves that it is only an outline. You could spend your life—and some do—studying just one category of the organisms on the forest floor: the seeds, the snails, the spiders, the beetles, the ants, the sapitos and the ranitas—the little toads and frogs. On a fallen tree we find a rubbery pink earlobe-shaped fungus that Narciso says is delicious. Iridescent blue morpho butterflies patrol the forest, flashing creamy blue. Resting on a leaf is a small blowtorch-blue metalmark butterfly with red along its hind wing.

Cabanas as the Amazon Rainforest Conservation Center in Peru’s jungle. Courtesy of WildlandAdventures.com

A whole set of different life-forms inhabits the canopy. Pepe has built a platform 130 feet up in the crown of a massive ironwood tree that we reach by being hauled up one at a time in a canvas chair by everyone below. As I rise above the lake I can see an unbroken sea of green spreading 100 miles north to the Acre River, the border with Brazil. I have an urge to just take off into it with Zach, Narciso, and Juan. We could probably reach the river in four days.

When I first set foot in the Amazon 25 years ago to write about this incomparable, incomprehensible wilderness, a fire bigger than Belgium was raging out of control. The forest was being cleared, and its flora and fauna, much of which is still uncatalogued, was going up in smoke in order to produce a few years’ worth of beef. The land would then be abandoned, to bake into brick-hard laterite. 

The assault has continued unabated, and 18 percent of the forest has disappeared in 50 years. A sophisticated satellite system monitors the clear-cutting and the fires, and laws restricting deforestation are in place, but stopping it is another matter. 
Still, the Amazon rainforest is so enormous that 82 percent of it is estimated to be, more or less, intact. Now there is another threat, more remote but no less devastating, as became evident when we flew over the Andes. The mountains looked like melting ice cream cones, their snow and ice reduced to small patches. The Peruvian National Council for the Environment has predicted that there will be no glaciers in Peru by 2020. All the world’s snow and ice is melting, but none so fast as tropical glaciers and ice fields. What will become of the Amazon with no snowmelt to feed its headwaters, and ever decreasing rainfall? Will it be a savanna again as it was 100,000 years ago? 

In fact, the dehydration of the Amazon rainforest is already under way. While we were able to reach the ARCC, 40,000 ccaboclos, the mestizo backwoods people of the Brazilian Amazon, were stranded up rivers that had gone dry. The waterways are still the only roads in most of the Amazon valley. The world’s land surface is progressively dessicating as a result of global warming—even here, one of the wettest places of all.

And in a few years theInteroceánica highway will be completed, providing long-sought (and long-fought by conservationists) access to the Pacific and Asian markets for the Amazon’s wood and minerals. Puerto Maldonado will be overrun with marginal Brazilians, Pepe predicts—the homeless from cities who are already pouring into the Madre de Dios region. “Maybe I will move out to the ARCC and live there full-time,” he says. Every day trucks and boats bring more people with visions of El Dorado, carrying all they own in a tote bag to this fast-growing city of 50,000. Most of them will start out trying their luck at gold mining and end up cutting trees down for one of the lumber companies or collecting Brazil nuts. So if you want to experience the Amazon, you’d better get there fast, and I can’t think of anywhere better than Pepe’s five-star gem. 

Alex Shoumatoff is the author of three books on the Amazon and publisher of DispatchesFromTheVanishingWorld.com.

PERU Making the Trip

The Amazon Resources Conservation Center (ARCC) is remote but relatively easy to reach through a series of air, land, and river connections. Frequent and direct international air service is available from several major U.S. gateways, including New York, Miami, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Los Angeles, to Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru. Daily flights from Lima over the Andes Mountains connect through Cuzco to the jungle town of Puerto Maldonado. From there it’s a comfortable seven- to eight-hour ride in a motorized dugout up the wildlife-rich Las Piedras River. Before embarking on the river journey to the ARCC, you could plan to spend a night in the colonial Hotel Antigua in the Lima suburb of Miraflores (www.peru-hotels-inns.com) or in the luxury Monasterio Hotel in Cuzco (http://monasterio.orient-express.com). Leave time in your Peru itinerary to visit Inca ruins and native Quechua Indian villages in Cuzco, the Urubamba Valley, and the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. Birders and botanists will appreciate staying overnight at the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel (www.inkaterra.com/mpph/index.html), located in a subtropical cloudforest of bromeliads, ferns, flowers, and orchids that’s filled with butterflies and birds. Seattle-based Wildland Adventures (www.wildland.com) is an award-winning ecotourism company that has been working for 20 years with conservation organizations and naturalist guides throughout the rainforests of Tambopata and Manu. It offers guided excursions for individuals, families, and small groups throughout the Andes, the Amazon, and the Galápagos Islands.

Dispatch #38: An Ecosystem of one’s own

By Alex Shoumatoff

DUDE-ZILLA – Americans consume paper at an annual rate of 740 pounds per capita, seven times that of the world as a whole. The advent of the computer has paradoxically generated vastly more paper consumption.

Your unwitting complicity in the degradation of the planet begins the moment you wake up. You switch on your nightstand light, sending a message for increased demand to the power grid. The amount of energy is minute, it’s true, but remember that you’re sharing America’s grid with 301 million people—the 5 percent of the world’s population who collectively consume a quarter of the earth’s energy.

More than half of this grid is powered by coal-fired plants, which account for 40 percent of our national output of greenhouse gases. Their emissions regulations gutted by this administration, power plants belch out mercury, nitrogen oxide, and sulphur dioxide, an active ingredient of both acid rain and smog. Some of this pollution is drifting all the way up to the Arctic and poisoning fish, ringed seals, polar bears, and pregnant Inuit women.

If you live in Southern California, your little shot of wattage could have come from one of the old, unrenovated coal plants—there are dozens in the Four corners region alone—that are blanketing the Great American Desert in a red haze of toxic pollution. This is all the more deplorable when you consider that twothirds of the energy from whatever turbine you’re drawing on is lost between the plant and your lightbulb due to friction in the power lines. One easy thing you can do is spring for compact fluorescent bulbs. They last longer than incandescent bulbs and use a third of the energy.

If you live in the Northeast, a lot of your power comes from massive hydroelectric dams in northern Quebec. Canada is the world’s largest producer of hydropower, and the U.S. is its biggest customer. There are already 279 large dams in the vast wilderness, seething with rivers, known as the Boreal, which blankets 58 percent of Canada and is homeland to the Cree and other “First Nations,” as Canada’s native ethnic groups call themselves. Sudden releases from some of the dams, triggered by such things as a spike in air-conditioner use down in the States, drown countless thousands of nests of migratory water birds every summer, and have swept at least two caribou herds away to their deaths at their historic river crossings.

Hydro-Québec, the agency that provides the province of Quebec with its electricity, now plans to divert as much as 72 percent of the 380-mile-long Rupert River’s torrential flow into the Eastmain Reservoir, so that it can generate an additional 888 megawatts for New England. Critics fear that this diversion will ruin the river, turning it into a trickle, and will poison the Cree’s traditional fishing areas with mercury leeched out of the bedrock.  You’re not even dressed yet, and look at all the chaos you’ve wrought.

Excrement of Oil

Still not fully awake, you stumble into the bathroom and slip out of your cotton pajamas.

The usual way of growing cotton is highly petrochemical-intensive, requiring 110 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per acre. Some of the fertilizer is broken down by soil bacteria into nitrate, a toxic and highly soluble chemical that can leach into groundwater or get washed into lakes, creating oxygenless dead zones. Absorbed into the air, nitrate turns into nitrogen oxide, another ingredient of acid rain. Cultivating cotton, unless it’s organic, also requires copious amounts of water. Center-pivot irrigation systems flinging water on the cotton fields in the High Plains are sapping the region’s vast Ogallala aquifer.

Water conservation is probably not uppermost in your mind as you empty your bladder. The average flush uses from one to four gallons, but some toilets have eight-gallon tanks. This is almost criminal when you consider that 1.2 billion people around the world, including one of seven Europeans, don’t have access to clean, potable water. According to the U.N., more than 2.7 billion people will face severe water shortages by 2025. Many social scientists predict that the next big wars will be over water. Nevertheless, the average American family blissfully consumes 300 gallons a day, when you add in watering the lawn and washing dishes, clothes, and cars. This works out to 495,000 gallons per person every year. Compare this with 193,000 gallons in Japan, 153,000 in Germany, and 44,000 in Mali.

And before you rip off three feet of toilet paper, consider that each year 500,000 acres of virgin boreal forest in northern Alberta and Ontario are being clear-cut to make the stuff. These forests are home to some 500 First Nation communities, as well as caribou and bears, moose and wolves, and billions of songbirds. As Allen Hershkowitz, an expert on paper consumption at the Natural Resources Defense Council, once explained to me, “We’re wiping our asses with endangered habitat.” (See the N.R.D.C.’s web site for brands that use recycled paper.)

Now for your shower, which means more water. After drying off with your cotton towel, you fire up your battery-powered toothbrush. Since it costs only $6 and the bristles are wearing down, you’ll probably throw away the whole unit when the battery runs out—which is just what the companies that make these gizmos want you to do. The battery will likely end up in a landfill, releasing its corrosive acids and heavy metals, including lead, into the eco-system. The toothbrush itself is plastic, as is most everything in your indoor environment. America’s insatiable appetite for oil is not just about fuel. It has a lot to do with petrochemicals, including the more than 30 major categories of plastics—what Norman Mailer called “the excrement of oil.” Plastic production accounts for 4 percent of U.S. energy consumption. Meanwhile, just 4 percent of plastic products are recycled.

Putting on deodorant? Fine, but stay away from anti-perspirants. They zap you with aluminum, or compounds in the aluminum family. The process of mining bauxite and refining it into aluminum is environmentally devastating. It involves decapitating hills, gouging pits, and releasing vast quantities of toxic waste in gas and solid form. And yet, only half of the beverage cans in the U.S. are recycled.

If you’re a shaving man, you can take comfort in the fact that your shaving cream is no longer compressed with ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were phased out in 19 95 by the Montreal Protocol. But your razor is probably a disposable composite of metal and plastic. chances are, it will end up at the incinerator, where its heavy-metal-based coloring and stabilizing agents (usually cadmium, lead, or antimony) will be released into the atmosphere.

Instead of chucking your disposable razor after four or five shaves, why not get an old-fashioned straight razor and a blade sharpener? They haven’t been popular since the 1950s, but a vintage Stag safety-razor sharpener, which I found on eBay for $9.95, keeps a single blade sharp for a whole year. No wonder they stopped pushing them.

The day we dispose of the idea of disposability will be a great one for the planet.

The gorilla—cell-phone connection

Suddenly, a ringtone shatters the morning calm. The first cellular-telephone call was made on April 3, 1973, and now there are more than 200 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. filling the airwaves with a billion minutes of chatter a year. You answer the cell phone, not realizing that the popularity of this device is helping to kill some of the last wild gorillas on earth.

Cell phones, laptop computers, and electronic appliances contain a thin strip of metal called a capacitor, which controls voltage and stores energy. These capacitors are made of tantalum, a metal extracted from a mineral composite called coltan. Coltan is found in only a few places in the world.

Eighty percent of it is in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). Some of the richest deposits are in the same national parks in eastern Congo where the gorillas dwell. The miners don’t get much for the long hours they put in ripping up streambeds. They are fed bush meat from the forest: okapi (the exceedingly rare “forest giraffe”), elephant, and lowland gorilla—all mowed down by hunters with Kalashnikov rifles. So maybe there should be a disclaimer on every cell phone: with apologies to the gorillas.

Done with your call, you go to the closet and slip on some wool trousers, which come courtesy of vast herds of sheep belching and farting methane—a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. New Zealand, where there are about ten sheep for every person, is one of the world’s greatest mammalian-methane emitters. For that matter, all kinds of clothing have impacts. Fur and leather, as everyone knows, mean slaughtering animals. One type of rayon is made from a particular kind of wood pulp called “dissolving pulp,” which is milled mostly in Indonesia, at plants that are huge consumers of rain-forest resources.

Fortunately, eco-friendly fashion is coming into vogue. You can buy organic-cotton garments at H&M now, and in 2005 Bono of U2 launched an all-organic line, called edun.

Pulp Facts

You open the front door and pick up your newspaper. Let’s say it’s The New York Times, the heftiest rag of all. The impacts of publishing All the News That’s Fit to Print are horrific. Each Sunday edition eats up 62,860 trees. It takes 17 trees to make a ton of newsprint, and the U.S. consumed 10.6 million tons in 2005—25 percent of the world total. For his 2002 book, Bronx Ecology: Blueprint for a New Environmentalism, Allen Hershkowitz compared the amount of paper refuse in New York City to the biomass of the Brazilian rainforest and found that the city had almost as much cellulose fiber per acre as the forest.

The paper industry is the world’s third greatest industrial polluter, behind the manufacturers of chemicals and steel. The mills emit tons of toxic chemicals, including mercury, lead, and dioxins. Dioxins are carcinogens that can combine with other toxins to make them mutagenic—meaning that they alter your DNA. Not only dioxins, but 100,000 synthetic compounds have made their way into eco-systems far and near, infecting food chains and accumulating in their top carnivores—eagles, polar bears, humans.

Americans consume paper at an annual rate of 740 pounds per capita, seven times that of the world as a whole. From 2000 to 2005, the global consumption of paper increased by more than 20 percent, from 300 million tons to about 366.

The advent of the computer has paradoxically generated vastly more paper consumption. One reason is that almost no businesses or government agencies print on both sides of the page. If you recycled the Times every day for a year, that would keep more than 6,000 tons of pollution out of the air. But of the 62 million newspapers that will be printed today around the country, 44 million will be thrown away. This week, the equivalent of 500,000 trees will be dumped into landfills or incinerated.

Most of them are grown in the South, which produces a quarter of the world’s paper. The last native forests in Dixie are being sacrificed for plantations of pine that has been genetically engineered to yield the most pulp in the shortest time.

Sugar Shock

Now it’s time for breakfast. Cornflakes sound pretty harmless, but unless your milk is one of the expensive organic brands, it comes from cows pumped full of bovine growth hormone, which makes them 10 to 15 percent more productive but shrinks their life spans and wrecks their reproductive systems. Corn is grown in an unholy stew of fertilizers and pesticides, and much of it is genetically modified. The impact of G.M. crops on the genetic integrity of the natural environment hasn’t been properly studied. Europe wants nothing to do with them, but in the U.S. more than 100 million acres of farmland are devoted to growing G.M. crops.

So maybe you want to skip breakfast and just have a cup of coffee, one of 500 billion drunk worldwide each year, a fifth of them in the U.S. Coffee makes you alert. It gives you ideas. But this beverage has a lot of bad historical Karma. Brazil is the world king of coffee production, and by 1816 three-quarters of a million Brazilians, a sixth of the population, were enslaved and working on plantations to quench the West’s already burgeoning thirst.

Coffee’s social-justice issues persist. For every $2.50 cup sold at yuppie hangouts, the grower gets just a few pennies—unless it’s fair-trade coffee, which currently guarantees growers $1.26 a pound. Most plantations, meanwhile, are carved out of rain forests and treated with ecologically damaging pesticides.

Do you take it with sugar? The average American consumes 110 pounds of the stuff each year, and no wonder—it’s in everything, from bacon to vegetable juice. The Karma of sugar is even more ghastly than coffee’s, and it is still accumulating. In the Dominican Republic, tens of thousands of Haitians are slaving as debt peons on sugar plantations, their papers confiscated so they have no way of escaping.

Let’s hope you’re drinking your coffee out of a ceramic mug. A single polystyrene cup, which most of us know by the brand name Styrofoam, can take several hundred years to decompose. In 2003, Americans went through 73 billion plastic or polystyrene cups and plates and 64 billion paper ones, generating 1.7 million tons of waste. Styrene molecules migrate into your food from containers and, once in your system, become estrogen mimics.

These have bizarre effects on reproductive anatomy and fertility (precocious puberty, undescended testes) and may increase your chances of getting breast or testicular cancer.

GULLIVER GULPS – The latest study predicts that all the world’s fisheries will fail in the next 40 to 50 years. The best thing for the fish would be another World War. Many species rebounded dramatically during the last one.

On the Road

Time now to hop in the car and put yourself into circulation with the 241,193,974 other registered vehicles in the land. During the typical weekday rush hour, there are at least 50 million cars and trucks on the road.

We have more cars than anybody in the world, and they are collectively responsible for 30 percent of our greenhouse-gas emissions. America’s 34 million sport-utility vehicles spew up to 30 percent more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons than passenger cars, and up to 75 percent more nitrogen oxide. Pickup trucks are an even greater problem. There are more of them—39 million—and they don’t get any better mileage.So here is where you can make your single greatest contribution to the health of the planet: trade in your mighty guzzler for a car that gets 40 miles to the gallon.

Until hydrogen-cell and electric cars hit showrooms, fulfilling at last their promise of emissions-free driving, you have two choices: hybrid or, surprisingly enough, diesel. Every gallon of gas you burn puts 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and for every additional mile you get to the gallon, you keep one ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere in a year. In traffic, hybrids get 50 m.p.g. or more, which explains why they’re taking off with conscience-stricken Americans. Susan Sarandon made headlines in 2004 by pointedly driving up to the Oscars in her Prius. This year, le tout Hollywood arrived in eco-friendly hybrids.

The new generation of diesel cars and trucks have the potential to be even greener. A gallon of diesel gets 30 m.p.h. more than a gallon of gasoline, emittting up to 20 percent less CO2. There’s a new Volkswagen—available only in Germany, for now—that gets 70 m.p.g. Diesel engines can also run on biodiesel—an extract of vegetable oil that singer Willie Nelson is trying to bring the stuff to a pump near you.

Combine these two approaches and you get the greenest ride yet: the turbo diesel hybrid, an idea that’s said to be gaining traction among the Big Three.

After the usual hour or so in bumper-to-bumper traffic—traffic that could be reduced if more of us carpooled, rode bicycles, or took mass transit—you arrive at the office. Here you are exposed to many more toxic petrochemicals than at home. Almost everything you touch is “the excrement of oil”: your keyboard and mouse, the copy machine, the coffee machine.

You log on and download your e-mail. Your computer screen, like your TV screen at home, contains thousands of toxic chemicals, lead being the worst. As for your printer, it would be easy to make one that could last for decades, but that would be suicide in an economy based on ever more production and consumption. E-waste is the fastest-growing segment of the human waste stream. Most of America’s discarded equipment is shipped to China, India, and Pakistan, where it is stripped by women and children working under appallingly hazardous conditions. Instead of throwing your old system away, log on to the Environmental Protection Agency’s eCycling page to find the nearest E-waste recycling facility. Some of them take cell phones too.

Questions About the Menu

After a morning exploring the Web’s infinite possibilities for procrastination, you’re ready for lunch. But what to eat? you wonder, perusing the menu. Everything’s a no-no.

Fish is supposed to be the healthiest, but most fish is contaminated with mercury released by power plants and industrial factories. In adults, mercury in sufficient quantities can cause memory loss, baldness, blindness, and infertility. In unborn babies, it has also been linked to cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness, mental retardation, shortened attention span, and learning and developmental disabilities.

The most mercury-loaded fish are tilefish, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, grouper, orange roughy, marlin, and albacore tuna—fresh, frozen, or canned.

But this is about the planet’s health, not yours. Huge factory trawlers are hovering up fish, then processing and canning them even before returning to port. Gigantic nets are dipping all the way to the benthic zone, a mile down, and hauling up marine life that hasn’t even been identified, then grinding it into dog food. Twenty-mile-long baited lines are hooking more seabirds, including albatross and petrels, than fish.

Twenty-four percent of the world’s marine fisheries are over-extended, depleted, or recovering. The latest study predicts that they will all fail in the next 40 to 50 years. Cod, which used to swim in schools of hundreds of millions known as “mountains,” are down to the wire; by 1995 all the major cod fisheries on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland were closed, and they have shown few signs of recovery.

There are plenty of Maine lobsters, now that the cod, which prey on their young, are gone, so dig in. Wild Pacific salmon—king, coho, sockeye, pink—are O.K., too, but don’t go looking for wild Atlantic salmon: there are only a few thousand left, and the fisheries are all closed. What is passed off as wild is usually farmed. Sinking waste and uneaten food from the salmon farms create anoxic dead zones in their coastal waters.

The best thing for the fish would be another World War. Many species rebounded dramatically during the last one, when the seas were unsafe for fishing.

What about red meat? Americans are the most insatiable beef consumers in the world, eating more than 6.7 billion hamburgers a year. But the production of beef is incredibly inefficient and resource-intensive. Eighty percent of the grain produced in the U.S. is fed to livestock. A 1,050-pound steer eats 2,700 pounds of feed during the three years it gets to live. The rangeland of the American West is turning into desert after so many years of use, and other countries are clearing rain forest to run cattle for a few years, until the soil gives out.

But let’s end lunch on a positive note. You can eat all the chocolate you want—as long as it comes from Bahia, Brazil. (Most U.S. chocolate is from the Ivory Coast, which has child-labor issues.) In Bahia, the cacao trees are planted in the understory of the Atlantic coastal tropical forest, in the shade of the big trees, giving local farmers an incentive not to clear it. This is helping to protect the four species of lion tamarins and many other species endemic to this fast-disappearing emerald forest.


Following an afternoon of frantic e-mail exchanges, you inch your way home through the same traffic. Ten thousand exhaust pipes are oozing carbon dioxide, the crankedup air conditioners adding to the very heat they’re designed to relieve.

Stressed out by the gridlock, you decide to take a detour to the gym and sweat away your frustration. At the front desk, you grab a bottle of water. It has been only 10 or 15 years since bottled water was popularized as a healthy alternative to sugary soft drinks, and now you can’t imagine life without it. The plastic water bottle has become, along with the cell phone, an accessory of modern life, like the 18th-century aristocrat’s powdered wig and snuffbox.

Global consumption of bottled water rose 57 percent between l999 and 2004. The U.S., not surprisingly, is the largest consumer, downing 6.9 billion gallons in 2004. The bottles are made mostly from polyethylene terephthalate. Those sold in America require 1.5 million barrels of oil a year, enough to fuel 100,000 cars. Worldwide, 2.7 million tons of plastic a year are used to make water bottles, which have become a monumental waste problem.

Recycling helps, but before you recycle, why not re-use? It may be healthier to refill your empty bottle from the drinking fountain than to buy a new one, since municipal water supplies are obsessively checked for safety, while water bottlers operate with little or no oversight. Some bottled water is just tap water anyway, spiked with a few minerals that have no appreciable health benefit.

You do your weekly shopping at the supermarket and help the checkout girl load your provisions into plastic bags. Americans go through 380 billion of these throwaway totes a year. They are used for an average of just 25 minutes each, and they are not biodegradable.

Freighter-loads of them are dumped in huge slicks out at sea, internally strangling dolphins and sea turtles that ingest them. Schlepping canvas bags is a minor inconvenience, but one that will make a huge difference if enough of us do it.

Happy Endings

At last you make it home, adjust the thermostat, and settle in for a couple of hours of relaxation in front of the TV. But you’re having trouble concentrating on the latest round of So You Think You Can Dance because you’re freaking out about all the debt you’re in.

A quarter of Americans are compulsive consumers, addicted to the rush of coming home with stuff they’ve bought—be it a new handbag or a $2,000 plasma TV. Before long, the feeling wears off, so they buy something else. In the U.S., average household debt has almost doubled over the past decade, while the average credit-card balance per household is approaching $10,000. Meanwhile, the square-footage of the American house has ballooned over the last 10 years, leading to a commensurate demand for energy, and more rape of the boreal and Amazon forests.

Finally it’s time to hit the sack. But your complicity doesn’t stop even when you’re dead to the world: for the next eight hours, your appliances and the thermoregulation of your space continue to suck energy from the grid.

The incredible spurt in American consumption since the 1970s would not have been possible if we didn’t have the world set up so that the lion’s share of its resources flow to us, and if we weren’t so rich. The U.S. economy is so massive that in gross domestic product each state is comparable to a foreign country: Mississippi to Peru, Florida to Brazil, California to Italy, Texas to Canada, North Carolina to Sweden.

It is this affluence, and the unnecessary discretionary spending that it sucks you into, that is driving much of the destruction of the planet. As many as a million flights a year are taken by passengers solely for the purpose of keeping up their elite status, so they can hang out in the business-class lounge at the airport, get pre-boarded, and collect their luggage first. Airplane fuel adds 600 million tons of carbon dioxide a year to the atmospheric mix—3.5 percent of the global human total.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that sooner or later an economy based on more and more consumption is going to collide with the reality that the earth has only so many raw materials to offer. How can I reduce my ecological footprint? People are beginning to wonder, as they realize that we are bringing the roof down on ourselves.

What can I do to make myself carbon-neutral? The sad truth is that real carbon neutrality is impossible because, apart from everything else, each of us takes 26,000 breaths a day, and each breath removes oxygen from the atmosphere and replaces it with carbon dioxide.

As far as I am aware, no one has gone so far as to sacrifice himself for the environment, but you could do the next best thing and go belly up. Lose your credit cards or, if you must have one, make it an “affinity card” that applies a percentage of your purchases to a green cause—say, planting mango groves in Indonesia. Get re-po’d. That will take care of your automobile emissions problem, plus having to walk or bike everywhere will do wonders for the waistline.

Then there are all the things that you can do without—from plastic bags to blood diamonds, to digital and electronic appliances containing coltan. Slip a ceramic mug in your handbag, fold your toilet paper as many times as you can, turn the lights off when you’re not in the room, and, if you really want to be a self-policing Nazi, pick up one of these new scales that monitors the carbon you emit, instead of the calories you’re burning.

If all that cramps your style somewhat, consider this: even if we don’t release another molecule of CO2 into the atmosphere, what’s already there is going to take 100 years to cycle out—and we haven’t even felt its full effects. But if we can keep warming to 2 degrees centigrade through 2100, we might save the coral reefs that are left. We might also forestall the rest of the ghastly crashes projected for this century (no glaciers, no fish, no Amazon rain forest, etc.), so it’s worth doing everything we can.

The U.S. is responsible for 30 percent of worldwide carbon emissions since industrialization, and almost half of those in the last decade—more than China, India, Africa, and Latin America combined.

Thanks in part to our oblivious hyper-consumption of oil, trees, minerals, and other natural resources around the world, species are disappearing 100 to 1,000 times faster than they have in millennia. Our belief in the “myth of superabundance,” a phrase coined back in 1963 by Secretary of Interior Stuart Udall, now has to be retired.

The sooner America gets it, the fewer of our fellow creatures are going to die, and the more hospitable and habitable the planet we be.

PDF of original article

Dispatch #47: The Scramble for the Arctic.

As it appeared originally in Vanity Fair’s May Green issue.


Eveny reindeer herders in the Tomponski district of far eastern Siberia. The melting of the permafrost is threatening their ancient way of life. Photographs by Subhankar Banerjee.



On August 2, 2007, two 26-foot-long Russian submersibles, Mir-1 and Mir-2, descended through a hole in the ice at the North Pole. The Arctic, which has been losing almost 10 percent of its ice per decade since 1953, was in the middle of its biggest summer meltback on record, but the ice at the pole was still five feet thick, and the hole had to be opened by the nuclear icebreaker Rossiya. Once below the surface, the submersibles sank more than two and a half miles down, to the ocean floor.

At the helm of Mir-1 was Anatoly Sagalevich, head of the Deep Manned Submersibles Laboratory at the Russian Academy of Science’s P. P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology. Although they officially belonged to the academy, the two Mirs were Sagalevich’s babies. Sitting in his office in Moscow, Sagalevich recalls being inside the cockpit and watching the hole at the pole above him grow smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared.

The ships spent about eight and a half hours underwater, and 90 minutes at the bottom. Using a robotic arm attached to his submersible (“Not submarine, please,” he insists; “submarines are military”), Sagalevich collected geologic samples and planted a titanium Russian flag in the murky sediment. The pressure at this depth would have compressed him to the size of a mouse had he ventured outside. He shows me a Styrofoam cup he put out deep underwater off the coast of France two years ago, when he investigated the wreck of the Nazi battleship Bismarck. It had been shrunk to the size of a thimble.

With their mission accomplished, the two Mirs headed back to the surface. This was the trickiest part: finding the hole in the ice, which, in addition to being two-thirds frozen over, had already drifted at least a mile from where it was when they went down. The Arctic ice pack is constantly moving, at a rate of six or so miles per day. Sagalevich had to calculate not only the speed of the ice but also the effect of the currents beneath it while maneuvering the ascending submersibles.

There were other notable figures aboard the two vessels. The great polar scientist Artur Chilingarov, who also happens to be the vice-speaker of the Duma (Russia’s largely cosmetic parliament), was on Mir-1. With him was the oligarch Vladimir Gruzdev, who has an estimated net worth of $820 million. He’s in the Duma, too, but had to pay to join the expedition. Along for the mission, according to press accounts, were other paying explorers: Swedish businessman Frederik Paulsen; Ibrahim Sharaf, a sheikh from the United Arab Emirates, who wore his traditional robes under his polar suit; and Australian adventurer Mike McDowell, who paid a reported $3 million. The two submersibles were plastered with the logos of eight sponsors—the Kremlin was 100 percent behind this expedition, in every way except its funding.

The arctonauts returned to a hero’s welcome in Moscow not seen since Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut, returned from outer space. The reception was cooler elsewhere in the world, especially in the four other countries with Arctic coastlines: the United States, Canada, Norway, and Denmark, which controls the vast territory of Greenland. “This isn’t the 15th century,” protested Peter MacKay, Canada’s foreign minister. “You can’t go around the world and just plant flags.” As elated as he ever allows himself to be, Vladimir Putin tried to smooth international hackles: “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right. I was surprised by a somewhat nervous reaction from our Canadian colleagues. Americans, at one time, planted a flag on the moon. So what? Why didn’t you worry so much? The moon did not pass in the United States’ ownership.” John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to the secretary of state, told me, “We knew they were going to the North Pole, but we didn’t know they were going to plant the flag. It was a provocative action, and took us aback.”

All this outrage may have been a bit overdone. Frederick Cook planted an American flag at what he claimed was the North Pole in 1908, and Robert Peary did the same thing a year later. Chilingarov himself was photographed at the South Pole last year with a group of American scientists and the flags of both countries.

Chilingarov wasn’t above fanning the flames of nationalism in public. In Moscow, he told a group of well-wishers, “I don’t give a damn what all these foreign politicians … are saying about this. If someone doesn’t like this, let them go down themselves and try to put something there. Russia must win. Russia has what it takes to win. The Arctic has always been Russian.”

“It’s only natural that our dive had great patriotic impact, and of course we planted the flag, as Americans would do in a similar case,” Chilingarov told me. “I don’t understand why there is all this noise in the international community. If anyone wants to plant a flag down there, they’re welcome to. There’s plenty of room.” And Sagalevich told me, “Everybody knows now that a pure Russian crew—supported by Russian helicopters, submersibles, research vessel, icebreaker—can go to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. We know how to do it, and we can do it again.”

This “stunt fueled by a return to czarist impulses,” “coup de théâtre,” “Kremlin-sponsored act of bravado aimed at boosting national pride,” as it was variously described in the Western press, is just one of many signs that the Russian bear is once again rearing its head.

Like much of what happens on the world stage these days, this expedition—and the diplomatic flap it caused—was really about oil. By some estimates, 25 percent of the world’s remaining fossil-fuel reserves are buried under the Arctic Ocean. With the ice cap shrinking by 28,000 square miles a year, and gigantic pools of open water appearing as it splits, the possibility of getting at them is improving daily. Meanwhile, oil supplies are dwindling, and prices are rising to historic highs, making expensive oil exploration more and more worthwhile.

It all adds up to a renewed interest in the Arctic—the last large piece of non-jurisdictional real estate on the planet—which went off the screen when the Cold War ended. Now there’s a new Great Game on—the Cold Rush.

The Laws of Extraction

According to an obscure clause in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (unclos)—also called the Law of the Sea Treaty, or lost, by its critics—if you can prove that your continental shelf extends beyond the 200 nautical miles that signatory states with coastlines are automatically entitled to, you have sovereign rights to its oil, gas, and minerals. The Russians’ Arctic claim hinges on an underwater formation called the Lomonosov Ridge, which runs 1,240 miles from Siberia through the North Pole nearly to the juncture of Ellesmere Island (Canada’s northernmost point) and Greenland, and which Russia says is an extension of its shelf. Actually, it is claiming only half of the ridge—the half on its side of the pole. This has the rest of the world nervous. Much of Europe depends on Russia’s natural gas, and the Kremlin has already turned the faucet off once, on Ukraine, and threatened to do the same to Belarus. If it starts tapping the Arctic deposits, Russia will be back as a superpower and may become the world’s dominant energy supplier. There would then be a Fifth Russian Empire, presided over by the increasingly autocratic Putin, who has sidestepped the presidential two-term limit by making himself prime minister.

The U.S. hasn’t even signed unclos. Its ratification has been blocked for years by a few conservative Republican senators currently led by Oklahoma’s James Inhofe, who is famous for dismissing the human contribution to global warming as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” These senators don’t want to cede an inch of American sovereignty to the U.N. and apparently find the treaty’s designation of the high seas as “the common heritage of mankind” to be intolerably Marxist. So the U.S. isn’t on the 21-country Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which will decide on Russia’s claim. It has some fancy footwork to do if it’s even going to be a player in the scramble for the Arctic.

Russia isn’t the only country whose Arctic aspirations are unnerving the Americans. Last summer, Canada’s Northwest Passage was nearly free of ice and completely navigable for a few weeks—for the first time since records have been kept. This fabled route to the Orient, which eluded Henry Hudson, Sir Francis Drake, and Martin Frobisher, and was finally navigated by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1905, would reshape global trade, being thousands of miles shorter than most currently used shipping routes, though it won’t be clear long enough to be commercially viable for at least another 15 to 20 years. Canada has claimed the passage as its internal waterway since the early 1970s, but the U.S. maintains that it is an international strait, through which any vessel, including submerged submarines gathering intelligence, has the right of “transit passage.”

Any way you look at it, Russia has the greatest legitimacy in the Arctic—geographically, historically, demographically, hydrologically (it has six major rivers that feed the Arctic Ocean, while the other countries have one or two), and, it now hopes to prove, geomorphologically and geologically. Twenty percent of the country lies above the Arctic Circle, and almost two million Russians live there today. If the world were an orange with 18 segments meeting at the top (the North Pole), roughly 8 of them would be in Russia, Canada would have 4, Denmark 2, and Norway, Sweden, and the U.S. just one apiece. Only a sliver of Alaska, on the Beaufort Sea, lies above the Arctic Circle.

The new accessibility of the Arctic’s deposits is not going to make the effort to curb global warming any easier. Ironically, fossil-fuel emissions are making more fossil fuel available. It’s as if someone on the verge of bankruptcy were suddenly to get a huge inheritance from a distant relative he didn’t even know. Compounding this vicious circle is another feedback loop that is making the top of the planet warm twice as fast as anywhere else: as more bare land and open water are exposed by melting, more solar heat is absorbed instead of being reflected back by white ice and snow. With global warming already stressing the Arctic’s animals and its million or so indigenous people, its newfound wealth could be the coup de grâce.
Party Lines

The Sheraton Palace Hotel Moscow is full of American businessmen. Million-dollar deals are being discussed in hushed tones in the bar. There is serious money to be made in this country. One of the businessmen, who is building a chemical plant in Siberia to purify locally mined silicon so it can be used in solar panels, tells me, “It’s going to cost so much to get the oil in the Arctic out that they will need partners.” Gazprom, Russia’s energy parastatal, is already partnering with France’s Total and the Norwegian energy giant Statoil, in the Shtokman Field, just over the Russian border with Norway. Russia doesn’t have the sophisticated technology to tap the huge deposits of natural gas below the seafloor, or the estimated $20 to $30 billion it will cost, and the partners do.

I catch a cab to the Russian Institute of Geography, which is on a side street in Old Moscow, in a building that used to be a poorhouse during the time of Ivan the Terrible and whose ratty décor is still U.S.S.R. circa l960. Nikolai Osokin, a glaciologist who has been studying the Arctic’s shifting ice for 45 years and is an authority on its fossil-fuel deposits, shows me the line that Stalin drew from Murmansk to the pole to the middle of the Bering Sea in l926, which he declared to be the limits of the Russian Arctic. It is still in post-Soviet atlases, and no one, Osokin says, has ever disputed it. Canada had similarly defined its Arctic territory, shooting lines from its eastern- and westernmost points to the pole a year earlier. “Traditionally, all the Arctic countries mention their own sectors,” Osokin says. “Only in the last 10 years is the discussion about unfairness of definition of sectors.” This is how the seven countries with claims in Antarctica divvied up the continent in l959, agreeing not to use their sectors for military purposes or to exploit their resources until 2048. (The claims had been asserted in the first half of the 20th century, beginning with Britain—on the basis of its disputed ownership of the Falkland Islands and its explorations, going back to Captain John Strong in 1690—and followed by France, Norway, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand.)

Many feel the best thing for the Arctic would be a similar arrangement. The ships that pass through the Arctic Ocean could be taxed by an international body, and the proceeds could be used to help the indigenous people and wildlife, whose eco-system and livelihoods are melting from under them.

Osokin unfolds a map of the Arctic sea bottom. “The Russian shelf goes out much further than 200 nautical miles not because of Russian greediness but geological reality,” he says. “The currently accepted edge of the Russian shelf goes a little more than halfway to the pole, but the Lomonosov and Mendeleyev Ridges and the Podvodnikov and Makarov Basins [other, parallel-running features] extend the territory to the pole and from the pole in lines to Murmansk and the eastern coast of Chukotka—just like Stalin’s boundary.” In fact, with the 200 miles of shelf that its northernmost archipelagoes are entitled to, Russia already has the right to almost all that it is claiming in this new submission.

How do you know there is so much oil there?, I ask. “Seismic profiles establish that at the bottom of the North Ice Sea is a large amount of oil-bearing structures analogous to the structures of western Siberia that formed 38 million years ago, when the Arctic Ocean was beginning to be formed,” Osokin assures me. Then he drops something of a bombshell: “But the interest in the oil will soon be decreasing, because of new information that global warming is almost over, and the Arctic ice pack will soon be refreezing.”

An Eveny woman and her children.

Say what? What about all the information from Western scientists that the ice pack has been losing almost 10 percent of its ice per decade over the last 50 years, that this year open sea the combined size of California and Texas was exposed, and that the Arctic could have an entirely ice-free summer as early as 2040?

“There is no evidence that the warming is going to continue,” he maintains. “In fact, some of our meteorological stations on the eastern-Siberian coast have been registering colder temperatures since l995. The Holocene interglacial warm period has been going on for 11,000 years, already longer than any previous one. Its end is overdue.”

This, I will learn after talking with half a dozen other scientists in Moscow, is the Russian party line: it is starting to get colder, and the effect of human CO2 emissions on the world’s climate is negligible.

It’s true that the Arctic ice pack, expanding and contracting seasonally and in response to a multiplicity of natural rhythms, is, in Newsweek’s phrase, “a notorious shapeshifter.” The now ice-capped southern tip of Greenland had thriving boreal forest, with spruce, pine, alder, and yew, 450,000 years ago. Four to eight thousand years ago, willows, birches, roses, and heaths—tundra plants—were growing on the northern tip of Sweden’s Svalbard Islands, which are now covered with ice. Even in the l930s, the Russian Arctic was warmer than it is today, and the Great North Way, along its coast from Murmansk to the Bering Sea, was completely open. And this summer’s record meltback, a recent paper in Nature argues, was the result not only of man-made global warming but also of the cyclical north-south shift in the energy in the Arctic’s atmosphere, which Osokin told me about.

The global climate is a complex interactive system, with all kinds of nonlinear feedback loops. According to Robert Corell—a climate scientist at the Heinz Center, in Washington, D.C., who chaired the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment on how the poles are being affected by climate change—the last 10,000 years have been the most stable period in the climatic record, with a temperature range that was ideal for humanity to flourish. But now, he says, we’re moving out of “the sweet spot.” The vertiginous “hockey stick” rise in mean global temperature since 1970 is something that can be explained by only one thing, a powerful new force in the climate system: us. According to the 737 scientists and other experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, our contribution actually began to kick in around l750, at the beginning of industrialization (also when our population began to take off). There’s a less than 10 percent chance the current warming trend could be natural.

With the Polar Year in full swing, no fewer than 200 expeditions with scientists from 60 countries are collecting baseline data in the Arctic. Every week brings a new study about the breakdown of another component of the eco-system. So why are the Russian scientists saying it’s getting colder? Michael MacCracken, a Washington, D.C.–based climate scientist and policy expert, explains that Russian climate science is based on paleoclimatic reconstruction and is hierarchical. You adopt the position of the head of your institute, and the Russian Academy of Science’s chief climatologist, Yuri Izrael, maintains that it’s getting colder and the human contribution is negligible. Western climate science, however, is based on modeling what is happening now and where it’s going, and is confrontational. The scientists are always challenging one another’s findings. Corell goes as far as to accuse Russian climate science of being dictated by conservative Russian politicians, “who don’t want the warming to stop, because it will open up the Great North Way again and make Russia the maritime power it has always wanted to be.”

But outside the walls of academe, the native people of the Russian Arctic, who are living with what is happening, will tell me a very different story.

Awakening the Spirits of the Underworld


Cleaning and preparing fish for drying in the Yukaghir village of Nelemnoye, in the Verkhnekolymskiy region.

I fly to Yakutsk, in far-eastern Siberia, six time zones ahead of Moscow. Yakutsk is the capital of Yakutia, or, more correctly, the Sakha Autonomous Republic, which is as big as India but has only a million people, instead of a billion. In that region, the permafrost, the layer of permanently frozen soil that covers as much as 25 percent of the earth’s land, is the deepest in the world, a mile and a half thick in the Viliui River basin. The Lomonosov Ridge shoots off to the pole from close to the New Siberian Islands, in the Laptev Sea, above Yakutia. The coldest confirmed temperature in the Northern Hemisphere—minus 67.8 degrees Celsius—was recorded in Verkhoyansk, which is also the oldest European settlement in the Arctic. I want to go there and look for mammoth tusks that are being heaved up by the melting permafrost, a welcome development for the again-flourishing ivory market. Woolly mammoths were hairy pachyderms that died out during the last big warming event, 10,000 years ago. Their tusks, nearly circular (while those of modern elephants have a more gradual curve), are also made of ivory, and are turning up with increasing frequency in Hong Kong and in mainland China.

I also want to meet some of the Yakut horse breeders, whose traditional lifestyle is being threatened by the great thaw. They and the other native people of the Yakut Arctic—the Yukaghir and the Eveny and Evenki reindeer herders—have powerful shamans, although only a handful are left. Some are said to be able to drum themselves into a trance and become winged reindeer, flying up into the sky to see where the game is.

The shamans have been persecuted since czarist times, as devil worshippers by the Orthodox priests, and as enemies of the people by the Soviets, who threw them out of helicopters, saying, “You want to fly? Here’s your chance.” Animism is the main religion in Yakutia. Three-quarters of the people still live close to nature, attuned to the animals and plants, and are acutely aware of the changes that are occurring because of the mild temperatures.

You don’t have to be a shaman to see what is happening to the tundra; it’s visible from the plane window. The tundra is pitted with circular depressions known as “alases.” Some of them are filled with water from the thawing permafrost; some are empty craters from which the meltwater has drained as it found new exits in the iceless soil. The “thermokarst lakes,” as the water-filled ones are called, are bubbling with methane that had been trapped in the ice. Methane is at least 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. (The Siberian permafrost zone alone contains an estimated 500 gigatons of carbon. The entire annual human output is about five and a half gigatons.)

No one knows how much methane is being released, because we don’t yet have the capability for “spot” measurement, Corell tells me. But it’s a ticking time bomb, enough to turn the world into a cauldron, should it all get into the atmosphere.

Only about 10 percent of Yakutia, however, is methane-emitting tundra. Most of it is taiga, forest dominated by larch trees, which are taking carbon out of the atmosphere, so the tundra and the taiga more or less balance each other out. The taiga is spreading north with the rising temperature, pushing the tundra to the edge of the Laptev Sea, forcing migrating cranes and geese to relocate their historic summer nesting sites. “Drunken forests,” whose trees slant every which way, because the roots have lost their purchase in the liquefying, buckling soil, are becoming increasingly common.

Thirty percent of Yakutia’s economy comes from diamond mining. The republic is practically a private fiefdom of Alrosa, the world’s second-largest diamond company (after De Beers), which was nationalized by Putin last year. Yakutia’s president was also once the president of Alrosa. Most of the mining is done around Mirny, where there are rich seams of diamond-bearing kimberlite, and where the biggest man-made hole on earth has been gouged. Yakutsk is a wide-open, incredibly wealthy frontier town. A travel blog says that one of the hotels offers “armoured rooms” and that it’s dangerous to eat in the restaurants because of the presence of diamond mafiosi.

The city of nearly a quarter-million is celebrating its 370th birthday. Most of the buildings are four-story barracks-like concrete apartment houses, but here and there one of the centuries-old, elaborately stenciled log isbas still stands. Some of them have been tilted at rakish angles by normal, seasonal frost heaving over the years. The new buildings are constructed on pilings sunk 50 feet down, so they’re stable. The buckling wreaks havoc with Yakutia’s roads and railroads and is undoubtedly getting more severe with the warming. If it cracks the 2,500-mile oil pipeline that’s being built from western Siberia to the Pacific, there will be an ecological disaster. There’s already a lot of radioactive and otherwise toxic waste from the mining of gold, uranium, diamonds, and practically every other mineral from antimony to zinc.

I visit the Permafrost Research Institute, the world’s only one. First I am taken down to the dug but not sided basement by a guide named Pavel. The ceiling is coated with sparkling hexagonal ice crystals. Pavel points out where the active layer, the part that thaws and refreezes every year, stops—five and a half feet underground, in the middle of the basement walls. Below it the soil is frozen solid for a thousand feet. He says the active layer hasn’t gotten any thicker in the last 10 or 20 years. There’s a plaster cast of Dima, an almost intact 39,000-year-old baby mammoth that was found in the late 70s. Recently an even better-preserved, 37,000-year-old baby mammoth, with possibly enough intact DNA to enable it to be cloned, with a modern elephant as its mother, was found on the Yamal Peninsula, west of Yakutia.

The Eveny and Evenki people (same way of life, different linguistic heritage) have been relying for centuries on reindeer (known in the Nearctic as caribou), which provide transport, food, shelter, and clothing. There are still a few thousand nomadic reindeer herders in Siberia, moving with their animals in the largest territory of any remaining traditional people. But the wild and domesticated reindeer have been experiencing massive die-offs in the spring and fall, I’m told by Eveny and Evenki activists. Reindeer eat mainly lichen, and now when the seasons change there is more rain that freezes at night, often with melted snow, into a sheet of ice that the reindeer can’t break through with their hooves, so entire herds are starving to death.

Vyacheslav Shadrin, the head of the council of Yukaghir elders, tells me that in the Upper Kolyma basin, 700 miles north of Yakutsk, where he is from, last November and December, when it is normally minus 40 degrees Celsius (also Fahrenheit—Celsius and Fahrenheit converge at 40 below), it rained. That means it was 72 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual. The Yukaghir are one of the oldest aboriginal peoples of Siberia. There are only 1,509 of them left, as of the last census, and only 23 who still speak the language fluently. They are a culture on the way out, unless something is done fast to keep it going.

The Upper Kolyma Yukaghir are hunters and fishermen whose main source of income is trapping sable. “Usually in one season a hunter can get 20 to 25 pelts, half of them in the middle of October, when the sables all go to their winter hunting ground,” Shadrin says. “By then the snow comes thick and the lakes are frozen and the hunters can go out to the winter routes on snowmobiles. But now it’s no longer safe to go out until mid-November, because the snowmobiles can fall through the ice, so the hunters are losing the most important month and a half for their income.

“Every year the pasture for the wild reindeer, which the Yukaghir hunt, is getting less and less because the taiga is coming up from the south,” Shadrin goes on. “Grasses, birches, and some bushes like willow are covering the lichen. And the reindeer no longer come to their traditional river crossings, which is the best place to kill them. The hunters no longer know where they are going to be, so they lose time and are less successful.

“The quantity of wolves is growing,” he says. “Before, we used to have only tundra wolves. Now we’re getting taiga wolves, too, which run in bigger packs. The wolves kill many reindeer and give trouble to the herders. So for all these reasons, both wild and domestic reindeer are disappearing. Also, geese and sea ducks have changed their migratory routes and schedules. Hunters used to wait for them where they rested at night in the beginning of June; now they don’t know what time to go. Last few years the waterfowl have been appearing in very small quantity. They must have changed their route to another river basin. Trapping polar foxes was a big part of our traditional life, but in the last 10 or 15 years there have hardly been any. No one knows why.

“Now the runoff from the breakup of the ice and snow is greater, every spring water comes more, and there is more danger from flooding and erosion to our villages, which are all on the riverbanks. At the same time, some of our best lakes for fishing are disappearing.” These must be thermokarst lakes being drained by new subterranean streams in the thawing permafrost.

As the permafrost melts, larch trees lose their footing, creating drunken forests, a now common sight in far eastern Siberia.

Shadrin continues: “Polar bears are coming into Cherskiy [a town near the mouth of the Kolyma River]. Usually at the end of summer, when the ice pack is melting, the pregnant bears come to the land to have their cubs, and afterward, with the small bears, they return to the ice and spend the winter hunting seals. The ice used to be a short swim from the shore, but now it is very far away. The bears cannot even see it, so they stay onshore and try to find food around the places where people live.” By some estimates, as many as half of the world’s remaining polar bears may be in Russia.

What are the old people saying about these changes?, I ask. “They’re saying nature is lying to the people,” Shadrin says. “It is not respecting them, because the people are doing many bad things, killing many animals, cutting many forests, many plants, dirtying rivers and lakes. They forget that they live in a natural world and are not respecting old traditions, so nature is returning to people their bad actions. One of the results of the melting is that too many mammoth bones appear on the land and people are collecting them, but in our tradition the mammoth is the spirit of the underworld and we can’t take their bones. So the elders are saying we have awakened these underworld spirits. The main thesis of our traditional view is: Don’t take from nature more than you need; if you take more, you are not respecting nature. But all our economic basis now is to take more and more.”

An Unwelcome Warming

I fly up to Verkhoyansk in an old Antonov An-24, a no-nonsense piece of Soviet machinery. I’m the only non-Asian on the plane. Below is the Lena River, the world’s 10th-longest, and the largest river you’ve never heard of. In another two months it will be frozen 15 feet thick and will become a highway for trucks and jeeps. We fly over the snow-covered Verkhoyansk Range and touch down at Batagay, a charmless outpost of three-story barracks built in the 1930s. It’s raining and overcast. The next five days will be like being in a grainy black-and-white movie. My driver Sergei and I set out down a road built by gulag prisoners through the endless expanse of golden larch. This was the gulag heartland. The camps had no walls, because escape was impossible; there was nowhere to escape to.

There has been terrible flooding in the last few years. The worst flood in living memory was in 2004. We come to a washed-out bridge, where I have to change cars to complete the trip.

A cozy burg of l,800 which has been having a rough time since the end of Soviet subsidizing of remote rural communities, Verkhoyansk was founded in 1638 by Cossacks sent out by Czar Mikhail I to conquer the surrounding region. It’s on the Yana River, which flows into the Laptev Sea, and is older than St. Petersburg. Many early explorers, including Vitus Bering in the early 18th century, passed through here. “The prisoners did a lot for our town,” the mayor, Pyotor Gabyshev, tells me. “They introduced potatoes and cucumbers. One of them did the first ethnography of the Yakut, which the Yakut themselves, who have forgotten many of their ceremonies, now consult. They built a meteorological station, which in 1892 recorded the temperature of minus 67.8 Celsius. But now even 55 below has become very rare. Before, it would drizzle for 10 days straight. Now there are hard rains, which are more destructive. People are hunting for freshly exposed mammoth bones for extra income.” He gives me a certificate stating that I have been to the Pole of Cold.

The next morning I go to a camp of traditional Yakut horse breeders. The Yakut, or Sakha, were mounted warriors who arrived a few centuries before the Cossacks and conquered the reindeer herders and the Yukaghir, and were in turn subjugated by the Cossacks.

Driving back to the washed-out bridge, we stop to make offerings at a shamanic place, a dead larch tree draped in prayer flags like Tibetan Buddhist shrines, its base strewn with cucumbers, coins, cigarettes, candy. The tree is a unifying element in Yakut cosmology. Its branches reach to the nine upper levels of the heavens, its trunk is in middle earth, where we and the animals live, and its roots are in the eight-layered Lower World. Each of us has three souls—a mother soul, earth soul, and air soul—and several years after you die the first two reincarnate and are infused with a new air soul, unless you were a bad person, in which case you are buried facedown and are not reborn.

We turn up a road that leads to an abandoned prison camp called Ustakh, a cluster of log cabins with a caved-in log church. Some of the prisoners had been there so long that when they were released they didn’t know where to go and just hung around, working as woodcutters. The last of them died two years ago.

The horse-breeding camp is 15 minutes down the Yana by motorboat, then a 15-minute slog through the muddy taiga. There are three huts with flat tops and slanted walls, where two breeders, three haymakers, and an old man who is supposed to have clairvoyant powers are living and taking care of 130 horses—the hardy native Yana-Indigirka breed, which is thought to be close to the original horse. Everyone is feasting on Arctic hares and tuganok, small white fish from the river. Braces of freshly shot white hares hang from the rafters. This is the time of year when every able-bodied person in the region is hunting hares. I will eat almost nothing my whole time in the Arctic but hare and sour cream so thick you can stand a spoon in it.

There is a local cycle of 10 years of rain, followed by 10 dry years, the old man, whose name is Zachar, tells me. We are in the fifth year of the rainy cycle. Spring is coming weeks earlier, and winter weeks later, Zachar says. Strange birds are appearing, ones that have never been seen in the region, and a little deer called the kosulya has just shown up from central Yakutia. “I don’t know where the cold has gone. Maybe to the other side of the planet, where you live.” Afraid not, I say. In another month these six men will be on their own, living on pike, duck, and moose. “This is a dying way of life,” Leonid, who owns the herd, tells me. “It’s hard to find strong young men who are willing to spend the winter in such isolation anymore.”

On the way back to the river, we see, sitting on a pond in a bog, one of the ducks that weren’t here before, a gray selezen, with greenish tail feathers. All kinds of animals and plants are moving up into Yakutia, whose biodiversity has increased across the board except for reptiles and amphibians. If this seems like a silver lining, it is not good news for the Arctic species. And while the active permafrost layer may not be getting any deeper, after a few days of steady rain it has become a muddy soup. Our jeep gets stuck and it takes an hour of prying with pine logs to get it out.

Betenkes, a farm community on the bank of the Adycha River, which I reach by nightfall, is the muddiest place I have ever been. It can flood so badly in the spring, the old woman I’m staying with tells me, that the water comes up to the windows of the houses, even though they’re built on five-foot pilings, and the only way to get around is by motorboat.

In the morning we head down the extravagantly meandering Yana in a motorboat until we come to where the river is maybe half a mile wide and the gently curving bank rises from 20 feet high to more than 100 for a mile and a half. The place is called Ulakhan Suullur and is a famous cemetery for mammoths and other Pleistocene mega-fauna, including woolly rhinos, musk oxen, and cave lions. The most popular theory is that it was a swamp thousands of years ago when the last ice age was coming to an end, and the big mammals got stuck in its mud. The mammoth was basically done in by climate change. The last ones survived on Wrangel Island, north of Chukotka, until 3,700 years ago. According to Eveny mythology, mammoths scooped up dirt with their tusks to form the first dry land.

A steady, fine rain is sifting down, eating away at the khaki-gray sandy loam of the bank. On the top of it, larch trees are teetering and toppling into the river. Every 15 minutes there is a thunderous avalanche of slumping silt, and every hundred yards, as I walk the bank, there is a gully, cut by rainwater running down to the river. The silt in the deltas at the bottom of these gullies is so fine it is like quicksand. I sink up to my thigh trying to cross one. It’s not hard to imagine huge animals getting inextricably stuck.

Two fishermen, on the way home with a sack full of 20-pound taimens, pull up. One of them spots a fresh yellow bone sticking out halfway up the bank and climbs up to get it. It’s not a mammoth tusk, but the femur of a giant deer or horse. It’s still heavy, having just been washed out of the solid wall of fossil ice—with ancient carcasses frozen in it like flies in amber—that is visible in places where the bank has just collapsed. The bank and the bone-filled permafrost behind it are undergoing active, rapid disintegration. Face-to-face with such a vast slice of time, my individual life seems like a mote, not even a hiccup. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors who roamed the earth 10,000 years ago hunted these massive mammals, but we were still very low on the totem pole. We’ve come a very long way in just the last 10,000 years—maybe to the end.

One of the scariest parts of the Arctic meltdown, which only a few scientists are talking about, is that some 40,000-year-old Ebola or anthrax-like virus that we have no resistance to could be lurking in the carcass of one of these long-extinct creatures that are being coughed up. That’s one way nature deals with species whose population has gotten out of hand. A 300-year-old Yakut man’s skeleton was recently disgorged by the melting permafrost near Yakutsk; he could have died of smallpox. There was a big epidemic in Yakutia around then, introduced by the Cossacks. So we could see the return of smallpox. In the first half of the 20th century, a hundred thousand reindeer a year died of anthrax on the Yamal Peninsula. The spores lie dormant in the soil and periodically break out. More than 10,000 foci of anthrax have been registered in Russia in the last hundred years. In Greenland, RNA from the tomato mosaic tobamovirus was recently detected in 140,000-year-old ice, and a host of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, green algae, cyanobacteria, and mosses are coming up from columns that are being drilled in three-million-year-old ice at the mouth of the Kolyma. So maybe the Yukaghir’s belief that the mammoths are going to take their revenge for what we are doing to nature isn’t so far-fetched.

Back at Batagay airport, I share a bottle of vodka with three licensed mammoth-tusk dealers. A pair of tusks in good condition can fetch $35,000, so the melting permafrost has spawned a new, opportunistic cottage industry. The airstrip is too muddy for landing or takeoff, so my plane to Yakutsk is delayed, as is the helicopter the dealers have chartered to fly them to a village on the Sartan River, where one of their diggers has found a 130-pound tusk. The dealers employ 10 diggers and five craftsmen in Yakutsk who carve the tusks, and they move 3.5 tons of ivory a year. One ton goes to their craftsmen, and the rest ends up in Hong Kong, to be carved along with the tusks of poached African elephants. The Chinese nouveaux riches, already as numerous as the entire population of Japan, are clamoring for ivory statuary.

Most of the bones from around Cherskiy, in the Lena Delta, end up at the History of the Ice Age Museum-Theatre, in Moscow, which is part of the National Alliance, a private business owned by the oligarch Fyodor Shidlovsky. The National Alliance has a government license to excavate and export prehistoric relics. Museums and private collectors in the U.S. and Korea are paying as much as $250,000 for a reconstructed mammoth skeleton, $20,000 for a well-preserved tusk.

The Common Heritage of Mankind

Back in Moscow, I visit Yuri Leonov, the director of the Russian Academy of Science’s Geological Institute, who is analyzing the samples that Sagalevich brought back from the floor of the Arctic Ocean. It doesn’t look like they have proof that the Lomonosov Ridge is part of the Russian continental shelf. “These probes were insufficient,” Leonov tells me, “but Russia does have some scientific data in favor of this claim. The geological evidence that Lomonosov Ridge is part of the Russian continental shelf is not an easy question We can say that this is not just a ridge, but part of a whole system from Russia to Greenland and Canada The Arctic is a shallow epicontinental sea on a continental base. Most of the bottom has more characteristics of earth crust than ocean floor. The Lomonosov Ridge used to connect Russia, Canada, and Denmark 20 to 30 million years ago, but due to some process we do not understand for the moment very well, this bridge collapsed at roughly the 30th meridian of north latitude, and sank to its present depth, 15,000 feet at the pole. So we cannot call this a bridge anymore. The question is whether the commission will accept a paleo shelf as a shelf. I hope I don’t get into trouble for saying this, but I think it would be smart for Canada to accept our claim, because it would only strengthen theirs. From point of view of oil and gas, the bottom of the pole is not important, because almost all of deposits in Russian Arctic are within 200 miles of coast.”

I pay a call on Pyotr Aleshkovsky, a writer and intellectual, who is skeptical about the estimate that 25 percent of the world’s remaining fossil fuel lies beneath the Arctic Ocean (a figure attributed to the U.S. Geological Survey—though it denies ever having put it out—which has taken on a life of its own in the media and even among scientists). “There’s a lot of oil in Evenkia—an autonomous republic in western Siberia—that they haven’t even started to drill,” Aleshkovsky tells me. And what about the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, which are supposed to have 65 percent, and in the upper Orinoco of Venezuela, which supposedly has 25 percent? He’s right: the figures don’t add up. In fact, it’s more like 14 percent, if that.

A geologist who works for an American oil company estimating oil reserves in the North Sea will explain to me a few months later that “oil reserves are a made-up number, and there’s an incentive to make it as large as you can. If the oil price goes up, there are more reserves, because it becomes more economically worthwhile to drill for them. It’s a real black art.”

I meet with Vasiliy Gutsulyak at a sushi restaurant near the Center of Maritime Law, in Moscow, of which he is the director. “There is no maritime law in the Arctic,” he tells me. Until very recently the deep ocean—more than 600 feet deep—which makes up 90 percent of the world’s oceans, was considered as the high seas. Piracy was common. England got rich by preying on the Spanish galleons bringing bullion back from the New World. The coastal states’ territorial sea extended only 3 nautical miles, as far as a cannonball shot, until the Law of the Sea Treaty extended it to 12 miles in 1982; the treaty also granted to its signatories 200 miles of their continental shelf as an E.E.Z. (exclusive economic zone). Russia applied for an extension of its shelf in 2001—claiming the same shelf area that it is preparing to reclaim—but the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf requested more information.

John Bellinger, the State Department’s chief legal counsel, who is spearheading Condoleezza Rice’s push to get unclos ratified in the Senate, tells me that the conservative congressmen opposing it are laboring under two misconceptions. The first is the notion that the characterization of the high seas, the part of the ocean that is beyond anyone’s E.C.S. (extended continental shelf), as “the common heritage of mankind” came from Elisabeth Mann Borgese, a Canadian socialist and alleged admirer of Karl Marx. Although she was one of unclos’s main original supporters, the phrase actually came from a speech by Richard Nixon, who declared in a farsighted moment on May 23, l970, “I am today proposing that all nations adopt as soon as possible a treaty under which they would renounce all national claims over the natural resources of the seabed beyond the point where the high seas reach a depth of 200 meters, and would agree to regard these resources as the common heritage of mankind.”

“The other misconception,” Bellinger continues, “is that signing unclos would be ‘a vast giveaway of American sovereignty’ to the U.N. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is not a U.N. agency, and ratifying the treaty would, in fact, give the U.S. its biggest increase in territory since the Louisiana Purchase. Three sonic-probing missions by the Coast Guard cutter Healy have determined that America’s Arctic shelf could potentially be the size of three Californias, and could extend 600 miles further out than the 200-mile limit. But our extended shelf needs international blessing, because no banks will be willing to put money into [oil-drilling] ventures in such legally murky waters,” he explains.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is treading a fine line, trying to have it both ways. It claims 200 miles of its shelf by “customary law”—citing unclos, which it hasn’t ratified—but it won’t acknowledge Canada’s claim that its Northwest Passage is an internal waterway, even though it threads through thousands of islands in the Canadian Arctic. The American position is that it’s an international strait, which is defined as a waterway that connects high seas or E.E.Z.’s. At stake is the right of “transit passage.” “Foreign submarines are permitted to remain submerged in a strait, but they have to come to the surface in an internal waterway, and there are a hundred straits in the world, so the Department of Defense regards the guarantee of free passage to naval and commercial vessels as the crown jewel of the Law of the Sea Convention,” Bellinger tells me.

“In 2001 we inherited 100 or so treaties that had not been ratified from the Clinton administration.” (Basically, the U.S. doesn’t ratify anything that cramps its style. It has still not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which Russia has, and Russia doesn’t recognize the human contribution to global warming.) “The problem with unclos was that the deep-seabed part, Part XI, was flawed. The landlocked countries, feeling left out of the original treaty, had eked out an income-distribution and mandatory-technology-transfer clause. If the big countries can go and mine in the deep seabed, they should transfer the technology to the less developed countries and share the profits with the landlocked ones. Reagan refused to sign the treaty because he thought this section was too socialistic. There was a renegotiation in l994. The technology transfer was stripped out, the income re-distribution was changed, the U.S. got a permanent seat on the Council of the International Seabed Authority, and the application fee for mining seabed was knocked down from a million to $250,000. But still, unclos languished because the political will wasn’t there.”

Bellinger continues: “After lengthy review, this administration concluded in 2004 that it’s in the interest of the U.S. that the treaty be ratified, but only this year [2007, starting with a statement released by the White House in May] has there been a big push. The navy wants it. So do Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips, two Alaska senators, the environmentalists, Alaskan fisherman, and fiber-optic-cable companies like Verizon, who can lay their lines in E.E.Z.’s. Even the stalwart Republican [senator] John Warner is for it. What else can you think of that so many disparate parties all agree on? We think we’ve got the votes—67 at this point—and will bring it to the Senate floor in December.”

But as of mid-March, this still hasn’t happened. unclos is back in limbo. Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, is not going to take up something so contentious unless he is sure the votes are there, and this being an election year, the conservatives are ramping up the invective, and unclos, with what they believe to be its hidden Communist agenda, is one of their favorite whipping boys. Even John McCain, who in 1998 urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support the treaty, has flip-flopped and opposes its ratification.

As for Russia’s claim, Bellinger tells me, “we’re not happy about it, but we don’t have a basis to have a position.” Privately, the U.S. is perhaps not so averse to Russia getting its shelf extended, so America can get in on the action. “All kinds of deals are being made behind the scenes,” a Washington insider told me. “Bush would much rather get his energy from Putin than have to deal with the madness of the Middle East.”

Last fall the first project to tap Arctic oil and gas deposits, 90 miles off the coast of Norway and 340 miles above the Arctic Circle, came on line. It’s called Snøhvit, Norwegian for “Snow White.” All the production equipment is on the ocean floor, so the drifting ice is not a problem, and the wellhead links by 89 miles of pipe to a small island just off Hammerfest. There the gas is cooled to 325 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, shrinking its volume by 99.8 percent and turning it into liquid that can be shipped in tankers. Norway is about to launch an oil-drilling ship it has developed that can withstand the movement of the ice.

So, as technology keeps improving, the price of oil keeps rising, and the ice keeps melting, Arctic energy is bound to be an increasingly bigger part of the global mix.

Going South

Antarctica is held up as the model of international cooperation in the administration of our fragile and all-important polar regions. Fifty years ago it was the scene of a similar showdown among Britain, France, Argentina, Chile, Norway, New Zealand, and Australia, each of which had asserted claims to the continent. It ended with the seven countries—and five others, including the U.S.—signing a treaty that divided the continent into sectors and forbade nuclear tests, military deployment, the dumping of radioactive waste, and the exploitation of any resources until 2048. So the news, late last year, that Britain was drawing up a submission claiming 386,000 square miles of seabed off northwestern Antarctica—which seismic tests suggest could contain 60 billion barrels of oil—as an extension of its sector’s continental shelf took the international community even more aback than Russia’s flag planting two months before. The territory is disputed by Chile and Argentina, who are sure to submit counterclaims, and the U.S. has made it clear that it will hold Britain in violation of the Antarctic Treaty. Bellinger doubted that the Brits were going to go through with the submission. “If they do put in a claim, they will do it only notionally, as a placeholder.”

But this is only one of Britain’s five proposed shelf extensions, and nine other countries have submissions in the works which will affect the status of 2.7 million square miles of sea bottom—an area roughly the size of Australia. Canada is hastening to map its answer to the Lomonosov Ridge: the Alpha Ridge, a 1,300-mile-long submerged chain of rugged peaks and deep canyons that starts at Ellesmere Island and goes through the North Pole, possibly all the way to the Russian Arctic coast. The ocean floor, particularly at the poles, is the new frontier of real-estate speculation, territorial expansion, and resource replenishment. What the Russians kicked off is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Oil and the Turtles

Every year, Rancho Nuevo, 900 miles southwest of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, sees a spectacular phenomenon: the arribada—mass nesting—of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, which has already neared extinction. This year, thousands of baby ridleys swam off toward a deadly new enemy.

By Alex Shoumatoff, Photograph by Gary Braasch

Ridley-turtle hatchlings head into the Gulf in Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Of all the devastation in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the Deepwater Horizon blowout, no one single species is being directly affected as much as the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Only 8,000 adult females nested in 2009, and the adult males are thought to be even fewer. Those that remain have been hit hard. Most of the surviving juveniles inhabit the waters 20 to 30 miles from shore, feeding and growing in the same currents and gyres that collected the bulk of the four million barrels spewed by the now capped well. There were confirmed reports of ridleys being burned alive in the pools of corralled, concentrated oil that BP had been burning off during the spill.

Almost every gravid female ridley lays her eggs on a single beach in Tamaulipas, Mexico, coming ashore in a unique mass-nesting event known as the arribada—the arrival. Kemp’s cousins in the Pacific, the Olive ridleys, also do this, but the other five sea-turtle species (and a small percentage of ridleys) are solitary nesters and don’t always return to the same place. The arribadas happen at Rancho Nuevo—a beach 900 miles southwest from the blowout. It’s only 200 miles south of Brownsville, Texas. Not a bad drive, only I’m told it’s too dangerous because three warring factions of narcotrafficantes—the Gulf cartel, the Zetas (former hit men of the cartel), and a local mafia called La Maña—have been having shoot-outs along it. Instead, I fly to Tampico, the sleepy port where the opening scene of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was filmed, which is 60 miles south of Rancho Nuevo. (Not that Tampico is immune to the violence; the week before I arrive, the naked bodies of five policemen were found hanging from one of its bridges, I am told by a fellow gringo who narrowly escaped being shaken down at one of the narcos’ impromptu roadblocks right in the city.) I’m met at the airport by two people from the federal agency that manages Mexico’s protected areas, and they whisk me to the nearby Hampton Inn for the night.

In the morning we are driven to the Rancho Nuevo beach reserve by its director Dr. Gloria Tavera. Its 20 miles of wild white sand are patrolled three times a day by guards on A.T.V.’s, and 20 times a day or more during nesting season. Dr. Tavera tells me that the arribadas are over, but that the white ping-pong-ball-size eggs, having incubated for 45 days, are starting to hatch.

Sure enough, at five a.m. on the second morning, we jump onto four-wheelers and bomb down to the South Corral, four miles from the camp, where dozens of the 800 nests from the June 3 arribada are erupting with hatchlings, about 90 per nest. The babies are three inches long and look like black rubber-toy turtles. They crawl down to the surf and, as soon as they hit the water, their angled forelimbs begin to flap wildly. Then they’re pulled into the breaking waves by the undertow and are off, on their own, into the great unknown. Guided by pure instinct, fueled by the remaining yoke in their waterproof belly sacs, they will swim straight out for five days or so until they hit the mats of sargassum, a golden-brown, free-floating marine algae (these lines of sargassum are often only 20 or 30 feet wide, but can extend for miles, and offer cover and food for the hatchlings). We don’t know how many hatchlings will survive to adulthood, but the most common ballpark estimate is only one in a thousand. Many will be picked off by sharks, many other species of fish, dolphins, and sea birds. Everything wants to eat them. But many more than usual will die when the clockwise currents of the Gulf carry the turtles directly up into the area contaminated by the Deepwater Horizon spill. “The internal damage from the hydrocarbons to the organs of the ridleys could make them unable to reproduce,” Dr. Tavera tells me. “That would mean extinction. But nobody knows.”

Her fears could be well founded. A new study of shorebirds finds that the ingestion of only a small amount of oil can cause lasting changes in brain function and behavior. The males’ pheromones are inhibited so they stop doing their mating behavior.

Conservationists rallied round the ridley in 1978, when human predation left them hanging by a thread. Poaching of the eggs—rich and delicious, they had long been part of the local diet—was stopped, and in l986, when only 600 females came back to nest at Rancho Nuevo, an American law was passed requiring shrimp fishermen meeting certain criteria to equip their nets with escape holes for turtles known as TEDs (turtle excluder devices). For a time, it was working. In 2009 there were 21,000 nests. Six thousand females came ashore over a two-day period that May, the biggest arribada in the 40-year history of the conservation program at Rancho Nuevo. But this year there were only 13,115 nests, the result of a record cold winter followed by three months of red tide, a toxic algae bloom that prevented the females from being able to access the beach. Then, on June 30, the beach was slammed by Hurricane Alex, and a thousand more nests were lost.

Barbara Schroeder, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in Silver Spring, Maryland, thinks the spill is unlikely to spell the end of the ridley but it “is definitely a setback to the turtle’s recovery. We are going to have to enhance our efforts to get the species back on the trajectory it was on, and we will need to re-look at the most significant human threats—bycatch from shrimp and other trawlers and gill nets, hook and line-fishing, and boat strikes.”

That the four million barrels of oil seem to be dissipating more quickly than expected does not mean the turtles will no longer be affected. The oil below the surface concerns many experts. Kemp’s ridleys in nearshore areas feed on the bottom, which means they have to dive through the oil. What’s more, this relatively quick disappearance of the large oil pools was achieved because BP dumped nearly two million gallons of the highly toxic chemical dispersant Corexit into the Gulf—in some cases, without the necessary approval of the Environmental Protection Agency. Corexit, used to break up large pools of oil in water, is an alarmingly unknown entity. Scientists in Louisiana are just beginning to study its effects on marine life in the Gulf. They’ve discovered high levels of it in blue-crab larvae, which suggests the poison may have already entered the food chain, just in time for the start of Louisiana’s shrimp season. Blue crabs are the ridley’s favorite food.

Ed Clark, the president of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, who has been treating oiled wildlife for 28 years, tells me that the dispersant is like “putting a coat of new paint on a junk car.” The official marine-life casualty numbers, Clark maintains, are grossly underestimated. “If they’re saying 400 turtles were killed, I’d bet my house it’s more like 4,000,” he says.

“BP is responsible for the damages”—up to $50,000 per turtle, as per the Endangered Species Act—“but it is incumbent on the government to prove what [the damages] are,” says Clark. He has heard rumors that the cleanup crews on Grand Isle, Louisiana, which are mainly made up of prisoners, were bagging dead turtles and birds in plastic bags marked for incineration because no one from Fish and Wildlife responded to their calls. The F.W.S. agents were mainly focused on federally owned coastline. It may go beyond unresponsive government agencies. Clark also heard rumors that BP was deliberately burning oiled sargassum, even though living sea turtles were known to be still in the floating mats.

So the crisis isn’t over, as BP and the government would have you believe. It’s only beginning. The biological consequences of this disaster will be felt for years, over generations, like Chernobyl. And we may never know how bad it was.

Dispatch #65: Agony and Ivory

By Alex Shoumatoff, Photograph by Guillaume Bonn

RANGE LIFE: A herd of elephants, photographed in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. With China’s growing appetite for ivory, poaching is on the rise all over Africa.

Another carcass has been found. On the Kuku Group Ranch, one of the sectors allotted to the once nomadic Maasai that surround Amboseli National Park, in southern Kenya. Amboseli is home to some 1,200 elephants who regularly wander into the group ranches, these being part of their original, natural habitat. More than 7,000 Maasai live in scattered fenced-in compounds called bomaswith their extended families and their cattle on Kuku’s 280,000 acres. Traditionally, the Maasai coexisted with their wildlife. They rarely killed elephants, because they revered them and regarded them as almost human, as having souls like us. Neighboring tribespeople believe that elephants were once people who were turned into animals because of their vanity and given beautiful, flashy white tusks, which condemned them, in the strangely truthful logic of myth, to be forever hunted and killed in the name of human vanity. And Maasai believe when a young woman is getting married and her groom comes to get her from her village she musn’t look back or she will become an elephant. “But in the last few years, everything has changed,” a member of the tribe told me. “The need for money has changed the hearts of the Maasai.”

In 2008, post-election ethnic violence followed by the global recession halved tourism to Kenya, making the wildlife in the parks even harder to protect. Then, in 2009, one of the worst droughts in living memory hit much of the country. More than 400 elephants in Amboseli died. The Maasai lost many of their cows and are still struggling, while the price of ivory is higher than ever, so increasing numbers of them are risking the misfortune that killing an elephant could bring on their families, according to their traditional thinking, and are getting into poaching. There are brokers just across the Tanzania border who are paying cash—around $20 a pound—for raw ivory and selling it to the Chinese. Or perhaps there is a series of transactions, a series of middlemen, but ultimately what is not being picked up by the Kenya Wildlife Service’s sniffing dogs at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Nairobi, is making its way by all kinds of circuitous routes to China, where raw ivory is now fetching $700 or more a pound. Ninety percent of the passengers who are being arrested for possession of ivory at Jomo Kenyatta are Chinese nationals, and half the poaching in Kenya is happening within 20 miles of one of the five massive Chinese road-building projects in various stages of completion.

There had been almost no poaching around Amboseli for 30 years before a Chinese company got the contract to build a 70-mile-long highway just above the park. Since the road crews arrived, in 2009, four of Amboseli’s magnificent big-tusked bulls have been killed, and the latest word is that the poachers are now going after the matriarchs—a social and genetic disaster, because elephants live in matriarchies, and removing the best breeders of both sexes from the gene pool could funnel the Amboseli population into what is known as an “extinction vortex.”

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t limited to just Kenya. Across the continent, in their 37 range states, from Mali to South Africa, Ethiopia to Gabon, elephants are being killed, some believe, at the rate of around 100 a day, 36,500 a year. But like so many things in Africa, it is impossible to know how many elephants there really are (estimates run from 400,000 to 650,000), how many are being slaughtered for their tusks (figures range from “more than 4,000” to “as many as 60,000” a year), or how much ivory is being smuggled to Asia (over the last 10 years, an annual average of roughly 45,000 pounds has been seized in Asia or en route). But the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) believes roughly 100 elephants are being killed each day, and this lines up with two of the most plausible estimates.

A Kenya Wildlife Service official and Soila Sayialel, the deputy director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, have invited me to come along as they investigate the carcass found on the Kuku Group Ranch.

Soila, a local Maasai woman in her 40s, has been working with Cynthia Moss—the revered 71-year-old American conservationist who started the project in 1972—for 25 years and wants to know if this latest victim is one of Amboseli’s elephants. A week earlier, K.W.S. rangers shot dead two poachers right outside the park who had just killed Magna, one of the big breeding bulls.

The poaching is even worse in the northern part of the country. A few weeks ago, two poachers were killed and a ranger was wounded in a firefight in Meru National Park. Al-Shabaab, the Islamist youth militia which is in league with al-Qaeda and controls most of Somalia, has been coming over the border and killing elephants in Arawale National Reserve. Ivory, like the blood diamonds of other African conflicts, is funding many rebel groups in Africa, and Kenya, K.W.S. director Julius Kipng’etich told me, “is in the unenviable position of sharing over 1,700 kilometers of border with three countries with civil wars that are awash with firearms: Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan.” Nothing less than a full-scale military operation is going to stop the poaching in the north.

But Kenya’s poaching problem is nothing compared with that of some other African range states. It’s only losing a few hundred elephants a year. (Kenya has zero tolerance for poaching and banned the sale of all ivory, including its old stock, in 1989. There has also been a blanket ban on all hunting since 1977.) Gabon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania are losing thousands. Chad, home to 15,000 elephants in 1979, has less than 400 left. Sierra Leone is down to single digits.

This April was the cruelest month in the current wave of killing. Then, in the first week of May alone, a ton of ivory was confiscated in Kenya, more than 1,300 pounds in Vietnam—from Tanzania—and a Chinese man was arrested at Entebbe airport in Uganda with 34 pieces of ivory. To top it off, a South Korean diplomat was caught trying to bring 16 tusks into Seoul. The carnage is escalating.

During the great elephanticide of the 1970s and 1980s, Africa’s elephant population was cut from an estimated 1.3 million to some 600,000, and Kenya’s elephant population went from 120,000 to 15,000. (It is now about twice that.) At the height of the slaughter, it is believed, 70,000 elephants a year were being killed continent-wide. The death toll may be half that now, but there are only half as many elephants left.

The previous slaughter was driven by Japan’s economic boom. This new crisis is driven by China’s nouveaux riches, or bao fa hu (the “suddenly wealthy”), who are as numerous as the entire population of Japan. The main consumers are middle-aged men who have just made it into the middle class and are eager to flaunt their ability to make expensive discretionary purchases. Beautiful ivory carvings are traditional symbols of wealth and status.

Soila expertly navigates the cavernously potholed dirt road that leads to Kuku, at one of whose bomas we pick up Johanus, the Maasai scout who found the carcass. Johanus was looking for lion tracks down by the river a few mornings ago when he picked up the blood trail of an elephant and started to follow it. The wounded elephant was making for the safety of nearby Tsavo National Park. It was accompanied by another elephant who was not bleeding, and they were being followed by two men—local Maasai, Johanus tells us, because they were wearing tire-tread sandals of local manufacture. Johanus shows us the four sets of prints, which we pick up at the river. We follow them up a slope of jagged red stones—an old lava field, with patches of grass and thickets of flat-topped acacia trees, which several stocky, mud-reddened zebras and frisky impalas melt into as we approach. After half an hour of tortuous progress, Johanus says we are here.

We are greeted by the nauseating stench of rotting flesh. Fifty yards from the blood trail, the dead, decomposing elephant is kneeling in a pool of its own fluid, which is swarming with flies. The carcass was covered with branches by the poachers so it wouldn’t attract vultures, which would alert the K.W.S. pilots who make daily flyovers to its presence. Its face is completely gone, hacked off by a machete: no eyes, no trunk, no tusks. The trunk, Soila suspects, was taken by hyenas. The tusks were chopped out with an ax. The elephant’s cheekless mouth is a gaping black hole, like one of Francis Bacon’s silent-scream paintings. The elephant’s tail has been sliced off. Bracelets of black elephant-tail hair are still bought by tourists. The animal has been speared on both sides, 23 times. Soila counts the holes. This was a savage, low-tech, local poaching. An opportunistic poaching. If it had been a deliberate one, poison would have been used. If poison had been used, the elephant would not have had to be speared so many times or have gotten this far.

The poison, known as mbaya (Swahili for evil), is a concoction brewed from the leaves of two trees and the livers of puffer fish from the coast. Applied to an arrowhead or a spear tip, it is so powerful that it kills an elephant in five minutes and breaks down its flesh so quickly that after two or three days the tusks just slide out.

Soila puts on rubber gloves, draws some blood from the carcass, and slices off a section of flesh to send to the lab at Duke University, which will determine if it has the Amboseli genotype. She thinks it is no more than two or three days old. The poachers could have been some of the scouts who were employed by a private foundation to protect the ranch’s wildlife but have been dismissed until further notice because of a power struggle with the group-ranch leadership. The scouts know the movements of the elephants on the ranch and are now in desperate need of money. Suspicion falls on one in particular, a reformed poacher who may have gone back to his old ways. “We will get them,” the K.W.S. official assures me.

Dispatch #70: Why Do the Chinese Eat Everything ?

I remember a few months after I wrote my 2007  Vanity Fair piece on the famine in the remote Indian tribal state of Mizoram that comes every 48 years due to an explosion of the jungle rat population due to the flowering of the particular single species of bamboo that covers most of the state and produces a protein-rich, avocado-like fruit which the rats devour, so the males stop eating their young, and their population explodes, and the rats then eat all the crops of the Mizos (see Dispatch #43 , “The Rats Are Back”), I read about an unrelated rat population explosion  in central Hunan, China, due to a succession of mild winters  (i.e. global warming) and rising floodwaters, plus the extermination of most of their natural predators, which was quickly contained because everybody in the afflicted region simply ate the rats. It was the main dish at restaurants and on family dinner tables for months.  The Mizos, on the other hand, are squeamish about eating rats.

When I was in Guangzhou, the former Canton and China’s ivory carving and trading capital, I learned that there is a special market for cats. You pick your cat and they kill it and butcher it on the spot for you to take home and eat, and another one that specializes in wild animal meat like snakes and rats. There is an expression that the South Chinese eat anything with wings except a plane and anything with legs except a chair. I asked Grace Gabriel, the head of the Beijing office of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) about this curious ominivorousness and she emailed,

“Tracing Chinese cultural history back a few thousand years, respect for nature and compassion for other beings are values that have been cherished in religious beliefs, as cultural heritage and guiding principles. The concept of ‘living in harmony with nature’ was reflected in art, literature and up until the beginning of the last century, China still had rich biodiversity in many regions. People lived sustainably with the long term view of leaving something for future generations. Unfortunately, the political turmoil of the last hundred years in China have decimated most of these beliefs. Wars, foreign invasions and occupations, civil conflicts and then Mao political movements stripped away basic trust between people, compassion and empathy and long term view. Today, there is no dominant religion in China. The society is ruled by one principal only: Make Money for Me. On the way to make riches for oneself, there is no concern for anything including other people and the environment, let alone animals. Unfortunately what was the depiction of one group of people ‘eating everything in sight’ [the South Chinese] is adopted by a lot more people now. And Chinese have the ability to travel all over the world now. Especially in countries where law and order are not well established these Chinese feel that they can eat anything. With elephant ivory, there are some laws which may have deterrence effect. But to animals such as dogs and cats, there is no law in China that protect them. So, in addition to the demand reduction campaign to end wildlife trade, IFAW has been involved in research and draft of an anti-cruelty legislation in China, in the hopes that the law can cover companion animals as well.

As to eating giraffe’s bone marrow, it couldn’t be traditional medicine as there are no giraffes in China! There is a saying about eating whatever part of the animal helps the same body part on a person. This saying quite often is taken very literally, I am afraid.

Big sigh…


This summer I was on the Sasha Show, which airs on an NPR station in Fort Myers, Florida, and the host, Sasha, asked me if the omonivorusness of the Chinese had anything thing to do with the famine during Mao that killed some 30 million. Wouldn’t wild animal  have been seen as a windfall of protein not to be passed up ? Good question, and a lot of wildlife was probably preyed on during the famine that wouldn’t have been otherwise, but the omnivorousness seems to go back many centuries.

This September I was in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, and I got talking a Chinese man from Singapore who was staying at my hotel. He was in the palm oil business, which is decimating Borneo’s rain forest, but was a gentleman of some culture and refinement. I asked him about this unfortunate ominivorousness, and he said it goes back to the ancient emperors, who were always trying everything and anything, in their effort to stay young and vigorous and to find the secret of immortality.

This jives with a communication from Susan R. Weld, a scholar of ancient Chinese law at Georgetown University : “There are a number of studies on eating in Chinese history and culture – always very important.   Excavated medical recipe texts from the early Han (second century BC) show that ideas of medicine had changed sharply from reliance on bribeable spirits to consumption of subtly assembled and blended medicines to restore health or prevent disease.

Some of the medicines were made from rare and exotic animals, expensive to procure and impossible for ordinary people to get for themselves.   In short, only for the very rich.  This resembles golf in our society, really just an exercise in conspicuous consumption of water, time and land area. It was  an era when conspicuous consumption of human sacrificial victims was another popular way to show off one’s wealth and power to the spirits of the Afterlife.
This style of medicine did not always turn out well for the patients, as the rich are often found in their graves positively stuffed with the toxic medicines/ foods they relied on to cure them of their diseases.  Prime example is cinnabar –
Regardless, I have always thought the costly and peculiar foods like the snake banquet, civet cats, huge living lobsters slowly carved up for the banquet guests before having their carcasses made into soups and sauces, all function in life as forms of medicines carefully combined to readjust imbalances in yin and yang.   In the grave, the same foods may be both a boast and a threat to the spirits – this person should be well-treated.”
A final possibility, whose validity I will leave to the cultural psychoanalysts to evaluate,  is that this eating of wild animals is not only to get the good medicinal stuff in them, but it could subconsciously represent man’s conquest of the natural world, our defeat of the other species,  expressed by literally devouring them. Like traditional people who eat/ate the hearts or livers or brains other vital organs of their enemies (which was also going on in ancient China). Or in the case of the Chinese in Africa, devouring its wildlife could be a symbolic triumphant celebratory feasting over China’s colonization of Africa.
The severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)  provoked by a coronavirus that emerged in southern Chinese province of Guangdong (Canton) in November 2002 and spread globally till stopped in July 2003, after having infected 8,096 people and killed 774, was traced to civet cats that were being sold in a wild meat market.
AIDS was traced to the simian retrovirus SIV. When I wrote my piece about trying to pinpoint the source of AIDS in Africa in l987 (see Dispatch #54), the prevailing theory was that it had crossed over to humans from a green monkey that was butchered and eaten somewhere on the southerwestern shore of Lake Victoria and mutated into the lethal HIV. Now the  source is thought to have been a chimpanzee in Gabon.
There’s no reason to eat wild animals. The bushmeat trade is decimating the wildlife in Africa, even more than the million or so ominivorous Chinese there. There’s no reason to eat animals at all. You can have a much healthier diet and a longer life as a vegetarian. The Chinese have to be made aware of the disastrous impact of not only their ivory consumption, but their cuisine and pharmacopeia. These traditional folk medicines like bear gall bladder and rhino horn (to improve sexual performance) have got to be retired. Rhino horn, which now fetches $40,000 a kilo on the Chinese black market, is made entirely of keratin, the same substance human fingernails are made of. You would get the same effect, and much more cheaply,  by adding a few shavings of your fingernails to your morning coffee. But this devouring of rare and endangered wildlife, as Dr. Weld points out,  is all about conspicuous consumption.At the expense of our fellow creatures. The last wild rhino in Vietnam (the Javan species) was just killed. Please my dear Chinese and East Asian friends, who are such wonderful and civilized people, your adventurous gastronomy evolved at a time when wild animals existed in abundance. Now many species are on the brink of extinction. Could you please think about what you are eating and drop the sentient beings from your menus ? Shark-fin soup, the body parts of of Africa’s incomparable and fast-disappearing wild animals– None of them is necessary. Give them up, we beg you.

The consumption of ivory by China’s bao fa hu or “suddenly wealthy,” which is driving the slaughter of about 100 elephants a day in Africa, isn’t the only problem. When I was reporting my Vanity Fair piece, “Agony and Ivory,” late last year, I learned that Chinese in Zimbabwe are eating wild painted dogs, lion-bone soup, and soup made from the lower legbones of giraffes, and that Chinese in Kenya are buying up the dogs and cats in Maasai villages and wiping out entire troops of baboons local populations of  leopard tortoises. What’s going on with this omnivorousness ? Why do the Chinese have no qualms about eating pretty much anything that moves ?

I remember a few months after I wrote my 2007  Vanity Fair piece on the famine in the remote Indian tribal state of Mizoram that comes every 48 years due to an explosion of the jungle rat population due to the flowering of the particular species of bamboo that covers most of the state and produces a protein-rich, avocado-like fruit which the rats devour, so the males stop eating their young, and their population explodes, and the rats then eat all the crops of the Mizos (see Dispatch #43 , “The Rats Are Back”), I read about an unrelated rat population explosion  in Hunan, China, due to a succession of mild winters  (i.e. global warming) and rising floodwaters, plus the extermination of most of their natural predators, which was quickly contained because everybody in the region simply ate the rats. It was the main dish at restaurants and on family dinner tables for months.  The Mizos, on the other hand, are squeamish about eating rats.

When I was in Guangzhou, the former Canton and China’s ivory carving and trading capital, I learned that there is a special market for cats. You pick your cat and they kill it and butcher it on the spot for you to take home and eat, and another one that specializes in wild animal meat like snakes and rats. There is an expression that the South Chinese eat anything with wings except a plane and anything with legs except a chair. I asked Grace Gabriel, the head of the Beijing office of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) about this curious ominivorousness and she emailed,

Tracing Chinese cultural history back a few thousand years, respect for nature and compassion for other beings are values that have been cherished in religious beliefs, as cultural heritage and guiding principles. The concept of ‘living in harmony with nature’ was reflected in art, literature and up until the beginning of the last century, China still had rich biodiversity in many regions. People lived sustainably with the long term view of leaving something for future generations. Unfortunately, the political turmoil of the last hundred years in China have decimated most of these beliefs. Wars, foreign invasions and occupations, civil conflicts and then Mao political movements stripped away basic trust between people, compassion and empathy and long term view. Today, there is no dominant religion in China. The society is ruled by one principal only: Make Money for Me. On the way to make riches for oneself, there is no concern for anything including other people and the environment, let alone animals. Unfortunately what was the depiction of one group of people ‘eating everything in sight’ [the South Chinese] is adopted by a lot more people now. And Chinese have the ability to travel all over the world now. Especially in countries where law and order are not well established these Chinese feel that they can eat anything. With elephant ivory, there are some laws which may have deterrence effect. But to animals such as dogs and cats, there is no law in China that protect them. So, in addition to the demand reduction campaign to end wildlife trade, IFAW has been involved in research and draft of an anti-cruelty legislation in China, in the hopes that the law can cover companion animals as well.

As to eating giraffe’s bone marrow, it couldn’t be traditional medicine as there are no giraffes in China! There is a saying about eating whatever part of the animal helps the same body part on a person. This saying quite often is taken very literally, I am afraid.

Big sigh…


 This summer I was on the Sasha Show, which airs on an NPR station in Fort Myers, Florida, and the host, Sasha, asked me if

In September I was in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, and I met a Chinese man from Singapore who was staying at my hotel. He was in the palm oil business, which is decimating Borneo’s rain forest, but was a gentleman of culture and refinement. I asked him about this unfortunate ominivorousness, and he said it goes back to the ancient emperors, who were always trying everything and anything, in their effort to stay young and vigorous and immortal.

This jives a communication from Susan R. Weld, a scholar of ancient Chinese law at Georgetown University : “There are a number of studies on eating in Chinese history and culture – always very important.   Excavated medical recipe texts from the early Han (second century BC) show that ideas of medicine had changed sharply from reliance on bribeable spirits to consumption of subtly assembled and blended medicines to restore health or prevent disease.

Some of the medicines were made from rare and exotic animals, expensive to procure and impossible for ordinary people to get for themselves.   In short, only for the very rich.  This resembles golf in our society, really just an exercise in conspicuous consumption of water, time and land area.   It was  an era when conspicuous consumption of human sacrificial victims was another popular way to show off one’s wealth and power to the spirits of the Afterlife.
This style of medicine did not always turn out well for the patients, as the rich are often found in their graves positively stuffed with the toxic medicines/ foods they relied on to cure them of their diseases.  Prime example is cinnabar –
Regardless, I have always thought the costly and peculiar foods like the snake banquet, civet cats, huge living lobsters slowly carved up for the banquet guests before having their carcasses made into soups and sauces, all function in life as forms of medicines carefully combined to readjust imbalances in yin and yang.   In the grave, the same foods may be both a boast and a threat to the spirits – this person should be well-treated.”
The severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)  provoked by a coronavirus that emerged in southern Chinese province of Guangdong (Canton) in November 2002 and spread globally till stopped in July 2003, after having infected 8,096 people and killed 774, was traced to civet cats that were being sold in a wild meat market.
AIDS was traced to the simian retrovirus SIV. When I wrote my piece about trying to pinpoint the source of AIDS in Africa in l987 (see Dispatch #54), the prevailing theory was that it had crossed over to humans from a green monkey that was being butchered somewhere on the southerwestern shore of Lake Victoria. Now it’s supposed to have come from a chimpanzee in Gabon.
There’s no reason to eat wild animals. The bushmeat trade is decimating the wildlife in Africa. There’s no reason to eat animals at all. You can have a much healthier diet and a longer life as a vegetarian. Someone has to get through to the Chinese about this too.
These traditional folk medicines like bear gall bladder and rhino horn (to improve sexual performance) have got to be retired. Rhino horn, which now fetches $40,000 a kilo on the Chinese black market, is made entirely of keratin, the same substance human fingernails are made of. You would get the same effect, and much more cheaply,  by adding a few shavings of your fingernails into your morning coffee. But this devouring of rare and endangered wildlife, as Dr. Weld points out,  is all about conspicuous consumption.
At the expense of our fellow creatures. The last wild rhino in Vietnam (the Javan species) was just killed. Please my dear Chinese and East Asian friends, who are such wonderful and civilized people,  could you possibly revise your diet and cut this out ?

Dispatch #72 : The Magnificent Mesnaks

by Alex Shoumatoff

A long-time contributing editor of Vanity Fair and the editor of DispatchesFromTheVanishingWorld.com, Shoumatoff has been advocating for traditional peoples all over the word for forty years.

     I was deeply affected by Mesnak, the first full-length feature film and fully native production about Canada’s North, and a triumph on many levels, an epic contribution to Quebec cinema and world and ethnic film and a statement that native Canada has come into its own artistically, that sets the bar very high, and is something to be really proud of.  Nana Mesnak, Les Adieux d’un Tortue, its full title, has Sundance and Oscar written all over it (once it is subtitled; the dialogue is entirely in French and Innu), particularly the stunning cinematography, which captures the majesty and magic of the boreal forest  and its seething, thrashing ribbons of river. The  cuts to water straining over amber rock or reflecting the passing  coniferous treetops silhouetted against the sky, are masterful, as is the footage of Mesnak, the ornery, primordial snapping turtle who plays a central choric role in the tragedy. Also prizeworthy is the casting. Each actor inhabits his or her role so convincingly and compellingly,  the dramatic illusion is so effective that I was unconsciously sucked into it, so much so that it took a while to fully return to where I was, Montreal’s Cinema Quartier Latin on a drizzly February evening, and it was only afterwards that it dawned on me that the movie is actually a production of Hamlet, in a different culture, environment, and time.  One critic praises Victor Andres Trelles Turgeon, who plays Dave, the Hamlet figure,  for his total naturalness and goes  as far as to call him one of the best Hamlets ever. I talked to Victor at the Montreal premier. He is from the Peruvian Amazon but doesn’t know what tribe; having grown up in Montreal he has never been there and is longing to go. Which is why he able to get into his character’s quest to discover his biological and ethnic origins. Which starts when his adoptive father in Montreal gives him a letter that has just arrived containing a photo of his biological mother, an Innu woman named Gertrude (Hamlet’s mother’s name) Mackenzie, who is up in the fictitious community of Kinoganish (shot in Uashat and Maliotenam, an Innu reserve in the municipality of Sept Isles, on the north bank of the St. Lawrence). On the back of the snap is written, your mother needs you.

      Dave’s father tells him what little he knows about her, that she had serious drinking problems after the death of his biological father and that she put him up for adoption and it has been years since she has heard from her. His adoptive father says it must be something important and encourages him to go  see her. So Dave drives up to Kinoganish and arrives just as Gertrude is preparing to marry the chief, Claude St. Onge, the Claudius figure played by Marco Collin with just the right hint of torment in his eyes and depravity in his twisted mouth, a sensuous charismatic corrupto with ambition and guile you can see becoming the local alpha male. I’ve interacted with the type on four continents. Claude is not at all happy to see David, and neither is Gertrude, who did not send him her picture. It was Leonard, a blind man who knows the dark secret of his father’s murder.

      Rather than welcome Dave into his big fancy modern house, Claude sends him to pitch his tent at the  the traditional campground on the river and out of town, and there he meets the beautiful Osalik, the Ophelia figure (Eve Ringuette), who is practicing the traditional animism and communing with the nature spirits and reveling in her own ripeness and in the sensual glory of the few weeks in the summer when everything with legs and wings is procreating. They fall quickly in love.  The camera panning up Osalik’s body as she lies naked on a slab by a waterfall is one of the most sensuous nudes I have seen in a movie. I  chatted with Eve at the afterparty as well. She said she was from Sept Isles (from Uashat, actually) and worked in a law office and had never acted before except in high school productions and was chosen out of an audition of 180 young Innu women and that it looked like it was going to be a one-time deal,  the performance of a lifetime because she wasn’t getting any other offers. From other sources I learned she has two kids and that she trained to do police work and that she had trouble expressing her emotions, coming out of herself. And indeed she was a bit reserved, not the sensual earth goddess in the film, so the role was a triumph for her.

     Osalik’s peers in the community are typically wasted lost  members of the North’s young native generations, snorting coke, doing ecstasy and crystal meth, with the money compensating the community for hydro dams or logging or mining concessions. Back in the late nineties, I visited one of these dysfunctional, culturally eviscerated communities, each of whose members got $600 every two weeks whether they got out of bed or not. Most of the people were drunk or stoned or high. It’s like the ghetto, worse than most of the Third Word, in the North, even in such a spectacular, luminous, therapeutic natural setting.

      Osalik has been sleeping with her half-brother (I don’t have his name or that of the solidly-built young man who plays him, but he’s  another great piece of casting). David’s arrival has shaken things up in Kinoganish. Gertrude doesn’t want to marry Claude anymore, but he forces her to go through with it, and when Dave finally connects with her, he finds her in the basement of her house in a drunken stupor and she tells him to go, she doesn’t want to see him now or ever,  and throws a bottle after him.

     Dave’s pilgrimage to his hometown and his long-lost mom has not exactly been an idyll.  There is nothing to keep him in Kinoganish so he packs up and prepares to return to Montreal. Osalik decides to go with him, but Osalik’s half-brother finds out and won’t let her go and when Dave comes to get her he and his stoned buddy beat and stomp him. He grabs the shotgun Osalik was trying to take with her but her half-brother wouldn’t let her, and fires it. The outcome is unclear, but next scene he bursts into the wedding of Claude and his mother, his face a bloody pulp, and aims the shotgun at Claude. Leonard has told him that his father had been the chief and had been a big red power activist and had married his mother, the most beautiful woman in Kinoganish, but Claude, his acolyte and now a sell-out “progressive” involved in a big logging scheme on the reserve, had shot him in a bird-hunting “accident” that was actually no accident. Dave confronts Claude in front of his mom, and when she asks if this is true, he falls to his knees and says nothing. He doesn’t have to. What happens after that is unclear, because in the next scene Osalik, who realizes her half-brother will never let her go, she is trapped, goes into the river and drowns herself, and at the end we see her body floating face-up toward some torrential rapids.

      That’s the plot. Mesnak keeps appearing, snapping, hissing. Leonard tells Dave that his father’s clan totem, his double, is the snapping turtle (who is crying for revenge). Mesnak is also the guardian of the river, the forest, and the Innu homeland, its natural integrity, which is going to be devastated by Claude’s logging scheme. So Mesnak has two reasons to be distraught and to want to see Claude get what’s coming to him and out of the picture. The script and the entire production is a collaboration Yves Sioui Durand, himself a Huron from Wenake,  the director of  Quebec’s first and only indigenous theater troop and the director of the film, and the maverick film-maker Robert Morin (Journal d’un Cooperant, about a pedophilic ngo worker in Africa, etc.), one of Quebec cinema’s heavies, and the novelist Louis Hamelin. So it is distressing and baffling that this milestone movie was panned the next day by La Presse, Voir, and the Gazette. These reviews were appallingly condescending and out to lunch. The Cayapo Indians with whom I spent a month in l975 gave me a nickname, no ket, which means no eyes, because I was so oblivious to what was going on in their rain forest, while they could recognize eighteen different species of bee on the wing and had names for each of them. They demonstrate how far local movie criticism  to go before it catches up with the great things that are happening in Quebec cinema, and the truth of the truism that critics are posturing embittered mediocrities,  wannabee  artistes lacking the courage and the talent to express themselves in the medium they have set themselves up as experts on. La Presse called the film “absurde” and indulged in the sort of verbal masturbation that no other language can compete with French   for. The reviewer, Phillip Renaud, to impress his readers how he is a standard-bearer of haut culture,  had to throw in a few words that probably less than one percent of the people Quebec have ever heard of, like “psychotronique” (a Cold War term for parapsychological or metaphysical, I finally found the fourth dictionary I consulted), and “ethilique,” an abstruse word for drunken to describe the stupor Dave found his mother in (in other words she was passed out).

      Duran was criticized by all three for not bridging the gap between theatre (Meznak was originally a play) and cinema (I think he did much better than such classic film adaptations as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” or “On the Waterfront;” as I say, the movie was so powerful that it didn’t even occur to me that it was  based on Hamlet until I started thinking about it, and the drama was so gripping and real that I didn’t detect any evidence of it being an adaptation– a double adaptation, actually. I had just seen another epic ethnic movie, Water, in which the heroine, a child widow  who grows up in an ashram for Brahmin widows  to be a beautiful young woman and falls in love with the son of the ashram’s adminstrator, who has just returned from law school, which is taboo, their love is doomed, so she drowns herself. Meznak is the Amerindian Water. The Francophone critics both used the word “maladroit” to describe the performances and thus trash the director. But none of the actors except Victor, who has several t.v. and movie roles to his credit, were professionals. The Gazette’s Brendan Kelly called it “an awkward piece of film-making” and “a heavy-handed approach to the issue of corruption” (is this what the movie is about, Mr. Kelly?). The only performance that was guilty of a little over-emoting was Katia Rock’s Gertrude. But Rock is a singer of some prominence in the Quebec music scene, and all the actors except Victor know the reality of life up north; they have lived it, so despite or perhaps because of their lack of thespian polish, their performances have an authenticity lacking in say, a big-budget Hollywood production like “Black Robes,” but powerfully present in, say, El Norte.

      None of our three local critics got the multilayered symbolism of the mesnak  (another is that the North American continent, the harmonious world of the native people that was raped by the Europeans, is known as Turtle Island) or even mentioned it. Another equally out to lunch reviewer for Quebec City’s Le Soleil complained that “the symbolism of the snapping turtle is overexploited to the point of being aggravating”– at least he is aware that there is a snapping turtle in the movie– it’s only the title of the film–  and that the Mesnak has some relevance to the action. While Voir’s critic groused that we all know about the drugs, violence, and incest in these native communities up north, why do we have to be subjected to another portrayal of them ? Because these problems are not going to go away when you turn off the t.v., the trauma of native Canadian’s savage treatment is cross-generational and lasts longer than the original victims’, and this is the first time it is being portrayed by those who actually have it.  Kelly dismisses the movie with incredible condescension : “It would give me great pleasure to tell you that Mesnak is one fine film. Unfortunately it isn’t. It’s an awkward piece of film-making that doesn’t work on any level.” This is so off the mark and patently not true that it makes you wonder did Mr. Kelly and his colleagues at La Presse, Voir, and Le Soleil– their synposes are so shoddy–  even see the movie ? Have any of them ever visited one of these depressed northern communities ? What’s going on here ? Is it laziness ? What kept them from getting it ? You really have to have your head way up your ass to produce such lazy, self-important garbage. One equally appalled member of Montreal’s movie community fumes ,“A review of something obviously so important, with collaborators like Morin, Messier, and Hamelin, is not something you just knock off in a few minutes for tomorrow’s edition. Having the creme of Quebec’s artistic community’s work reviewed by the creme of its intellectual mediocrity is ludicrous.” But it doesn’t detract from the fact that high art, high drama, has arrived from the aboriginal North, and that there are many more stories up there that are begging to  be told. It took a reviewer across the pond  in Edinburgh, Jennie Kermode of Eye to Eye, to do justice to this masterpiece. “An ambitious transposition like that could easily have been a disaster,” she wrote. “Mesnak not only gets away with it but delivers something that feels as though it ought always to have been told this way.”

      Durand, who had a terrible struggle raising the funding for it, and the Innu, after all they have been through, deserve better.

Mesnak : five stars

The Four Musketers of Presse, Voir, the Gazette, et le Soleil :

1/4 of a star, if that. I hereby jointly award them the first annual

“Au Dela du Maladroit” Prize.

Dispatch #2: A Report on the Wildlife of Eastern Congo

The original version for the United Nations Foundation

For those who want to go more deeply into the situation in eastern Congo, here is the 26,000-word site report I delivered to the United Nations Foundaton in October of last year. It contains the greatest detail on the status of the parks and their wildlife and on the coltan trade. 


A Report on the Four World Heritage Sites In Danger in Eastern Congo : 
Biodiversity Conservation in the Vortex of Civil War

by Alex Shoumatoff     On August 20 of the year 2000, on assignment from the United Nations Foundation,  I set outon  a 25-day tour of  three national parks (Virunga, Garamba, and Kahuzi Biega) and one faunalreserve (Okapi) in the rebel-held  eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  These four magicalpreserves are UNESCO World Heritage sites, and UNF is contributing $ 2.8 million, with another$1.2 million in matching funds verbally comitted from the European Union, to the heroic effort tokeep them going during the two civil wars that have ravaged the DRC (see glossary of acronyms) since l996. UNF had asked me to make an independent site report as the funds are about to bedisbursed.
       The magnificent primeval rainforests and savannas in these preserves are among  the last,  insome cases the last redoubts of some of the most extraordinary animals on the planet,  crownjewels of the animal kingdom like   the mountain gorilla,    the okapi (the secretive forest giraffewhich eluded scientists until l902), the northern white rhino (of which  only around 30 are left),and the  Congo peafowl (Africa’s only pheasant, whose closest relatives are in Asia and whosediscovery in  l938  was one of the ornithological events of the century). They are also havens for aspectrum of rebels and renegades collectively known as “the negative forces,” for whom theyprovide both cover and meat.  These include  ex-FAR, FAZ, and ADFL deserters (see Glossaryof Acronyms at the end of the piece); Interhamwe (the extremist Hutu youth militiamen who carriedout much of the l994 genocide in neighboringRwanda); Mayi Mayi (who are dedicated to driving out the Ugandan and Rwandan foreignersfrom Congo);  Ugandan NALU and ADF rebels from the  Ruwenzori Mountains (who predate thecurrent hostilities); and assorted non-alligned bandits. Joining them in the decimation the wildlifeare local poachers, miners of a rare mineral called coltan that is in great demand in the modern world,RCD, UPDF, and RPA regulars, SPLA deserters and regulars. 
        The guards in these embattled parks, having been disarmed and their radios, vehicles,and other equipment looted by the various armies that have swept through, are barely able to stem a smallpart of the poaching. Poaching is uncontrolled in most of  PNV, PNKB, both of whom have hadguards killed in recent attacks by negative forces, and a UPDF-RCD military operation has just gotten underway  to clean up the brazen poaching in RFO. The surveys of the animal populationsthat have managed to be conducted are extremely distressing : the hippo herd of Virunga Park,thirty-five thousand strong in l983, the largest in the world, now numbers 700-800. The elephantsand buffalo in Garamba have been cut in half, as have the lowland gorillas in the highland part ofPNKB (no one knows how many of the four to eight thousand gorillas in the Interahamwe-infested lowland part remain). Early this year the elephants were poached out of the highland partof PNKB.
       The UNF project, which PNG’s Kes Frazer and RFO’s Terese Hart spent more than a yeardesigning, unites the four parks under the prestigious political and diplomatic umbrella of theUNESCO World Heritage Convention, and  gives desperately needed teeth to their well-deservedclassification as places  of “outstanding universal value… for whose protection it is the duty of theinternational community as a whole to co-operate.” It imposes a uniform conservation strategy foreach of these very different biotopes, so that the conservationists involved in their protection willbe able to compare notes, and the hope  is that it wil eventually serve as a model for biodiversityconservation in all zones of armed conflict. The highest priority being to stop the slaughter of thewildlife, most of the funding is going directly to the anti-poaching effort, to paying,  equipping,and giving paramilitary training to the embattled park  guards and rewarding them with bonusesfor work well done.  It provides a uniform   law enforcement and biodiversity monitoring systemfor inventorying the animal populations and mapping, with sophisticated computer graphics, themovements of the poachers, so the patrols can be   most effectively deployed.  There is somemoney for local community-based “participatory” conservation programs : investing the peoplewho live on the borders of the park in its continued existence and simply improving their lot, sothey can have alternatives to exploiting its resources. Finally, a sustainable funding mechanism willbe  sought to keep these initiatives going after the four-year project ends. The money will flowthrough the American and European ngo’s who have been supporting the parks during this criticalperiod. The carefully thought out details are laid out in the 41-page document, with its threeannexes of charts maps.  


          The parks have been in rebel territory since the outbreak of the second civil war in August,1998 split the country in two. Cut off from their administrative headquarters, the ICCN inKinshasa, they have been on their own except for the support of  international ngo’s like WCS,GIC, WWF, GTZ, IRF, ICGP, and DFGF (do I have them all ?).  The rebels had belonged to theAFDL which overthrew the long-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in May, l997 (concluding thefirst civil war, known as the war of liberation).  Zaire became the DRC, and  Laurent Kabilainstalled himself as  president.   The following summer,  Kabila fell out with his former allies,particularly those of Rwandan or Congolese Tutsi ethnicity, against whom he declared a pogrom,and they launched the second civil war whose goal is to remove him. The RCD, consisting ofCongolese Tutsi and other Congolese opposed to Kabila and supported by Rwanda and Uganda,quickly took control of the eastern half of the country, but by the end of l998 they  had split intothree  factions  : RCD- Goma, which is backed by Rwanda; RCD-Kisangani and the MLC, both ofwhich which are backed by Uganda. RFO, PNG, and the northern part of PNV are in the RCD-ML, Uganda-controlled zone. The southern part of Virunga and Kahuzi Biega are in the RCD-Goma, Rwanda-controlled zone.
     In June a diplomatic mission consisting of Drs. Jean-Pierre d’Huarte and Terese Hartpresented the UNF’s four-year project to the powers-that-be in Kinshasa, Kampala, Kigali, Bunia,Goma, and Bukavu. My mission was a follow-up : to guage how supportive the local authoritieswere to the project, and to the notions of   biodiversity conservation and protecting  worldheritage in general. I was also to ascertain the morale of the guards and the rest of the park staffand how effectively that were able  to do their job; to learn what I could about who was doing thepoaching, how much was going on,   how many animals are killed, and about civil war’s and otherimpacts on the parks.  The subtext was, as UNF’s Nicholas Lapham put it, we want to know ifwhat we’re doing is  a good idea.  Other environmental foundations bale out when civil war breakouts in the areas they have been supporting.  Is our project going to work ?


      My conclusion is that this is probably the most useful and important money the UNF will ever
spend.  Eastern Congo is one of the flashpoints of the global struggle to maintain biodiversity.
According to a recent survey of mortality in eastern Congo by the International Red Cross, 1.8
million people have died in the last two years,  either directly or indirectly due to the second civil
war.  There are about the same number of idp’s (internally displaced people) in the country at
large. The American Ambassador to Kenya, John Carson, told me in Nairobi, “the situation in
eastern Congo in the last two years is as bad as or worse than Sierra Leone. But no one is able to
get in, so the level of human-rights violations and sheer atrocity and human abuse of other human
beings is largely invisible. People are not systematically having their hands chopped off, but they
are being systematically killed with bullets and machetes.” 
       No one knows how many animals have been killed in this anarchic situation. Like the humans,
there are animal refugees (elephants fleeing fleeing the mayhem in Congo to Uganda’s Queen
Elizabeth Park), genocides of elephants and other species by former g‚nocidaires, and animal
marauders (elephants fleeing poachers to the safety of the villages have been  raiding the shambas
of Epulu, where RFO is headquartered).  The situation at PNKB is beyond critical : the day before
I got there a team that was mapping the park’s boundaries was attacked by  Interahamwe. 9  were
killed and four taken hostage. PNV is if possible even more menaced by local and negative force
poaching and invasion by farmers and cattlekeepers. One guard was killed and another kidnaped a
few weeks before my visit in the relatively secure southern sector where the mountain gorillas are. 
The elephants in the RFO are being decimated by poachers armed by  RCD-ML and Ugandan
officers and by hunters for the coltan mining camps.  The RFO guards don’t have the arms or
training  to confront  the poachers, and haven’t had any alternative but to turn tail when they meet
on a jungle path. But the early results of the military operation are promising.  Perhaps they will
be able to turn the situation around. PNG, with the least local population pressure and no resident
negative forces and an organized and motivated anti-poaching program, is in the best shape.  As
we flew over its savanna,  Kes and Fraser Smith spotted four new rhinos, and the indexes of
poaching activity  fresh carcasses,  shootouts  are down in the last few months.   But this
could change at any moment, if  the civil war in DRC or the long-standing one in neighboring
Sudan takes a turn for the worse, and the next army sweeps through.
        The bad news is that Congo is probably going to keep disintegrating. It won’t be sorting
itself out anytime soon,  because neither Kabila nor any the three rebel factions have the military
strength, popular support, or  leadership  to unite its 450 ethnic groups. The civil  war will drag
on,  anarchy will prevail, and in the absence of any rule of law or unified military control, the
negative forces, not to mention the relatively positive ones   the local people with little access to
other sources of  protein or income   will slaughter many more animals. . 
        The good news  is that in each of these parks a dedicated team of guards,  conservators, and
expatriate scientists and wildlife managers (known as the coop‚rants) is  putting their lives on the
line for these irrepleaceable species, and they deserve and desperately need all the support UNF
and anybody else can give them, not to mention the gratitude of mankind. They are genuine
heroes.   Which is not to say that they do not have their differences in ideology, personality, and
expertise. Congolais-Congolais, Congolais-coop‚rant, and coop‚rant-coop‚rant lines of tension
were in evidence at each of the sites,   accentuated by the stress of ominipresent personal danger..
There are those who believe that the animals come first, and that  the limited resources available
from international sources should be devoted to keeping them from being exterminated. And
those who believe that the people come first, and that the animals will never be safe  unless you
improve the conditions of the people who live around the parks. Some are focused on anti-
poaching, some on social programs, some on long-term baseline scientific research and training a
new generation of Congolais conservationists, some on immediate, practical conservation
measures. But all these approaches are equally valid and important and ultimately complementary,
and the remarkable people who struggling to protect these priceless sites  have a great deal  to
offer and learn from each other. The beauty of the UNF project is that it provides a framework for
them to do so. 
       The most impressive quality of the project’s collaborators to me was their courage and their
commitment.  “If I have a run in with the negative forces, c’est l’horoscope,” one told me.
“Chacun a sa chance,”  said another, while a third mused about a life-threatening undertaking,
“And if I die, just bury me somewhere in the forest.” High risk is part of this job description. You
can expect  to be wiped out, to have everything you have worked for completely destroyed and to
have to start again at zero, and to have to flee for your life at least once if you’re contemplating a
career in conservation in this part of the world.  I think there is an unwritten code among this very
special breed of conservationists, a sort of Hippocratic oath that they all take to themselves : no
matter how bad it gets, you don’t give up. 


       The Congolais collaborators call RFO’s Terese Hart, PNKB’s Kes Frazer, and PNV’s
Annette Langouw les femmes de fer,  and before I crossed the border into the RCD at Gisenyi,
Rwanda, I stopped to pay my respects to Ross Carr, one of the prototypic courageous white
women in central Africa. (See my book, African Madness, pp. 32-33) A radiant soul now in her
eighties, Mme. Carr was a close friend of and undoubtedly a role model for Dian Fossey. She
came to Rwanda in l949 and has lived there ever since except for when she had to leave during
the genocide.  She still has her flower farm in the hills of above Lake Kivu, she told me, but now
she is devoting herself to her orphanage on the shore of the lake, where she takes care of 100
children whose parents were killed during the madness. She knows them all by name, and each of
their stories. 
       That evening in Goma I met with Dr. Vizima Karaha, the chief of security and intelligence for
RCD-Goma. After Mobutu’s overthrow by the AFDL, Karaha became Kabila’s foreign minister, 
the youngest foreign minister in the world, he told me. (We met in Kinshasa in May, l997, as the
ADFL came in. See my article, “Mobutu’s Final Days,” Vanity Fair August l997). But he is a
Munyamulenge. The Banyamulenge are Tutsi pastoralists who came from Rwanda, in the case of
Karaha’s family eight generations ago, and settled on the high plateau above Uvira, on the
western shore of LakeTanganyika, and on the plains between Masisi and Rutshuru. But they and
the other Congolais tribes of Rwandese “expression,” collectively known as Banyawranda, are
permanent foreigners, of “dubious nationality,” and have never been accepted by the rest of the
Congo as one of them. Karaha was poisoned and barely survived, and after Kabila turned against
the Banyawranda, he joined the RCD. Saving the animals and protecting the parks is clearly not a
priority of any of the three rebel factions, who are focused on winning the war, but Karaha
realizes the importance of these populations and their habitats to the international community, and
he pledged to help the project in any way he could, starting with an offer to provide me with a
military escort when I returned to visit PNV in two weeks. 
          Since the second war began, Karaha told me, 30,000 Rwandese Hutu have been
repatriated from North Kivu, and 8,000 from South Kivu, but there are still many Interahamwe
and their hostages in the region, thousands more in PNV and PNKB. His position, like that of
many Congolais I spoke to, is that the United Nations and the Americans created the problem by
failing to separate and disarm the Interahamwe and the ex-FAR in the refugee camps, so it was
their responsibility to solve it. In the fall of l994, hundreds of thousands of Hutu, fearing reprisal
for the genocide they had just committed from the advancing Tutsi-dominated RPA, poured over
the border at Goma, and were settled in 4 refugee camps that were kept going for two years by
the UNHCR and humanitarian ngos. The Interahamwe and ex-FAR ran the camps and launched
attacks from them in Rwanda and on the local Banyawranda, until October l996, when the
Banyamulenge with the help of the RPA broke up the camps. Most of refugees poured back into
Rwanda, but the hard-core g‚nocidaires fled west with hostages, and the RPA pursued them,
bent on revenge. Tens of thousands were massacred around Kisangani, but thousands installed
themselves in and around the parks and have still not been captured and are wreaking havoc on
the animals and the local people. As the RPA pursued the g‚nociadires, they slaughtered many
innocent Congolais. In August, l998 Kabila’s troops had a retaliatory pogrom of all the Tutsi they
could get their hands on, which was followed by more massacres of Congolais by the RCD as it
retook the eastern half of the country. So the hatred of Rwandans in eastern Congo, the
humiliation many citizens feel at being occupied by “Nilotics,” (most of Congo’s 450 ethnic
groups are Bantu) at this point is unbounded. One the project’s Congolais collaborators has a
theory that the UN and the Americans are so guilty about having done nothing to stop the
genocide or to disarm the refugees that they have given Rwanda the Congo in retribution.
      The outcome of the civil war depends on whether Kabila and his allies are able to keep the
rebels from taking Mbandaka. If Mbandaka falls, Kinshasa is next. Southeast of Mbandake is the
36,000 square-mile Salonga National Park, the largest protected tropical forest on earth, home to
the pygmy chimanzee or bonobo, the Congo peafowl, the forest elephant, and the slender-snouted
or false crococile. Salonga is also a beneficiary of the UNF project, but being in the government-
held part of Congo and so far relatively unscathed by the war and very difficult to get to, it is not
in the purview of this report. But when the fight for Salonga begins in earnest, Salonga could be
in serious danger. 

       The next morning, August 21, I flew over PNV to Beni, which is in the RCD-ML zone,
overland travel from Rutshuru to Kanyabayanga not recommended. There had been several recent
incidents of  Interhamwe burning vehicles and killing their passengers. Anti-Rwandese sentiment 
was running high in Beni and expressed more openly than in Rwanda-controlled Goma.  I asked
local agent of TMK, the airline I had flown in on,  what happened to the 33,000 hippos in the
park and he answered wryly, “We have replaced them with Tutsis, the species that you support.” 
      The slaughter of the hippos began when Mobutu’s unpaid soldiers mutinied at the end of l991
and turned their weapons on the huge herd and forced the dried  meat on the local people, making
them buy it at gunpoint. “Before that our people had never had a taste for game,” I learned from 
Kambale Kisuki, the RCD-ML’s Adjunct Commissar of Infrastructures. (All the high officials are
commissars because as the vice-commissar of defense Thomas Luhaka later explained to me in
Bunia, “We are still in the struggle. If we get the country we will become ministers.”.) 
Kisuki is a very good man, and a very important one for the future of the parks. Having worked
for WWF for eight years at RFO, he is a dedicated conservationist. But he is also a savvy
politician who knows how to navigate the unstable politics in this zone and get things done.
Kisuke had just repaved the main street of Beni and built a beautiful new wooden bridge across
the Epulu, a photograph of which he had reproduced on his calling card.
      At the moment, he told me, there were 13,000 refugees in Beni who were fleeing NALU and
ADF rebels who had swept down from the Ruwenzori, the fabled Mountains of the Moon. 
The negative forces around Kanyabayonga, on the western edge of the park,  had driven 110,000
i.d.p’s  toward Lubero, and a major humanitarian crisis was looming as it was impossible to get
food aid to them. Poaching, encroachment, and banditry are unchecked in northern sector of the
park, which extends above Lake Edward, and the central sector down to Rutshuru, as the guards
are not armed or paid and have no vehicles and it is impossible for them to make patrols. Only the
guards guarding the mountain gorillas in southern sector are paid by IGCP, the ones in north
haven’t seen a paycheck since the wars began and “morale is very low. They are in la misŠre
totale and pas motiv‚.”  The Shango-Kaviniango section of the park on the western side of the
lake is completely destroyed by Nande who have planted shambas. Several thousand  Hema 
cattlekeepers from Uganda, and escorted by UPDF, have invaded north of the lake at Karuruma.
(I would learn more about conditions in PNV on my return to Goma, see page 26 ff..)
      I also spoke with  an assistant conservateur from Maiko National Park named Valentin
Kambale-Kipiri Dilere, which has been completely abandoned. Maiko is the southern extension of
the Ituri Forest, and it has okapi, too, as well as thousands of  lowland gorillas and how many ?
Congo peafowl. It was proposed as World Heritage Site but kind of fell through the cracks,
because there was no in situ coop‚rant like the Harts or the Smiths to push it through.  The Harts
are trying to rectify this situation. Dilere told me that there is “no morale in Maiko. The guards
have scattered.” There is a relict population of several hundred Simbas in the forest. The Simbas
were the nativist-primordialist Maoist rebels who during the Mulele rebellion of l963-5 killed
whites and anybody with glasses, or a pen in their shirt pocket who was therefore tagged a
westernized ‚volu‚. The young Laurent Kabila was one of their commanders. The Mayi Mayi are
their idealogical decendants. The rebellion was put down by equally horrible European
mercenaries. In the early 90s a Congolais collaborator of the Harts who was trying to find out the
density and distribution of the okapi, elephants, and gorillas in Maiko, was kidnaped by some
Simbas. He was traded for a sewing machine. Dilere told me that most of the Simbas had just
surrendered to the RCD and were in Beni, being rehabilitated and recruited into the army. “We
wait along the Simbas’ paths for them to come out of the jungle for food,” Dilere went on. “I
killed many of them with my Uzi.”


      Kisuke said I better get going if I wanted to make Epulu by nightfall so I hopped on the back
of a motambusi a motorcycle taxi, also known as a pici pici, which was actually a flashy red
dirtbike,  driven by a 20-year-old named Patrique. We took off for Epulu down a slick red mud
track speeding through villages, that was all that was left of the old Belgian colonial road. The
road was, as Patrique put it,  impracticable. We passed a truck that had been mired in mud for
two days. A team of shirtless barefoot men digging it out. The driver was sitting in his cab in a
spanking white outfit. It is specified in his contract that he doesn’t have to dig. Women had
materialized with food. It ws a whole little scene.
       In the days of the Belgians Congo’s roads were so smooth that the Belgian road
superintendent would speed down them with a glass of water on his dashboard, and if a drop
spilled, the local sous-chef in charge of keeping up that section would get a beating. When I
passed through here 19 years ago, the roads were already in a state of advanced deterioriation.
Now they were completely abim‚es. Mobutu hadn’t kept them up because he wanted to make it
as difficult as he could for anybody to get to Kinshasa and overthrow him. This had its positive
side.  From the point of view of keeping down poaching and lumbering, Mobutu was a great
friend of the conservation effort. 
      Patrique expertly skirted gaping holes and threaded knife-edged ridges between pools of
water, flailing away with his black rubber booted feet at the passing ground, not wasting a second
or making a wrong move, as if he were in a race. The villages became fewer and farther between
the walls of trees and scrub. By 3:30, south of Tetuye,  we topped a rise and had a view of a vast
magnificent virgin rainforest spreading for miles to the west, huge trees well over a hundred feet
tall. The Samboko forest. It was filled with poachers, and several vintages of deserter, ex-FAZ,
ex-FAC, and ex-RCD, who preyed on the villagers at night and on the rare motambusi that passed
through. I didn’t know this, but few days earlier Innocent, one of RPO’s employees, had been
stripped and cleaned out. And GTZ’s Karl Ruf would be relieved of some of his goods along here
a few weeks later. But our horoscope was propitious. We reached the Ituri River, passed pygmy
women, black and white colobus monkeys streaming through trees, little zones of deafening full
throated birdsong and insect din, fifty-yard stretches of delicious aroma. I began to feel the magic
of one of the most cut off and inaccessible places on the planet. 
     After seven hours we reached Mambasa. It was too dark to continue. Fireflies were glancing
off the vizor of my helmet, and the sky was blazing with stars. We stopped at the Italian mission.
A good meal and a soft bed would be good about now, but it was not to be. The padre came out
and said he had visitors from Italy and was full up. He suggested the Hotel Des Pygmies, which
was beyond ratty. There was  one single bed on a concrete floor which Patrique and I shared. In
the morning I had to deal with the local immigration official, a man named Fredu who had been
there since Mobutu. “Vous ˆtes dans ma domaine migratoire,” he declared, and tried to hit me up
for a $40 permis de s‚jour.” I talked him down to twenty. He didn’t have a pen to enter my name
in his little ledger and tried to pocket the one I lent him. The old cleptocratic ways die hard. “The
first to break the law are les responsables,” one of RFO’s administrators told me. “Fredu is one
of the old Mobutu people and it’s not a touch of a magic wand that’s going to change them. From
May 97 to August 98 the state functionaries were paid by Kabila. There was security and the
maintenance of the roads. People were starting to respect the authority of the state. Now there is
nostalgia even for Mobutu.” Those contemplating giving aid to the Congo should bear in mind
that officials like Fredu are not the exception, but the rule. To understand how Congo got that
way, Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is required reading. It has been since its creation
as the Congo Free State by the king of Belgium for the plunder of its ivory, rubber, and other
resources,  a shell state, a “half-made country,” as V.S. Naipaul has called it, whose purpose is to
enrich whoever is in power, or as in the present moment, whatever neighbors are occupying it,
and their backers. 
     “You’ll like Epulu. The okapi meat is delicious,” Fredu told me, and one of his associates
offered me an ivory statuette of a nude that he said he had carved himself. 

     We set off for Epulu.     The beginning of the rains had brought out butterflies galore. Big
tailless papilios with blue wing bars (Papilio nireus ?) were puddling in the moist sand. The last
lepidopterist to work here, John Douglas of the Field Museum, for a few month in l989 , found
three new species. The lepidofauna of the Ituri Forest was no less spectacular than it was when I
passed through here in l981 and is waiting for some ballsy lepidopterist to take up where Douglas
left off.  After three hours we crossed Kambale Kisuki’s beautiful new bridge over the huge,
swollen Epulu River gushing through the forest. 
      On the other side of the bridge is the RFO headquarters, the old Okapi Capture Station of the
Belgians. It is a hauntingly beautiful spot, a version of the Garden of Eden or the Emerald Forest.
The old colonial buildings were trashed by Mobutu’s retreating soldiers in l996, then by the
armies of both civil wars. They have been rehabilitated and added to by GIC and WCS and the
compound is very shipshape and impressive, an island of order and sanity in a sea of chaos.
Young Congolais intellectuels looked up and beamed from computers, a talented artist showed
me his cartoons of okapi, elephants, and soybeans for educational comic books. An old guard
named Abedi Morishu recognized me immediately from 19 years ago, remembered that I was the
one who walked through the forest from Nduye to Epini for tens days, and had spent a few days
at the station with the Harts. (My book In Southern Light, pp. 116-181, relates my trek through
the heart of the Ituri Forest and lays out a lot of the natural history and ethnography).
          I met the conservateur en chef, Jean Joseph Mapilanga, an extremely competent and
intelligent man who is “something we can work with,” Terese Hart told me, and a great
improvement over some of his precedessors. Mapilanga has been at Epulu since l995. He told me
grimly, “In the 14 years I have worked for ICCN, the last year has had the worst conditions. Ivory
is being poached and coltan is being mined in our face. There is no authority. We have only ten
guns  eight Kalashnikov AK 47 and 2 Mozed 30’s and 40 guards, ten of whom are too old to go
on patrol, and we need 250 guards and many more arms. We are having a major elephant
poaching crisis and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

      One of the old guards led me through an allee of 100ft Terminalia trees to the stone house
where Karl Ruf was staying, and where I would be quartered for the next four days. The Harts
had left in early August. It was a great shame that we didn’t overlap, but I had visited them in
Booneville, on the other side of the Adirondacks from where I live, in July and we have been in
close touch since my return, and I was delighted to make the acquaintance of. Karl. He grew up in
Adelboden, in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland. I spent many summer of my childhood in
Kandersteg, in the next valley. We had climbed many of the same peaks and passes so I knew
exactly where he was coming from. He has the humility, simplicity, and generosity of the
oberlander, and is a very special human being,  in my book, a fantastic guy. 
      Karl trained to be a zookeeper in Basel and was hired by Mobutu to put together his zoo in
Gabdolite, which he spent four years doing. In l983 he and his wife Rosie, traveling around Zaire
on their vacation, drove past the derelect Okapi station. Grass was growing through the floors.
      The history of Epulu  is very interesting and I suggested to Mapilanga that someone should
collect it while the last people who remember Putnam and Turnbull are still alive. A booklet like
the superb one WCS did for Rwanda’s Nyungwe could be put together, laying out the natural and
human history and the ethnology of the Ituri Forest, and sold to tourists, once tourism resumes. 
In l991 8,000 tourists came to Epulu. Since then there has been barely a trickle.
     Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam, 1903-53, was of old Brahman stock and according to Helen
Winternitz  “a great eccentric…. beset by bouts of genius and madness. He was also an
anthropologist ruined by dilettantism who never published any substantial work on the pygmies,
although he eventually gathered a vast store of knowledge about them.” Arriving in the 30s,
Putnam founded a scientific research camp and hotel. He had a clinic where he vaccinated the
Mambuti pygmies and the local Bantu Babira farmers with whom they live in symbiosis. He
captured an okapi to show his guests. Putnam’s Bambuti were inherited by the American
anthropologist Colin Turnbull, who wrote the classic “The Forest People” and visited Epulu on
off through the early seventies. In l979 came the Harts, a great young American couple, he to
study pygmies and okapis, she a botanist. John has boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm
and a deep love and understanding of the pygmies and the African mindset.  Terese has a sharp,
sophisticated scientific mind and an good overall picture of the multiple interacting forces
impacting the parks. Administrative, diplomatic, and political skills not  found in many natural
scientists have blossomed in her  decades of struggling for the RFO.  The prospect of working
with the Harts was one of the reasons I took this assignment.  The Harts lived in Putnam’s old
house, on the other side of Epulu   and raised their children there. When I visited them 19 years
ago, we all took a swim in the river, right where in l994?  their daughter’s tudor had  her arm
bitten off by a Nile crocodile, which have grown in size and number, perhaps migrating down
from the Nduye, in the l990s so that swimming in the Epulu is not such a good idea any more. 
       The Okapi Capture Station was founded in l952 by a man named Medina , to provide okapis
to zoos, and there was some effort to domesticate elephants and farm Nile crocodiles. Nearby was 
an elegant hotel  that expatriates in Kisangani thought nothing of driving to for the weekend. The
same trip today takes weeks. The Okapi Station was abandoned during the 64-66 rebellion. The
Simbas ate all 28 of the okapis. When Karl and Rosie Ruf passed through in l983, they thought
what a great idea it would be to fix the place up and get it going again. “We knew all the zoos
were interested in fresh okapis  there were only 70 in a captivity   so we got them to invest in
a conservation project where in situ and ex situ you protect the animal in the wild,” Karl
explained. “12 zoos in the U.S. and 8 in Europe are contributing $5000 each a year which is used
to breed okapis here and to provide infrastructure like new guard posts. Three of the okapis are at
GIC’s White Oak Plantation in Florida. San Diego and Brookfield and Cincinatti zoos have sent
their females to breed with them, and the whole consortium decides where the babies go.
Wupperdal in Germany, for instance, has too inbred males so we are sending them  a fresh one.”
       GIC has been paying the guards $50 a month, with bonuses, $42 of which will now be paid
for by UNF, freeing up the GIC to fund pensions for the retired guards, to recruit new guards,
and to improve conditions for the people in Epulu, of whom 1500, the dependents and extended
families of RFO’s employees, local merchants, etc.,  Karl estimates already benefit from the
$26,000 a month that GIC has been bringing in. Until his death a few years ago, the 60 pygmies
on GIC’s payroll would send paper baron turned conservationist John Gilman their thumbprints in
gratitude  at Christmas.
       In 1996 Mobutu’s retreating soldiers looted $300,000 of vehicles, radios, and other
equipment at the station. Karl stayed till the last moment and barely escaped, jumping into a
friend’s plane in Mombasa with a jeep full of FAZ in hot pursuit. Things calmed down, and Karl
returned to pick up the pieces. In August 98 he had to bale out again. This time he was picked up
by Frazer Smith. 
       “In the last five  months,” Karl told me, “the elephant poaching has gotten completely out of
hand. Congolais deserters and regulars in league with the local chefs coutoumiers are doing most
of it, but Ugandan officers are also involved. The soldiers keep the ivory, and the chefs keep the
meat, so everybody is against the park.  Some of the poachers are given arms and shells by the
Congolese military to hunt for them. Shabani, a good hunter, is known to buy his shells from
soldiers. There is a big secret trade in guns and ammunition in the territory.”
       Elephants have always been hunted in the Ituri Forest. Traditionally pygmies ran up under the
elephant and plunged  spears into its belly. With the advent of the Kalashnikov, during the Mulele
rebellion, it became possible to mow down an entire herd with the squeeze of a trigger and the
carnage escalated exponentially. When I flew into Isiro in l981 there was a huge stack of tusks
lying on the runway, waiting to be loaded. They belonged to one of Mobutu’s officers. One of the
local Balese men who took me into the forest for eleven days was planning to start a little store in
his village with the proceeds of the tusks he had paid some pygmies to get for him. Killing an
elephant was then, and still is, one of the few ways to get ahead. Then with the IUCN’s ban on
international trade ivory in l988, the poaching fell way off.  But in the early 90s there was a gold
rush, and  huge mining camps sprang up that were provisioned with elephant meat. Now the gold
was just about gone, and everyone was digging for coltan. There was a camp with several
thousand miners at Badendaido, 60 kilometers to the west. Soldiers were selling them elephant
meat.  10 of the top RCD command in Mambasa were instigating a lot of the poaching. 
      Mapilanga showed me the latest report on poaching in and around the park from March to
August, illustrated with maps that displayed a high order of computer-graphics expertise. 16 stars
marked the hot spots : where there were reports of signs of poachers or contact between them
and the guards. Two were elephant carcasses found within ten km of Epulu. Elephants fleeing the
poaching were coming out of the forest and raiding the shambas, and someone had shot them.
Who was “not yet elucidated,” Mapilanga told me.   Diagonal slashes marking intense poaching
activity etched the roads along the southern and eastern borders of the park,  and part of western,
halfway up to Wamba; scored most of the center of the park and spread southeast three quarters
of the way down along the Mambasa-Beni road that I had come up on. 
      The only solution, it was becoming increasingly clear, was a full-scale military operation to
clean up the poaching. It would have to be headed by Ugandans, because it if was only RCD it
would be too tempting for them not to join in on the braconnage. To this end, the UPDF
commandant in Bunia, Colonel Angina, had been approached, and he was receptive to the idea. 
While I was there, the RF0 management met in an emergency session and had their final debate on
whether to go ahead with the operation. The protectors of the park were already none too
popular in certain quarters, and if they started to come down on the chefs coutoumiers and the
guys with the guns it could be very dangerous for them. But it was either that or lose the
elephants, and what were they there for ? In the end everyone at the meeting  voted uninamously
and without hesitation to go ahead with the operation. 
       The plan was to hire 40 soldiers, both UPDF and RCD, for three months.. GIC would foot
the $15,000 bill. The ten corrupt RCD commanders in Mombasa would be replaced, and the thirty
soldiers under them, who brought them the ivory from the poachers, would be recruited into the
anti-poaching force. If necessary the soldiers could be kept going with rations for a year.  The
ultimate goal was to establish the permanent presence of an authority with the threat of deadly
force. The first targets were the hot spots, the 16 stars. Mapalinga had the names of the most
notorious poachers. They would be arrested, and their guns would be given to the guards. “We
need 30 automatic weapons and 3000 shells,” Mapilanga told me. “The northern part of the park
has never been controlled. We need stations at Wamba and Digbo, and to get five guards,
working 15-day shifts, back to Moto Moto, as they did before the debut of the second war.”
Moto Moto is a village in the heart of the forest whose main raison d’etre, when I visited it 19
years ago, was to sell bushmeat to Wamba, and still is.
      The latest news from Karl Ruf, who is back at White Oaks,   is good (I phoned him on
October 20) : 30 soldiers reached Mambasa, the corrupt ten commanders were out of there, and
in two days two guns, 150 kilos of ivory, and two of the big poachers had been captured. 
      At 5 a.m. on Monday the 23rd I went into the forest  with Robert Mwinyihali, the
administrator of CEPRECOF,  partner of WCS, and Terese Hart’s right-hand man, an extremely
intelligent and dynamic young Congolese intellectuel. Robert is coordinating the zoning of the
villages around the park, a vital but massive task, with the help of a $65,000 grant from USAID.
With us was  a forester named FidŠle, who knew the scientific names of many of the plants and
obviously loved his work. We passed some huge thickets of native bamboo that had been
trampled flat by elephants who eat the young shoots.   14″ high white mushrooms that were not
edible. “They’d make your tongue hang out,” FidŠle told me.  Others equally tall with brown stars
on their caps. The mushrooms are as unstudied as the butterflies. The pygmies eat many species,
including a species of chantrelle  which they call kebekebe and eat raw, especially when they have
no store salt because it has a salty taste. We found masses of kebebeke under some
Gilbertiodendron  trees. They looked indistinguishable from the orange chantrelles of the
Adirondacks and the steinpils of the Alps. How what appeared to be the same mushroom could
be growing here is one of the many mysteries of the Ituri Forest.  I gathered some and cooked
them up for dinner and they were scrumptious. Some edible species from the Ituri Forest are sold
in Beni and Butembo. I suggested to Karl that with a small investment in a dehydrator you could
sell little jars of dried mushrooms labeled picked by the pgymies in the Ituri, proceeds going to the
World Heritage Site in danger, for ten dollars apiece easy, and he said, “Maybe by the time
stability comes we can think of such things.” 
    We passed some chimp nests. There are 13 species of primate in the RFO, and eleven species
of duiker, the dimunitive forest antelope, some noctural, some diurnal. FidŠle pointed out the knee
prints of a  elephant, a solitary old male,  that had slept there, then slid ten feet down the path. 
In l995 John Hart estimated that there were 5688 elephants in RFO’s 7200 km2, or .79 per km2,
greater than the density of Maiko or PNKB. But he wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how many
there are now. He has been contracted to monitor the elephant populations and illegal killing in
Cameroun, Gabon, and Congo for CITES. RFO, PNG, and PNKB are also on CITES’s official
danger list, and Hart will be working closely with UNF’s biodiversity and law-enforcement
monitoring programs, and will soon have a better idea of the impact of the poaching in RFO. 
About a hundred elephants are known to have been poached, but the actual number is probably
much greater. This part of the forest was a maze of fresh elehphant trails. The okapis, of
which Hart estimated there were 3456, are more elusive and are probably faring better.
     This “ellie,” as a delightful Englishman I met in Garamba calls them, had come to eat the
young saplings of saplings of Gilbertiodendron dewevrei, which the pygmies, for whom it is  an
important honey tree, call mbau.  The mbaus, in the Caesalpiniaceae family of the legumes,  are
among the grandest and most ubiquitous trees in the forest and are also an important source of
timber. Their eight-inch pods, which supposedly kept Henry Morton Stanley’s Emin Pasha Rescue
Expedition from starving when it passed through the Ituri Forest in l887, and broad brown leaves
littered the forest floor. 
     We reached the research camp at Lenda from which CEFREKOF’s botanical team has been
studying two ten-hectare plots, in which Gilbertiodendron is dominant, since l994. (Two other
ten-hectare plots of mixed forest elsewhere are also under study.)  The research is funded mostly
by WCS and is shared with the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Tropical Forest Science,
which has plots around the world. “We census everything that’s woody from one centimeter in
diameter up,” Robert explained. “We were the first to include stranglers and lianas. We have
found 689 species in all four plots, of which 242 are lianas  more than in Panama and India, but
fewer than in the Amazon and some parts of Malaysia.” Recently a tree in the Sapotaceae family
and in a genus previously found only in South America was discovered. The girths of 1000 trees
in a 20 by 100 meter transect are regularly measured to get an idea of their carbon intake rate, and
the flowering and fruiting times of 434 individual trees  in both plots are being recorded with the
help of the pygmies, who have their own names for all the 40 species to which they belong. 
This basic information will enable the researchers to understand the movement of the ellies and
other animals in the forest, and in the process of gathering it a new generation of Congolais 
conservationist is being trained. 
      The researchers had already left for the study plots, and rather than try to hook up with them,
we decided to return via one of the coltan mines in the forest, which was several hours’
bushwack. Terese has been gathering information on the coltan mining and its impact on the
wildlife in RFO and PNKB and suggested I pay a visit to one of the carri‚res. We are both
interested in learning the extent to which what is going on in Congo is a resource war in the guise
of a civil war. A pygmy named Asani, whose father Kenge was immortalized by Turnbull, led us
through the maze of elephant trails (many of them culs-de-sac) and pygmy honey trails. We
surprised a troop of Colobus badius monkeys at a salt deposit. There ae about 10,000 pygmies in
the Ituri Forest, one of the largest populations in the world, and to me they are as great a treasure
as the wildlife. The Bambuti are allowed to  hunt duikers and facochŠres (which are what Terese
?) in the park with traditional methods, nets and snares, to feed their families. Asani had helped
John Hart pit-trap and radio-collar 20 okapis in l988-90, which provided the first scientific
information about their range and habits. Like what ? 
      We announced our arrival at the mining camp by whooping and  banging a stake against the
thin, flaring buttress of an Eko julbernardia tree. The camp was called Bomalibala, Lingala for the
camp that causes divorce, because “any woman who comes here puts her hearth in danger,” one
of the miners told me. There was a  barrier manned the camp’s militia, teenagers with carved
wooden machineguns. It was a colorful scene, a village of thatched-mangungu-leaf shanties and
smokey fires, on which women, many of them young and pretty, were cooking dried fish and
beans. Most of the men were off mining coltan. The chief was passed out from drink and unable
to see us, but his porte-parole, his spokesman, told us that there were about 150  residents in the
camp. The miners were mostly autochthonous Babira, but there were some from Bafwasende.
The girls came from all over  Banande, Babudu, Babale, Balese, Bandaka. Some stayed a day or
two, some stayed longer.  They came with sacks of food and cooked for the men and danced and
drank and slept with them and departed with little plastic bags of coltan. The miners made little or
nothing for their labor, which is also the case with the people who kill the elephants.  The
spokesmen showed me a bagful of  heavy, irrisdescent-black flakes and nuggets of the metal,
which was worth $25 to $30 a kilo. The Harts had found buyers from South Kivu in this camp.
This was top dollar, I later learned, so the coltan must have been pretty pure. Once it reaches
Epulu, it is taken by the kumba kumba, the small traders who push bicycles laden with produce
and pedal and coast down the muddy tracks for several days  to Beni and Bunia. Some of it goes
to Kampala, some to Kigali. Where it ends up, and how much it is worth when it gets there, was
something that Terese and I were eager to learn. “We don’t know what it is for or where it goes,”
the spokesman told me. “We are mining it because gold is scarce. This is not a village of family
ties, but of mutual interest. We have an established order, a commandant and our own police.
Thieves and sorcerers are rejected. We don’t accept the killing of okapis or elephants, but
sometimes soldiers come with elephant meat, and we are obliged to accept it. The people at the
station want us to leave, but to go where and do what ? We can’t support ourselves by growing
food or fishing because the roads are abim‚es. More and more of us are leaving our villages and
going into the forest in the quest to survive.”
      There are about 50 such camps in the RFO. As we walked back out to Epulu, we came across
half a dozen men who were digging up a streambed and shoveling the alluvium into halved-log
sluices. The destruction was appalling but confined to 50 yards of the streambed which would
probably recover after several rainy seasons.  A hard-working miner could make $15 a day at this
even he didn’t give his coltan to the women  big bucks in this part of the world. 
     Karl Ruf gave me a tour of the station’s well-stocked and manned dispensary, the experimental
plots of nitrogen-fixing legumes with which the villagers will eventually be able to prolong the life
of their shambas and thus reduce the pressure on the forest, the cane-rat breeding program,  the
beautiful new school GCI had built, the springs that provided water to the villages that GCI is
cleaning up, the overgrown airstrip that he had cleared in l995 and was applying to the authorities
in Bunia for a permit to reopen. One of Epulu’s chief, whose name was Bakotila, gave me a
different tour. He took me to the village’s empty dispensary, at one time but no longer supported
by an Italian ngo,  where a young man, down with malaria,  was trying to ride out his splitting
headache. “The people demand care, but there is no medicine, no pay for the nurses or the
teachers, because the state has no means,” said Bakotila.. We called on Kenge, who was prostrate
with grief because his wife had been killed a few weeks earlier by a falling tree in the shambas, and
visit the pygmy camp of Mayanimingi. The women had acquired a taste for pots and metal
cooking ware since my last visit, but otherwise their happy-go-lucky way of life seemed little
changed. They danced for me, and all too soon it was time to leave Epulu.
       Considering the pressures on RFO, morale among its protectors is remarkably high, although
the collaboration of certain individuals could be better.. The only complaint I heard is that funds
are not getting to the site in an expeditious manner. The emergency funds promised by UNESCO
in January, l999 have yet to arrive. 

       I was not looking forward to the  next leg of my journey  getting to Bunia, the capital of
RCD-ML. Prior to my departure the UN’s IRIN bulletins (an invaluably detailed source of day-to-
day conditions in the DRC) reported that  inciviques believed to be NALU rebels and/or ex-FAC
deserters were assaulting vehicles traveling from Beni to Bunia at Mufutabangi and abducting the
female passengers into the bush. And there was also heavy banditry by a band of mixed deserters
along the 60 km. stretch from Mambasa to Lolwa, which is particularly abim‚e. A kumba kumba
had had his dried fish and his bicycle stolen a few days earlier, and a woman had been abducted
from a motorcyle. Plus 400 UPDF soldiers coming west on the road from Bunia, perhaps to
reinforce Bemba in Equateur, and they would certainly not let such a windfall as a mundele
(lingala for white) on a motorbike pass without relieving him of at least some of his goods.
Mapilanga thought it would be safer  to return to Beni and fly to Bunia, and he didn’t get any
argument from me. Getting in and out of RFO in one piece is a serious problem, and I am with
Karl that the airstrip should be reopened. But the strip has to be controlled by the park. If
undesirable parties like Kabila’s soldiers are trying to land, empty oil barrels can be rolled out.
Terese is worried that the reopening of the airstrip would require the presence of RCD soldiers
who could cause problems,  that it could be used to get resources like coltan and ivory out like
the five strips in and around PNKB. The security on the ground from Beni and Bunia, she argues,
is a personal problem, not the park’s. But sooner or later somebody is going to be not just robbed,
as Karl was a few weeks after I left, but killed, and that will not be huge loss. It was Karl who
said, “And if I die, just bury me somewhere in the forest.” 
      Karl instructed me how to behave should I be waylaid : in one pocket, you have your first
offering. If the bandits are not happy with that, you produce your second offering. If they still
want more, you let them have it. Under no circumstances should you resist. They would have no
qualms about killing you on the spot.
      Passing back through  Mambasa, I called on the interim administrator of the territory, 
Nyamabaku-dudu Marc. After telling him that I did not appreciate being shaken down by his
colleague Fredu, I asked if he thought the existence of the  RFO was a positive thing.  “We can do
nothing,” said Nyamabaku-dudu. “It is an organism that has been around for many years.” As for
the UNF’s project, he assured me, “We are here to cooperate. We are open.” Are there any plans
to do something about the poaching ? (I was sworn to secrecy about the joint operation with the
Ugandans. Colonel Angina had said if word gets out that the RCD command in Mambasais going
to be removed it could backfire badly, and the deal is off.) “We hear some chefs coutoumiers are
involved and we are investigating,” he told me.  “The population and the deserters of Mobutu,
Kabila, and Wamba are hard to control, because we don’t have much of a unified strike force, but
we will send a report to our superiors and they will  tell us what to do. Why hasn’t the
conservateur sent us a report on the coltan mining in the park ? It’s been going on for six months.
The miners are possibly put up to it by les exterieurs.” Who told them the stuff was valuable ?
“Maybe buyers in Mambasa, Bunia, and Beni. The miners say they have no alternative, and it’s
        On the trip back down to Beni we passed fifty pygmies dancing.  At Luemba the RCD
commandant for the region, or so he identified himself, flagged us down and commandeered two
litres of our gas for his motorcycle. He made me open my bag, hoping there was ivory in it that he
could confiscate, and instead found my small traveling guitar  which he took a fancy to. I said I
need that and you can’t have it and it you bug me any more I’ll tell Wamba, whom I’m on my way
to see.” “Don’t threaten me with Wamba,” said the commandant. “He does nothing for us. Kabila
gave us $100 in the beginning, but Wamba has never given us anything. On se d‚brouille.”
        In the end, he contented himself with the gas, and we sped on until we reached Kambale
Kisuki’s house. A dozen women were sitting on the back porch, knitting silently, the Beni knitting
club.  Rosie Ruf had taught them. 
        Kisuki’s gave me some hard-hitting questions to ask Wamba, and in the morning, just as he
was about to take me to the airport, some Ugandan soldiers came in a truck and took him away.
“It’s good that you’re seeing this how we are treated,” he said as they drove off. His driver
explained,  “Wamba ordered all the ministers to Bunia where he can keep an eye on them and
Kisuki refused.” Kisuki was in the camp of Mbusa Nyamwisa, Wamba’s former prime minister
who was now trying to overthrow Wamba along with his former finance minister, John Tibasima. 
Mbusa controls Beni, Tibasima controls the Ituri district.  A few weeks earlier Tibasima had
fomented a mutiny of the Third Battalion, which is mostly Hema, a tribe of Nilotic pastoralists
whose 70-year-old land struggle with the Bantu agriculturalist Lendu has for the first time turned
genocidal, with 7,000 killed last year, perhaps in an aftershock of the big atomic genocide in
Rwanda six years ago. The battalion went to the forest demanding Wamba’s removal, accusing
him of being tribalistic and anti-Tutsi. Wamba dia Wamba is a Mukongo from Bas Congo. Kisuki
spent a few days in jail and was released. A few days later Mbusa and Tibasema launched a putsch
against Wamba with some of the local Mayi Mayi, but were beaten back by the UPDF.
Subsequently they all appeared to have kissed and made up, but the latest (as per Oct. 25 IRIN
bulletin) is that the situation is spiraling “out of control” according to Wamba . Colonel Angina
has been transferred to Wamba’s chagrin (and what does this means for the operation in RFO ?),
and Ugandan officers supporting his rivals and erstwhile deputies Mbusa and Tibasima have taken
the airport and the radio station. 

      I flew to Bunia that morning, the 27th. The taximan had no gas. We ran out after a quarter of
mile, then his battery gave out, and finally the whole vehicle started rattling violently and it took
an hour to get to Morgan’s, the European-style guest house.  Morgan (a Congolais who was
adopted by a Belgian named Morgan) had had four Toyota 4/4’s, with which he had taken tourists
to Epulu, but had been looted by Mobutu’s soldiers, and the guest house was trashed. He was
rebuilding his life little by little. “We live dans un pays Western,” he told me.
     Morgan is a useful contact and ready to be of help. He introduced me to his cousin, Thomas
Luhaka, the RCD’s gentle young vice-commisar of defense, who  came from the diaspora like
most of Wamba’s entourage. He was teaching law at the University of Paris II. Luhaka went to 
Wamba and returned with the news that “the professor will see you at 16:00.”
      Luhaka had no gas, either, so we walked to the sparsely furnished mansion, out on a spur,
where Wamba stays. Wamba knew my work. “He says you are a grand journaliste who writes
things that are justes,” Luhaka told me. I had given an enthusiastic blurb to his son Phillippe
Wamba’s book, Kinship, about Afro-Americans’ quest for their African roots, and had sent word
through Phillipe that I hope one day we would meet. I found Wamba to be much as Robert
Mwinyihali described him :  “calm and  very intelligent. He understands problems intellectually
and puts them in their theoretical context, but he is an academic, not a politician. He says he who
kills the environment is committing suicide, but  he has no means to intervene. Most of his
entourage thinks the forest is there for quick enrichment.” Wamba struck me an ivory tower type
who is surrounded by warlords. He would make a great rector of the university but will never be
president any more than Ilunga, a weak puppet of the Rwandans, will. He spent from l981 to l998
as a professor at the University of Dar Es Salaam teaching African historiography and the history
of  imperialism worldwide, including colonialism and neocolonialism. He was the chairman of the
meeting that created the RCD in August 98, but by the following May he was eased out by a
putsch in Goma and created his own faction. We talked for four hours.
I left with the impression that he has no illusions about his presidentiality and is genuinely
interested in promoting an inter-Congolese dialogue in which everyone sits down at the table and
works out their differences and decides what the new state will be. “Congo’s traditions are
democratic,” he told me. “The Bakongo king was elected by a small college which chose one his
predecessors numerous nephew, so it’s wasn’t hereitary in a sense. Where there wasn’t a king, the
villages had palavers. There wasn’t a real chief with real power, it was more egalitarian. Everyone
sat in the baraza and had their say, and the elders empowered the chief to take action. But then
the Belgians made the chiefs the executors of their corv‚e and other exactions, and they became
petty tyrants.” What Wamba wanted to see was two parliaments. One would be an ethnic
parliament, in which each of 450 ethnic groups, no matter how big or small, had the same vote,
which could decide on how to resolve ethnic questions like  the Hema-Lendu problem, for
instance, could rule who came first and who is entitled to what. Then there would be an elected 
chamber for matters of national scope.
       I observed that  the UNF project offered a golden opportunity for the three rebel factions to
collaborate on an issue of mutual concern, which might lead to greater cooperation and
reconciliation, and for their soldiers to channel their energies into something positive and
patriotic. Wamba agreed. I pointed out that the forests of Haut Congo are some of the last
relatively intact primeval rainforests on earth, and that it would be a mistake to exploit them
prematurely, because they were money in the bank. The trees would only keep growing and
become more valuable, and the next generation of reserachers would have much more
sophisticated means to decode the DNA of the plants, etc.; perhaps the cure for AIDS or cancer
was waiting to be discovered in some fungus. “We have to discover a way of living where we are
not disturbing much of the forest and at the same time are living allright,” Wamba said.  What
practical modalities do you plan put in place to support the UNF project ? I asked. “We will give
guns and training to the guards and control the illegal arms circulating and reintegrate the
deserters. We need Uganda for a while. In Lusaka [the accord of August, l999, in which the
belligerents except for Kabila agreed on a plan for ceasing hostilities and in the case of the foreign
allies, withdrawing from the country],  they have responsibility for maintaining security until we
resolve they should go. Once a liberation movement takes power, if it doesn’t change the politics
of armed struggle the tendency will be to resolve problems violently. Once you have soldiers
outside their country for a long time and no politicians on the terrain to keep them in line the
temptation to steal by force is very great. This very tempting area. There has  to be some political
element that emphasizes the duties of soldiers.” 
       I praised  Kambale Kisuke to the skies and asked Wamba what he thought of him. “Kisuke is
one fellow we want to keep in the new circle,” he said. “Usually we have somebody who deals
with the dossier. If need be we could appoint a specific person to liaise with UNF and the parks.
Kisuke is fine with me. We could appoint some high officer to investigate the d‚gats of the
soldiers. That we could do.” I should point out that Kisuke was not angling for such a position,
nor did I suggest him. The idea just came out in conversation, but it may not be a bad one.
      I told Wamba about a recent discussion I had had with Al Gore about Africa. Gore told me
about a physicist called Prirogine who won the Nobel prize for a new law of thermodynamics
which pertains for open systems (in which the energy flows in and out). When the energy becomes
more than the system can handle, it breaks down, and simultanously  a new, more complex system
starts to develop. This process of “creative destruction” is what Gore thinks is happening in the
environment (excess co2 is wreaking havoc with existing climate regimes and weather patterns),
and in Africa, where the “state,” an invention and an imposition of the Europeans, is breaking
back down into smaller, more meaningful ethnic and tribal groups. Wamba found this take
intriguing. “One has to consider what form this principle of themodynamics expresses itself  in
terms of society,” he said. “If you look at the breakdown of Mobutuism : his notion of geopolitics
was that each group can gather its  fruits and nature, which gives the fruit, will deal with the
maintenance. But here an open system needs feedback and maintenance. In places where there is
not enough space or resources for everybody, the notion of who was here first becomes the ruling
principle, so the ‘Banyawranda’ have become the cause of everything, and the tribal units Gore
may be thinking of are not really there.”
       Even Wamba’s car had no gas, and another one had to be brought around to take me back to
     Lusaka came to see me in the morning. He, like Kisuki, is a very good guy, the most sensitive
African minister of defense I’ve ever met and someone the project can work with. Lusaka
remarked that the Congo’s civil war was a relatively soft one, and were it not for foreign troops
intervening and in fact coming to blows themselves [viz the UPDF and RPA’s embarrassing
firefights in Kisangani] it wouldn’t be lasting so long. “The province of Ituri is unique because it
has all four ethnic groups, Bantu, Sudanic, Nilotic, and pygmy,” he told me. “The Tutsi  can be
Congolais, Rwandais, Ugandan, Burundian, or Tanzanian. We call them all Banyawranda. The
Banyamulenge Tutsi were massacred by Mobutu and since the state didn’t protect them they feel
they have to control the apparatus of state. But we say to them you should support the republican
Congolais who considers nationality a juridical, not a biological notion. All Bantu are not
Congolais just as all Tutsi are not Congolais. They are a bit everywhere. That is Wamba’s notion.
The RPF should help us reestablish the authority of the state, the army, and the administration,
and at that point the Republicans can guarantee the rights of all Congolais. Fred Rwigema (the
founding leader of the RPF, who was killed on the first day of its invasion of Rwanda, in October, 
l990) was a republican. He was for le Rwanda pour tout le monde and he was killed by extremists
in his own movement.
     “The replacement of the corrupt RCD command in Mombasa must be accompanied by a big
campaign of sensibilization of the population, and this where we need your help,” Lusaka
continued. “To sensibilize them about the importance of protecting nature and conservation. The
population doesn’t understand that okapis constitute a great treasure for them. Kenya, Egypt, and 
Turkey exist in great part thanks to  money from tourism. If we have peace and the roads are
rehabilitated tourists will bring much money to Epulu.  I am privileged to be a Congolais because
I will leave to my children an inheritance that neither Rockefeller nor Onassis nor Picasso have left
to their heirs. Neither Rockefeller nor Picasso left them okapis, white rhinos, and mountain
gorillas. It’s inestimable as a heritage. If I can make these animals multiply I will be proud of my
      I called on Faustin Lola Lapi, the Commissar of Agriculture, Rural Development, Fishing and
Forests, which also deals with tourism and the environment. The Commisariat occupies the first
floor a former commercial building partitioned into small cubicles and is obviously sans moyens.
Then I met with the governor of the province, Ernest Uringi Pa-dolo. “We’re behind UNF 100%
if you’re coming to protect our richesses,” he told me. “We will protect your security and the
biens you are bringing. We deplore the absence of a radio-phone at Epulu. It would be great if
some coop‚rant brought the means for us to communicate with them.” I said it would be great if
the insecurity along the roads from Mambasa and Beni could be taken care of. “We have one
jeep,” lamented the governor. “And our other vehicles can’t leave the city, so there is not much
we can’t do about it.” The funds that could have purchased more 4×4’s were absconded with by
Mbusa and Tibasima. The coffers of the RCD-ML are empty. 

     Morgan’s son drove me to the airport at 3:00. Kes and Frazer Smith, who were coming from
Nairobi, were right on time in their single engine what kind of plane belonging to the Frankfurt
Zoo. With them were their children, Doungu and daughter’s name ?, and their British friend
David Simpson, a freelance editor who works mostly for UNEP and couldn’t have been nicer. (It
is Simpson who calls elephants “ellies” Frazer had brought along some mosquito canopies which
he distributed to the customs and immigration people in return for their not inspecting what else
was in the plane. Even so, it took 45 minutes of haggling and palavering before they let us out of
there. Frazer, a short, stocky South African in his forties wearing shorts and sandals and a khaki
shirt with epaulets, was obviously a pro at this.
     Just as we were becoming airborne, two tanks with  Ugandan soldiers in their cockpits,
looking ultra-cool with shades and with cigarettes dangling  from their mouths,  patched  out of a
hangar adjacent to the passenger building and took off at full tilt down the road into town, tearing
it to pieces. Looking back on it, the coup against Wamba may have already been starting. We got
out of Dodge none to soon. 
     Just of Bunia are the Blue Mountains, where serious inroads are already being made into the
valuable timber (Entandrophragma sp. and Khaya ), and there is I believe some extremely
interesting geology, and after them the landscape is almost undisturbed by humans. There are only
a few huts and shambas and purposeful tracks through the ecotone where the eastern edge of the
Ituri Forest gives way to savanna, and the more numerous, less purposeful tracks of ellies and
other large mammals, meandering through a jumble of granite knobs, koppis as South Africans
call them. We flew over pure rainforest of some stature frothing over a rangelet and along a
gleaming ribbon of water meandering beneath it I spotted a clearing with maybe half a dozen little
domes of thatched mangungu leaf and no shambas   a pygmy camp deep in the forest. Then
Watsa appeared off to the west, where there was recently an outbreak of Mahrberg virus at 
Dodo, the main gold mining camp. 
      “We’re lucky we don’t have the same kind of human pressure as Virunga or Kahuzi Biega
do,” Kes said over the headphones. The tsetse fly is a large part of the reason why there is still a
lot of wildlife in the savannas of central Africa.  Kes is a reserved, intense, extremely capable and
focused and determined red-haired  Englishwoman without an ounce of body, a real-life Katherine
Hepburn, definitely a femme de fer, and the down-to-earth, supremely practical  Frazer is her
Spenser Tracy.  I could see why Frazer and Karl have a great friendship. Kes and Frazer met in
Botwsana, where Frazer was a ranger in one of the parks. 
      Kes started out in Africa as a zoologist examining slides of hippo flesh for parasites, then she
participitated in Ian Douglas-Hamilton’s continent-wide elephant survey, in the course of which
she realized that the rhinos, being far less numerous, were  urgently in need of being located and
protected. She originally thought that she would work in the national parks of southern Sudan,
where there were several hundred northern white rhinos, Cerototherium simum cottoni 
 left. But by the time her grant money, from WWF Holland, was in place, the civil war between
the SPLA and Khartoum spread into the parks and all the rhino were completely wiped out, or
there could be one or two left. So Kes switched her field of study to PNKB, where the last viable
population of the subspecies is hanging on. 
      We crossed the Kibali River, which runs into the Nzoro, which is in the Congo drainage; the
Congo-Sudan border follows the divide between the Nile and Congo basins. North of the Kibali
begin PNG’s domaines de chasse, where the local people– Logo, Azande, Baka, Mondo, Kakwa,
and Lugwara   are allowed to do subsistence hunting with traditional methods  spears, snares,
nets. If they use a firearm, which not a few of them do, it becomes poaching. In the old days,
European and American trophyhunters paid big bucks to bag a buffalo or a hartebeest in the
domaines de chasse. There are some shambas in the domaines. They are technically not allowed,
but tolerated.  The three domaines of mixed savanna-woodland are zones tampon, buffer zones,
for the park itself, which begins  north of the Nagera River. A 4600-km2 island of long-grass
savanna dominated by the Loudetia arundinacea and Hyparrhenia species, with no trees except
the occasional Combretum or sausage-tree that has taken root in the bare circle of a washed-away
termitarium and the gallery forest that lines that crevices and fissures of the well-watered, spring-
rich open plain. This was the very geographical center of the continent, “the bright heart of
Africa,” as Alan Root calls it in his splendid documentary of PNKB, to counter the negative
stereotypes (Conrad’s “heart of darkness,” Stanley’s “darkest Africa”) that have taken hold in the
Western imagination. Big herds of large animals roam in the grass which was now 6 feet tall. 
. The reason for the existence of this island of grass in a sea of trees is debated : is it natural, or
was it cleared by fires set by the local people in the past, or due to the high ellie density which
keeps  saplings from getting anywhere, or a combination of the three ? There are now roughly
6000 ellies, give or take a thousand. In l983, when Kes started working in PNKB, there were
7,500. There was a big wave of elephant and rhino poaching throughout Africa from 1973-84,
and by l985 the PNKB ellie population had hit an all-time low of 4,500. By l995 it had rebounded
to 11,000. Then the civil war came, and it was cut in half. Now it is growing again. Similarly the
buffalo, 25,000 strong in l995, were reduced to 8,000  in early l997, and are now back up to
13,000, (there wasn’t as much poaching in the second war), and the hippos have gone from 3,500
to 800 to 1000, and the rhinos have gone from 29 to 26 to 30. The giraffes have gone steadily
down, however (from 178 to 144 to 118), as have the waterbuck (1700 to 1400 to 1100),
hartebeest, kob, warthog and roan. The animals have been poached out of the northern part or
driven south  by mostly Sudanese poachers. The worst moment was when tk when Kes and
Frazer flew over the Nagera and it was choked with the carcasses of machine-gunned hippos with
their feet in the air in rigor mortis.
        We landed, were greeted by Mbayma Atalia, the conservateur en chef, and taken to park
headquarters, an impressive compound of buildings built to last by the Belgians. PNKB was
created in l938. Before that it had been a station for domesticating elephants. King Leopold’s
dream had been to use elephants for heavy work, like tractors, to build the infrastructure of his
private kingdom in the Congo. He tried unsuccessfully to introduce ellies from India, and the first
local elephants were captured by Lt. La Plume in l901 and a station was set up at Gangala da
Bodio, how many km west of Nagera. In the early days the mother would be shot, and her calf
trained.  There are old fotos of 100 ellies parading with military precision. The ellies were a big
tourist attraction. In l987-8 Kes tried to revive the domestication program, but Mobutu heard
about the two young ellies she was training, Kwanza and Ruby, and requisitioned them. Kwanza
died in the Kinshasa Zoo, the sorriest zoo I have ever seen, and Ruby died in a crate in Isiro, in
which she had spent a month while arrangements for her to be flown to Gbadolite dragged on. By
l998 there were only 3 regularly handled ellies; the others had been set free. One had a baby but
both died, so now there are two. Kes envisions some day elephant-back safaris to tent camps in
the savanna, but it’s hard to get sponsors for that sort of thing, and she has other, more urgent
things on her plate.
      The Smith’s house was idyllically set right on the river. From the lawn we could see a 14-foot
crocodile named Humphrey sunning on a rocky islet and red-throated beeeaters taking off from
branches and performing incredible  aerial acrobatics over the water, black and white colobus
hurtling through the trees across the river. Warthogs browsed under the broad-leaved teak trees
and all night long a pod of hippos harrumphed and groaned and jostled and snorted and bellowed
irritably . We slept under mosquito canopies, but that did not keep me (even though I was taking
Lariam), David, and Doungou from getting falciparum malaria a fortnight later. I am deeply
grateful for David’s advice to pop three fancidars the minute followed by a weeklong cocktail of
two antiobitoic to kill the spirochetes in my liver. . I  a bad night exactly a week after I got back
to Montreal of splitting migraine, high fever and uncontrollable shivering, and by morning I was
already on the road to recovery. 

       Kes explained the evolution of the project : “We had been discussing the problems of doing
surveys in combat areas with the Harts, of practical punctual intervention, guard training and
immediate support for world heritage sites in danger, of expediting getting funds to the field,   and
talking about joint projects for years.” John had published a paper in April 1996 with Jefferson
Hall called “Conservation in the Declining National State : A View from Eastern Zaire;” with
Terese a year later “Conservation and Civil Strife : Two Perspectives from Central Africa;” and in
November l997 “Conservation in Crisis.” Alan Root had put the Smiths in touch with Nick
Lapham, who was looking for projects the UNF could take on,  in l998, and in April of l999, the
ngo partners from all five sites met in Naivasha. Kes and Terry wrote up the concept and
presented it to UNESCO in July, then another meeting in Lenana generated the project document,
and at last November’s UNF board meeting the funding was approved. With Kes as the project
coordinator, I’m sure it will have all the success that can be hoped for.
        We spent a lot of time in the air, looking for rhinos, and the Smiths spotted four new ones 
great news except that two were in one of domaines. They must have crossed the Nagera during
the dry season, before it rose, as rhinos can’t swim, their inability to raise their heads making them
vulnerable to drowning. The adult males have a fixed home range of 30 to 100 km2 while the
subadult male and the females roam over a larger area. They live naturally from 30-40 years, the
males become dominant at 15-20. The northern subspecies differs from the southern, of which
there are still several thousand, in the following ways : it doesn’t lose its hair as an adult, it has
more dorsal concavity, it holds its head higher, and is somewhat smaller and less heavy. It has
been an Appendix One species (total ban on international trade) since IUCN started in the thirties.
Kes said the market for rhino horn, prized in the Arab world as an aphrodisiac, appears to be
shrinking. One researcher reported that a high-priced horn in Cairo wasn’t moving at all. But this
doesn’t make the rhinos of Garamba any less vulnerable. Most of the poaching these days is for
bushmeat, and the poachers and their customers are omnivorous. Buffalo are the first choice, then
ellies, hippos, and the various horned ruminants. The giraffes (Griffa camelopardis congensis,
closest geographically to the Nubian giraffre which it resembles except for its very white legs) are
somewhat protected by a local belief that their meat will give you leprosy. 
      We flew back and forth over the 2600 km2 rhino sector in the southern center of the park.
Looking for 26 rhinos in the tall grass was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We saw ellies in
the hundreds, buffalo and Lewell’s hartebeest by the thousands. Kes had on her lap her hard won
chart of the  individual rhino’s profiles  with their distinctive horn shapes and sizes and facial
wrinkles or the distinctive chunks snipped from their ears while they were darted. The population
is in its third generation since she began to study it in l984. Her methods became progressively
more refined. She gave up radio collars, which the rhinos eventually shook or rubbed off,  for
transmitters inserted in their drilled horns, which she no longer does as to justify the risk of
anesthetizing them she would have to be here all the time, and in l996 the Smiths, after eleven
years and bringing up their children in this incomparable natural setting,  moved to Nairobi and
now only come every few months. Kes must be content with monitoring the rhinos from the air.
“You can see twenty in a day, while on foot it takes two days to spot one. There’s Millenium, the
first rhino to be born this year, Julu’s daughter, and a male  Kengo or Mobolifui  who is not
necessarily Millenium’s father.”
     I tried to imagine what it was like for someone like Kes,  Jane Goodall or Dian Fossey
 to have started such a field study of an animal in the wild entirely on her own, the courage,
character and perseverance that it took. “We’re loners,” Kes explained.”You have to believe
totally in yourself and what you’re doing and to be willing to fight for it.
       Kes explained that her focus over the last decade of necessity has been more on anti-poaching
than research. In l991 the SPLA took the city of Merida. At that point there were only 18 rhinos. 
 7000 refugees poured into the park. A year later there were 80,000 refugees in Dungu and Aba.
“Ever since then the poaching has been getting worse and worse,” Kes told me. “The peak bad
was in l997, when the guards had their weapons taken by the AFDL. The poachers seized the
opportunity and there was a big spike of accrochages [shootouts], almost 40 in l997. Then it
subsided, and shot up again  in the second war  A lot of the poachers were SPLA, and some were
from Congo. We flew over 11 active camps in the rhino sector. For 18 months, from August, l998
to April of this year,  we couldn’t find out what was happening because we weren’t allowed to
have an airplane. We found that the  population had risen to 26. Some had been poached, but we
found 7 new calves, and the number was still 26.” 
        Last summer   SPLA was persuaded to mount a mixed operation with the guards against its
own deserters, which took place this January, with great success except that some of the soldiers
stayed on and lived off the villagers, which caused ill will, food stress and more impetus to poach.
We met the SPLA’s political counseler, a very black, bearded Sudanese man named Hassan (did
you get his last name Kes ?), who was in charge of the “oppression,” which was I think his way of
pronouncing  operation. We were all very curious to find out how the SPLA had been persuaded
to cooperate with the park. “The park is international,” he explained. “It is in  Congo, but it
borders Sudan. The Congolese authorities in Aba complained to the commissioner of Yei [a
county of Sudan that border the park] that too many of our deserters were disturbing their people.
The commissioner sent me to confirm that this was true. I confirmed it, and the commissioner
referred the matter to the high command of the 2nd front, including Colonel Garang [John
the SPLA leader], and we were told to go ahead and signed an agreement with Aba to carry out a
joint oppression. So after I spent 105 days in Aba collecting information, 653 soldiers were
deployed, and we got 73 deserters and 27 rifles” which I believe were given to the guards  All this
took place on the southern and eastern periphery of the park. As a result the evidence of poaching
was way down. Last month there had been no gunshots or contacts. A second, smaller
oppression, which had been talked about since January, with 50 SPLA and 21 guards, an 82-
member force in all, was about to get underway in the same area.  Kes was eager for a similar
oppression to happen on the western and southwestern periphery, where most of the poaching is
now happening. But we flew to Dungu and spoke with the commissaire de zone, Sangbalenze,
and he was very against any SPLA “oppression” in his zone. In October, l998 the SPLA came
down and forcibly repatriated about 20,000 of the refugees and in the process committed terrible
d‚gats on the local Azande people. “The population is gen‚e,” Sangbalenze told us. “The
systematic pillage of Dungu by the SPLA was the worst thing Dungu has ever experienced. No
one accepts them as liberators.”
       “The PNG guards have better surveillance capacity than the RFO ones,”  Kes told me.
They’re better armed (100 functional arms  confiscated from poachers and used in shifts) and
better trained  and there are more of them (180). They get into shootouts once a month.  Being
able to use deadly force after firing three warning shots into the air is Kes believes a real
deterrent.  Frazer had arranged several of the best guards from each of the parks to go to South
Africa in October for training by African  Ranger Field Services in how to train the other guards
in the conservation ethic and in bush tactics that would enable them to operate in very small units.
An ARFS mobile training unit will also visit each park.   “The Congolese military only attacks
when they outnumber the enemy,” Frazer explained. Mbayma was sending his guards out in
patrols of 30, which Frazer felt was larger than was needed, as the poachers operated in groups of
8-25-40, but only a few had guns. The rest were porters or butchered and smoked the meat. With
many smaller units Frazer argues that you would get better coverage. He had brought several
models  of small camouflage tent custom-made  for the guards in Nairobi for them to try out 
       I interviewed the chefs de section of the guards, and they had real esprit de corps, real
dedication to la lutte anti-braconnage, as Mbayma called it, although their loyalty must be
constantly reinforced with bonuses. Most of the guards had kept on through the chaos, without
conservateurs, pay, or arms. I suggested that a plaque be prepared, a roll of honor of all the
guards who had been killed or wounded in the course of duty, and placed perhaps on the park’s
50th anniversary monument. IRF could send out a fundraising letter to raise money for the
pensions for the widows, perhaps even life insurance  for the guards. That afternoon one of the
conservateurs presented me with the honor roll, broken down into four categories, which he had
done on his computer. Since l987 6 guards have been killed and 13 wounded in accrochages and
6 killed and 6 wounded by animals. The list did not include Ali Rutarema, the Tutsi magasinier
who was a 20-year employee of ICCN and was killed during the pogrom by Kabila’s soldiers in
August, l998, and I urged that he be added to it. 
    A few guards decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity to help themselves the absence
of conservators provided  and made off with the radio and solar panels at the relay station, and a
few turned to poaching. I interviewed one of these, whose name was Mortimer. When he was
caught in June,  Mbayma had to restrain the guards from beating him to death. Why did you do it
? I asked, after assuring him that he would not be punished for what he said. I just need to know
the truth so I can find out how to help the anti-poaching effort. “Because the ADFL took our
arms and we were getting no salaries of bonuses and the conditions of life were not good,”
Mortimer said. “I saw how much better off  my brothers in the village who were poaching were.
Finally we got our arms back and I used mine to patrol during the day and poach at night. I killed
one warthog and two baboons here, later a hippo and two buffalo in complicity with the guards of
Dodo, and on June 22 I was arrested with six others.” Mortimer for the first time confessed that
his main partner in crime was his brother Minye, who was still a guard. The chefs had been trying
to get this out of him for two months. I wouldn’t want to be in Minye’s shoes. Mortimer was
obviously trying to cut a deal. He was begging for his job back because he couldn’t go back to the
villages where everybody knew he must have talked and he would be killed.
     I spoke with  20 other poachers who were working in Mbayma’s six hectare field, for which he
had big plans. One of them showed me how his fetish, a little carved figurine with a separate
dorsal lid, worked. You rubbed the lid back and forth on the figurine’s back, and if it slid
smoothly, that meant everything would go well, but if you encountered resistance, the hunting
would go badly or you would run into a patrol. Many of the old animistic beliefs persist among
the nominally Christian or Muslim local people. Like the belief that certain witchdoctors known as
Bugulu, who are not unlike the Navajo shape-shifters, become lions after they die or even before.
You can’t tell the difference between a Bugulu and a real lion, one of the chefs de section assured
me. “I knew this young Bugulu named Dusa who turned into a lion.” How did you know the lion
was Dusa, I asked. “Because four days after he died  his grave was dug up and then this lion
appeared in the vicinity.”
      Mbayma showed me where he was shot in the hand during an accrochage, and the three
places on his torso where he was hit by shrapnel from a grenade. Mbayma makes a strong first
impression, but the coop‚rants, not only those in situ, have serious reservations about him.  His
Congolais colleagues, however,  PNV’s Laurent Muhindo, who is his father-in-law and is 
regarded by the coop‚rants as one of the best conservateurs, and Mburanumwe, the ICCN
coordinator, spoke highly of him.  Mbayma is a people-come-first conservationist.  50 of the
guards were on the verge of retiring, and his plan was to settle them around the six-hectare
shamba where they could grow their own food with enough surplus to raise money for a school so
the children of the guards wouldn’t have to be sent away to “relatives who could abuse them.” He
was also planting the same shamba-rejuvenating legumes that are in the experimental stage at
Epulu. He felt strongly that it was important to take good care of the retired guards, because the
guards will see what awaits them when they reach that age. At the moment they are given a
bicycle and $300 by WWF and the promise of  medical care at the station and turned loose.
Mbayma said they couldn’t go back to their villages, after all the poachers they had put away.
Plus the strong ones could become very effective poachers themselves. Frazer argued that they go
to their villages all the time and wasn’t in favor of their staying at the station with all their
dependents because that could cause problems, including poaching. He thought they could be
settled along one of the roads outside the park and given a house and a small consideration in
return for keeping it up.. I wondered whether they might not be useful in sensibilizing the local
population to have greater respect for the park and its wildlife. Mbayma told me about one retired
guard who returned to his village on the Sudan border and was so appalled by the blatant
poaching that was going on that he started to speak out against it. On day a delegation of
poachers came to silence him but he wasn’t there. They were told to return that night and in the
meantime a militia of the village’s youth was recruited to ambush them and take their weapons.
Now the militia, led by the retired guard, is cleaning up the poaching in the vicinity.
       Kes acknowledged the need for “more realistic community-based conservation programs,”
which are in vogue with funders these days. Having devoted so many years to assuring the
survival of the rhinos, she now views the animal as a “flagship” species that attracts funding and
attention to a much broader spectrum of problems which she is now, as the driving force and
coordinator of  the UNF project, trying to tackle.  She told me about a plan that   Emmanuel de
Merode, a social anthropologist or what, Kes ? had worked out with Sangzbalenze  for
reinforcing authority of the the local chefs coutoumiers and investing them in the park by letting
them issue the permits for traditional hunting and fishing in the domaines de chasse. Mbayma was
against this, because the chefs coutoumiers are a big part of the problem, as they are in the RFO,
PNG, and PNKB, and giving them control of the domaines would open the domaines to all kinds
of abuse. But he was in favor of the controlled sale of game hunted by traditional means. “We
need to integrate the people into the park,” he argued. “The only thing we are doing is policing,
we are never giving the people advantages.” Kes is not in favor of any sale of bushmeat. “When
you start to put monetary value on wildlife, it encourages exploitation. Subsistence hunting is
sustainable, but sale accelerates the destruction. All the evidence in Africa is that once you start
selling bushmeat the animal populations are reduced to the point of extinction.”
     “But bushmeat is already sold clandestinely in places like Aba and Durba, and openly in many
villages. The people are already selling more than they eat,” Mbayma countered.
     “I propose that we get rid of the poaching,” Kes suggested. “Then we can have controlled
     “If we clean up all the poaching, we will be out of work and the ngo’s will stop funding us, so
we had better not do too good a job,” was Mbayma’s sardonic rejoinder.
     I was eager to see what this dreamy tableau with  processions of ellies and huge assemblages
of buffalo wandering through it, this bird’s eye view of the Genesis chapter 1 which we had only
been seeing from the air, was like on the ground, and the opportunity came on Saturday the first
when  we flew to Camp Namibira, where Kes did her radio collaring and telemetry and Frazer hid
out for two months at one point during the chaos. The plane touched down, scattering  a vast
herd of short-eared kob, whose mass migrations in southern Sudan rival (or rivaled until a few
years ago when most of them were shot out ?) that of the wildebeest. There were some Lewell’s
hartebeest mixed in. The dominant male kob has a harem, and the young males form what is
known as a lek, standing  guard on the periphery of the herd, in the dry season spacing themselves
out from each other and looking beautiful in the hopes of attracting a passing female. We
wandered through the tallgrass. The roll of the savanna was not unlike many of the flatter parts of
England; sans all the large mammals this could almost have been Buckinghamshire.  The camp
was on the edge of a spring-fed stream that we bathed in, little fish nibbling at our toes.  Frazer
cranked up his satellite phone and called John Lucas, IRF’s chairman, at the board meeting he was
presiding over at White Oaks and gave him the good news : no shootouts or contacts last month. 
    “This is going to be one of the camps you will be able to ride an elephant to, once tourism gets
started again,” Kes told me. “Now you see why we love this place.”

      Then following day, September 2, we flew back to Bunia where unbenownst to us the putsch
against Wamba was in progress.  The airport authorities and the  customs and the immigration
authorities (two separate authorities) extorted $20 apiece from each of us for an exit visa, and
another $200 (? Frazer) for clearance of the plane, then we continued southwest nonstop for five
hours to Nairobi. The roofs went from all thatch in Congo, to some thatch some metal in Uganda,
to all metal in Kenya. It was like coming from the barbarian backlands of Gaul back to Rome. 
       In a nice restaurant in the bougainvillea-festooned suburb of Karen I met Mafuka Girineza,
the conservateur principal (number two after Mbayma, the conservateur en chef) of PNG and
Kes’s co-coordinator for the UNF partner. He is a Congolese Hutu and thus a Munyawranda and
is scared to return to PNG and to meet the same fate as Ali Mutarama. “They will ask why I
stayed after the first war. You must be a collaborator of the Rwandans,” he explained. 
“They’re going to kill me and make it look like braconniers or something.” 
       We were joined by Annette Langouw, a jolly beaming blonde Dutch woman, very up and
positive, the least ferrous of the femmes de fer. Annette is a great-ape primatologist with 16 years
experience in the Congo and runs the IGCP program in PNV. She started her career by
habituating  chimps at Tongo, in the park’s southern sector, where there would be a refugee camp
of 100,000 Rwandans after the genocide of l994. Then she studied bonobos, the only pygmy
chimps in the world, in Equateur. She spent a few years ? at PNG and helped set up CEPRECOF
at RFO. 
       PNS is the biggest, she told me, but PNV is the longest and has the greatest diversity of
habitat, from Afro-alpine to lowland forest, from savanna to volcanic, very dry and sclerophyllous
to very moist and lush. There are huge swamps in the center and the northern part of the southern
area. The western arm of the Great Rift Valley, a large part of which is in the park,  is the water
catchment for the  mountains on both sides of it, and the water comes bubbling up through the
porous volcanic rock on the valley floor and forms swamps and lakes that eventually feed the
Nile.  PNV is the oldest park in Africa, created in l928, two years before Kruger. The original
Park Albert comprised what is now Rwanda’s Parque des Volcans and was the headquarters of
the entire park system in the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi (including the once-magnificent
Kagera Park in Rwanda, two thirds of which has been given over to resettlement of Banyawranda
returning from exile.). PNV is also the most embattled, or at least it has the greatest diversity of
impact : negative forces (Interahamwe, Mayi Mayi, NALU, ADF, ex-FAZ, ex-FAR, ex-FAC),
invading agriculturalists, fishermen,  pastoralists, and i.d.p.’s  and refugees (Rwandan Hutu,
though most of them have been repatriated).
         The park has 4 sectors : 1) the northern , north of Lake Edward; 2)the central, from the 
top of Lake Edward to Rutshuru and Rwindi; 3) the eastern, east of Lake Edward to the Uganda
border; and 4) the southern, from Rutshuru to Goma..  In 1) (see also the information from
Kambale Kisuki on p. 6) two thirds of the northern sector, including the Ruwenzori and the forest
o Watalinga, is conrolled by NALU and ADF rebels whose depredations have been going  on
since long before the wars. Since the first war local chef coutoumiers have been inciting the
population to reclaim their ancestral lands in the park. There have been no salaries since l996 and
many guards have quit. The UNF project will be paying 460 guards in all 4 sectors— a huge
contribution.  Mount Tchaberimu west of Lake Edward has  13 or 18 lowland gorillas, depending
on who you talk to, supported by the DFGF under Katembo Vitale,  on its 45 remaining forested
hectares which shambas are eating away at. It is not a viable population because it can’t expand.
    In  2) south of Lake Edward elephants have been fleeing the mayhem to Uganda’s Queen
Elizabeth Park. The fishing villages on Lake Edward are mushrooming. There are now 18,000
fishermen at Kavinyonge and Vitshumbi, at the bottom of the lake, is similarly overpopulated.
3700 Hema pastoralists from Uganda (where they are known as Hima), escorted into the park
from Uganda by UPDF troops, have overrun secteur Kararuma and the domaine de chasse de
Rutshuru. The 150,000 i.d.p.’s between Kanyabayongo and Lubero include Congolais Hema from
Ituri District, but most of them are Nande  fleeing Interahamwe who have been terrorizing the
villages along the western edge of the park. The Interahamwe are armed and provisioned by
planes from Khartoum (according to the RPF’s Patrick Mazimhaka), which is Kabila’s ally. There
are also Mayi Mayi.  A horrendous humanitarian crisis is looming here because no one can get to
these i.d.p.’s with food aid. All these people increase the demand for bushmeat. Hippo meat is
sold openly in Kanyabayongo, Rutshuru, and Kavinyonge.
     3) has its headquarters at Lulumbi, on the eastern shore of Lake Edward. The conservateur
principal is Timpungi. of Lake Edward. This is where the Jean-Pierre d’Huart did his hippo
studies, and where U.S. maintains  a high resolution  satellite surveillance station like the one they
also have set up in the Brazilian Amazon to monitor fires and drug-smuggling) .
     4) is relatively stable, although security even along the road to park headquarters at
Rumangabo varies from day to day. In the international gorilla area where Congo, Rwanda, and
Uganda meet, 78 guards are being paid salaries and bonuses by IGCP to keep a close eye on the
gorillas.  But a few weeks earlier the station at Jomba was attacked, even though 32 guards and
their families were there. One guard was killed, another kidnaped, and some of the guns were
made off with. But since then it’s been calm.  Now a 1000 RPA are said to be sweeping the area
for insurgents. The Virunga gorilla population was 320 in l989. No one has been able to get in
and census them since. It moves freely between PNV and Parques des Volcans. Karisoke, Dian
Fossey’s research station in the saddle between Visoke and Karisimbi volcanos, is in ruins. On the
Rwanda side tourism has resumed. 16 tourists a day, escorted by gendarmes, go to see the
gorillas. This is the safest and most accessible way to see mountain gorillas. Tourism resumed in
April in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where the tourists were murdered in l999. The
Bwindi population was conservatively estimated in l997 at  292 by WCS’s Alistair MacNeilage
(infants don’t poop in their nests and are harder to pick up, and a few groups could have been
missed). That tallies with the WWF’s rougher 280-300 estimate  in the early 90s. It is cut off from
the Virunga one by 25 km. of lowland agriculture. These two populations are the last mountain
gorillas in the wild. 
     PNV is closed to tourists, and Annette was not keen on my attempting to see the gorillas from
the Congo side or to even enter the park. “If something happens, it would set the resumption of
tourism back another few years.” I couldn’t entice Annette to go with me into the park and she
had no immediate plans to go there herself. In August l998, nine days after the start of the second
war, 6 tourists  one Brit and five New Zealanders  went to see the gorillas at Jomba and
returning to their vehicle found it torched. All six were taken hostage. Four were released two
weeks later with an statement of their captors’ demands to be read over the BBC, which the BBC
refused to do, the fate of the other two is still unknown.
        Masisi, on the southern edge of the park,  has been a cauldron of Interahamwe resistance
since the genocide. Tens of thousands of Congolais Banywranda i.d.p.’s, mostly Hutu,  from 
Masis   had been flooding into Sake, which was not much more secure, and from there to Goma,
and the area around Rutshuru was volatile. You could not drive through the forest west of
Rutshuru to Beni without risking attack by negative forces. A few weeks earlier a convoy
including trucks of TMK, the local airline, was ambushed, all the vehicles were torched and 4
were killed.
      Annette thought there should eventually be  an international UN peacekeeper-type force to
protect the World Heritage sites. But Kabila is not well disposed to the U.N., I pointed out,
although he is to conservation, according to Kes who was impressed by Kabila’s enthusiastic
endorsement of her initiatives to protect the parks when she met him when and in connection with
the project or what ?  While RCD-Goma, according to Mafuko, “is only concerned with
conservation in terms of international criticism. Its priority ‡’est la guerre.”
     “If the RCD is only interested in conservation for political reasons, that’s fine,” Annette
argued. “It wants international good will and recognizes that if it takes clear environmental
precautions it will look very well for them.” 
    I flew to Kigali and from there drove to Goma, where I dropped in on the WWF project. IGCP
is a coalition of WWF, the African Wildlife Federation, and Flora and Fauna International, so
WWF is involved in supporting the guards. But it also has  education, reforestation, seed-
distribution  and mushroom-growing  programs. The UNF funds for PNV will be flowing through
WWF. I found the staff turned on by what they were doing, and eager to explain their work to an
unannounced visitor. (Annette having just returned from vacation and Anecto Kayitare, the
IGCP’s liaison, having just lost his mother and taken emergency leave, nothing had been set
up).”We’re a success story. We’re at war and still succeed at protecting the  the park,” Rosie
Kabeya, IGCP’s assistant administrator, told me. Jeanne Masika Sa-inne gave me issue number 4
of Kacheche, the nature and conservation magazine that WWF prints 70,000 copies of and
distributes them to local schoolchildren. Kacheche is the African pied wagtail, as common and
brazen as blue jays in these parts and locally believed to be the bearer of good news. This was the
first issue since publication was suspended by the genocide and its devastating aftermath in Goma
six years ago.
      Yowa Winder, whom I called on at ORCHA, belongs to the humanitarian subspecies of the
courageous white woman in Africa (as opposed to the conservationist subspecies of which Terese
and Kes are outstanding examples.). She writes many of the IRIN bulletins and is on top of the
day to day conditions, the agonizing birthpains of this country. There are half a million i.d.p.:s in
North Kivu, one sixth of the population, she told me : Masisi has 50,000, mainly Hunde and
Congolese Hutu, Rutshuru another 15-20,000. 20,000 mostly Nande are spread out between
Kanyabayongo and Beni, another 100,000 on the Lubero road, 120,000 mostly Lendu by the
Hema-Lendu conflict.
        Kate Farnsworth of USAID Disaster Relief  is as gutsy Yowa and as plugged in, a very
sharp and caring woman who lives out of a suitcase, as she put it, shuttling from one trouble spot
to the next. . Kate was trying to get to Kanyabayonga, then she was going to see Bemba in
Gbadolite, then she was going down to Uvira, where a new  slaughter of the Banyamulenge had
begun. “I’ve been telling the RCD you will be judged by how you deal with conservation and
humanitarian issues. These are big-button issues in the international community,” she told me.
       “Most of the people in Bukavu would call themselves Mayi Mayi, i.e. against the RCD and
the Rwandans. [In Goma the opposition to the occupation is less vociferous.] There are many
Mayi Mayi barriers between Beni and Kanyabayongo. We’re trying to create humanitarian space,
getting the message to the chefs coutoumiers who personally have to connect with the Mayi Mayi
there so we can get in.”
      Kate thinks Rwanda would be “willing to pull out if conditions where right, while Uganda has
a far more economic interest. Which is not to say that individuals in the Rwandan army are not
making a shitload of money. But [Rwanda’s president] Kagame does not sanction the rape of the
country. As his councilor Charles Murigande told the BBC recently, these are individuals who are
not implementing state policy.” 
     What do you know about coltan ? asked I.
     “It’s used for high tech electronics, microchips for computers, in addition to missile warheads.
Germany, not the States is the biggest purchaser. It used to be exported lumped in with the less
taxed caciterite and then be extracted.”
     Kate confirmed what Murigande had told me, that most of the arms provided to the
Interahamwe in the Kivus come from Tanganyika, crossing Lake Tanganyika to Boma. The
brigadier general who is chief of staff of the Tanzanian army oversees this traffic, but he is not
implementing state policy either.  “Who is checking this out ? What is being done ?” she asked. “If
there’s going to be peace in the Kivus, the Interahamwe must be gotten out.” 
    “The second war is far more complicated and ugly,” she went on. “The solutions are far more
complex because there are no many non-state actors and fewer carrots and sticks. A lot is going
on under the surface.” She had just heard that the RPA was making overtures to the Mayi Mayi.
She had also heard that Kabila may have gotten biological weapons from North Korea. “Kabila
feels he now has the upper hand because of his recent inroads in Equateur. But if Zimbabwe pulls
out the rebels will go for the jugular.” But the latest news is that Zimbabwe has reaffirmed its
support to Kabila in the defense of Mbandaka, support bought by giving Zimbabwe concessions 
the mineral riches of Shaba.
      Goma is the administrative headquarters for ICCN in eastern Congo. No longer controlled by
Kinshasa, ICCN’s activities and presence in the east are overseen by Anicet Mburanumwe, whom
I met that evening with Stanislas Bahinake, ICCN’s director for North Kivu province, and
Wathaut Wabubindja Miya Alexandre, the chef de station (Rutshuru) for PNV’s central sector.
Mburanumwe is “the chief of conservation for all of eastern congo,” one of his deputies told me.
Then come Bahinake and Norbert Mushenzi, the provincial director for South Kivu.
Mburanumwe has been in conservation for 40 years. He knew George Schaller (and produced an
affectionate letter Schaller sent him in l988) and Dian Fossey at Rumangabo, Kes when she was
just starting out at Garamba. “We called her teasingly Mama Faru. Kifaru is a rhino.”  He
subscribed to the theory advanced in a new book, Murder In the Mist, that Fossey was killed by
the mayor of Ruhengeri “Zed” the brother of President Habyarimana’s wife Agathe. “Zed had une
arrogance extraordinaire,” Mburanumwe told me.  “Dian chewed him out publicly, an intolerant
affront for which he ordered her death.”
        Dian’s way of dealing with African authorities was to throw a hysterical shitfit. The new
generation of expatriate field biologists are more sensitive, socially adept, and people-oriented.
They realize that you have to deal with the guerillas before you can protect the gorillas.  It’s a
Shakespearean situation, not a Thoreauvian one (which posits a false dichotomy between man and
nature   the world view of old-school conservationists). The gorillas and the guerillas are in
there together. 

        Both Mburanumwe and his late wife, an important d‚put‚e from Rutshuru, 
were “of Rwandese expression,”to use one of the terms for Congolais Banyawranda, and when
Kabila declared his pogrom on the Tutsi they were imprisoned in Kinshasa. But they managed to
escape, only for Mburanumwe’s wife to die a few weeks later. He showed me a photograph of
       “Virunga is really four separate parks,” he told me.  “Maiko is almost abandoned. It has a
pocket of precious materials, gold and diamonds, that were being exploited long before les
We must learn to reconcile exploitation or our riches with protection. We are like a shipwreck. If
we eat all the biscuits, we will die. There must be integrated conservation, tied to the development
of the population. 
        Bahinake did not advise going to see the gorillas. It would take several days, and the road
from Rumangabo to Jomba was terrible and the security impr‚visible. Since Guy de Bonnet and
Christine had told me there would be no problem seeing the gorillas in PNKB, and since I had
already sat en famille with mountain gorillas on the Rwanda side in l986, I didn’t insist.
But the road to Rumangabo, according to the latest reports, was safe. I could go there in the
morning and see Laurent Muhindo, the conservateur en chef.  So the next morning, the 5th, I set
out with Wathaut and four young RCD soldiers, courtesy of Vizima Karaha,  in Mburanumwe’s
Land Cruiser. We passed the desolate site of  Kibumba, one of the refugee camps where 250,000
Rwandans were kept going for two years by the UNHCR and humanitarians without any attempt
to disarm the Interhamwe or Ex-Fax in them, even though to qualify for refugee status according
to the U.N.’s definition you have to have surrendered your arms. But the UNHCR was
overwhelemed. It didn’t have the moyens to deal with a crisis of such magnitude. 
Many people in the Kivus fault the UN for the nightmare that the breaking up of the camps
unleashed  in eastern Congo. 
       “The Interahamwe is not a person,”Wathaut told me. “In my secteur, in the forest 23 km
from Ruthshuru, they put up a barrier and burned a truck last month, killing all four passengers.
We have 173 guards but no bonuses, and they are making a big contribution, working without
motivation. Some are quitting because of famine [i.e. not having money to buy food].” 
      The refugees had devastated 10 km of the forest on the slopes of Nyiragongo volcano for
firewood. “We had a police that was supposed to prevent them. The refugees told us   UNHCR
gives us food and shelter but pas de bois. On va manger ‡a comment ?”  Wathaut went on.  “We
explained to the refugees that we were not here not here to persecute them but our job to was
protect the resources and prevent braconnage. We shot in the air to scare the refugees and they
just giggled and kept on devastating.” The scalped forest was coming back fast in the rich
volcanic soil. Nyiragongo erupted in l979. Several elephants were overcome by the lava and when
I passed through two years later, I was shown where their relative would come and commune
with them and defecate on their bones locked in the now hardened magma.
      Behind Nyiragongo was Nyamulagira, which erupted for three months this year, beginning on
the 27th of February, and was still smoking.  To the right was steep-sided. Mikeno volcano where
Karl Akeley collected the gorillas for the diorama at the American Museum of Natural History in
the 20s and where Schaller did most of his gorilla research. Rumangabo is about 40km from
Goma. Mburanumwe had radio-telephoned the conservateur en chef, Laurent Muhindo,  and he
sent one of his assistant conservateurs to meet us at Rugari and escort us the rest of the way to
the station, the old mother station of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi, the once-grand but
still solid buildings clustered on a knoll with views  of  spectacular rainforest and volcanos in
every direction. 
      Laurent greeted me, and several dozen of the guards snapped to attention and paraded smartly
for us. “You see how organized the guards are when they get a little support,” Wathaut said. 
The shelves of the large library were empty, all the books having been used for fires by the various
occupying forces, and the seismological station was trashed. There was no power so computers
can’t be used. (If this situation is to be rectified, solar would seem the way to go.) 
        Muhindo is regarded by the expatriate partners as one of the best conservateurs. “That is
because he is paid,” Mburanumwe claims. (There seemed to be some tension between
Mburanumwe and Muhindo, at least on Mburanumwe’s part. The tension may be ethnic. At one
point Mburanumwe told me, “Muhindois lying and that is because he is a Nande.”)  Muhindo’s
magasinier opened his storeroom where there were some recently seized tusks and a rack of old
American 30.30’s that lacked ammunition. 
        Below  the virgin forest of Nyamulagira spread for miles, which Muhindo was full of poches
de r‚sistance incivique that sometimes attacked vehicles on the Rumangabo-Goma road. He
estimated that there could be as many as 40,000 Interahamwe and other forces n‚gatives in the
park. “It is hard to tell who was who because they all wear the same uniforms, the forces
n‚gatives wear the ones they have stolen from the RPA and the RCD, and the RPA whenever
they want to commit gaffes, they use short guys.” To the local people they are all the same. They
are Rwandans.  Probably a thousand Interahamwe etc. are enconsced in the forest in the secteur
of Mikeno, where there are five guard posts from which 78  guards make daily reports on the
movements of 73 habituated gorillas and encounters with poachers of insurgents or other wildlife.
I was shown an impressively detailed handwritten report on the August patrols, with maps and
stars for accrochages. A conscientious guard in secteur Mikeno can make $70 a month with
     Muhindo asked why the conservateurs didn’t get bonuses too, a point also raised by
Mburanumwe. “How can the shepherd lead his flock if he is starving ?” He also said that at
Rwindi the RPA had a training camp for local self-defense militia to drive out the Interahamwe in
their area, and that it is was being supplied by 5 buffalo and 15 antelopes a day. “We have
complained to RCD-Goma,” he said, but so far to no effect.
      There were definitely air drops to the Interahamwe, he said. Later I heard from Patrick
Mazimhaka that planes from Khartoum were doing most of it. 
       Muhindo thanked me “for having to come and see the realities and the difficulties,” and I
returned to Goma.


       That night Mburanumwe told me that yesterday at 5 in the morning a mapping commission
with an escort of 32 RCD soldiers was attacked  by presumed Interhamwe while surveying
PNKB’s borders. 9 were killed, four taken hostage including three conservateurs. The
conservateur en chef, Kasereka, was missing. I was looking forward to decompressing at PNKB,
my last stop, which seemed the safest of the parks, at least the 5% of the original, highland part
that was “controlled.” But all of Sith Kivu was a powderkeg at the moment, and PNKB, being so
close to Bukavu, was extremely vulnerable and in fact under assault by the negative forces and
their rich and powerful local collaborators.  The week before, a grenade had gone off in the
central market of Bukavu, killing several shoppers and wounding many more.  Suspects were
rounded up from  the opposition to the RCD and were tortured into confessing. Hatred of the
Banyawaranda and the RCD were reaching the boiling point. The talk was beginning to sound
ominously genocidal.  Most of the population were secretly supporters of Kabila, and were
looking forward to the day when the Interahamwe left the Kivus and returned to Rwanda and
finished the genocide and took vengeance on the Nilotics for what they had done in Congo for
      And now this catastrophe. 
      I flew down to Bukavu the following morning, the 26th. The airport is an hour from town 
the nearest flat spot, where the hills don’t come right down to the lake.  Carlos Schuler had sent
one of GTZ’s land cruisers, and we drove through allees of tall eucalyptus, a  postvolcanic
landscape reminiscent of Michoacan, Mexico. The population density here, between Lake Kivu
and the park, is 750 per km2, one of the highest in the RCD and the hills were dry and dusty,
having been completely denuded of trees. 
      GTZ is headquartered in a lush quartier of old Belgian villas right on the lake. I found Carlos
in his office in a charming brick and timber chalet. The administrator and financial officer of the
GTZ’s project with PNKB, he  was beside himself. “This is the worst thing that has happened in
15 years,” he told me. “Things have been going so well. 9 are dead and many have disappeared,
including Kasereka Bishikwabo, the chef de parque and two other conservateurs, Aim‚ and
Bakongo. These are people we worked with very well.” We were interupted by a call from
Carlos’s superiors.    Noyn tot und leuteren nicht gefunden, he reported in Swiss-accented
German. GTZ is an agency of the German government, the Germany’s counterpart USAID. This
means that the flow of funds is steadier than at PNG, say, where Kes has to hustle for grants, but
the GTZ has to be more careful about what it gets involved in, and Carlos’s hands are perhaps a
bit more tied than he would like.
        Carlos sounded like he was ready to throw in the towel. 15 years of carefully building human
resources may have just gone down the tubes.  “It is impossible to work here in this complete
absence of human rights and degradation of human values. All this  is caused by the international
community. Ils s’en foutent.  They nourished the Interahamwe in the camps and now the
Interahamwe are everywhere killing people and looting.  UNHCR said it would help us and
instead it brought us war. €’est la poubelle. We are neutral and our collaborators are not being
         I had come at the worst time. “Everything was set for your visit,” Carlos told me. “Now– I
hope you understand   this is not the priority. I have to find out what happened before I can
decide what to do about it and what to say  and write about it.”  In addition, a German t.v. crew
was coming from Nairobi that day for a long-scheduled visit to the gorillas.
        So Carlos sent me to Guy de Bonnet’s villa on the lake, where I would be staying, while he
sorted things out. It was a heavenly spot, an African version of Cap Ferat. Birds chorused and
breezes off the water rustled in the bougainvillea, all night long fishermen sang and shouted as
they cast nets from dugouts several miles out for two kinds of glittering 3″ sardines. 
         Kahuzi Biega was created in l969 by Carlos’s late father-in-law, Adrian de Schryver, a
legendary figure in South Kivu. His daughter Christine, Carlos’s wife, is the chef de bureau for all
of GTZ’s projects in South Kivu. Besides supporting the guards, GTZ has built 38 schools and 3
dispensaries around the park, which as a means of buying conservation with infrastructure are of
limited success as the parents still have to go into the forest to get money for pay for the services.
“The local ‚conomie sociale still has to be developed,” Carlos told me. GTZ also has a water-
purification program for Bukavu and a social development in Kabare, between the Bukavu and
the park. 
       Christine is tall, striking woman, a  tropical beauty in her gawdy Congolais pagnes,  who is
kind of like a mother hen, making sure that all the people in her charge are taken care of.
Christine’s mother is a Shi, one of the local tribes to which young women of the Rwandese
aristocracy who got pregnant out of wedlock were traditionally sent and she looks sufficiently like
a Tutsi that it is dangerous for her. “I’ve had a grenade held against my chin twice, once in each
war,” she told me. Now she doesn’t leave town, even to go to the park’s headquarters at
Tshivanga. She and Carlos have three children whom they home-school with 11 other expat
children in a French correspondance course. The Schulers have deep roots in Bukavu and aren’t
going anywhere, no matter what. As Carlos told me,  “We don’t live in Nairobi or come from the
States or Europe every few months. We live this every day.”
      “Father came here at the age of 9,” Christine told me. “His parents were colons. He didn’t like
to study and never went further than high school. He was an adventurer. He became a self-taught
primatologist and habituated the family of Kasimir and learned to fly so he could survey the park.
My brother runs the air freight company he started. He could tell you a lot about coltan. He flies
it. I would check with the dispatche du coltan at Kigali airport. Some of it goes to Belgium with
Sabina. Some of it leaves with South African Airlines. 
      “Schaller came here a lot when I was a child, and I knew Dian Fossey well. She didn’t like us
kids. She didn’t like people period.” (In my September, l986, Vanity Fair article on her murder, I
learned that she  would whip with stinging nettles the testicles of pygmies she caught laying
antelope snares in the Parque des Volcans,  because the gorillas would sometimes get caught in
them, and that she may have been raped by Zairian soldiers, which would explain her intense
dislike of Africans, whom she called “woggipoos.”) 
      “Father’s parents had a tea and coffee plantation near what is now the park and he always
worked with the pygmies. They are our best pisteurs. He did a lot for the pygmies. If  elephants
were trampling their shambas, once or twice he shot the bull. He went native. He refused to go to
Europe or to be treated with Western medicine. He always went to the pygmies.” But he also saw
the need for the gorillas to be protected. The pygmies needed gorilla blood for the protective
scars they cut on their newborn children, and zoos were buying baby gorillas, which meant that
the adults protecting them were killed, and the poaching was uncontrolled. So he persuaded
Mobutu to set aside the 600 km.2 of the highland part. In l972 the lowland part was added and
PNKB was expanded to 6000km2. The two parts were  connected by a narrow 40-kilometer-long
corridor which has recently been breached by illegal farms.
       “In l989 my father was killed for the park,” Christine went on. “He was poisoned. We don’t
know by whom but he was passionate for the park and very extrŠme dans la protection de la
nature. When he found cows in the park, he gave their owners three warnings and the fourth time
he opened fire with a Kalashnikov. He died after 4 or 5 hours of agony. I always told my brothers
if you find out who killed him, don’t tell me, because I would become a murder myself.”
      PNKB, Maiko, and the intervening area ( Mount Tchaberimu with its 13-18 grauerii)  contain
the largest concentration of lowland gorillas on the planet. In l995 Jefferson Hall estimated the
population in and adjacent to the lowland part of  PNKB at 14,000. Now there are probably less
than half that number, if  the elephant poaching rate (they have gone from 107 in l996 in the
highland part to zero this year) and the decline by almost half of the gorilla population in the 
highland part are any indication. In l990 there were 258 in the highland part, in l996 245-86, and
this August Omari Ilangu found evidence 130-143. And this is in the “controlled” five percent of
the park. The lowland part is uncontrolled, unpatrolled, and infested with negative forces. There
are an estimated 20 bands of 2-3000 Interahamwe in and around the park, two factions of  Mayi
Mayi, 2500 coltan miners, for all of whom bushmeat is a major source of food. There are a
airstrips at Punia, Walikale, Nzovu, Isangi, and Lulingu among others places. Coltan is picked up
at Punia by planes or helicopters by RPA officers and flown directly to Kigali. The highest grade
coltan is from Lulinga, according to Christine, and it may be picked up by Zimbabweans. The
RCD and the RPA are in theory in control of these strips, but don’t have a permanent presence
except it seems at Punia, and when they are not around, they may be used by the other side.
Terese Hart thinks the whole situation in the lowland part is fishy and suspects that there could be
an agreement, a division of spoils among the warring parties, that the Interhamwe or Mayi Mayi
could even be selling coltan to the RPA. There are certainly strong links between the Interahamwe
and the ex-FAR in the forest and the Bukavu business community. There are a lot of unanswered
questions about these strips : who uses them, who controls them, why hasn’t the RCD/RPA got
them under their control ? 
       To get further insight into the coltan trade I went to see Kotecha, a rich Indian trader who
buys and sells the stuff, but he was abroad. His representative, K. Krishna Kumra, told me, “We
are a pretty big coltan buyer. We move 3-4 tons a month. The biggest buyers are the Rwandese
military. They buy directly from the miners, pay maybe $10 a kilo and move 100 tons. There are
15 more buying counters like us in Bukavu [in the quartier populaire  of Essence, I found three
small comptoirs with signs that said Achat Coltan Caciterite], and others in Goma and Bunia [But
my impression is that most of the coltan in eastern Congo comes from South Kivu and goes out
through Bukavu.] The best quality is from Kakelo and Mobi also has good quality. What the
soldiers don’t get is brought to us by middlemen, ‘commission agents,’ 10-12-20 of whom will
charter a plane and fly out to one of the strips in the forest and bring it to Bukavu and see who
will give them the best price. We powder the coltan and test it for quality. Top grade is 45% pure.
We pay $45 a kilo. We crush it but don’t refine it (there are others in Bukavu who refine it and
sell it separately; we don’t buy from them)  and sell it to other middlemen who take it to London
and sell it for about $110 a kilo to the best international bidder  Germany, Belgium, the United
States, Canada. The soldiers who take it to Kigali sell to buyers there who sell to Europe. Even if
it’s stolen it’s very organized and done with the blessing of the topmost level of government.
They have some front companies in Kigali. There are rumors Kagame gets a share. He must get
some reward or it could not be operating on such a large scale. People say the coltan is used to
finance the war. 
       “We started buying in the last quarter of l998 but others have been buying for 5-6 years,”
continued Kumra. “In those days no one knew the value of the stuff so it sold for peanuts. It has
no daily quote on the stock exchange. It is used in armaments and microchips, and it is a motive
for the Rwandans and the Ugandans to not be in a hurry. The Americans are happy to get the
stuff. Nobody wants out of the war. Everyone is getting his piece of cake. 
        “Walikali is on the edge of the park, but there is mining in the park itself. Coltan is found
associated with tin, which also known as caciterite. There is also plenty of wolfram around here.
It is part of the impurities of coltan. But the market for wolfram is not good [during the second
world war, wolfram was in hot demand for bombs, and secret agents of  the Allies and the Axis
competed for Congo wolfram in Lisbon.]

      I returned to Guy’s villa, which GTZ rents from Kotecha, and there was a letter from
Kasereka.  He had managed to flee the attackers and walked barefoot  for six hours through the
forest,  skirting villages lest he be taken for a thief or discovered to be the conservateur en chef of
the park, which would have been just as dangerous for him. At last he reached the RCD
guardpost at Mulumemunene. 
    A Monsieur Shoumatoff, en mission … Bukavu
    Monsieur :
    Bonjour and welcome to Bukavu.
    As you have heard, our mission of materilization of the limits of the park which had already
worked 13 days was attacked on its last day, 05/09/2000.
     I returned to Bukavu last night. Although I am still suffering, on Friday,  8 September 2000,
[tomorrow] I am making myself available for you. The rest of the program, we can determine
     Meanwhile, I am chez moi at home. My driver who is bringing you this letter is instructed to
bring you here in case you are able to come. It is an ambience of friends who have come to follow
the unfolding of these macabres events which we have lived through.
       The consensus of all of Kasereka’s colleagues is that he is un homme intŠgre, a straight-up
guy. I found him to be a remarkable person, a genuinely valorous individual. Shortly after I
arrived we were joined by the son of the mwami of Nindja, the local Shi chef coutoumier, whose
father had accompanied the mapping commission and was still missing. (He was dead.) Kasereka
and  the mwami’s son touched foreheads three times, in the traditional greeting. Two important
chefs coutoumiers were killed in the attack, which goes against the theory that they put the
Interahamwe up to it. But Kasareka’s told me later that “the chefs were members of the
commission but were not really helping us. Each was arguing for his own interest and was looking
for a way to grignoter, to bend the law,  and we were trying to respect it.” Now he told the two
of us what happened : 
      “We had mapped 14.5 km from Kasirusiru [in the corridor] to Lushanga [on its southern
border]. Then we traveled to Fendula with the intention of advancing the limite another 7.8 km. 
We camped at Jhembe, just outside the park. It was the last day of the mission, and we had been
out for thirteen days and everything had gone well. We were in a celebratory mood and maybe a
little off guard.”
       At 5:30 in the morning the attack began. 5 were shot dead right in their tent, including the
surveyor and the freelance video filmmaker who had been hired by the provincial government to
document the mission. The 32 RCD soldiers who were supposed to be protecting the mission fled
into the forest. Their commandant had been thrown into the brig because he could not control his
men. The shots were accompanied by women and children chanting in Rwandese and ululating
and rattling calabashes and dancing the same sort of dance, known as mujegereze, that I would
see  a procession of hefty Congolais women doing, boogeying and clapping their hands as they
came up the road from a church, where one of their neighbors had gotten married.  Whenever a
shot was fired the women and children would shout in a collective cri de joie. Kasereke said the
mapping commission was assaulted by four types of warfare at once 1) guns 2) psychological, the
women and children chanting and shouting 3) intifada  some of the attackers threw stones 4) 
classic, with massues or clubs. One of the victims had his genitals cut off, which Rwandans are
into as are Somalis and Ethiopians.
      Bakongo and Aime and the governor’s political counselor were taken hostages. They were
forced to roll up their mattresses and carry them on their heads with the other loot, blindfolded,
and led off into the forest. The loot included almost all the park’s bush equipment, $2180 in cash,
1 Kalashnikov, I Mauser 50 cal., 295 shells, I gsm locator, 6 radio phones (known as motorolas),
16 tents, 3 mattresses.  The attackers told the hostages they belonged to the Army for the
Liberation of Rwanda.  Their commander was a well-spoken and obviously educated ex-FAR
officer who had been inform‚ dans les belles ‚coles d’Europe.  There was a big debate between
him and his associates whether to kill the hostages. After being led in circles for several hours,
their blindfolds were removed and the hostage were released. The commander told them they
were the ones who killed the tourists in Rwindi, Uganda (which Carlos and Christine thought was
“90 % bluff.”). He showed them how much better armed they were than the park guards. He had
the same demands as the Interhamwe who killed abducted the 6 tourists in PNV did   blanket
amnesty, peace in Congo and Rwanda, and a country. On top of everything, the attackers were
Born Again. They called themselves Ngabo za Yezu, People of Jesus and gave each of their
hostages a bible. 
       But the plot thickens. The attack took place in the same vicinity where an earlier
governmental commission in l995 came to map the park’s boundaries and was stopped by armed
militia of the farmers. There are two or three families who have illegal farms in the park. Their
leader in Muhimwusi Ernest, a powerful civil magistrate in Bukavu who is also the main military
judge of the RCD. They were provided concessions in the park by the corrupt Conservateur des
Titres FonciŠres for South Kivu,  Katoto, who also deeded land in the park to his own son-in-law
and was removed  for unrelated d‚gats, but for some reasons is back in office. In the weeks
before the mapping commission set out, Muhimwisi had threatened  conservateurs of the park
with death if they tried to take his farm from him. So it is very possible that the attackers were put
up to it by Muhumwusi. Interhamwe are known to be living in huts on the back forty of  his farm.
The governor of the province, Norbert Basengezi Kantintima,  issued an eviction notice in
August, but several departments of the South Kivu justice system, in which the magistrat
obviously has some influence, needs to take action and to generate and exchange certain
documents,  and this isn’t happening. Everybody is dragging his feet. Muhuwusi is a big man in
Bukavu. One wonders who is protecting him. 
     Omari Ilangu showed a slide of Muhimwusi’s farm in his talk at NYZS in the Bronx in
October about his gorilla survey this summer. It is a forlorn clearcut landscape, with hardly a stick
of wood standing. The farm has completely eaten through a 500-hectare section of the corridor
and cut the park in two, making gene flow and transhumance migration between the 1800-3308-
meter montane forest of the highland part to the 600-1200-meter lowland part impossible.
       There was also, according to Guy Cirhuza of ORCHA in Bukavu, another attack by
presumed Interahamwe in the same localit‚ of Kalonge, which was followed by an oppression by
the RCD/RPA as a result of which    42,000 i.d.p.’s fled from the villages northwest of  the
corridor through the park by the road via Kasirusiru (where Muhimwisi’s farm is, and where
Interahamwe and Mayi Mayi frequently prey on travelers), to the already densely populated
southeastern, Bukavu/Lake Kivu side of the park.

      Simon Kangeta, adjunct provincial director in charge of security for the RCD, told me that the
attackers were 150 Interahamwe who fled east to Isangi after an RCD/RPA oppression at
Shabunda the month before. Kasereka was dubious : “Isangi is on the northern edge of the park,
very far from where we attacked. If these were the people who attacked us, someone must have
fetched them.”
     The governor, who Christine said is “the best governor we’ve ever worked with, he has given
us everything we asked for,” has ordered a full investigation of the attack. It will be interesting to
see if Muhimwisi is implicated. A massive military operation had been seen to recover the bodies.
“Now there will be a big cleanup operation that will also wipe out innocent locals and all the
social initiatives of GTZ,” Carlos feared. 
         The next afternoon Carlos took me and the German film crew up to the park headquarters
at Tshivanga, which is only half an hour drive above the city. Norbert has repaved the road to the
station which winds up into the volcanic highlands. The road, unrepaired and full of holes,
continues another ca.130km.  to Walikale and from there to Kisangani.  A macabre and
heartbreaking scene greeted us : the guards had laid out on the lawn all the skulls of poached
elephants and gorillas they had recovered while on patrol. According to the June, 2000 Gorilla
Journal,  the slaughter of large mammals in the controlled highland part  PNKB was down from
l999, when 13 of the 19-member family of Mugoli were killed. Signs had been found only 70 of
the 258 gorillas surveyed in l996 (which Omari’s survey has upped to 130-143).. In January 2000
3 gorillas were killed and their heads or hands were cut off. A new family of 5 was discovered.
One of them, who was named Mugaraka, had lost one hand in a trap and had apparently treated
himself by eating medicinal plants, which chimpanzees are also known to do. Several babies were
reported in Bukavu. No one knew who was buying them, but it was certainly not locals. “Who
buys the gorillas, the coltan, the diamonds, the ivory ? Belgium says it will buy no more conflict
diamonds, but how can you know where the stones come from ? And this proliferation of arms ?
Where do you think they come from ? Capitalism means rape for Africans,” Carlos said bitterly.
         Part of the reason for the decline in poaching from the year before is that there were no
more elephants to be poached in the highlands. The last elephant was shot in January. Loxondonta
africana cyclotis was became locally extinct, as it did, I learned a few weeks earlier, across the
lake  in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park. Two independent events that were part of the same
tragic trend. The vegetation around the station was thickening noticeably in the elephant’s
     The guards now had 100 complete uniforms from UNESCO with the distinctive ICCN logo so
they wouldn’t be confused with fighters. 64 of them and 5 leading staff had been trained in
paramilitary techniques, and they were participating in Frazer Smith’s AFLS program this fall. On
May 19,  the RCD authorites gave 19 functional arms to the guards,  promised that all arms
confiscated from poachers in the future would be given to them, and authorized a barrier on the
road at Tshivanga. This makes it more difficult to run arms and loot and contraband back and
forth from Kisangani to Bukavu. . The guards were carrying on heroically. Kasereka made a point
of telling me (twice) that his magasinier, who was in charge of the arms, was a Tutsi.  “We are all
one family of conservationists,” as Carlos put it. 
          Vested interests make it difficult to demilitarize the park and close airstrips, Gorilla Journal
continues. The ready availability of automatic weapons is causing widespread human destruction
and dramatically changing the course and magnitude of wildlife extermination. Disintegration of
these national parks and the loss of the magnificent wildlife and plants harbored within will be an
irreparable loss for the world as a whole.
         Everything had been going so well before this d‚bacle. A international coalition of
conservations calling itself the DRC Parks Relief Mission consisting of Michael Hasson’s 
Nouvelles Approaches Belgium, Ian Redmond’s Ape Aliances UK, and Joe Thompson’s Lukinu
Wildlife Research Protection USA, had provided everything from rubber boots to 100 backpacks
to a computer scanner and 5 new gps’s. 42 poachers had been caught and were being integrated
into the park staff. 26 of them were pygmies, and of the pisteurs, the park’s l8 trackers, 14 were
pygmies, and another 30 kept up the trails. “If you want a baby gorilla or another animal,”
Kasereka told me, “you go through the pygmies.” 
        Carlos is not a sophisticated scientific mind like Terese or Kes or Guy and he has a very
different style, which works.. He was a ski and windsurf instructor who came to Bukavu to study
French and met the gorgeous Christine. He’s a  handsome, emotional emotive impulsive guy with
a certain animal magnetism  not your typical Swiss.  His body language communicates his
sincerity and that wins over the Africans. He is also fearless. “People say it is he who has my
father’s blood,” Christine said. He checks up on the gorillas several times a week and never takes
an armed guard, only a pygmy pisteur.

         We drove up to a small peak above the station where the radio tower, stripped of its wire
and transmitter, stood. The 5 km power line to the station had also been stripped and would cost
$50,000 to replace, which Carlos said is an urgent priority. From the radio tower we could see
Kahuzi and Biega, the two volcanos for which the park is named, rising out of frothing montane
forest. The attack had taken about 15 km. to the south, toward Biega, only three hours walk..
Somewhere below a gunshot rang out, and Carlos hurried us into the car and we drove back to
the  station.
       That night we met at the Hotel des Orchides, a lovely establishment on the lake. Its owner, a
Belgian named Marc Moreay, had  born in Bukavu and had spent two days in October, l996
negotiating with Mobutu’s soldiers what they could take and what they couldn’t and had thus
saved the place, said if I were you I wouldn’t go to see the gorillas tomorrow, which is what we
were planning to do. The Interhamwe  could have found out that you were coming and be waiting
for you. They have agents in the city who could radio them. They would love to capture some
bazungu [whites] not only for the money but for the attention it would attract.”
     In fact Mushenzi told us the news that we were going to see the gorillas tomorrow had been
on the radio and the t.v. station; Carlos had taken the t.v. crew  to see the governor and the
interview had been filmed by the governer’s video man. This came out just as the crew as about to
sign a contract with ICCN saying that had been told of the risks of going into the park and
absolving ICCN of any responsibility or liability for what happened. The producer, a French
woman with two young children, said she wasn’t going. The cameraman, a Kenyan who was used
to combat situations, was up for it. The reporter, a lovely, spiritual man who had been to many of
the same “garden spots,” as they are known in the trade  it was surprising we hadn’t met
sooner  was ambivalent. If they didn’t get the footage, that was $7000 down the tubes, “the first
time that ever happened to me.”  The sound man had gone to bed.  As for me, I had an American
passport which made me particularly desirable. What if I left my passport and said I was Russian
or something ? I asked Carlos. “They will know who you are. They know the nationality of every
muzungu who comes here,” he told me.
       I decided in view of the fact that the Interhamwe had the means, motive, and intelligence to
trek for three hours and ambush us, that it would be foolish for me to go. It wouldn’t have been a
relaxed visit, in any case. And we all agreed : the trip to the gorillas was canceled.

      What can be done about these Interahamwe ? I asked. They’re holding the park hostage and
getting away with murder  of people and animals. Kasereke said that “the technical difficulties of
dislodging them are almost insurmountable. The forest is so dense you would have to have a
soldier every five feet.” There were also political difficulties. GTZ, being an official government
agency, can’t be involved in any military operation, especially with enemies of the state like the
RCD and the RPA, and the park has to be completely neutral. If the Interhamwe realized they
were being chass‚ because of the gorillas, they could kill them in revenge or to remove the
problem. “The thing that has kept the gorillas alive is that they are apolitical,” Carlos argued.
      But early next morning Carlos got up and as he later told me, I said to myself I’m going. I’m
not going to be intimidated. They can kill me if they want, but it won’t do them any good. We will 
resume the program.  So he woke up the  t.v. crew and took them to see the gorillas, except for
the producer, who said to me (I also have three little sons) “We know where our priorities are.”
My feelings weren’t hurt that I had been left behind. It was a crazy thing to do, une b‚tisse, as
Carlos himself admitted.  “Being with the gorillas was so beautiful that I forgot about the danger,”
the reporter told me. 
        Carlos is  “people first, then the animals. I am a natural conservationist, like any Swiss. As I
child I would go up in the mountains and sit still for hours watching the chamois and the
steinbach. If one little animal can be saved that will be useful later on, fine, but the people here
have nothing. They are desperate and are going crazy, and so are we. We need money badly. We
need everything. GTZ has been magnificent. They haven’t cut off their support during all the war,
and they’ve had to scrap and redo budgets that they had worked out down to the last pfenig. But
I’m not going to fall to my knees and thank the UNF for this money. It’s great, but by the time
you distribute it to everybody, it isn’t going to making a different in their daily lives.”
      How do you get rid of the Interhamwe, I asked. “First, you tell the truth about Operation
Turquoise,”  he said. Operation Turquoise was the mission launched by France to create a safe
haven in southwestern Rwanda during the summer of l994, when the genocide was mostly over.
But Tutsi continued to be slaughtered, even in the turquoise zone, and though French troops did
rescue some Tutsi, the real motive of the Elysee was to protect the ousted Habyarimana
governent whose chief ally it had been and to give the FAR time to regroup. It was only a two
month operation, and when hundreds of thousands of  Hutu poured into Zaire that fall, the French
waved through the high FAR command and the management of the genocide who were coming to
Bukavu from the turquoise zone  with trucks full of heavy artillery and all the money they had
cleaned out of the banks in Kigali, Carlos told me. “They only confiscated every tenth
Kalashnikov so it look like they were doing something. The UNHCR fattened these killers for two
years then unleashed them on us. In two generations the Congolais will realize that the U.N. has
been more evil and destructive to their country than King Leopold ever was.” 
      The refugee camps pumped a lot of money into the local economy, and Bukavu started to
look up, and after they were broken up, there was a huge vacuum which was filled by the
Interhamwe and ex-FAR who had fled into the bush and started to do business with the local
commer‡ants, the commandant of the RCD military in Bukavu, who was also named Kasereka,
told me. He said his soldiers were capturing two or three Interhamwe in Bukavu a day. “They
have friends who give them vehicles and buy their goods, including coltan, and continue to assist
and sympathize with them and help them do their stealing.” 
      The Governor, whom I saw the next morning, was no more a fan of the U.N. than Carlos.  He
was meeting with some of the local university professors, and his video man was on hand and our
45 minute interview was aired in toto on t.v. that night (the announcer said I was a representative
of the UN named “Shoumatox.”). Norbert kind of put me on the spot.  Suddenly I had to answer
for all the U.N.’s sins. “Where is this deployment force to make Lusaka work ? It is either
embrace Lusaka or take up arms,” he grandstanded.  “We have lost $16,800,000 in tourism from
the last six years. There is no international rehabilitation and no security except for local efforts to
maintain it and the source of the insecurity is who ?We are beginning to wonder if there is not a
U.N. plot. They sent us the Interahamwe and it is they who must get rid of them.” 
    There were three possibility for the refugees, as the governor  saw it : “1) they can return to
Rwanda voluntarily. Our Bureau of Pacification has already repatriated 7,200 to reinsertion
camps. 2) integration into the Congolese population. But they rape our women, kill our students
and professors [he was playing to his academic audience], so integration and reconciliation are
hypoth‚tiques. We don’t know how to cut throats and the breasts of women. And 3) ‚loignement.
 We are for this. Send them to Angola or Zimbabwe. These are not populated countries. Let them
find out what the Interhamwe are like.”
      At the final meeting with Kasereka, Carlos, and Mushenzi, knowing that I was on the way to
meet with the powers that be  in Goma and Kigali, said they would be grateful for whatever help I
could be in getting some movement in the effort to evict the magistrat from the park. I said I had
hired to asses the conditions, not to advocate, but I would see what I could do  . The three of
them had modified their position since our last conversation and were now okay for an RCD/RPA
sweep of the villages around the park for negative forces, as long as the park had nothing to do
with it and the oppression didn’t enter the park. I flew to Goma with the official report on the
attack for Mburanumwe. Dr. Ernest Ilunga, the president of RCD-Goma, had not returned from
West Africa (he has since resigned with his two vice-presidents, probably at the urging of the
Rwandans), so I continued to Kigali, where I met with Patrique Mazimhaka, Kagame’s point man
for the Great Lakes. I told him there is a corrupt magistrat in Bukavu who is in complicity with
the Interahamwe who has a farm in the park and if you got rid of  him and  got the ones who
attacked the mapping commission, you would be scoring a badly needed public-relations grand-
slam : you would demonstrate that you are actually doing something about the Interahamwe
(which everybody in the Kivus says you are doing nothing about because they provide an excuse
for your continued presence); you would demonstrate that you are doing something to protect the
resources of Congo instead of just ripping them off, and capturing the killers of the tourists in
Uganda would get you major brownie points in the communaut‚ internationale.
       As for locating the 20 bands of Interahamwe in and around the park, I suggested that maybe
he could enlist of the American  high-resolution surveillance station east of Lake Edward, which
had been so useful when the AFDL was on its way to Kinshasa. Mazimhaka was very intrigued
and thought it was all a great idea and said he would talk to Kagame about it. I filled in Guy de
Bonnet on our conversation, but he has not yetfollowed up with Mazimhaka, a new spike of anti-
Rwandan sentiment having broken out in Bukavu with the death in Rome  of the  nationalistic,
anti-Nilotic Monsigneur Christophe Munzihirwa, who had been exiled  by the RCD. I gave a full
report on my trip to Susan Page, the political officer who monitors  Rwanda-controlled eastern
Congo from the American embassy in Kigali but seems to know nothing about it (she had never
heard of the Island of Idgwi or of the UNF project and had no idea even of the location of the
national parks). I described the deplorable situation in PNKB in detail and said how helpful the
surveillance station on Lake Edward could be in dislodging the Interahamwe. Page said
Mazimhaka would have to take it up with Ambassador Staples. The Americans don’t seem
terribly eager to be involved. 
         The latest news from Kasereka is very disappointing. It seems that all the Kivu justice
system is going to do is slap the magistrat’s wrist with a letter of censure. There will be no
attempt to take away his farm. Status quo, in other words. The negatives forces will continue to
kill people and animals with impunity. A lot of parties seems want it that way.   Kabila wants the
Interahamwe there, and is continuing to give them support,  to keep destabilizing the RCD, as are
many prominent citzens of  Bukavu.  The RPF would rather have them in the forests of  Congo,
all things considered, destabilizing the situation there, than  in Rwanda, and their presence gives
them a legitimate national security reason to stay there themselves. “I think we will see further
disintegration of Congo before it comes back together as a state,” T‚ogŠne Rudasingwa,
Kagame’s chief of staff, told me. “Ilunga is weak [and now out], so is Wamba,  Bemba’s appeal is
confined to Equateur. Already there is a local sub-state forming at Goma. We will always have a
vested interest in the Kivus and will not be leaving there any time soon. And if Congo breaks up
into several states that will be fine with us.”  Because if a strong unified Congo united with the
majority Hutus in Rwanda who show no remorse for what they did in l994, it could be all over for
the Tutsi and the RPF.

Epilogue : Where Does All the Coltan Go ?.

         Coltan is being dealt fast and furious in Kigali. The Swiss embassy is rumored to be buying. 
Susan Page said the American embassy had nothing to do with it except to make sure the
American dealers’ papers were in order. The biggest one, she told me, was Cabot High-
Performance Materials, headquartered in Boyertown, PA. Her ears pricked up when I told her
that I had heard that Madame Gulamare, a Pakistani woman who owns the Supermatch cigarette
factory in Bukavu, was buying 5 tons a day. Every two days she sends 15 drums by truck 
to Dar es Salaam. But Page was not forthcoming about the coltan trade and the American
involvement in it. Nor was her colleague, the economic officer, who told me that coltan is a very
sensitive issue and that if I wanted to talk to her, the UN would have to make a formal request to
the State Department. 
        My source on Mme. Gulamare was my driver, Alfred Rwigamba. His roomate was a Kenyan
whom Alfred met a yearo ago at the Hotel Mille Collines in Kigale with a woman from Arkansas
who was letting it be known that she wanted to buy a million dollars’ worth of coltan and had a
$50,000 machine for assaying the ore. The woman rented Alfred’s car for a year and ended up
skipping town without paying him or the Kenyan, but not before she sold her machine to Mme.
Gulamare. “She seemed so trustworthy,” Alfred told me. 
        Jean Karimbizi, partner in a company that buys coltan, told me : “Some comes from
Rwanda, some from Congo. We don’t ask questions. Most of the Congolese coltan comes from
Punia, Shabunda, Masisi, and Walikale. A little from from the island of Idgwi. In Rwanda the
main mines are in Taba, Rutobwe, and Kayenzi.  People  bring to the coltan to us in Kigali and we
buy it in Bukavu and Goma. The best quality, 40% pure, 35%-plus, comes from the  region
controlled by the Ugandans. We don’t get to see it. It comes Mangirajipe  (which is where ?) and
Bafwasende and all the way to Kisangani and it goes to Kampala. We get between 15 and 30%
pure. We have an xray spectrometer which we back up with chemical analysis so there are no
unpleasant surprises. The going price in Kigali is $10-12 a kilo for 15%, $22 k for 30%, 27% for.
40%.  We move between 2.5 and 5 tons a month. Mme. Gulamare couldn’t be buying 5 tons a
day. That would  means she had practically cornered the world market. The entire production
from Congo is maybe 60 tons a month. The RPA officers are  not doing 100 tons a month. They
are  collection of free wheeling and dealing officers. They use the profits to finance not the war
but posh cars and mansions in Kigali and property outside, in South Africa and Uganda. . We sell
$30-70,000 a month of the mineral, depending on the quality and have a profit margin of 8-15%.
Sometimes we take a loss. We sell to partners in South Africa. The European dealers want to pay
with letters of credit,  which doesn’t work well  in Rwanda because you have to get money out of
the bank and so many documents are required by the time you see your money it takes a month
and you haven’t covered your fixed expenses. . Belgians, Germans, Russians, Americans, and
Chinese agents are all here buying. I just heard there are some interested parties in Hong Kong.
All these are middlemen. Much of the stuff that goes to Germany and China is only refined there
and ends up in the U.S.. The U.S. is the main consumer of coltan in the world, and Cabot is the
main company in the U.S.. It’s a very strategic mineral. It goes into 
 capacitors for cellphones and  alloys for aircraft, satellites, missiles,  medical instruments,
prosthetics, hip joints, etc.,  the metal being very stable and inert.  The companies here that deal
directly with Cabot and don’t go through a middleman reap the highest profit. The U.S. has
strategic reserves that it sometimes dumps on the market and the price  goes through the floor.
Last year the U.S. agency for strategic reserves sold 80,000 lb of pure coltan and the price was
down for 6 months. A month ago it started buying again. We don’t discriminate who we buy
from. We had a private contract with the military but after two or three sales they found a better
payer, then they set up a bidding system. They got smart and started to go through higher-up
middlemen. These are just officer pooling, they have nothing to do with the Rwandese
government. [It seemed Karimbizi, whom I was put on to by Mazimhaka, doth protest too much].
But it’s ironical that the U.S., which is supporting these parks, are also the ones who are
destroying them.” 
       Back in the USA I called  Paul Rutter, who does a lot of the buying for Cabot High
Performance Materials,  which is a small subsidiary of Cabot Corporation in Boston. It was
founded by brahman scion Geoffrey Cabot, who had oil wells in Western Pennsylvania. An
ancient Cabot is still on the board. Rutter explained that “coltan is a combination of columbite and
tantalite. Columbite is same as niobium. Almost anywhere you find tantalum oxide you find at
least some niobium.  The coltan from Bukavu is 30% tantalite, 30% niobium, and the rest is
impurities like iron, titanium, and silicon. It sells in Kigali for $25 a kilo. It is often associated in
that part of the world with caciterite, from which it can be separated.  Niobium is  useful for high-
temperature alloys. 50% of the worldwide use for high purity tantalum powder is for capacitors
for cellphones, computer control systems in cars, etc.
        “We are not the biggest buyer in Kigali. We buy some from traders there but our major
source is European traders who sell to anybody who comes up with the price they are asking.
They  get it from Kigali, Bukavu, or Goma and have their samples weighed and assayed by a third
party. If it is going to be separated that is usually already done in Africa. There are small
processing plants in Congo and Rwanda, but most of the coltan goes not significantly processed
to Europe. The price in Rotterdam or Antwerp for 30% pure varies from $80 to $90 a kilo. We
get most of our coltan from there, only a small percent directly in Kigali. Most of our stuff
actually comes from Australia, where we have long- term contacts with big miners. Nobody
knows what % of the coltan in Europe is from Congo. There are no clearly defined channels. The
material could be double and triple counted as it changes hands. We process the coltan ourselves
into high purity tantalum powder and niobium for a variety of products, the largest  of which is
the capacitor. How much of our coltan is from Congo ? I’d guess 10%.  Any figure for the entire
production from Congo would have to have a huge error bar, but I wouldn’t faint if I had to
throw a dart at   $25 million a year.  We buy it unprocessed. Cabot is known as a refiner. A kilo
of high purity tantalum powder is worth several hundred dollars. There are three manufacturers of
tantalite powders for the world solid-state electronics industry : us, the Germany company H.C.
Stark, and the Red Chinese company Ningxia. How much we produce is proprietary, but I would
guess Cabot is a $100  million dollar business. 
       “Automobile control systems  ignitions, air bags  are big business. A small portion is for
ballistic applications. I don’t know if we are involved. I just buy the raw material.  We also
process the niobium- into what, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know. Niobium 1% zirconium
alloy and niobium titanium is used in superconductors and medical instruments. A kilo of high
purity niobium power is worth less than tantalite powder. 
      “In Kigali a number of dealers are running around and selling to big buyers and number of
small ones. It is very competitve in Kigali because the demand is very high at moment. We
process it as fast as we can get it. We buy from a local who has his own mining operation in
Rwanda. I didn’t say we don’t get any from Congo. A lot of the material in Kigali is from Goma
and Bukavu. I don’t know how much goes to Kampala. I think there is the potential for some
serious business in Congo. So far it is just artesanal mines scratching the surface. Of the $25
million or so coming out of Congo we do a very small amount. People there demand cash and we
can’t evaluate the ore. Portable x-ray analysis can lead you down the primrose path. Most of it is
going directly or indirectly  to  Stark and Ningxia.”
     Jim Giershek told me that he the high-purity tantalum powder that Cabot makes “to capacitor
manufacturers all over the world.  Virtually every electronic device you can think of from
cellphones to digital cameras has a capacitor. Cellphones are a big driver of the market right now.
We produce about half a million pounds, $100 million worth, of the powder a year. 95% goes to
the capacitor industry. 50% of the coltan industry worldwide goes for tantilite wire, rods, sheets,
foil, and alloys. Less than 2% of our powder is used for ballistic applications, mainly for the actual
warhead part of shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons. The metal has exceptional penetrance.” 
People contacted : 

Nairobi : the Honorable John Carson, American Ambassador to Kenya 
Eugene Rutagarama, Program Officer, IGCP 
Annette Lanjouw, Director, IGCP
Mbayma’s co conservateur Mafuko, Congolese coordinator, Kes’s counterpart.
Kigali :
 Patrick Mazimhaka, Councilor to the President on the Great Lakes
 Charles Murigande, Councilor to the President
T‚ogŠne Rudasingwa, Directeur du Cabinet (President’s chief of staff
Liz Williamson, Karisoke Director, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Ian Muranura, Director, Project Conservation de la Forest de Nyungwe
 Vince Smith, Programme Manager, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Europe
Jean Bizimana, Chef de Service Parcs Nationaux et Tourisme, ORTPN
the Honorable George M. Staples, American Ambassador to Rwanda
 Susan Page, US political officer who monitors eastern DRC
Goma :
Honorable Dr. Vizima Karaha, Chief of Territorial Security and Intelligence for RCD-Goma
Anicet Mburanumwe Chiri, Coordonateur ICCN/RCD
Stanislas Bakinahe, Directeur Provincial Nord Kivu, ICCN
Yowa Winder, OCHA
Kate Farnsworth, US Aid Disaster Relief
Wathuaut Wabubundja Miy, Alexandre, conservateur en chef station Rwindi. 
Maitre Joseph Mudumbi Mulunda, RCD Chef de Departent de l’Interieur

Rumangabo : 
Laurent Muhindo, conservateur principal, Parc Nacional des Virunga

Beni :
Benoit Kambale Kisuki Mathe, Commisaire Adjoint des Infrastructures, RCD-ML 

Epulu :
Karl Ruf, Field Director for GIC at RFO
Robert Mwinyihali, Administrator Research and Training Center (CEFRECOF), WCS
Jean-Joseph Mapilanga
Mayimingi, Kenge
Terese and John Hart (in states before and after trip).
Bunia :
Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, President RCD-Kisangani
Ernest Uringi-pa-Dolo, Governor of Ituri Province
Thomas K. Luhaka, Vice-Commisar of Defense, RCD-Kisangani
Faustin Lola Lapi,  commisaire d’agriculture, development rural, peches, et forets. 
President de la societe civile de l”ituri, Bha-Avira Mbiya Michel-Casimir. 
Alex Bonte, FAO

Dr. A.K. Kes Hillman Smith, Monitoring and Research Coordinator
Fraser Smith, Field Director of IRF for Garamba
Sangbalenze Ungua Moke, Commisaire de zone be Dungu
Jules Abiadra, Administrator of Territory of Faradje
Hassan, SPLA political counselor 
Mbayma Atalia, chef conservateur
Claude last name tk UNHCR

Bukavu : 
Carlos Schuler, Administrative and Financial Officer, GTZ
Christine Schuler, chef de bureau, GTZ.
Guy Debonnet, Chef de Mission, GTZ (by telephone from Montreal to Butare)
Mushenzi Lusenge, Directeur Provincial Sud-Kivu, ICCN
Norbert Basengezi Katintima, Governor of South Kivu Province
Commandant Kasereka, Military Commandant of Bukavu Region
Kasereka the conservateur principal
the Mwami of Idgwi, Ntambuka.

ADF Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan rebel group dedicated to overthrow of Museveni

AFDL Alliance des Forces pour la Lib‚ration du Congo

ADP Alliance D‚mocratique du Peuple, same as RCD
CAR Central African Republic

GIC Gilman  International Conservation

CEPRECOF Centre de Recherche et Conservation ForestiŠre

DFGF Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

DRC Democratic Republic of Congo, capital Kinshasa. Not to be confused with ROC

FAC Forces Armees Congolaises. Kabila’s army.

FAR Habyarimana’s defeated Forces Arm‚es Rwandaises

FAZ  Mobutu’s defeated Forces Arm‚es Zairoises

GTZ Deutsche Gesselschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit/ German Technical Cooperation

ICCN Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature

IGCP International Gorilla Conservation Programme

IRF International Rhino Fund

MLC Mouvement de la Lib‚ration du Congo, led by Jean Pierre Bemba, based in Gbadolite

NALU The Ugandan rebel group that has been holed up in the Ruwenzori Mountains since

ORCHA the United Nations’ Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
PNG Garamba National Park
PNKB Kahuzi Biega National Park
PNS Salonga National Park
PNV Virunga National Park

RCD-Goma, Rassemblement Congolais pour la D‚mocratie, led by Dr. ?mile Ilunga, based in

RCD-Kisangani, aka RCD-ML (Mouvement de la Lib‚ration), led by Professor Wamba dia
Wamba, based in Bunia

RFO Okapi Faunal Reserve
ROC Republic of Congo, capital Brazzaville
RPA Rwandan Patriotic Army
RPF Rwandan Patriotic Front, president Paul Kagame

SPLA, Sudan People’s Liberation Army

UNHCR United Nations High Council for Refugees

WCS Wildlife Conservation Society

WWF World Wildlife Fund

Dispatch #46: The Thistle and the Bee.

Donald Trump wants to put a luxury golf resort on a gloriously unspoiled swath of Scottish seacoast. His plan has come under fire by environmental activists and led to a battle that has reached the highest levels of government. Plus, he’s up against another character: local fisherman Michael Forbes.
by Alex Shoumatoff

THE DONALD: Trump on the 17th tee of the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida. Photographs by Jonas Karlsson.

Donald Trump is on the phone, and he is pumped. “Alex, my man. I bought the most beautiful piece of land in Europe: the Great Dunes, in northeastern Scotland.” (Only the Donald, it should be pointed out, calls them “the Great Dunes.” Not that they aren’t great—they’re fantastic—but they’re actually called the Menie dunes.) “Fourteen hundred acres with 3.8 miles of beachfront, just north of Aberdeen, which is the oil capital of Europe. The dunes are considered to be S.S.S.I., which means scientifically important something”—a Site of Special Scientific Interest—“and that you sort of can’t touch them. It’s like going in and ripping down a landmark building in New York. But I’m going to build a world-class golf course in the dunes and another 18 holes on the property, plus a tremendous hotel with 450 rooms, 500 homes, 950 condos, and 36 golf villas. I’ll know at the end of the month if I get the zoning. If Jack Nicklaus tried to do this he’d have zero chance, but they like what I’ve done, and because I am who I am and my mother is Scottish—between you and me, Alex, I’m going to get it.

“Royal Aberdeen Golf Club,” he continues, “where they just had the Open”—not quite: Royal Aberdeen has never hosted the British Open, but the Senior Open was played there in 2005—“is just down the road. Its front nine is in the dunes, and it’s generally considered to be the best in golf. But Royal Aberdeen’s dunes are nothing compared to mine. The dunes are just starting to rise at Royal Aberdeen, and they peak on my property. My dunes are the highest on the whole Scottish coast. So imagine how great the course is going to be. I’ve hired Martin Hawtree to design it. He’s a consultant for the Royal & Ancient at St. Andrews. And he’s from that part of the world, which is important.”

Trump and I have an improbable friendship that began with a round of golf we played at Winged Foot, the famous course in Mamaroneck, New York, 10 years ago. I was writing about the invasion of the megabucksters, the turnover from old Wasp gentry to new money in my hometown, Bedford, in northern Westchester County. Trump had bought the magnificent Eugene Meyer estate (Meyer made The Washington Post a world-class newspaper) and had applied to build a luxury golf-course development on its 213 acres. Even the new-money Bedfordites were not happy about it.

I needed to talk to Trump and, knowing that he plays golf, I suggested doing it on the golf course. He thought it was a great idea and invited me to join him at Winged Foot, which he belongs to. Joe Pesci was supposed to join us, but he didn’t show, so Trump and I set off with an old caddie lugging both our bags. I rose to the occasion, at one point stiffing a five-wood 210 yards to within eight feet of the pin, but Trump is a ferocious competitor and put his ball even closer. No matter how well I hit my shot, his was always better. We had a game. I put the pressure on, and he ended up shooting a 71, which was the lowest score he had ever carded at Winged Foot, and he was ecstatic about it. The 18th hole, one of the most fearsome closing holes in golf, Trump calmly birdied, like it was nothing. (I flew my six-iron approach into a trap and was out of contention.) We shook hands, and he said, “I just wanted to finish with a bird, Alex, to impress on your frigging gourd that the Trumpster can play.”

Since then Trump has married the model Melania Knauss, his third wife, and they have a son, Barron, his fifth child. He also became a global television star, firing aspiring young employees on The Apprentice. When I called to tell him that Vanity Fair wanted me to look into the local furor over his proposed golf course in Scotland, he asked—I could feel his almost child-like excitement growing, even on the phone—“Do you think they’re going to put me on the cover?” Trump tells people he’s been on the cover of Vanity Fair twice, but it was only once, with his second wife, Marla Maples, and their child, Tiffany, in 1994. I told him, “That’s something I have absolutely no control over, but I hope they do.”

Trump didn’t get to do the golf course in Bedford, because its pesticides and fertilizers would have run off into Byram Lake, which provides drinking water for three towns. Even Trump can be shot down, but it doesn’t happen very often, and when you have as big a stack of chips as he does, it doesn’t matter if you lose a hand or two. He went on to build two fantastic Trump National golf courses—one nearby in Briarcliff, the other in Bedminster, New Jersey. When I asked him about Bedford, he said he decided not to do the golf course because it would have cut into the profits at Briarcliff. Instead, he’s going to build 24 houses on the land and sell them for $20 million each. Trump does not admit defeat.

My conversation with Trump took place last November, and the Scottish project was looking pretty good. The local population was overwhelmingly in favor of it, and the Scottish government in Edinburgh seemed to be all for it, except for Scottish Natural Heritage, the government’s environmental protection agency, which is concerned about the S.S.S.I. being invaded and the spectacular mobile-dune system being stabilized and grassed over with fairways and greens. There’s also a local fisherman, Michael Forbes, who has 23 acres in the middle of Trump’s 1,400 acres that he refuses to sell to Trump for any price—a David and Goliath story that the European and American press has been having a field day with.

“What about this Michael Forbes?,” I ask Trump, and he tells me, “Forbes is a wise guy … and now that he’s become well known because he’s fighting Trump, he’s playing it up to the hilt. His property is a mess, and I would like him to clean it up, but it’s in the flatland behind the dunes, and my approvals have nothing to do with it. I own 100 percent of what I need to own. There are people on the outskirts making noise because it’s me, unfortunately, but between you and me, Alex, Forbes is making my land more valuable.”

Five months after my conversation with Trump, and a subsequent weeklong trip to Scotland, the fate of the Menie dunes is still undecided. Trump’s project has generated such a passionate response between those opposed to the development and those in favor of it that the Scottish government in Edinburgh has gotten involved, which means that the decision will be made at the national, not the shire, level, ultimately by the Cabinet secretary of finance and sustainable growth. It could come in a few months, or take much longer.

I should get this out of the way: I am fond of Trump. Underneath the unbelievable ego, he’s actually a good guy. On the other hand, Graydon Carter, the editor of this magazine, has a history with Trump. Back when he was the editor of Spy magazine, he called Trump a “short-fingered vulgarian,” which Trump is still smarting from. And I love golf. But I’m also passionate about advocating for and documenting natural sites like the Menie dunes and local cultures, which are being obliterated by the modern world. And “ecological sensitivity” is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump. He doesn’t even believe in global warming. But this is because he is a city boy. The only apparent contact he has with nature is golf and sex. The rest of the time he’s wheeling and dealing and being the Donald. Which is why golf is so important to him. Which he doesn’t even realize.

THE HOLDOUT: Michael Forbes, the David to Trump’s Goliath, in the Menie dunes.

The battle in Scotland between the Trumpistas and the Dunistas is just a local example of the bigger conflict, playing out all over the world and of crucial importance for the future of the planet, between those who believe that nature—what little of it is left—should be allowed to take its course, that its unfathomable intricacy and complexity cannot be improved upon, and those who believe that the natural world is there for us to exploit and alter to our advantage. Western civilization has basically been in the second, anthropocentric camp since the book of Genesis, which is why, after centuries of relentless destruction, the planet is now in such deep trouble. But try explaining this to Donald Trump.

A few days after my conversation with Trump, I am driving down a muddy lane to Mill of Menie, eight miles north of the city of Aberdeen, to Michael Forbes’s farm. I come down to the flats, behind which are the dunes—an imposing, jumbled, hundred-foot wall of grass-tufted sand—and, behind them, the gleaming North Sea. There is a farmhouse with a barn; half a dozen vehicles are being worked on, but on the scale of rustic squalor, it’s unremarkable. Forbes’s 83-year-old mother, Molly, who lives on the property and is handling the press, invited me to come to her house, a neat little white pre-fab that has been called a “trailer.” Forbes, who opens the door, calls it a “chalet.” A plaque beside the door says paradise.

“Beautiful spot you have here,” I say to Forbes as we sit down in the living room, and he says, “And Trump wants to ruin it. Every time he’s on television, all he talks about is the golf course. But that’s just camouflage, a blind. It only costs a few million to build a golf course. So why is this a billion-pound project? Because he’s putting in millions of houses. He never says anything about the houses, but we know what it’s all about. That’s what he does, isn’t it? He finds a beautiful place and ruins it. Trump’s mother, Mary MacLeod, was from the Isle of Lewis, 200 miles from here. He says he’s doing this to get back to his roots, but if that was true, why isn’t he ruining the Isle of Lewis?”

A bald, mustachioed, 55-year-old reminiscent of the actor Robert Shaw, Forbes is wearing a white wool sweater and has a cast on his left arm, for recent surgery on his arthritic thumb. “The doctor said I was doing too much ruggin’ and rivin’,” he explains in the local Doric dialect, which means too much pulling and forcing of fishnets. “Fishin’ is in my blood. My father and grandfather were salmon fishers, the skippers of a salmon-fishing station on the beach.

“But there are no more fish here,” Forbes continues. “This summer all I caught was one salmon and one trout. The dolphins and the seals are chasing them out to sea. And there’s pollution.” For the past 17 years, Forbes has been working at a quarry in nearby Balmedie. “I’m the deputy quarry manager, but I do everything, including manning and repairing the machines. We mine whinstone, which is a type of granite.”

I ask Forbes if he’s related to the renowned American Forbeses. “I hope I am,” he replies. “Maybe they’ll give me some help to fight Trump. There’s always been Forbeses on the beach. There was even one called Malcolm. Seemingly, the first Forbes came over from Ireland, before they had a last name,” he explains. “The story goes Queen Bess asked one of them to kill a bear and he came back with three, and she called him Three Bears for Bess, which became Forbes. It happened at Strathdon, 45 minutes from here.” There’s an old Forbes clan motto: “Doe not vaiken sleiping dogs.” Which is just what Trump has done.

It’s ironic that Trump’s adversary is called Forbes. Trump was No. 314 on last year’s Forbes billionaires list, with a net worth of $2.9 billion. “Only No. 314, Donny boy?,” I will rib him later, when we are flying down to Palm Beach on his jet. “What’s the matter?” Trump quickly assures me that he is worth $9 billion.

“My mother’s a Lamb,” Forbes goes on. “There’s quite a lot of Lambs around this area. The Lambs, Lamberts, and Lambertons have the same tartan as the Forbeses, but without white stripes.” As he is saying this, in from kirk (church) comes Molly, who is as lovely as she sounded over the phone and still spry, mentally and physically. She puts on a pot of tea and brings out some fresh-baked sugar cookies.

I ask her if she is local, too, and she says, “No. I was brought up four miles inland. But I know this area. We used to ride down here on our bicycles and play in the halex.” “Halex” is how “hillocks,” the local term for grass-covered dunes, comes out in Doric. “Doric is worse to understand than Gaelic,” explains Forbes. “It’s a language they made up long ago to fool the British.”

The general term in Scotland for the crumpled sandy band between the farmland and the beach is “links.” The links are where the game of golf originated, more than 500 years ago.

Forbes is obviously very attached to his mother. I can see there is no way Trump is going to get this property while she is alive. “Trump buys people, but for some people it’s not about money,” Forbes says. In fact, the slogan of Sustainable Aberdeenshire, the grassroots organization of 50 or so objectors that was hastily formed to oppose the development, whose celebrities are Forbes and Molly, is “Menie, not money.”

Mill of Menie was part of the Menie Estate, which includes an ancient castle in the beech woods above Forbes’s property called Menie House. Forbes explains that the estate was bought by an American lawyer in the oil business named Tom Griffin sometime after the drilling in the North Sea started in the 70s. Griffin stocked the property with pheasant and red-footed partridge and ran it as a hunting lodge. “It was he who first had the idea of turning the place into a golf resort,” Forbes says. “About 10 years ago he started buying up land. The rumor was because he wanted to put the old estate back the way it was, but I was wary even then.

“Two years ago,” he goes on, “Griffin sold the land to Trump, and letters went out that Trump wanted to meet all the locals and was inviting us for a meeting at Menie House, but I didn’t go, because I wasn’t interested in selling. Trump was here for three days—this was last year. On the third day I was mending my nets at home, and Tom Griffin came to me and said, ‘Donald Trump wants to talk to you,’ and Trump came over all nicey-nicey. By this time, Neil Hobday [a developer Trump hired as his project manager] and his fiancée, posing as husband and wife who were trying to pick up a bargain vacation home—he was using the name Peter White—had been going around and asking them to sell, and when they came here, my wife said, ‘Get f—.’?” (Hobday says this approach is standard commercial practice: “If I turned up and said, ‘Hello, I’m from the Trump Organization … ‘”) “The rumor is he tried to do a golf resort of his own and went bust and he left the local people with thousands of pounds of unpaid bills, then turned up here.

“Three months ago, I got [an initial] letter from Trump’s solicitor offering me £350,000 for my place, lock, stock, and barrel. It was a nasty letter, demanding the place. So I stuffed it back in the envelope and wrote on the outside, ‘Take your insult and shove it and do not bother me again,’ and popped it into the postbox up at Menie Estate, and that’s when everything went mental. They stopped my access to the beach. By then Hobday, George Sorial”—Trump’s director of international development in New York—“and another lad had met Mother and me and started apologizing for the disruption that was going to be caused by all the machinery. They offered to move us to Blackdog,” a big rock three miles down the coast, so named because it seems to howl in the wind, “but it’s a dump, with methane gas coming out all over the place. I said no, then they offered to jack up the house and move me and Mother to the other side of the highway. I said no, and they said, ‘We’ll give you a job,’ but they wouldn’t say what it was and no money was mentioned. It could have been cleaning Trump’s toilets. The paper said I was offered a hundred thousand pounds a year for the rest of my life and that I demanded a million pounds for my property, which is rubbish. The only thing I demanded was to be left in peace.

“Then the board of environmental health came and had a look around and said there was nothing wrong,” Forbes continues, “and I said, ‘Who put in the report? It wouldn’t be Trump’s people, would it?’ And they said, ‘We can’t say.’ Then the R.S.P.C.A.—animal welfare—came. My wife’s got cats, geese, a horse, and hens. They had a look around and said everything was O.K. and wouldn’t say who reported us, either.”

Hobday denies that the Trump Organization called the Board of Environmental Health or the R.S.P.C.A. He also says that they have asked Forbes not to cross their land to access the beach, but that he continues to do so. Hobday claims that they never offered to move the Forbes house, though they did offer to move him to a house in Blackdog. And regarding the job offer, Hobday says it was at a managerial level.

“Trump himself came over a month ago and had a press conference at Menie House,” Forbes says. “He called my place disgusting. ‘Forbes sits there like an angel, but he’s a tough, smart guy.’ The first I knew about this rant was when The Guardian and The Times called up and asked if I was going to sue him. And that’s when this whole thing started up. I have never had any peace since. I’ve been getting letters from all over the world. Good letters.”

“A CBS crew asked me, Will Trump get us out?, and I said, Never,” Forbes says. He shows me a picture of him standing in front of the chalet in his kilt with his arms folded defiantly, like in Braveheart. “You’re talking about a thrawn Forbes here,” he explains. “?‘Thrawn’ is [Doric for] worse than stubborn. All the Forbes are known to be thrawn. Mother’s a Lamb, and they’re thrawner.”

I turn off onto the Green Lady, a lane that leads through the beech woods and is named for a female ghost, apparently one of the housemaids a few generations back, who haunts Menie House and always appears in a green dress. Trump has gotten a magical piece of Scotland. You can almost feel the local spirits.

I pull up to the estate’s quaint old stone lodge house, which for the last 25 years has been the home of Don and Valerie Banks. They are a nice couple. Don is mild-mannered and does risk assessments for the oil industry. Valerie has two horses and rides on the beach. She is one of the few people who use the S.S.S.I. regularly. Don is one of the founders of Sustainable Aberdeenshire and is the antithesis of Donald, who he says, disdainfully, “specializes in being O.T.T.”—over the top.

“This is quite a quiet corner of Scotland,” Don tells me. “The planning board has never had to deal with anything of this scale or magnitude, and it’s understandable that the council would welcome a celebrity. The best thing Trump has done is to give us a celebrity of our own, Michael Forbes.”

When I tell Trump, “Everybody says trashing Forbes at the press conference was a big miscalculation. You created a David,” he has no regrets: “The farmer got me all this publicity. Now everybody knows about what I’m doing in Scotland. It’s the hottest thing in Europe.”

Banks has invited Owen Vaughan, a geologist knowledgeable about the natural history of the dunes, to join us for a walk in them. Vaughan is on the council of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, a non-governmental conservation charity, and works for an American oil company.

We drive out to the old Coast Guard station, on a bluff that has a sweeping view of the dunes and Aberdeen Bay beyond them. David and Moira Milne are living there and in the process of adding on to it. The eight stories of condos that Trump is applying for would come to within 50 yards of their back door, but it is still a gloriously isolated spot. The Milnes have no intention of selling, either. From the tower of the station, the sea and the dunes are bathed in soft golden light. We can see Aberdeen’s little thicket of skyscrapers, eight miles down the coast. This side of the river Don, just above the city’s northern limit, the dunes begin.

Royal Aberdeen, the sixth-oldest golf course in the world, built in l780, and the 100-year-old Murcar Links are nestled in them, working their way through the dune system. Then comes Balmedie Country Park, where the public enjoys access to the beach and the dunes. Then comes Trump’s land, which is at the center of the 14-mile mobile-dune system that extends on up to Cruden Bay, where it is stopped by a wall of cliffs.

“The sand is washed up by the waves and is picked up by the wind that blows it up the beach and inland, whipping it up into dunes,” Vaughan explains.

“It takes about a hundred years to make a dune, but the system is 4,000 years old. It started with the rebound of the land as the last ice sheet disappeared, which raised it out of the ocean. The ocean was also rising with ice melt from glaciers and the Arctic ice cap, but the land was rising faster. Two thousand years ago, people were living a hundred miles from shore, halfway across the North Sea to Norway.

“At the northern end of the dune system, a whole village called Forvie was covered by sand in 1413, supposedly in a single storm,” Vaughan continues. “The Forvie Dunes are a British National Nature Reserve. Seals and swans and short-eared owls congregate there. The site is untouchable. At Forvie the sand—whatever hasn’t been carried off by the burns [creeks]—is washed back into the sea by the River Ythan. So it’s a never-ending cycle—one of the most beautiful and dynamic mobile-dune systems in the world. Ten days of good wind could bury Trump’s course. I wonder if he knows this.”

The four of us bound down the steep slope of the bluff into the flats behind the dune wall, which are known as the “slacks.” We are now on the Foveran Links, where part of Trump’s golf course would go if the development is approved. The floor of the slacks is gravel hardpan—old raised beach, from when the sea was higher, before the dunes came into existence, explains Vaughan, pointing out a wind-bared section. Little ponds important for wildlife stand here and there. Skylarks and linnets, which have inspired poets from Blake to Yeats, nest in the short grass and sand on their edges. There are 12 species of willow in the slacks: prostrate willows, whose red stems lie over the sand; knee-high willows, favored by willow warblers; and tree-size willows frequented by coal tits and blue tits. In summer, orchids and yellow flag irises bloom on the dry slopes of the slacks, and there’s a rare fern called the lesser adder’s-tongue as well as a couple of butterflies that are not often seen. But nothing rare enough or endangered enough to stop Trump from having his way.

Vaughan shows me how a thick, triangular blade of marram grass poking up through the sand is beginning to trap sand particles. Most of the blades are eventually blown away, but every so often the sand behind one of them accumulates and becomes the nucleus of a dune. Marram is salt-tolerant and has very deep roots and holds the sand in place.

We thread our way between looming dunes along a narrow, wind-gouged crevice and finally come out on a 25-acre sheet of pure white sand, which came into being 40 years ago when a violent storm breached the dune wall, creating a corridor through which the sand could blow. The Menie Dome, as it is called, is the largest patch of bare white sand in the dune system and is at the heart of the controversy. Trump is planning to grass it over with the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 17th holes. Scottish Natural Heritage and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which has also filed a strong objection to the golf course with the Aberdeenshire Council, argue that trying to stabilize the dunes, particularly the Dome, would “completely interfere with the reason why they are an S.S.S.I.,” as Ian Francis, the Royal Society’s area manager for northeastern Scotland, explains, “which is to ensure that a special, pressurized site like this continues to be dominated by natural processes. There is a big nesting colony of skylarks in the slacks, 70 or 80 pairs, and skylarks are in decline nationwide, but the ecology is not unique. The geomorphology, however, is. It’s one of the more important mobile-dune systems in the British Isles. But the S.S.S.I. has a little get-out clause that says you can do certain things if certain things are complied with. If the project is of national importance, it can override protection.”

Trump is arguing that his project is a model for the Scottish economy after the oil gives out, in 40 years or so, and that his course will have the Open, but there is no guarantee of either. “What is nationally important—200,000 people coming every decade or so?,” Francis asks. “A billion pounds spent over 10 years? This is not of national importance, either to the U.K. or to Scotland. Other objectors have compared the development to putting in a large supermarket. We’re talking of regional significance, and in so doing destroying an unequivocally magnificent site of national significance. They’re building a town that’s now countryside.”

Francis tells me that 3,000 pink-footed geese, who fly down from Iceland, spend the winter picking over the harvested hay and barley fields where the houses are slated to go. But the Royal Society is not even making that their primary issue, because the proponents of the project could argue that the geese would find somewhere else to go. Its main issues are maintaining the integrity of the S.S.S.I.—is a protected area really protected or not?—and of the dynamic natural processes that make the site so special. Don Banks is more concerned about the integrity of the Aberdeenshire Council, which, if it gives Trump the go-ahead, will be violating its own planning code, which bans housing in undeveloped coastal areas. “There are already 70 golf courses in Aberdeenshire,” he says. “Why on earth do we need another one, especially if it means sacrificing this jewel of our natural heritage?”

“I wonder if anyone has told him about the Harr,” Valerie adds. The Harr is a dense coastal fog that arrives on summer days—especially in July, just when the British Open that Trump so wants would be played—causing a 10-degree-centigrade drop in the temperature and reducing visibility to a few yards. “How are they going to have the tournament when the Harr sets in?,” Valerie asks. I put this to Trump. He hasn’t heard about the Harr and lets George Sorial field the question. Sorial says it doesn’t have any impact in Aberdeen. But Sorial’s veracity quotient is no higher than his boss’s. Two of his statements to me—that 30 S.S.S.I.’s have already been de-listed so they could be converted into golf courses, and that the dunes are only 40 years old: “this bit about their being 4,000 years old is bullshit” (he is thinking about the breach that created Menie Dome)—have not checked out. “That’s not what I’m hearing,” I tell him, and he says, “Well, if it does, it’s just part of the game.”

I conduct an unscientific survey of local public opinion in the pubs of Aberdeen, and the ayes have it—a hundred percent. Most Aberdonians, it should be pointed out, have never seen the dunes. The bartender at Wordies Alehouse tells me that of the 200,000 people in Aberdeen only a few hundred are against Trump’s project, and most don’t care one way or the other. This jibes with a taxi driver’s contention that “only the odd few, the sandal wearers and tree huggers, are making noise about it.” The manager of the Cock & Bull, down the carriageway from the Menie Estate—where Trump had dined, appropriately enough, the last time he was here—is a staunch supporter. Americans are liked in Aberdeen. The Texas oil culture has seeped into the local culture. Country and western is bigger than bagpipes.

With public opinion running so strongly for the resort, it’s hard to see the Aderdeenshire Council not voting for it. Its members’ first responsibility, like that of anyone who wants to be re-elected, is to their constituents, not to the environment or even its own planning code. The first vote, by the Formartine Area Committee (Formartine is the sub-jurisdiction of Aberdeenshire that contains the Menie dunes), will take place the next week.

A week after that, the more powerful Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee will hold its vote. This too is expected to be a slam dunk for the Trumpster. Another gem of nature lost, I think. But if Trump doesn’t do it, someone else will, and not as well. It’s too close to the city not to be eventually condo’d over. There’s already a steady stream of commuters from farther out at rush hour.

The next morning I meet Neil Hobday and his assistant, Lora McCluskey, at Trump International Scotland’s headquarters, in the renovated stable of Menie House, which is an enchanting piece of Scottish-castle architecture. “D.T. isn’t sure what he’s going to do with it,” Hobday says. Maybe he’s going to keep it to put up visiting celebrities like Sean Connery, a big golfer, to whom Trump has extended the first membership. “Connery’s membership number will be 007,” Trump told me, “and he’ll hit the first ball when the course opens.”

Hobday, 50, has a posh British accent, polished at the British military academy Sandhurst. He is articulate, old-school-tie but not nobby, and brings a touch of class to the project. He tells me he grew up on a 50,000-acre farm in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.

I ask about his own failed golf-course development, the one Michael Forbes told me about. “It was a much more modest proposal,” he explains.

“The permitting dragged on for two years, and when it finally came through, there was a stipulation that we had to hook up the sewage with a treatment plant miles away. This was an expensive proposition, and the American backers felt they had absorbed enough losses and backed out.” According to the London Sunday Times, Hobday’s development company went “into administration” in 2005 and has yet to be sold. Some 30 staff were “made redundant” (laid off), and investors were left with almost $2 million worth of unpaid bills, more than $330,000 of which was owed to local businessmen. Trump says he hired Hobday because he understood the application process.

“With Trump’s project we are leading the establishment of Scotland as a No. 1 golf destination,” he tells me. “There hasn’t been much since Muirfield and St. Andrews. Aberdeenshire, with its 70 courses, is a great destination for golf tourism, but the infrastructure for receiving them is not there. There aren’t enough hotels, and the ones in Aberdeen are filled during the week by people coming in and out of the rigs and other people in the oil business. And on the weekend all the tee times are booked by members. So when Trump International opens its 400-room hotel, the tourists can stay here and play them all. And it will bring up the whole region. It’s a classic case: if you flood a lake, all the boats rise at the same time.”

Other well-known developers are already jumping on the bandwagon. Jack Nicklaus is doing a golf resort at the Ury Estate, south of Aberdeen. Tom Watson’s name has been mentioned to renovate Hazelfield, a municipal course nearby that was designed by Alister MacKenzie, famed for the hallowed Augusta National, in Georgia. Castle Stuart, up in Inverness, and Gleneagles, in the heart of Scotland, where the G-8 summit took place in 2005, are already up and running. “It began with Tralee [in southwestern Ireland], Arnold Palmer’s first European design, in l983,” Hobday tells me, “and as the Celtic Tiger”—Ireland’s economic boom that began in the 1990s—“took off, it quickly went into golf-course-development overdrive. Scotland wasn’t so desperate for golf developments, because it had the oil revenue, and now the home of golf is playing catch-up.”

The three of us pile into a silver S.U.V. and head for the dunes. Hobday continues his spiel. “D.T. bought this property because he wants to host the British Open. It’s the only one left that’s capable of doing it. The beauty is we have such a huge envelope and can pre-plan for a major tournament. The usual venues—like Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham, the Old Course at St. Andrews, Royal St. George’s, in Kent—have serious problems with parking and handling the crowds that descend on them.

THE MIDDLEMAN: Neil Hobday, Trump’s point man in Scotland, in front of Menie House.

“Tom Griffin had assembled 800 acres, and we bolted on three properties, bringing it up to 1,400. Within it are the holdouts who are taking a wait-and-see attitude,” Hobday says.

“But why would Forbes sell his 23 acres now, when, if the development goes through, it would undoubtedly be worth a lot more?,” I ask.

“Michael Forbes can start a fight in an empty room,” Hobday says, “but his new pals at Sustainable Aberdeenshire have given him a social life. We’ve had a cordial relationship most of the time. Offered him a job for life—anything he wanted: head of landscaping, head of the machinery. The guy is very good with his hands. [Forbes’s wife] Sheila knows we said he would have a very senior role, so he has his agenda. We’ve now offered £450,000 sterling for his land when the going price before us was £200,000. We’ve tried to get him to understand that life will never be the same; the reason you’re here will be gone. These rusting machines may be important to you, but they look like shit. For Michael to take this kind of Braveheart role is a little bit disingenuous. Suddenly he’s wearing his kilt, when he never owned a suit in his life. It must be rented. But Trump understands where he’s coming from. We’ve told Forbes our door is always open.” (According to Forbes, he owns two kilts. He does admit, however, that he has never owned a suit.)

We walk out onto the Dome, and Hobday continues: “And here’s the biggest sheet of sand in the system. The closest comparison is an oil slick,” he says. “If it were an oil slick, what would you do? Would you let it float around, killing habitat? Or would you clean it up? I call it a giant sea slug. Or a land-based oil slick that devours farmland and habitat, gobbles it up. It’s not the result of a natural process; it’s an aberration, the result of a violent storm 40 years ago. And the responsible, natural thing to do is to stabilize it. By stabilization I mean strategically planting more of the native marram grass that is already here, holding the dunes in place. The fairways will be the native fescue, which is already growing in the slacks. As with all the links in Scotland, you have to use the indigenous grasses because of the high saline content of the soil and the wind. They evolved naturally and produce the kind of game associated with links, which is fast and firm and not target golf.”

I have to admit it would make a fantastic golf course. Trump was not kidding. And Hobday makes the valid point that covering the Dome with the native vegetation would increase the habitat for the birds and other animals. “Royal Aberdeen says it has 150 species of wildflowers,” he says. “Clearly this coastline has been used for golf for centuries to no ill effect.”

I don’t see anybody in the minute, rather tepid opposition who is capable of standing up to Trump and his hardball corporate lawyers. But I am heartened when I meet Mickey Foote, Sustainable Aberdeenshire’s press coordinator. His house is way out on a ridge north of Trump’s property, a mile from the carriageway and about the same distance from the sea. An Aberdeen native, Foote lived on a houseboat in London for many years. His claim to fame is that he produced the Clash’s first album, in 1977. And he has a mouth.

“So Hobday has given you the tour,” he says. “?‘The great sea slug that needs to be restrained.’ A lot of local businessmen in Spey Bay got burned when his resort development failed, and it was a peanut proposal compared to this.

“At the original hearing, Tom Fazio, who was the first designer, said all we need is a couple of tees and greens. And it kept getting bigger, doubling, then tripling in size, and once the people of Aberdeen had been sucked in, the bigger it got, the more excited they got. But I’m scared the whole thing is going to go tits-up and we’ll be left with this huge white elephant on our hands. I don’t think he’s going to fill his 450-room hotel or his luxury houses, condos, and golf villas. All the golf clubs around here are short of members.”

Foote starts to get worked up. “What kind of a heel would want to put a golf course in a natural links, anyway? How can he say this is the most beautiful place in the world? The most beautiful place to ruin. Why doesn’t he find a shithouse and do it up? The shit that comes out of his mouth—what’s he living in, a parallel universe or what? How can the environment be better with 1,000 units?”

Foote is pacing around his living room, spitting out zingers. “All our ‘moms’ are Scottish. Let’s see what he’d do if we put his off her land.

“Has anyone told him how nasty the climate is in Aberdeen most of the time?” he adds.

I ask Trump myself: “Are you aware that the climate up there sucks eight months out of the year?” And he says, “Well, maybe global warming—which I don’t necessarily believe in, at least the human part—is going to take care of that.”

Links golf is supposed to be played year-round, but on only two days during the week I spend in Aberdeen is the weather fit for golf. No one in his right mind would go out on the others. Serendipitously, these are the days I have set up to play Royal Aberdeen and the Old Course at St. Andrews. No golfer’s journey is complete without a pilgrimage to St. Andrews, the mecca of the game. This is where it all began, back in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Hobday has arranged for me to play with Malcolm Campbell, a respected local golf historian and a member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, founded in l754, whose venerable Gothic stone clubhouse presides over the fabled Old Course.

Campbell is 64, a short, wily man in a brown plaid golf cap—the rill dill. He is working on a book about St. Andrews that will give five alternative ways to play each hole, depending on the conditions.

The wind this morning is “the merest zephyr,” as Campbell puts it, so the course isn’t much of a challenge apart from its severely undulating greens and infamous pothole bunkers. Afterward, we repair to the Royal & Ancient’s Big Room, which is lined with old lockers and monumental portraits of famous golfers, and sip port while watching players hit up to the 18th green. “Golf is the true religion,” Campbell reflects. “No wars were ever fought over golf. It was originally classless. If the world were run by the Royal & Ancient, it would be a better place—and safer.” A golfocracy—I like it, I say. Maybe we should give it a shot. Nothing else seems to work.

I am expecting more pro-Trump propaganda from Campbell, considering it was Hobday’s office that set me up with him, but Campbell says, “One thing we know, Trump International is not going to be understated. Scotland doesn’t need Trump. It needs more affordable golf courses, and Trump’s course is just a vehicle for a high-end development. He wants the Open, but he will never get it.”

There are already nine venues that take turns hosting the British Open: Muirfield, Carnoustie, Turnberry, Royal Troon, Royal St. George’s, Royal Liverpool, Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham, and St. Andrews. “None of them are going to pass up the shot in the arm that holding the tournament gives their local economy,” Campbell says. “And I can’t see Trump getting it before Portmarnock, in County Dublin, Ireland, which is not in the U.K.; there’s been a lot of talk about giving it the Open as a conciliatory move. Trump gave a press conference here about how he was building the greatest course in the history of mankind, and how it was going to host the Open, and Peter Dawson, the R. & A.’s secretary, asked him, ‘And when do you think that might be?’?”

THE NEIGHBORS: Moira and David Milne, outside their home, overlooking the dunes.

We talk about how golf started as something for the shepherds to do while they were minding their flocks. Then the English appropriated it and incorporated it into their club system, and it became a class thing. In the 70s, Florida-style golf communities started to be built for America’s baby-boomers who were doing well and taking up the game but couldn’t get into exclusive golf and tennis clubs and were looking for a nice place to live and raise their families. These developments found fertile ground in places like Scottsdale and Palm Springs and the “Redneck Riviera,” along the Gulf of Mexico, and took off; the real-estate boom was reinforced by the equipment and apparel boom. But the bloom has been off the golf boom for four or five years—a recently released report found that the number of Americans who play has declined or remained flat every year since 2000—and golf-course developments have been having trouble in America. The only market for them now is overseas. Trump’s son Eric tells me that 75 percent of the Trump Organization’s constructions these days are abroad. Gated golf communities are going great guns in Brazil, and one of the richest purses on the European Challenge Tour Open is now the Kazakhstan Open. Oil-rich Kazakhs are taking up the game. Where money is flowing, golf soon follows.

But at some point, like the tulip bubble in 17th-century Holland, the global golf bubble is going to burst, too. So I wonder if these high-rolling American golfers are really going to materialize, to spring for a million-dollar vacation home so they can play golf for a week or two a year on Trump’s course in Aberdeenshire. Is golf really going to be the savior of the Scottish economy after the oil gives out?

Trump has invited me for Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago, the onetime Palm Beach residence of five-times-married Post cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, which he bought in 1985 and converted to a private club for very rich and successful people who can’t get into the old-line Bath & Tennis Club, across the street. This means that I won’t be able to attend the meeting of the Formartine Area Committee, but it seems to be a foregone conclusion that it is going to give Trump the green light. I leave Scotland and fly to New York and meet Trump at his jet, which he keeps at La Guardia. It’s hard to miss. Its flanks are emblazoned with trump in giant golden letters.

Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime, devoted secretary, greets me with the news that the Area Committee vote went seven to four for Donald. “A bit of a cakewalk,” as she puts it.

Donald has put on a few pounds since the last time I saw him, but otherwise he is unchanged. “Did you bring your wife?” he asks me, and I say no. “No problem,” he says. “We’ll get you another one.”

While we are on the plane, Rhona’s 12-year-old son puts on a DVD of An Inconvenient Truth, and when Trump sees Al Gore on the screen, he says, “That man is going to close up the country.”

“That’s one thing you’re never going to get,” I say.

“What?,” Trump asks. “What?”

“The Nobel Prize.”

Melania, who is sitting with 20-month-old Barron on her lap, titters. I ask her if she’s planning to have more children, and she says, “I already have two,” referring to her outrageous better half.

Trump is living in a parallel universe. After landing in West Palm Beach, we drive to Mar-a-Lago in his multi-dialed Maybach, which belongs in a James Bond movie. Just over the last bridge, from which we can see Mar-a-Lago, there is a park off to the right that consists mostly of mangrove swamp. “That’s one good thing about this country,” I reflect. “When a park is created, it can’t be developed.”

“Who would want that piece of land anyway?,” Trump says. “Every year it gets wiped out by the hurricanes.”

I point out that Mar-a-Lago is going to be underwater if the melting of the polar ice caps and the glaciers around the world continues at the rate it’s going. “In 50 years you’ll have to take out the a-Lago. It’ll all be Mar.” He is silent. “I think you get it more than you let on,” I say. “You just have to keep up appearances with your fans, who are a bunch of idiots.”

We pull up to Mar-a-Lago’s gracious entrance. The moment Trump steps out of the Maybach, he slips into host mode, greeting all the guests and asking them if they’re having a good time. He introduces me (“This is the greatest writer in America. He’s doing a cover story on me for Vanity Fair. I’ve been on it twice before. But they want me again. They can’t have enough of me”) to Richard LeFrak, whom he has known since they grew up together in Queens. Their fathers were friendly competitors in the real-estate business. “Scotland has been hit by a tornado,” he says. “I’m not sure they’re ready for it.”

I am taken to the E. F. Hutton Suite, named for Marjorie Merriweather Post’s second husband, the stockbroker. On the dresser there is a bottle of Trump Ice spring water, but disappointingly no Trump vodka or Donald Trump: The Fragrance. Trump has got to be one of the most branded people on the planet. You can’t get away from him. At the window, I watch flotillas of black vultures, four separate groups of about 50 each, circling over hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of palatial real estate, over old money and new, the dirty and the clean.

The next morning Trump drives me in a white Rolls-Royce to his golf club Trump International. On the way over, he tells me about his dinner the previous evening with Charlie Sheen and his girlfriend, who are staying at Mar-a-Lago. Trump enjoys putting people on and uses it as a way of seeing how smart they are. There’s certainly been no shortage of dissimulation in his Scottish project. “I happen to know that Charlie has a collection of expensive watches that he changes 20 times a day,” Trump relates, “and he admires my cuff links. I tell him, ‘You can get them at Harry Winston’s for $100,000, but here, take them. I want you to have them,’ and I snap them out of my cuffs and give them to him. Charlie is bowled over. ‘Nobody’s ever given me anything,’ he says. ‘They’ve even got your name engraved on the back. I’d give you my watch, but it cost a million dollars.’?” Then Trump tells me the kicker: “The stones on the cuff links look like diamonds but are actually crystal and are part of my apparel line. You can get them at Macy’s for $40.”

We arrive at Trump International, which was designed by Jim Fazio, Tom’s father. It’s an absolutely magnificent course. Trump picked up 215 acres of impenetrable palm and palmetto brake for a song and pretty much obliterated it. He gouged out huge lakes and piled up the earth into some of the highest hills in south Florida. But already the wildlife has moved in. I see a limpkin and a wood stork—not birds you see every day, even in the backcountry of Florida. “It’s good to see the wood storks are coming back,” I say to Donald as we motor down in our cart from one of the tees. “Thirty-five years ago, they were down to a few hundred in Florida. And the manatees, which were on the verge of extinction, are back up to nearly 3,000. There have been some encouraging conservation success stories in Florida in the last 30 years.”

Trump says, “Do you think manatees know they’re alive? They’re like huge amoebas, constantly getting hit by boats. I don’t think they’re 100 percent there.”

I say they’re related to elephants, so they must have some smarts, and it’s not like they want to be shredded by propellers.

“People know me as a real-estate genius. They don’t realize that I’m also a great golfer,” Trump says as he smacks a 280-yard drive right down the pipe. On one hole he flies an eight-iron short into the water from 155 yards out, and he drops another ball right where he is—he could have dropped it a hundred yards closer, but he is pissed—and fires it to within six inches of the pin. “Nobody realizes it, but I’m a very good golfer,” he says again. “I hope you’re going to get that in the piece.”

On Sunday evening, I drive out to the plane with Melania’s father, who is visiting from Slovenia with his wife. Trump is already on his jet and is impatient to get going and keeps calling us every two minutes: “Where are you?”

“We’re stuck at a drawbridge,” the driver says.

He calls again: “Where are you now?”

“You won’t believe this, Mr. Trump, but we’re stuck at another drawbridge. It just went up,” the driver replies. We can hear Donald going bananas over the phone.

“I’ve been going flat out all my life,” Trump tells me later on the plane. We are having the “What Makes the Donald Tick?” interview, which he is in no mood for. He’s wiped out and cranky, having been going nonstop for the last five days, playing golf, playing host, doing deals.

“Where does all this energy come from?,” I ask.

“Genes. It’s given by the genes. I know smart people who don’t have energy, and if you don’t have energy, it’s hard to compete. My son Barron has incredible energy. You know why? Because his father is a fucking genius. My father had tremendous energy, and my mother had tremendous promotional skills, even though she was a homemaker. You’re born with energy. It’s not something you’re ever going to be able to develop.”

Trump’s expected slam dunk was supposed to be consummated by an Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee’s vote, a week later, but this did not transpire. The vote went seven to seven, and the chairman, Martin Ford, broke the tie by casting his vote: No. Ford is a committed environmentalist. He bicycles 10 miles to work most days, and he felt the development was unsustainable. Though Ford later said, “Nobody who voted for refusal wanted that to be final. The vote was a negotiating position as part of a process.”

Trump issued a statement to the press saying he might have to take the project to Ireland. This is, in fact, the backup plan if Trump loses to the Dunistas.

“People think being Trump is a bowl of cherries, but it isn’t always,” a dejected Donald told me.

In Aberdeen all hell broke loose when word spread of how the vote had gone. Debra Storr, one of the original four “No”s on the Formartine Area Committee, opened the door of her house to see who was knocking, and was shoved and cursed by an irate 59-year-old woman. “You won’t believe this, Alex,” a recharged Donald called to tell me. “There’s rioting in the streets of Aberdeen—all because of my golf course. Thousands of people are demonstrating in support of it. The council has called an emergency meeting to see if the vote can be reversed. They’re firing Ford and getting another chairman.” (Which, in fact, happened two weeks later.) Both John Loveday (the Formartine Area Committee chairman, who voted no) and Ford are Englishmen, and the locals weren’t happy that “white settlers” (local anti-English slang) were making decisions that affected their lives.

But before this could happen, before anyone got seriously hurt, and to put an end to this “perilous” situation, as Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, described it, Trump’s application was “called in.” The Aberdeenshire Council was no longer going to be making the decision. The voluminous paperwork that the case had generated was to be delivered immediately to Edinburgh.

The procedure from here on out is this: a reporter, a sort of judge, has been appointed by John Swinney, the secretary of finance and sustainable development. Swinney has already decided that there should be a full-blown public inquiry, scheduled for mid-June, the lengthiest of the three options. This means that both sides can have their say, people who testify can be cross-examined, and the Aberdeenshire Council’s possible breaching of its own code could be fully exposed.

Mickey Foote tells me: “We have a forensic planning expert, an éminence grise of the planning system, who eats developers for breakfast.” If this expert is as good as Foote says, he can tie up the process for a long time. Once the reporter submits his findings, Swinney will make his decision within 28 days. Trump expects to be given the go by September, but Mickey Foote says, “I think we’re looking at a year from now at least. By that time, we’ll all be in financial meltdown, and it will be impossible for Trump to get financing.” Trump Entertainment Resorts—the casinos in Atlantic City and Pennsylvania—are already in trouble, their shares having dropped 20 percent this year and 75 percent since the company emerged from bankruptcy two years ago.

Trump told me he is on great terms with the new nationalist government, which took power after he started the application process. (One of the nationalists’ biggest supporters is Sean Connery.) In the days before the application was called in, Hobday and Sorial met with First Minister Salmond and the government’s chief planner. Political opponents accused the government of breaching the ministerial code. Sorial told me the meeting was completely aboveboard and purely procedural. Minutes were kept. He only wanted clarification of the decision-making process at the highest level, and a parliamentary hearing on January 16 absolved the officials involved of impropriety, though Salmond was chastised for his exceptionally “poor judgement.”

So the government will be under close scrutiny. If there is any evidence of irregularity, the decision can be appealed and possibly overturned. At the very least an appeal would cause further delay, and the Dunistas think that if they can draw things out long enough Trump at some point is going to walk. That’s their only hope, apart from the unlikely event that Swinney decides against it. If he did that, it would be telling international investors: Don’t come to Scotland. But if he says yes, it will be sending the message that Scotland’s environmental-protection laws are worthless. So he is caught between a rock and a hard place.

If Martin Hawtree gets to do the course, let’s hope he emulates the new campus of Kyushu University, in Japan, whose designers adopted a “no species loss” policy, ensuring the survival of 270 plant and animal species on the site.

Trump was philosophical. “It’s a great project. I feel very confident of the outcome, but we’ll see. I’m used to this. I’ve been doing this all my life, Alex. The funny thing is, my buildings start out being unpopular, but in the end everybody loves them. Half the people who fought Trump Tower, who picketed on the sidewalk, are now living in the building.”


The Bulletins are a constantly updated source of information, mainly from newspapers, about environmental and cultural developments around the planet.

The Bulletins have been going since the summer of 2001. I posted a few pages of them and gradually amassed a backlog of four cardboard boxes of clips and snippets, mainly from the Montréal Gazette, but also from the New York Times and various magazines and books. I didn’t have time to get to them. In the summer of 2005, Sam Solomon, soon to enter his last year at Bishop’s College in the eastern townships, came to the rescue, posting chronologically and by category maybe a three-inch stack of them. Sam was the editor of the college paper, and since graduating has gone on to a career in journalism. He is now the managing editor of The National Review of Medicine, a Montreal-based on-line news magazine for Canadian doctors.

There still remained approximately 45 inches to go. In March of the following year, 2006, I addressed the Protected Areas course of Dr. Karen Richardson at the geography department of McGill University, and I must have been in good form, because three of the students volunteered to further whittle down the towering stack. Alexandra Rainsford, an exchange student from Australia, immediately tackled a telephone-book-thick pile of them, and was soon followed by Erin Duggan, a senior from Massachusetts. These brave girls were immersed in their respective heaps until the end of May, when they departed into the “real” world, Alexandra to join her boyfriend in Hong Kong and to look for work as a teacher, and Erin to work for a mining monitoring N.G.O. in Fairbanks, Alaska. That summer, Nina Berryman took on the remainder. Nina was assisting a professor who was measuring the biosphere/atmosphere interface– the gases being emitted and absorbed by a bog that had pitcher plants– and was going to be looking for an environmental job in the fall.

There were still hundreds of bulletins to be redacted, and another box had accumulated by the time I returned to Karen Richardson’s class in March of 2007. This time five students volunteered as interns. Marylise Lefèvre, a thirty-year-old French woman from a small village in the Val d’Oise, near Paris, had a lot of hand-on experience in field biology and was finally getting around to getting her academic credentials. She had been an intern with the wildlife services of Kenya and Uganda in wildlife management in their national parks, then helped habituate mountain gorillas to tourists in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda’s southwest corner, then helped with the release of captive-bred California condor chicks in Big Sur, California, then helped reintroduce to the wild chimps that had been poached from the wild. Many were destined for zoos or pets stores in the West and were confiscated at the airport in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. Then she went to the Morocco to set up the protocol for releasing Houbara bustards, the species used for falconry, at the desert ecology field station in Irashidia. Then she went to the State University of New Paltz and studied with the legendary bird of prey expert, Heinz Meng, and from there she transferred to McGill. This summer, after handing in her bulletins, she is tracking migratory Atlantic Salmon for the Atlantic Salmon Federation on the Rivière Saint Jean, in remote eastern Quebec. She is catching salmon returning to spawn (see the Dispatch on the Caspedia River on the Gaspé Peninsula) and estimating their numbers and implanting “acoustic tags,” computer chips that will enable their movements at sea to be monitored. A prize catch herself, Marylise hopes to return to the Dispatches in the fall. Some of her bulletins are in French, gleaned from Le Monde and other sources.

Jennie Creed and Terri Alderfer also did superb jobs redacting their stacks. Jennie is trying to land a job in conservation in Africa, and Terri is interning at Philadelphia style magazine and planning to be a journalist. Then Emilie Doran tackled a bunch more. Emilie tells she is “French-American, a ‘third-culture kid’ of sorts, having lived in Europe, the Middle East, Canada, and Central America. I am a recent McGill graduate, I hold a BA Hon in Latin American/Caribbean Studies, and I am currently pursuing a Diploma in Environment, also from McGill University. My interests include wildlife conservation, sustainable development, music, volleyball, snorkeling, and backpacking/travelling adventures.” Here is a photo of her – which there will hopefully be of all our interns from now on.

At the end of each bulletin, the source and date, if available, appears, along with the initials of its redactor, i.e. ED for Erin Duggan, AR for Alexandra Rainsford, SS for Sam Solomon, NB for Nina Berryman, ML for Marylise Lefèvre, JC for Jennie Creed, TA for Terri Alderfer, EmD for Emilie Doran, and AS for moi.

To the reader: you can scroll the categories, and do a search for the ones you’re interested in, or just start reading.

Format for Bulletins is as follows:
Bulletin text
Redactor’s initials
CATEGORY and subcategories as needed


Animal Awareness
Animal Behaviour
Biodiversity Conservation
Burkina Faso
Carbon Footprint
Connections and disparities
Cultural Diversity
David Suzuki
Environmental Awareness
Ethnic conflict
Food for thought/Musings
Foundations and Grants
Global warming
Gore, Al
Human Personalities
Human Rights
Infectious diseases
Lives of the naturalists
Mineral Consumerism
Modern grid
Modern culture
Paper Industry
Sexual Slavery
Survival tips for the traveler
Traditional Culture
Traditional People
Women’s Rights

China opened a clinic for internet addiction in Beijing. One psychiatrist there estimates that “up to 2.5 million Chinese suffer from internet addiction,” but one Renmin University (Beijing) professor claims that those people had addictive personalities and thus would otherwise have been addicted to something else if they had not become addicted to the internet.
Audra Ang, Associated Press – July 4, 2005
Modern Culture

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry published a report revealing details about internet addiction, its causes, and its consequences. The internet may serve as a “tonic for people with inner conflicts …[and] psychological distress rooted in their personality.” Some significant consequence of internet addiction appears to be a worsening of social relationships, and greater rates of “paranoia, depression, irritability, impulsiveness, anxiety, phobias,” and more.
Ian MacLeod, Canwest – June 15, 2005
Modern Culture

Researchers have developed a possible agent to block addictions to drugs such as nicotine and marijuana: a synthetic peptide that interacts with the receptors that excite the cells responsible for signaling pleasure. The effects have only been tested on rats thus far and researchers are concerned that the peptide could block natural highs as well. No side effects have been noted yet.
Janet French, The Gazette, Montreal.
ADDICTION – cannabis, tobacco
Animal Awareness
Philosophers and biologists share views on the origins of morality. Humans inherited their moral rules from social animals like monkeys. More controversially, these moral rules have had to be shaped by emotional patterns also visible in non-human primates. For instance, consolation (which requires empathy) is a common trait of great apes and humans but is absent in monkeys. Social animals practice a certain social order with rules in which hostilities within the group is managed to keep the community stronger when facing danger or attacks by other groups. These traits are the common precursors of human moralities.
The Gazette, Montréal – j10 –24 March 2007 – Nicholas Wade
Animal Behaviour
Contrary to the popular belief that a genetic bound links moms to their offspring, the reality is not so evident in the natural world. A mom will defend her kids to death, yes– but not all of her kids. It has been observed in pandas, emperor penguins, hens and eagles: mothers often give birth to two but she really meant to spend the energy on one, the other is a spare just in case something bad happens to the ‘chosen one’.
The Gazette, Montréal – j10 –13 May 2006 – Natalie Angier

Males and females jumping spiders need UV light to be “turned on,” according to a study published in Science. UV lights make the markings on the spider’s body glow, which stimulates courtship.
The Gazette, Montréal – A20 – 26 January 2007


Radiocarbon dating suggests that the dispersal of modern Homo Sapiens was more rapid than previously thought. This means that there was less contact with Neanderthals, about 6,000 years. These changes in theory can lead to a breakthrough in our understanding of this time period in prehistory.
John Nobel Wilford, The Gazette, Montreal, February 23, 2006, p. A4
ARCHAEOLOGY – Paleontology

The oldest moccasin to date was found in a forested area inhabited by the Athapaskan people. It is from circa AD 560. Most clothing and footwear discovered are not more than a couple centuries old.
Tom Spears, The Gazette, Montreal, February 22, 2006 – p. A9
ARCHAEOLOGY – Athabaskans

A Vancouver Island sea cave may support a new theory of human migration to the Americas. Discoveries of an ancient mountain goat’s bones inside the raised sea cave have added weight to the theory that the first human migration to the Americas happened more than 16,000 years ago, at least 40 centuries earlier than most textbooks teach. Researcher Majid Al-Suwaidi says that until you actually find your arrowhead or human skull, there’s always going to be people who say you aren’t proving anything. You’re just showing that the environment was OK, but that doesn’t mean humans traveled down there.
The Gazette, Montreal. October 17, 2003
Randy Boswell
Paleo Migration
During the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. bombs destroyed or damaged some of the 10,000 archeological sites throughout Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi archeologists are concerned that another assault will ruin yet more of humanity’s treasures. Archaeological sites are scattered throughout Iraq, many unmarked or unexcavated.
The Gazette, Montreal. January 27, 2003
Elizabeth Neuffer
Destruction of cultural heritage
A Russian discovery of a 30,000 year old encampment in Siberia is being hailed as ironclad proof Stone Age humans were living in Arctic environments at least 10,000 years earlier than previously believed. The latest evidence seriously bolsters the case humans crossed the Bering land bridge, which once connected Asia and North America, well before the end of the last ice age.
The Gazette, Montreal.
Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service
Paleo Migration

The remains of those taken from the northern end of the Queen Charlotte Islands, native peoples known as Haida Gwaii, were reburied in Old Massett on Graham Island. The repatriation brings to an end, almost, an eight-year campaign by the Haida to have their ancestors brought home. The bones had spent 100 years packed away in the Field Museum of Natural History, where they were taken after anthropologists scooped them up many years ago.
The Gazette, Montreal.
Native People
A Toronto architect has found distinctly man made structures in Nova Scotia that archeologists world wide are agreeing could be an ancient Chinese fortress.
Randy Boswell, The Gazette, Montreal, p. A14


A warming Arctic Ocean and melting polar ice caps are changing the conditions in Inuit lands. These delicate and interconnected ecosystems of the Arctic are showing signs of unbalance. Sea ice is becoming dangerously thin, and migration patterns are changing, introducing never-before seen creatures in the north, such as dolphins, finches, and robins.


The Gazette. Beth Duff-Brown (Associated Press). April 16, 2007.

Global Warming

90 percent of lead accumulated in Devon Island snow and ice in the past decade was generated by human activities. This pristine Arctic island is subjected to a massive lead burden, a potent neurotoxin. This shows that lead contamination is not yet over.
Margaret Munro, The Gazette, Montreal, February 6, 2006 – p. A11
ARCTIC – air pollution

A federal permafrost specialist says methane, one of the most potent gases associated with global warming, is bubbling out of mud volcanoes on the floor of the Beaufort Sea. Scientists do not know how much is being released, if the rate of release is increasing, or what the impact will be on the atmosphere. Polar ice has been shrinking at a rate of about 74,000 square kilometers annually for the past 30 years, and Arctic ice is withdrawing so fast that some scientists predict that by 2050 it may be non-existent in summer. There is little anyone can do for the animals and other life forms that will be stranded as Arctic temperatures climb.
Margaret Munro, Canwest News Service, The Gazette, Montreal, March 8, 2006
ARCTIC – Global Warming

A University of Calgary geology professor discovered a sulphur-spewing spring in the High Arctic. The secrets to its existence could help scientists searching for proof of life on other planets because there is life within the ice and beneath the ice, which could lead to uncovering what rests below the ice-covered surface of Jupiter’s second moon, Europa.
Renata D’Aliesio, Canwest News Service, The Gazette, Montreal, June 14, 2006
ARCTIC – Extraterrestrial Life


Triclocarbon is an antibacterial compound that has been used in soaps and cosmetics for years. Half a million kilograms of it are produced each year. John Hopkins scientists have detected it in sludge at a wastewater treatment plant. This sludge is often spread on agricultural land and Triclocarban might persist in the soil and accumulate in crops. Little is known about its effects but it is inadvertently being spread on fields and no one knows the impacts it might have.
The Montreal Gazette, May 27, 2006

If Quebec Environment Minister Thomas Muclair has his way, Montreal city buses will be running in 2004 on an environmentally friendly mixture of conventional diesel fuel and biodiesel made of vegetable oil, recycled cooking oil and animal fat. MTC buses do not have to be adjusted in any way to burn biodiesel.
The Gazette, Montreal. May 28, 2003
Levon Sevunts

The sustainability of EU green fuel targets has been called into question. The EU agreement to use 10% biofuel for transport by 2020, which aims to cut CO2 emissions, may have the unintended consequences of accelerating rainforest destruction in South East Asia. Plant-based fuel use is expected to increase by at least 10 times before 2010, increasing pressure on tropical forests and peat lands.


The Gazette. Bruno Waterfield (London Daily Telegraph). April 27, 2007. A3.



Israeli scientists have discovered an ancient ecosystem containing eight previously unknown species in a lake inside a cave near the city of Ramallah, where they were sheltered from the outside world for millions of years. The species discovered were of the crustacean and invertebrate variety and were found 100 metres below ground in a limestone quarry, where some similar to scorpions and shrimp inhabit an underground lake. Unlike most animals, the newly discovered species live in a small, independent, self-sustaining ecosystem.
Aron Heller, Associated Press, The Gazette, Montreal, June 2, 2006
A new species thought to have vanished 60 million years ago was found 400 meters below in the Coral Sea off the Chesterfield Island, near New Caledonia. This living fossil is 12 cm long and is half shrimp half lobster with big eyes.
The Gazette, Montréal – 20 May 2006
New species

Picobiliphyte. That’s the name of a new species of algae discovered in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans and Greenland Sea. Located at the bottom of the food chain, this new species may be crucial for supporting life in the Arctic.
The Gazette, Montréal – A9 –12 January 2007 – Charlie Fidelman
New species

While researching the scalloped hammerhead shark, scientists discovered a new species of shark. Referred to as the “cryptic species,” it is only different from the scalloped hammerhead at the mitochondrial DNA level. The new species is believed to be at risk of extinction as it is only known to exist off the coast of South Carolina.
The Gazette, Montreal, June 17, 2006, p. J11
New Species

The WWF states that the Bluefin tuna is at risk of extinction and calls for a ban on all catches of the fish. According to WWF, catches are 40% larger than the legal quota, and fishing has expanded to the western Mediterranean, which is one of the last breeding areas for the species.
The Gazette, Montreal, July 5, 2006, p. A15
Marine Life
Tuna Fish

The Mekong River in Laos has recently become more popular with foreign tourists. Kayaking down the river reveals temples in an ancient town. Previously the area has been difficult to travel to as a result of Chinese authorities. Such areas are threatened by the construction of future damns upriver. Unlike other touristic areas, the Mekong has working markets that are not just tourist traps. The Mekong historically has evaded colonists’ attempts of commercialization, but some people are worried today, especially as development upriver seem to be affected local species diversity.
Joshua Kurlantzick, The Gazette, Montreal, April 18, 2006, p. K1
Scientists discovered an untouched paradise full of previously undocumented species in one of Indonesia’s most remote provinces. They saw mammals hunted to near extinction, and new species of flora and fauna. The area is protected because of small population in the area, national fighting, and its remote access.
Robin McDowell, The Gazette, Montreal, February 8, 2006 – p. A19
BIODIVERSITY – New species

The snakehead fish, an introduced invader from Asia, has reappeared in Maryland. The fish hasn’t been seen in the area since 2002 when the state of Maryland had to poison a pond in Crofton to prevent snakeheads from wriggling away. The fish has been known to breathe out of water and scoot short distances over land. Authorities will drain the five-acre lake to ensure no more snakeheads are there. Native fish will be captured first and reintroduced when the lake fills again. Experts say that if released into a pond, the snakehead instantly becomes the top of the food chain and can clean out a pond of native fish.
David. A. Farenthold, The Gazette, Montreal, April 29 2004
Introduced Species

A new species of whale has been discovered, as long a s a city bus in the Indian Ocean and Sea Of Japan. Caught by whalers off the coast, the skeleton, blubber and various organs were sent to biologist Tadasu Yamada at the national Science museum in Tokyo for analysis. Caught years ago, the cadavers have been examined by scientists and have now gone public with the assertion that this is a whole new species of whale. Estimates of the number of the Earth’s species yet to be discovered vary widely but are all high.
The Gazette, Montreal. November 20, 2003
Tom Spears, Canwest News Service
New Species

Japanese scientists say a new species of whale is found, called Balenoptera omurai. The scientists said the whale differed from other species in a jawbone, DNA and baleen.
Japan conducts research whaling, and the new findings result partly from that pursuit.
The New York Times, November 20, 2003.
James Gorman
New Species

McGill University PhD student Sara Lourie found a new species of seahorse in the deep waters of the Flores Sea off Indonesia. As one of the world’s leading seahorse experts, Laurie proclaimed it the world’s 33rd species of seahorse, in an article published in the Taiwanese journal Zoological Studies.
The Gazette, Montreal. May 10, 2003
John Mackie, Canwest News Service
New Species
Coral Reefs

The state of Maryland has declared victory over its war on snakeheads. After a final round of tests this month at a rural Maryland pond found no trace of the fish, the Maryland wildlife officials said they plan to ask the state to tighten standards and scrutiny of snakeheads and other predators.
The Gazette, Montreal
Introduced Species

Hunters journey to Kyrgyztan to pursue rare mountain goats and so-called Marco Polo sheep, along with Siberian antelope, wolves and pheasants
(No date, author or source)

Biodiversity Conservation

Conservationists are designing wildlife corridors in the Rockies that allow animals to roam and reproduce. A highway running through Banff National Park and its associated development could prove to be an environmental disaster. Zoologist Paul Paquet doesn’t want to remove the roads but to mitigate their effects. He wants to create a sustainable environment from the Yukon to Yellowstone Park (Y2Y). Participants of the Y2Y designed overpasses and underpasses to help animals cross the roads safely. They are trying to achieve the goal of functional connectivity between wildlife habitats.
Cornelia Dean, The Montreal Gazette, May 27, 2006
Wildlife Corridors
Maasai tribesmen have gained access to Amboseli National Park to provide their cattle grazing land and water. These domesticated animals will now compete with the mega-fauna the park currently aims to protect. Ongoing droughts already force wildlife into human settlements in search of water, creating conflict. Allowing the Maasai into the area could exacerbate tensions.
Rodrique Ngowi, The Gazette, Montreal, February 15, 2006 – p. A16

Number of Spiny Softshell Turtles remaining in Quebec: less than 100. Number of acres of Spiny Softshell Turtle habitat protected by NCC-Quebec: 400. Number of baby turtles successfully hatched through recovery program in 2003: 56.
The Globe & Mail, Toronto – June 24, 2005
Reptiles and amphibians
Endangered species

Percentage of Canada’s tall grass prairie remaining today: less than 0.5%.
Number of plant and animal species found in the tall grass prairie: more than 50%.
Number of acres of the tall grass prairie protected by NCC and partners: 15,000
The Globe & Mail, Toronto – June 24, 2005

Percentage of Canada’s threatened and endangered species found in “Carolinian Canada,” in the far south of Ontario: 33%. Number of species lost from this area since European settlement: more than 45. Number of acres protected in this area by NCC: more than 15,000.
The Globe & Mail, Toronto – June 24, 2005
Endangered species

Three rare pygmy elephants were decapitated in Malaysia in a seven-month period. Herds of the elephants, whose habitat is being destroyed by commercial farming, are sometimes responsible for destroying crops. The killers face five years in jail and a fine, under wildlife protection laws. The pygmy elephant lives only in the rainforests of Borneo Island.
Associated Press, reproduced in The Gazette, Montreal – June 12, 2005
Endangered species

Agreement on protecting the Giant Sequoia National Monument in California has been reached, but just how to do this is an ongoing question. The national forest is home to a wide array of plant life and rare animal species. Art Gaffrey is the supervisor of the 1.2 million acres forest and his goal is to return the forest to something resembling its condition before loggers and ranchers denuded much of the area, beginning in the mid-19th century. Plans to have prescribed burns to remove underbrush, small trees and downed logs that feed forest fires, are accompanied by plans to permit the cutting of trees up to 30 inches in diameter, to allow more light to reach the forest floor and provide breaks to slow fires. Environmentalist groups oppose the removal of any trees, maintaining that controlled fires, not logging, is the soundest and most natural way to reclaim the forest.
The New York Times, June 11, 2003.
John M. Broder
Forest Conservation

A global crisis meeting to save the great apes from extinction opens in Paris this week as conservationists warm that gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans are disappearing even from two dozen protected areas in Africa and southeast Asia. The gathering will see the United Nations launch a $25 million appeal, their biggest ever to save the great apes, which will be used to implement the Great Apes Survival Project in 23 countries where apes survive. Under the greatest threat are orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo. Their untouched habitat will shrink by 99 percent by 2030 at the current pace of human expansion, experts say.
The Gazette, Montreal
Steven Edwards, Canwest News Service

Scientists have for the first time created a healthy clone of an endangered species, offering powerful evidence that cloning technology can play a role in preserving and even reconstituting threatened and endangered species. The clone, a cattle-like creature known as a Javan banteng, native to Asian jungles was grown from a single skin cell taken from a captive banteng before it died in 1980.
The Gazette, Montreal.
Rick Weiss
Genetic Engineering

London’s Darwin Centre houses a collection of over 22 million creatures from all over the world. Rich in historical material dating back to the 15th century, it contains Darwin’s collection as well as others such as Carl Linnaeus, Sir Charles Lyell, Alfred Russel Wallace and Captain James Cook. The so-called ‘Spirit Collection’ houses samples of all these creatures so that scientists can classify them and understand evolutionary relationships among them. The centre opened as part of a long term plan to make Natural History Museum’s entire collection of over 70 million species accessible to the public
Bijal. P. Trivedi. National Geographic
Inventory of Species

Thousands of tadpoles raised in the Toronto Zoo and other faraway locations have been released in Puerto Rico in hopes of saving a critically endangered species of toad unique to the Caribbean island. Their new home is a man-made pond in a forest on the island’s south coast where the only known wild colony of 300 to 400 toads remains.
The Gazette, Montreal
Puerto Rico

In an effort to reconnect with their ancestors, Kazakh hunters gather in the shadow of the Tien Shan mountains each year for the winter hunt. A fox is released from a wooden crate in the valley, is spotted, and the hunters huddled on a hill release the golden eagles they have been holding on their leather-gloved forearms. The eagles chase the animals, and eventually most foxes are hunted down and killed. Kazakhs say the eagle is a symbol of statehood and independence and are happy to know that this rare bird has survived millennia.
Maria Golovnina, Reuters, The Gazette, Montreal, March 19, 2006, p. A11
BIRDS – Eagles
There is indeed an advantage in having a bigger brain. Scientists Louis Lefebvre and Daniel Sol studied 236 birds for which they measured of body mass, mortality rates and brain size. They found that birds with bigger brains have greater survival chances. Interestingly, big brains cost a lot in evolutionary terms because they take longer to develop and only allow shorter reproducing times compared with those of smaller birdbrains. The advantage though, is greater adaptability to a changing environment. At the top are corvids and parrots, the smartest birds in the class, while pheasants and pigeons score the lowest in brain size proportionately to their body. Now researchers need to find what advantage there is in having smaller brains. There must be one, otherwise only big brains would be present on earth.
The Gazette, Montréal – A6 – 22 January 2007 – Kazi Stastna

From 15 individuals left in 1938, whooping cranes are now numbering 237 in their wintering grounds of Texas Costal Bend. This recovery success is due to legislation measures and public education.
The Gazette, Montréal – A3 – 6 January 2007 – Lynn Brezosky

Bird feeders are helping whole bird communities to survive winter and birdwatchers are helping scientists to notice changes in bird populations. Nearly 2,000 Canadians take part in the feeder watch program over the winter. Their observations contributed to document bird range expansion as a result of global warming.
The Gazette, Montréal – A3 –29 January 2007 – Cheryl Cornacchia
Global warming

The Royal Ontario Museum put on a display of over 2000 birds that have died as a result of lights left on in Toronto city buildings. Birds are attracted to the lights inside the buildings and either die of exhaustion from circling them, or simply crash into them. The display included 89 species, some of which are threatened. Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) is a group of volunteers who have collected over 32,000 dead or injured birds in Toronto since 1993. The group estimates between 940,000 and 9.4 million birds die every year from flying into buildings. These numbers could easily be reduced if lights were turned off at night.
The Gazette, Montreal, Thursday, March 9, 2006
Tara Brautigam

Brazil has 228 species of birds that do not live in any other country, the highest record world wide. Brazil has 1,752 species, which is the third largest number of any country. 120 of these species are threatened with extinction. According to Brazilian Veja magazine, the number of bird watchers in the US has grown 150% in the last 10 years, and tourism continues to grow in Brazil.
December 2005/January 2006

Canus, the 39 year old whooping crane who died last year, is returning home to Fort Smith, N.W. T. Canus, named after the two countries, Canada and the Unites States, is regarded by scientists and environmentalists on both sides of the border as a symbol of international co-operation on conservation. Canus is responsible for the production of many offspring, and was involved in a captive breeding program which has now produced over 180 of the rare bird species.
The Gazette, Montreal. April 15, 2004
Ed Struzik

Moves to protect Canada’s vast boreal forests will be the topic of discussion at the 12th World Forestry Congress. Conservationists hope to reach agreement with industry on how to set aside some parts of the forest and agree on management policies for other areas. Threats to Canada’s boreal forest come from mining, logging and farming. The 2 million square miles of woodland and wetland are home to many species of birds and animals, not
The New York Times, September 23, 2003
James Gorman

A tug of war is going on over the final resting place of a 39 year-old whooping crane between the United States and Canada. When he was just a few months old the injured crane, Canus, was rescued by two Canadian Wildlife Service scientists. At that time just 42 whooping cranes like him were left in the world. Described as a remarkable bird by both countries, Canus sired, grandsired and great-grandsired 186 whooping cranes.
The Gazette, Montreal. February 10, 2003

Peter Matthiessen’s book, The Birds of Heaven, tells of his journeys to five continents in search of the planet’s 15 species of cranes, 11 of them endangered.
New York Times, Book Review. April 20

The loon has changed very little from hespoeronis, “an aquatic bird that existed 100 million years ago,” according to The Spokseman Review (Spokane, Washington).
Michael Kesterton, The Globe & Mail, Toronto

An international tussle over the carcass of a legendary whooping crane that helped bring the endangered species back from the brink of extinction has ended with a decision to send it home to Canada. Canus, the 39 year old crane will be in a tiny museum in the North West Territories not far from where he was born. Canus produced 186 descendants. The agreement made in 1993 by the International Whooping Crane Recovery team gave the museum the rights to bring him home after he died.
The Gazette, Montreal
Canwest News Service

United States authorities want to give individual states more flexibility in dealing with Canadian geese. The bottom line is to reduce their numbers by a third over the next 10 years. The populations of resident geese have been climbing four to six percent per year. To cull their numbers by up to 800,000 birds a year will mean everything from gassing, poisoning and shooting to shaking eggs and destroying nests.
The Gazette, Montreal
Canadian Geese

Research into chickadee flocks shows that they have developed a complex social hierarchy, which tend to be made up of mated pairs and having a dominant male.
The Gazette, Montreal

Huge flightless birds living in the rain forests of New Guinea emit a penetrating, booming noise at a lower frequency than any other bird, so low humans at times cannot hear it say researchers at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. The New Guinea cassowaries can grow to 1.5 meters tall and weigh as much as 57 kilograms.
The Gazette, Montreal.
Guy Gugliotta

After twenty years of study, scientists have discovered the bar-tailed godwit holds nature’s record for endurance flying. The bird migrates from Alaska to New Zealand each year without stopping, a 12,400km journey completed in six days and six nights. Maori folklore states that it was the godwit flying over the Pacific that made them take to their war canoes to find land, journeying from Polynesia to the shores of New Zealand 1,000 years ago.
The Gazette, Montreal.
Tom Peterkin

Burkina Faso

Norbert Zongo était un journaliste au Burkina Faso, le pays des hommes intègres, dit-on. Pourtant il a été assassiné dans sa voiture en 1998 alors qu’il enquêtait sur un meurtre compromettant le frère cadet du chef d’Etat. Le chauffeur du premier aurait été torturé, puis assassiné dans les bureaux même de la sécurité présidentielle. Norbert Zongo a collaboré dans la création de plusieurs journaux mais il a aussi écrit un livre, « le Parachutage » où il dénonce les dirigeants corrompus de l’Afrique. La réédition de son livre cette année va sans doute aider la veuve de Norbert, Geneviève, qui a perdu son emploi auprès du syndicat libre des cheminots. Un journaliste, dit-elle, doit critiquer et ne pas défendre le pouvoir.

Le Monde – France – pages 34-35 – 17 Mars 2007

There are dual claims to Hans Island, a tiny, barren rock between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Greenland, a self-governing territory under the Danish crown. This issue is highlighted as the most tangible and odd sovereignty challenge facing Canada in the far North. The United States and the European Union differ with Canada on the status of the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Archipelago. Canada considers it part of its internal waters, while others see it as an international strait open to all. Canada’s role in the North may come down to one question: How much oil and gas lies beneath the ice?
Adrian Humphreys, Canwest News Service, National Post, date unknown
CANADA – Northwest Passage

A Montreal facility is manufacturing Cesamet, a drug that replicates the active ingredient in marijuana. Cesamet was approved for sale in the US last week, 25 years after it was first authorized in Canada. Cesamet is primarily used for nausea and vomiting in cancer treatment, it is also effective at treating acute pain. Valent Pharmaceuticals International of Costa Mesa, California produces the drug almost exclusively in Ville St. Laurent.
Peter Hadekel, The Montreal Gazette May 26, 2006

Carbon Footprint
Quebec Premier Jean Charest participated in the annual World Economic Forum whose theme was “the shifting power equation” in reference to the rise of the BRIC economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China. At the same time, the United Nations is trying to get organized on the issue of environment. On this Charest admits that his personal carbon footprint is important but he is proud to say that Québec has had a leadership role on the issue of greenhouse gases reduction and sustainable development.
The Gazette, Montréal – A16 – 24 January 2007 – Kevin Dougherty
In December 2006, Joseph Kabila was elected during the first democratic election in more than 40 years in DCR. In spite of this and nearly a year of peace, riots exploded in Kinshasa resulting in the evacuation of 1000 people and the shutting down of schools.
The Gazette, Montréal – A16 – 23 March 2007

Connections and Disparities

Even if the life span difference between black and white Americans has decreased from 7.1 years in 1993 to 5.3 years in 2003, the gap disfavouring the black Americans is still troubling. A study using the U.S. National Vital Statistics System data found that homicide, HIV, perinatal death along with kidney disease and bloodstream infections are all factors reducing the life expectancy of black to 72.7 years compared to 78 years for whites. This inequality is a direct result of social inequalities and access to health care.
The Gazette, Montréal – A23 -22 March 2007
Connections and Disparities

Echoing a common complaint about the G8’s 2005 summit, the Canadian Council on Africa has declared that Africa needs more than just money. The Canadian private sector must become equally involved in establishing links in Africa, in training the African private sector, and in providing expertise, investment, and contracts to Africa.
Aileen McCabe, Canwest – June 15, 2005

As the wealth of stockholders plummets and corporate controversy derails companies, CEOs barely notice the backlash – their salaries remain very high. The median compensation of USA’s largest 100 companies was $33.4 million. Poor boardroom performance, overall substandard earnings of the companies, and employee layoffs did not deter directors from awarding large bonuses to the top ranking employees.
Gary Strauss and Barbara Hansen, USA Today, March 31, 2003 – p. B1
Consumer capitalism – corporations

The World Economic Forum held in Davos included world politicians, business types, and human rights activists. The diverse groups productively discussed the business case for human rights, putting forward ideas that would benefit human rights causes and developing countries while protecting the interest of ‘wicked’ multinationals and politicians.
Payam Akhavan, The Gazette, Montreal – p. A11

The average annual salary of the US baseball player is 5.3 million dollars (in the lead is A. Rodriguez with a $25.2 million annual paycheck). On the other end of the spectrum, the average annual salary of the Cuban national team is 240 dollars.


Consumerism in the U.S. increased. Americans increased their credit card use. Despite warnings for the need for energy reduction people took out more car loans. Congruently, debts increased.
The Gazette, Montréal – 8 May 2007

Average prices for mink, beaver, and other furs jumped by 30 to 40 percent as fur regained popularity among younger generations. The boom is also caused by the expansion of fur markets, a hot economy, and a re-imaging of fur as the “ultimate eco-fabric”.
Lynn Moore, The Gazette, Montreal, February 21, 2006 – B1
Capitalism – fur

Children are migrating to electronic toys quickly, parents willingly purchase these pricey items, and toy makers struggle to keep up with demand. Nonetheless, over seventy-five percent of the toys at the American International Toy Fair will have microchips. As the cost of microchips decreases, toys are more affordable, but some hot items still remain over $200.
Anne D’Innocenzio, The Gazette, Montreal, February 9, 2006, p. B7
CONSUMERISM – capitalism

All purchases are discretionary after the procurement of essentials – food, shelter, and clothing. Yet Canadians have a burn rate of $100 cash in three to four days. And by 2005, the Canadian saving rate dropped to negative numbers, people are unconsciously spending money that could pay off debt or put into their RRSP on frivolous purchases and brand names.
Stephanie Whittaker, The Gazette, Montreal, February 6, 2006 – p. B1

An e-mail describes the medical benefits of drinking water, such as decreasing joint pain and reducing risk of colon and breast cancer. Also, it elaborates on Coca-Cola’s properties that make it both a hazardous material and an excellent cleaner of metal objects.
Chase Twichell, e-mail care of www.ausablepress.com, September 27, 2003
Capitalism – Coca Cola

Children and sexuality are no longer taboo, images only seen by child pornographers. Ad campaigns feature children sexually clad and adults shaved to look like children. Sexualizing pre-pubescence is not new, but its mainstream imagery is.
Lorrayne Anthony, The Gazette, Montreal, January 27, 2003 – p. D3

Dix Mille Villages collaborate with village artisans in India to offer fair trade goods to the middle class and combat poverty in developing countries. The organization appeals to bourgeois overcoming shopper guilt and it generates income for women artisans worldwide.
Mike Boon, The Gazette, Montreal, p.A7

By 2010, half of the kids in North and South America will be overweight, a study warns. But it’s not too late. The number of overweight children worldwide will increase significantly by the end of the decade. Obesity has become a global epidemic. British surgeon Phillip Thomas said the obesity levels in children are so severe that this generation will be the first to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.
Associated Press, The Montreal Gazette, March 7, 2006

The Vatican has sided on the political and scientific issue of genetically modified foods. They say they hold the answer to world starvation and malnutrition.
Richard Owen, The Statesman, Siliguri, August 2, 2003 – p. 2

Split tomatoes, dirty salad, and tough beans made Equiterre’s organic produce baskets disappointing. More satisfying and with better variety are the baskets prepared by Les Jardin des Anges. They are delivered year round, have a assortment of normal and exotic produce, and the baskets are delivered to your front door.
Lesley Chesterman, The Gazette, Montreal
CONSUMPTION – organic food

The classic watermelon, an American summer ritual, is becoming extinct, replaced by a seedless, tasteless variety. Most farm stands and grocery stores sell varieties engineered to eliminate the seeds because people want to eat faster and more attractively.
David Margolick
Food plant breeding

Budgeting, splurging, and secret spending habits… A 2005 poll shower that 25 percent of adults had severe disagreements with their partners about finances. People have different ideas about finances and spending, and money. These different types of attitudes about money often depend on upbringing, personality, and relationships.


Susan Schwartz. The Gazette. April 30, 2006. A16.

Automated telephone services deter human – human customer service contact much to our chagrin. We dislike these automated services because we rarely have black and white, questions to be answered or simple tasks to complete. Humans, we find, are more reliable. An organization, Get Human, fights back by posting the codes to get through large companies’ automated services and speak to an operator.
Josh Freed, The Gazette, Montreal, March 4, 2006 – p. A7
Modern communication
Wilburt Coffin was convicted and executed for the deaths of three hunters in the Gaspé in 1956. He maintained his innocence until death and doubt still exists about his conviction. Controversy over Coffin’s hanging galvanized opposition to capital punishment, resulting in the banning of the death penalty in Canada. Coffin’s case has received a lot of attention and has been the topic of song lyrics and books.
Marian Scott, The Gazette, Montreal, February 11, 2006 – p. A3
CRIME – Gaspé
Self-declared prophet and cult leader Claude Vorhilon has brought the newspaper Le Droit to court for a libel suit. He has convinced 60,000 followers of the Raëlian he is the son of a French mother and an alien father. The defamation lawsuit is part of a greater legal quest by the Raëlians for legitimacy. They want a ban on future negative reports and a declaration by the court that their faith is a true religion.
Allison Hanes, The Gazette, Montreal, September 27, 2005 – p. A8
Cultural Diversity
Richard Desjardins, famous for his documentary L’Erreur Boréal, in which he exposed and denounced the destructive forestry practices of Québec, performed at the sixth Montréal’s annual spoken words Festival “Voix d’Amériques”. Desjardins is a renowned singer and songwriter, but he will be presenting and commenting on his new film: Le Peuple Invisible. This time, Desjardins tackles the situation of the Algonquin nation of Québec. The Algonquins number only 8,000 people and depend on the forest.
The Gazette, Montréal – j3 – 27 January 2007 – Pat Donnelly

Molefa Moleja, a priest of the South African Edumisweni Apostolic Church of Christ, leads his people through the principles of the bible. His congregation of followers resembles the conventional Pentecostal movement within Christianity, which emphasises the authority of the bible and the direct experience and healing with God through baptism and prayers. However, the South African members of this church also venerate their ancestors and believe in witchcraft and magic. Despite the biblical injunction, they still perform animal sacrifice to increase their chance of physical healing and cast away bad luck. Such beliefs may be an alternative to absent or failing health care institutions.
The Gazette, Montréal – h8 – 27 January 2007 – Terry Leonard
Ancestor worship

In his new novel, the Virgin of Flames, Chris Abani, the Nigerian-American writer narrates about search for cultural identity in Los Angeles city. He offers a reflection on how people fight to maintain their own individuality in the fast pace of a city that constantly reshapes itself.
The Gazette, Montréal – J3 -3 February 2007 – Ian McGillis

Larger-than-life roadside renderings of everything from sausages to enormous muskies transform what would otherwise be a sense of non-place along stretches of highway in Canada. These “Big Things” often correspond with local industry and help travelers discern meaning from the local landscape.
Anne Marie Owens, Canwest News Service, The Gazette, Montreal, June 5, 2006

In honor of the anniversary of Genghis Khan’s unification of Mongolia in 1206, the Mongolian capital is covered in images of Genghis Khan. Such attention may seem shocking to westerners who affiliate the man with bloodshed and terror. In the West, it is often overlooked that Genghis Khan outlawed the kidnapping of women, guaranteed diplomatic immunity to ambassadors, granted religious freedom to all people, and his empire introduced gunpowder and paper to the West. DNA testing has revealed that 16 million men living in Eurasia are descended from a single person who lived in the 1200’s, presumed to be Genghis.
Richard Spencer, The Gazette, Montreal, July 12, 2006, p. A13

Diners have been part of American cultural identity and here are few for which it is worth making a detour: The Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, Maine has exquisite walnut pie. The Miss Port Diner in Port Henry, New York was so popular it had a band a baseball team named after it. The Blue Benn in Bennington, Vermont is a vegetarian-friendly diner with “better than sex” chocolate brownies. To fine more amazing diners, go to www.roadfood.com.
The Gazette, Montreal, Saturday, June 17, 2006, p. K7

Kenneth Briggs, author of “Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns,” write that the total number of nuns has declined from 179,954 to 68,634 from the years 1965 to 2005. He states that the reason for this decline has to do with the backlash of repression towards liberated nuns in the 1960’s from the church hierarchy. Briggs does not think there is much weight in the argument that the number of nuns has declined as a result of growing feminism and secularism. Another problem he notes, is that nuns are not necessarily promised the retirement security they would need to be comfortable committing themselves to the church.
Richard Ostling, The Gazette, Montreal, Saturday, June 17, 2006, p. K7

When Boris visited China, he was not expecting to find the attitude towards communism that he did among the Chinese people with whom he conversed. It was not so much a defense of Chinese communism that he found, but more a “patient refusal to accept my glib assumptions of the superiority of western pluralism, “which was a “defense not so much of the system but of China itself.” He experienced the impressive extent to which most Chinese people have respect for authority and fear of disorder. Boris admits that China is proving that free-market capitalism and democracy do not have to go hand in hand, but also states that there are two things China lacks that the US has which make it such a powerful country: hard power (military) and soft power (cultural protection abroad).
Boris Johnson, The Gazette, Montreal, May 6, 2006, p. B5

Olga Alexandrovna Romanov was the last grand duchess of Russia, but passed the last chapter in her life in a humble home in southern Ontario before she died in 1960. A glass bowl that she received for her duties as a nurse in the battlefield during the First World War is expected to be sold for $200,000 Canadian. Locals remember her as unassuming and ordinary, wearing rubber boots and buying canned food at the grocery stores; a woman who cared more about her freedom than her finances.
Randy Boswell, The Gazette, Montreal, March 29, 2006, p. A15
Russian Aristocracy

David Suzuki
The journalist Dan Gardner accused David Suzuki of going too far in his quest aiming to alarm people about the terrifying consequences of global warming. David Suzuki has distorted, he said, some critical nuances of the Stern report that forecasts the economic effects of climate change. The revered Canadian ecologist uses the most dramatic figure stating that global warming will generate 20% loss for the global economy, while ignoring to mention in his discourse that lesser economic impacts of 5% are also possible.
The Gazette, Montréal – A23 -3 May 2007 – Dan Gardner

A satellite-assisted survey of Quebec’s northern forests revealed that an area of almost one million square kilometers, or about 60 percent of Quebec, has been logged. The data can help to provide information to the government in the implementation of forestry recommendations. 30 Quebec-based companies were invited to asses the data, but all declined.
Lynn Moore, The Gazette, Montreal, February 10, 2006 – p. B1

BBC News reports that the Amazonian rainforest deforestation rate has been halved, and the amount of illegal logging reduced.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4189792.stm, August 2005
Amazon rainforest
The Kahnawake First Nation, in collaboration with Health Canada, has successfully implemented the Diabetes Prevention Project in their schools. The Type 2 diabetes rate has not increased in 21 years as a result. The success occurs even though increased incomes lead to more eating out and sedentary lifestyles in front of electronics.
Michelle MacAfee, The Gazette, Montreal – p. A9
Native Americans

A fugitive US radical environmentalist, charged with setting fire to logging and cement trucks in 2001, has been arrested in Vancouver by the FBI.
The Gazette
Peter Phillips, the former head of Newmount Gold Corp., operates a 9,400-acre game farm called Makulu Makete in South Africa by the Botswana border. The reserve’s goals include the rehabilitation of the savannah ecology of the area and the conservation of indigenous plant and animal life.
Two new ecomartyrs have given their lives in the effort to save tropical rainforest, joining the roll of honor that includes Dian Fossey and Chico Mendes (for whom I coined the term ecomartyr—a deliberating grating hack-journalism artifact designed to heighten the reader’s indignation: not only were these people murdered, now they’re being called ecomartyrs). But their deaths have attracted very little notice. The vogue for saving the rainforest has come and gone, but the destruction continues. Bruno Manser, a 47-year-old Swiss activist who devoted 12 years to trying to save the Penan tribe, a small tribe of nomadic hunter-gatherers who live in the rainforest of Sarawak, in northeastern Borneo, was last seen on May 22nd, 2000 and presumed to be dead. He was setting out to climb a 7,000-foot limestone pinnacle called Batu Lawi to dramatize the plight of the Penan, whose way of life is being extinguished by commercial logging, the cash economy, Coca Cola, television– the usual Western toxins. Or he may have gone to the mountain in despair, to commit suicide because he realized that the Penan were history, his efforts useless. In l990, Manser wrote: “Each morning at dawn the gibbons howl and their voices carry great distances, riding the thermal boundary created by the cool of the forest and the warm air above as the sun strikes the canopy. Penan never eat the eyes of the gibbons. They are afraid of losing themselves in the horizon. They lack an inner horizon. They don’t separate dreams from reality. If someone dreams that a tree limb falls on a camp, they will move with the dawn.”
To learn more, read Simon Elegant’s September 3, 2001 cover story in Time Asia. Also see http://www.earthisland.org/borneo/news_bruno.html for further information.
The other ecomartyr is a 36-year-old Brazilian activist named Ademir Alfeu Federicci and
nicknamed Dema. He was shot in the head by an unknown assailant in front of his wife and children on August 21st, 2001, apparently because he vociferously opposed a hydroelectric dam that the Brazilian government plans to build on the Xingu River, in southern Amazonia, and because he had been making a huge stink about the illegal logging that is going on in the region. Like Chico Mendes, who was the president of the rubber-tappers’ union, Dema was the president of a union of small agricultural workers.
For more information, contact Tonya Hennessey at Greenpeace, tonyah “at” bb.sfo.us.gl3


Nigerian rebels pledge to choke off oil. Easing supply fears have pushed oil prices lower. Armed militants vowed to cut daily oil exports from the West African nation’s troubled delta region by another million barrels by the end of March because OPEC will keep output levels intact.
Montreal Gazette, March 7, 2006

The Charest government decides to go ahead with the Rupert River diversion project. The project will flood 400 km² and greatly affect the local Cree people. The project will create a maximum of 4000 employments for 6 years and generate an estimated 532$ million in Québec. However, for the first time in history, an aboriginal group will financially truly benefit from such a project. For the next 50 years the Cree communities will receive from the government an annual $70 million plus a portion of the benefit from electricity sales. Part of this money will be invested in a Cree heritage fund ensuring long-term financial benefits. In spite of these financial incentives, the three Cree communities the most affected by the project will loose spiritual connection to their land. Money can’t buy everything.
The Gazette, Montréal – A1 – 12 January 2007 – Mike King
Native people
Rupert River

Fidel Castro denounced U.S. President Bush for encouraging the use of biofuels and in particular ethanol derived from corn or sugar cane. The Cuban leader forecast that over 3 billion people in the world would starve to death if Bush goes on with his policy. Biofuels are now considered as the best alternative to dwindling oil reserves, but they have a negative side. Brazil and the U.S. together produce 70% of the world’s biofuels and Bush is now planning for mandatory biofuel content five times greater than the present amount. In order to achieve this plan, Castro points out that 320 million tonnes of corn would be needed. This would take away space to grow food for people. He finds it obscene that corn should be grown to fuel cars in the rich countries, when people are starving in Africa.
The Gazette, Montréal – B7 – 30 March 2007 – Isabel Sanchez

Jathopha curcas, a shrub-like woody plant, was used for generations as fencing for protecting crops of poor villagers in Zimbabwe. Now, thanks to the Mudzi Jatropha and Cassava project, funded by CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency and implemented by Edit trust, a Zimbabwean NGO, the seeds of the shrub are put to good use. Jatropha seeds are processed to make oil, soap and fuel, and cassava, another drought resistant plant, provides nutritious food and allows local people to make enough profits fromn growing it to send their kids to school.
The Gazette, Montréal – A13 – 29 May 2006 – Ian Jones

The two countries U.S. and Brazil, which happen to be the two biggest producers of ethanol, signed an accord to share technology for alternative fuel production and reduce their respective reliance on oil imports from Venezuela. However, Brazil is leading the example: thanks to its ethanol production, Brazil has replaced 40% of gasoline consumption. Moreover, 70% of Brazilian vehicles can run on both gasoline and ethanol.
The Gazette, Montréal – C6 – 10 March 2007 – Roger Runningen and Catherine Dodge
Hydro-Quebec is planning on investing $25 billion in new dams to generate 4500 megawatts of electricity, with 1000 megawatts as export sales to Ontario and the US. The dams will create 70,000 person-years of construction jobs. It is said the project would save Quebecers money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists are skeptical about both of these points. Potential rivers for damming include La Romaine on the lower north shore and rivers in Nunavik.
Kevin Dougherty, The Gazette, Montreal, May 5, 2006, p. A1

The Co-founded of Greenpeace states that nuclear power is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, given the growing demand for energy. Wind and solar energy have their place in reducing greenhouse gases, but they are simply too intermittent to act as a substitute for coal. He states that nuclear energy is actually one of the least expensive energy sources, and is actually safe (Chernobyl did not have a containment vessel). He also states that nuclear energy does not actually produce that much dangerous waste, as used fuel has less than one-thousandth its radioactivity after 40 years and 95% of the potential energy in the waste can actually be used again as fuel. Moore also states that many other types of facilities are much more vulnerable to terrorist attach than nuclear plants (which have two-meter thick reinforced concrete containment vessels). Lastly, he concludes by saying that the 103 operating plants in the US currently avoid the release of 700 million tons of carbon-dioxide annually.
Patrick Moore, The Gazette, Montreal, April 29, 2006, p. B5
Nuclear Power

After a copper mine and smelter closed in Murdochville in 2002, new life was brought to the town with the construction of 60 turbines to produce wind power. Murdochville is 1,000 kilometers east of Montreal and is currently Canada’s largest winder power project, generating enough electricity to power 12,000 homes. New jobs have been created and new families are moving to the area. Currently HydroQuebec will pay 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity produced by wind, and in the past 20 years, the cost of producing wind has dropped by 80% in real dollars. Quebec is the second largest producers of wind energy in Canada and soon it is predicted is will soon surpass the number one producer, Alberta. Worldwide, Canada is the 14th largest wind energy producer, with less than one half percent of its energy coming from wind. Some concerns about wind farms include that fact that local communities may not receive their fair share of the economic benefits, and after initial construction they are limited employment.
The Gazette, Montreal, Saturday, April 1, 2006, B1

More than 1 million people have been displaced for the Chinese Yangtze River Three Gorges Dam. The world’s longest dam (2.3km) also flooded 1,000 archaeological sites and over 24 hectares of agricultural land. The 660km long lake that will form behind the dam will further threatened Yangtze dolphin, Chinese sturgeon and finless porpoise. The energy derived from the gigantic structure is expected to reach 85 billion kilowatt per hour by 2009, which represents only 2% of China’s electricity need by 2010. However, project managers say the dam will help control the Yangtze’s deadly floods that have killed hundred of thousands in the past. Environmentalists fear that the huge lake forming behind the dam will become a waste pool for China’s largest urban centre of Chongqing despite newly build sewage treatment plants.
The Gazette, Montréal – B7 – 19 May 2006 – Edward Cody

Change your light bulbs for the compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). They’ll make your energy bill almost 4 times cheaper and help reduce our dependence on coal and fossil fuel. For those still nostalgic of the incandescent rays, the famous bright and coiled CFLs are now coming in various shapes and colours to give an old-fashioned feel. The only problem, when the long-lived energy-efficient bulb is retired, it is considered hazardous waste containing phosphorous powder and mercury. Thus, you can’t just trash it or recycle it.
The Gazette, Montréal – B3 – 24 March 2006 – Cheryl Cornacchia
Light bulbs

Expansion of the Eastmain powerhouse and the diversion of the Rupert River into the Eastmain pose serious threats to the environment, the health of the Rupert and the Eastmain and the Cree who depend on its fish, but the controversy surrounding the projects is dampened down by the context of high-energy prices and global warming. The dam will negatively affect Cree communities’ livelihood, but the power it will generate will sell at the cheap rate of five cents a kilowatt- hour, which is two cent less than the current electricity market price.
The Gazette, Montréal – B1 – 31 January 2007 – Peter Hadekel
Rupert River

Will a 62km² wind farm, 130 turbines strong, ever rise on the shores of the Nantucket Sound ? The project idea was born in 2002 and $325,000 has been spent in lobbying while politicians with vested interests in the oil business are trying to get the project nixed.
The Gazette, Montréal – Juliet Eilperin
Wind power

Zenn electric minicars are to be produced in St. Jerome, 60 km north of Montreal. Although the Zenn (Zero Emission No Noise) meets all federal highway regulations, British Columbia is the only province so far where the vehicle can be legally licensed. Feel Good Cars, the Toronto-based company that manufactures the cars, has not yet sold any Zenns in Canada, although they have orders from France and the United States.
Mike King, The Gazette, Montreal, April 14, 2006, p. A1
Electric Cars

Environmental Awareness
The Canadian largest survey on the subject of climate change reveals that Québec has surpassed British Columbia as the most environmentally conscious province. Quebecers, regardless of their age class, wealth and education levels, are the most environmentally aware and the most determined to make changes in order to reverse the effects of global warming.
The Gazette, Montréal – A4 – 23 March 2007 – Michelle Lalonde

Ethnic Conflict
Australian-led forces, who came to East Timor in the midst of a bloody transition from Indonesian rule in 1999, are back to keep the peace in the capital of Dili. It’s a sad departure from 2002, when East Timor declared independence after a period of UN oversight and a generous infusion of international aid. East Timor is an extreme case, a neglected territory where violence and deprivation became routine for many people during 24 years of harsh Indonesian occupation. Some observers believe the UN left East Timor too soon and retained too much authority for too long. The tensions between old independence fighters and those perceived to be sympathetic to Indonesia were never resolved, and they have flared up in the recent violence.
Christopher Torchia, Associated Press, The Gazette, Montreal, June 1, 2006
An Israeli couple used a stroller to bring firecrackers and small explosives into one of Christianity’s holiest sites in Nazareth. The explosions started riots in the street and six people were injured. The attack was not nationalistic but did underline the tensions between Jews and Palestinians.
Associated Press, The Gazette, Montreal, March 4, 2006 – p. A27

Over 35,000 children were abducted by rebel militia in the Congo during Africa’s First World War. Since 2003, the country has demobilized about 11,000 youths and made it illegal for rebels to have children soldiers. The boys, changed by their experiences, are put into interim camps to help ease their transition back into childhood and family life.
Edmund Sanders, The Gazette, Montreal, December 18, 2005 – p. IN4

Humans have transformed the archipelago of the Galapagos Islands through the introduction of alien species. Scientists have tried to eradicate the invasive species such as goats, donkeys, cats and pigs. Scientists are making progress in the protection of threatened species in this region on uninhabited islands but are losing ground in inhabited areas. Alien species have driven native species into extinction because native species have never faced competition before.
Juliet Eilperin, The Montreal Gazette, March 4, 2006
Introduced Species

The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there’s an increasing risk of disaster destroying the earth, the visionary particle physicist Stephan Hawking said. He said life on earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as global warming, nuclear war, or dangers not yet thought of.
Sylvia Hui, Associated Press
Human Race

North Atlantic right whales were nearly driven extinct by whaling, but they don’ t have to be concerned about hunters anymore, they are threatened by ship strikes which are hindering their ability to recover in numbers since whaling days. Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts have discovered that whales don’t respond to recorded ship noises, but when the alert signal was sounded, the whales responded by heading towards the surface, straight into oncoming ships.
The Gazette, Montreal. December 21, 2003

A lone turtle living in a lake in Hanoi could be the last of its kind, wildlife experts fear. The Asian giant softshell turtle is extremely rare and is presumably at the risk of extinction.
The Times, October 13, 2003

Harvard researchers say that habitat destruction by illegal loggers could mean the extinction of orangutans within 10 to 20 years. Orangutans live only in Indonesia and Malaysia. While the government of Indonesia has a commitment to protect the orangutans, the loggers return when the police leave.
The Gazette, Montreal. September 30, 2003

In the past 80 years, two thirds of the 91 known forest-dependent species of birds in Singapore have become extinct. Researchers predict 42 percent of animals species in Southeast Asia could become extinct by the end of this century. Stronger enforcement against illegal logging and poaching and economic incentives are needed to retard the rate of extinction.
Kristin Kovner – p. 4

Southern Alberta’s Ord’s Kangaroo rat population is under threat. A two year study beginning will try to determine why the population dips perilously close to extermination every winter, from an estimated 3,000-5,000 each summer to around 500 the following spring. University of Calgary biologist Darren Bender believes that it is the loss of the rat’s habitat in the Middle Sand hills that is responsible for the declining numbers. The Ord’s Kangaroo is one of six endangered animal species in Alberta.
Grady Semmens, Canwest News Service

In his latest novel “Returning to Earth”, Jim Harrison, often referred as the Mozart of the plains for the quality of his writing, reflects on the world of death and mourners. In his fiction, a 45-years-old man diagnosed with an incurable degenerative disease chooses to die before the illness consumes him. Then, Harrison describe the feelings and memories of the wife who tries to let go of her husband at the same time she realizes she needs to relinquish her grown up children. In spite of these sad events, the novel is full of happiness. The characters facing either side of death are remembering the times of their life that made it all worthwhile and unforgettable.
The Gazette, Montréal – J7 – 10 March 2007 – Omar Majeed

Banned chemicals found in the Potomac River (West Virginia) are suspected to cause sexual mutation in smallmouth bass. The pesticides and banned fungicides found in the water can stimulate oestrogen production in male fish as well as the production of immature eggs in fish testes.
The Gazette, Montréal –A25 – 20 January 2007 – David Ochami

Food for Thought/Musings
“I don’t think you can live with the flat, metallic lakes, the brooding firs and pines, and the great expanses of grey rock that stretch all the way from Yellowknife to Labrador, with the naked birches and the rattling aspens, with the ghostly call of the loon and the haunting cry of the wolf, without being a very special person.”
Pierre Berton, Quoted by Michael Kesterton, The Globe & Mail, Toronto

When fascism comes to America it will be in the form of Americanism. Take, as an example, former Louisiana Governor, U.S. Senator, and noted radical Huey Long.

The ecologist’s apologist creed: I have desecrated my right to be here and that of others.

“History is the passion of sons who wish to understand their fathers.”
Late Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini

“Where do you go if you’re young and the world comes to an end? Do you go into history?”
Isabelle, a Montreal first-grade student, Montreal Gazette
Foundations and Grants
Just got a call from Mervin Roberts, who is pushing eighty and works as a consultant for a philanthropic institution called Maine Coastal Resources, which was thinking of making a grant to a leper colony in the Amazon where some Franciscan monks had reported that 4000 destitute lepers were “eating garbage.” Roberts went down to check it out before the grant was finalized.
It turns out that I visited the colony, which is seven miles from the city of Manaus, in l976 and devoted a few paragraphs of my book, The Rivers Amazon, to it. Roberts had read the book before going down and had called me to see if I had any contacts or suggestions. Everything was as I had described it, he reported, except that the Franciscans who were running the colony had left, and so had all the lepers except for three. It was, as he described it, a “depressed leper colony.” With the advent of the new sulfa drugs, he explained, most lepers can be treated so that within six months they are no longer contagious and can return to the general population, which is what the other 3997 lepers had apparently done. Other healthy Amazonians had moved into the abandoned compound with their families because there was electric power “to run their boob tubes,” Roberts went on. “This place doesn’t need American help. The people are better off than they are in many parts of America.” So this is good news for Maine Coastal Resources, I said to Roberts. It doesn’t have to make the grant. “I suppose,” he said, “but I’m furious with the Franciscans. It didn’t pan out. That’s why these benevolent organizations have to be so careful before they send out the cheques.”
One in every 2000 babies is born an intersexual, with genitalia that are neither male nor female. Mrs. Hartman of Hackensack, NJ gave birth to such a child. The doctors did not know at birth whether her child was a boy or a girl. Deciding to raise the child as a girl, the child underwent feminizing surgeries. By age 4 the child, Kelli, began to tell her mother that she was actually a boy named Max. In the near future the mother and child are going to have to decide whether to take hormones to either shape Kelli into a woman, or turn her into a man.
The Gazette, Montréal – 31 July 2004 Ruth Padavuar
Prince Manvendrasinh Gohil is the only son and heir to the fortunes of the former Rajpipla principality, in Gujarat state. However, he learned through a newspaper ad, which his parents placed, that he was disowned from his parents. The motivation for this was that he recently came out to his parents. Homosexual relationships are illegal in India.
Peter Foster, The Gazette, Montreal, June 28, 2006, p. A18

Aida Melly Tan Abdullah was abused by her husband who secretly took a second wife but refused to give her a divorce. After countless unsuccessful court rulings, she was so frustrated with the legal system in Malaysia that she studied Islamic law, known as Shariah to fight for her own rights. After attracting nation-wide attention she obtained a divorce in 2002. While Malaysia was once considered the most progressive Muslim country in regards to family law, it has since digressed and is getting worse according to some critics. Women are discriminated against in legal issues regarding family, inheritance as well as their fundamental liberties. Law are getting stricter against women’s favor as political parties fight for the support of conservative Muslims. Under Islamic law, Muslim men can have up to four wives, can divorce their wives simply by stating the words (or texting them via cell phone), “I divorce you,” three times, can avoid child support simply by moving to another state, and two states allow men to marry off their daughters without their consent. Wives on the other hand, have to prove their divorce case in court if their husbands do not want a divorce. Sisters of Islam is a women’s group that campaigns for Shariah reforms and deals with an average of 700 Shariah court cases a year from women who want divorces or child support.
Eileen Ng, The Gazette, Montreal, June 23, 2006, p. h10
Women’s Rights

One in every 2000 babies is born an intersexual, with genitalia that are neither male nor female. Mrs. Hartman of Hackensack, NJ gave birth to such a child. The doctors did not know at birth whether her child was a boy or a girl. Deciding to raise the child as a girl, the child underwent feminizing surgeries. By age 4 the child, Kelli, began to tell her mother that she was actually a boy named Max. In the near future the mother and child are going to have to decide whether to take hormones to either shape Kelli into a woman, or turn her into a man.
Ruth Padavuar, The Gazette, Montréal, July 31, 2004

“Busted” is an all-women private detective agency in Atlanta. The intention of its founder, Jeanene Weiner, was not to limit it to women, but then she found how helpful it was to have women detectives. She finds that clients are more comfortable talking to women (especially male clients), and she believes women are more curious and observant than men, important qualities in the trade. The agency is three years old and is the only all-female private eye agency in the US.
Harry Mount, The Gazette, Montreal, June 18, 2006, p. A9
Avalonia is the name of the rock that was driven away by tectonic forces from the super continent Gondwana 480 million years ago. Researches found that this rock forms part of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, New England, Carolina, the British Isles and even France and Spain. When Avalonia split again, it allowed the formation of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Gazette, Montréal – 25 May 2006 – Randy Boswell
Plate tectonics

The American side of Niagara Falls is predicted to dry to a trickle in about 1,000 years, says University of Wisconsin scientist Steven Dutch. He also predicts that the Hudson Bay will shrink dramatically due to its shallow sea bottom rebounding from the last Ice Age. When the Canadian Falls finally recedes past Goat Island – the rock that splits the course of the Niagara River and creates two separate, 50-metre cascades – the American falls will cease to exist, and there will only be a single falls, predicts Dutch.
Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service, The Gazette, Montreal, May 26, 2006

The International Monetary Fund is experiencing a budget crisis, as Asians are building up foreign currency reserves and Argentina and Brazil have paid back their loans early. Donor governments are less likely to launch aid initiatives with the World Bank’s help because of skepticism over President Paul Wolfowitz. It’s not that the underlying forces of globalization have gone limp; it’s that nobody wants to invest political capital in global institutions.
Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post, The Gazette, Montreal, May 8, 2006

Global Warming

Scientists are sure that sea levels will rise as a result of global warming. At least one quarter of the houses within 500 feet of the United States coast may be lost to rising seas by 2060. Though most of the country’s ocean beaches are eroding, few coastal jurisdictions consider sea level rise in their coastal planning, and fewer incorporate the fact that the rise is accelerating. Some of the rise – scientists argue over how much – is because of natural temperature variation, but much of it results from warming; as water warms, it expands, occupying more space. Warming also melts inland glaciers and ice sheets, sending torrents of fresh water into the oceans – causing sea levels to rise.
Cornelia Dean, Science Times, The New York Times, June 20, 2006
Unusual warm temperatures for January in Montréal and region are disturbing the migration, hibernation and also breeding behaviour schedule of many animals. Canada geese, for instance, delayed their migration south and racoons are forgetting to hibernate. Unusual warm temperatures are tricking animals and their behavioural responses that could have negative impact on their metabolism and survival in the long run. Other species such as the opossums and fox squirrels are moving up north welcomed by the nice weather. This range expansion could trigger unforeseen competition with the species already present in the north.
The Gazette, Montréal – A16 – 6 January 2007 – Cheryl Cornacchia

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced the results of a 1,000 worldwide scientists-reviewed report that gives a gloomy picture of the consequences of global warming. By 2080, 1.1 to 3.2 billion people will starve and suffer water shortage while 100 million others will experience devastating floods. Tropical disease such as malaria and pest species will proliferate, while the natural habitat of polar bears and other arctic life will vanish by 2050.
The Gazette, Montréal – A1- 11 March 2007 – Seth Borenstein

Al Gore went to Congress for the first time after his presidential run defeat of 2000. This time, Al Gore brought more than half-million messages from citizens urging for governmental action against global warming.
The Gazette, Montréal – A19 – 22 March 2007
Al Gore

Al Gore and David Suzuki talked in front of nearly 5,000 people during a conference organized by the Youth Action Montréal coalition. Both felicitated Québec in its leading role in raising awareness about environmental issues. The two public figures also stressed the importance of sustaining media exposure around the issue of global warming, fearing that that the concerns and efforts accomplished so far vanish as soon as media loose interest, as they did back in 1988.
The Gazette, Montréal – A4 – 23 March 2007 – Michelle Lalonde
Al Gore
David Suzuki

Environmentalists denounced the plan presented by the Canada’s Conservative Environment Minister, John Baird. They said that the measures planned to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2012 are not satisfactory. Not only is the carbon emissions limit set by this new plan weaker than the one imposed by Kyoto, but also it will allow companies to easily achieve the target and even increase their emissions as long as their overall business grows faster than the pollution they create.
The Gazette, Montréal – A15 – 5 May 2007 – Mike de Souza

Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to follow U.S. president Bush’s position on global warming. Canada is the only signatory country that has openly abandoned its Kyoto target. The Canadian Conservative government argues that it would be impossible to met its pledge at Kyoto to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012.
The Gazette, Montréal – A3 – 2006 – Mike de Souza

Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose said that Conservative government had to give up on its Kyoto commitment because it was impossible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are rising 35% above the planned target rate. She added that only if all the lights and all the agriculture industry were to shut down could the unrealistic target be reached.
The Gazette, Montréal – A12 – 12 May 2006 – Mike de Souza

Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is stopping a plan that allowed the government to invest in initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions abroad. As a result, private investors, whose business depends on the emissions trading market, moved nearly CA$1 billion investment and technology overseas.
The Gazette, Montréal – A11 – 15 May 2006 – Mike de Souza

Canada’s forests store 12 times more carbon than is emitted by the world annually. The 1000km- wide boreal forest line that stretches from the Labrador to the Yukon retains 47.5 billion tons of carbon. Conserving old and intact forests, ForestEthics says, is the key to counteract climate change. Such forests are 50% more efficient at storing carbon than younger replanted forests. Yet, each year logging activities in Canada remove more carbon than is emitted through the exhaust pipes of Canadian drivers.
The Gazette, Montréal – A15 – 10 May 2007 – Don Butler

The Centre for Health and Global Environment of Harvard Medical School discussed the health implications of climate change as laid out in the second section of the United Nations report. Rise in temperatures and intensification of extreme natural events will result in wide and sudden disease outbreaks. They warned that an old estimate of 150,000 deaths directly related to global warming is too conservative. Global warming is affecting the air, the forests and the water ecosystems on which we all depend to survive. Thus, the excess deaths generated by climate change will be much greater.
The Gazette, Montréal – A16 – 30 March 2007 – Mike de Souza

Scientists say that Mars is also experiencing global warming, even more intensely than Earth. When the dust-covered planet is swept by storms, the dirt particles prevent the sun’s rays from reflecting back into space, and heat is trapped in Mars’ atmosphere. As a result the planet experiences temperature fluctuations ranging from -87ºC to +5ºC.
The Gazette, Montréal – A16 – 30 March 2007 – Mike de Souza

Efforts to slow global warming will have no discernible effect on hurricanes for the foreseeable future – reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and adequately preparing for future disasters are essentially separate problems. The number and scale of disasters worldwide has been rising rapidly in recent decades because of changes in society, such as the continuing development of coastal regions, not global warming. Because of the way that greenhouse gases behave in the atmosphere, even emissions reductions far more rapid and radical than those mandated under Kyoto would have little or no effect on the behaviour of the climate for decades.
Roger Pielke Jr. and Daniel Sarewitz, The Gazette, Montreal, September 27, 2005

United States President George W. Bush met with author Michael Crighton in 2005 because he loves his latest novel, State of Fear, the plot of which surrounds a scientist who discovers climate change is a hoax cooked up by malevolent environmentalists. Early in his presidency, Bush pulled the plug on the Kyoto Protocol and now hypes hydrogen fuel cells and pays little attention to other alternative energy research. Although the Canadian Liberals took climate change seriously, Stephen Harper’s government has dismissed the Kyoto Protocol.
Dan Gardner, Canwest News Service, The Gazette, Montreal, May 28, 2006

Increased tourism results in greater carbon dioxide output. Cost effective vacation trips allows for more tourists to visit natural places but these travels cost a lot in terms of carbon footprint generated by plane rides and air conditioned hotel rooms. Not less than 1.1 billion tourists expected in 2010 and 1.6 billion in 2020 will contribute to flood famous beaches as global warming progresses.
The Gazette, Montréal – A19 -22 March 2007
Environment Canada documents state the threats of global warming and encourage Tories to act on the matter. The document sites a rise in infectious diseases, food-poisoning outbreaks, flooding coastlines, crumbling roads, buildings and sewage systems as some of dangers that Canada needs to prepare for. The document states that glaciers are already retreating in the Rocky Mountains, sea levels and climatic zones are changing, and of “paramount concern” is the fact that permafrost is melting at faster rates.
Mike de Souza, The Gazette, Montreal, June 29, 2006

A team of Russian and American researchers have recently concluded that the thawing of permafrost could release 500 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere, a process that would only enhance global warming. In general, permafrost has been ignored in previous climate change research. The area that could be affected is 25 meters deep and two thirds the size of Alaska.
The Gazette, Montreal, June 25, 2006, p. J11

Todd writes about the state of the world we have created for the next generation, where babies must have their kiddy pools in the shade and must be lathered in sun block; a world where the roar of rush hour traffic is common place, and where nature is ever threatened; a world where Glacier National Park will have no more glacier by 2030 and where the Arctic Ocean will have no more permanent ice by 2080. Todd hopes that every father can teach their children to be stewards of the earth, wishes that more political leaders and oil companies listened to the words of Elizabeth Kolbert, and hopes that it is in fact, not too late for their children.
Jack Todd, The Gazette, Montreal, June 17, 2006, p. A2

Premier Jean Charest announced that he expects oil companies to absorb the carbon tax necessary to pay for a greenhouse gas reduction plan over the next 6 years. Charest stated that Hydro-Quebec and Gaz Metro absorb the cost of their energy efficiency plans and the oil companies should do the same. However, the Quebec vice-president of the Canada Petroleum Products Institute rebutted that these companies slide these costs into rate increases.
The Gazette, Montreal, June 16, 2006, p. A1

Aubin writes about the realistic benefits of Quebec joining the alliance set up among northeastern states that are fed up with Bush and are taking their own actions against climate change. The alliance focuses on stabilizing carbon-dioxide levels at 10% below the 2005 level by 2019 (a goal less ambitious than Kyoto) mainly through cutbacks in the generation of electrical energy. However Quebec produces only 1.5% of its greenhouse gases from electricity generation since most is produced from hydro-power. Therefore, joining this alliance would be more for political reasons that environmental. Instead, Quebec needs to focus is reductions in areas such as agriculture, industry and transportation, which contribute much more heavily to the province’s carbon-dioxide generation.
Henry Aubin, The Gazette, Montreal, May 4, 2006, p. A21

Based on data that has been collected since the mid 1800’s, it now appears that wind speeds have decreased over the Pacific Ocean as a result of global warming. The wind pattern has a significant effect on ocean currents, climate and the marine food chain. The slowdown matches predictions of climate change models that link global warming to increased man-made greenhouse gas concentrations, and models that only consider natural processes do not predict a slowdown of wind currents, such as has been observed. The wind currents have decreased 3.5% since the mid 1800’s and may reduce another 10% by 2100.
Malcolm Ritter, The Gazette, Montreal, May 4, 2006, p. A15
Wind Patterns

Albrecht SchulteHostedde is studying flying squirrel reproductive fitness. More specifically, he is studying the long term effects of climate change on reproductive fitness. His work is especially significant in that flying squirrels are indicator species for the health of local ecosystems.
Tom Spears, The Gazette, Montreal, March 21, 2006, p. A14

A “major ecosystem shift” has occurred in the Arctic waters. Grey whales, walruses and diving seabirds are being replaced by more southern fish species that are moving northward. Both commercial fishing and indigenous hunters are being affected. Thinner ice is also making hunting more difficult for indigenous peoples. Mother walruses have also been reported to be abandoning their pups with thinner ice conditions.
Margaret Munro, The Gazette, Montreal, March 10, 2006, p. A14

2006 marks the inaugural year of Greenland’s polar bear quota. In the past, Inuit hunters have killed about 250 bears out of a population of 7,500, but now the limit for Greenlanders will be 150. The quota was put in place to protect the bears from climate change that threatens their Arctic habitat.
Jan M. Olsen, The Gazette, Montreal, February 23, 2006 – p. A19
Mammal – Polar Bears

Polar Bears, evolutionary the newest bear species, have to struggle with pollutants invading their bodies and the effects of climate change. The melting ice cover and shorter seasons of ice mass have limited their habitat and shortened their hunting season. The entire species could potentially vanish due to climate change.
Brian Payton, The Gazette, Montreal, February 15, 2006 – p. A19
Mammal – polar bear

The warm winter is problematic for businesses and events that need snow and cold for survival. Ice fishing cabins stand unrented, ski hills have bad conditions and have closed some days, Montreal’s Fête de Neiges was cancelled, and maple sugar production could suffer.
Alana Coates, The Gazette, Montreal, February 6, 2006 – p. A6

New research suggests that carbon dioxide emissions also pose potential risks to the oceans. The oceans have absorbed vast amounts of carbon dioxide released in the industrial age and have measurably changed, chemically and biologically, as a result. More than 100 oceanographers and other scientists assessed the issue at a meeting in Paris in May, and concluded that he effects are already occurring, negatively effecting corals and other calcifying organisms, with disrupt marine food webs.
The New York Times, July 20, 2004
Andrew C. Revkin
Marine effects

Affordable air-conditioning saves lives and many of thousands that died in the heat of France’s brutal summer could have been saved by century old technology.
The Gazette, Montreal. August 29, 2003

Power companies in several European countries have asked for rules to be relaxed governing the temperature of water they pump back into rivers from their cooling systems because of the heat wave that continues on the continent. French and German nuclear reactors are located along riverbanks to ensure sufficient supplies of cooling water. Governments generally impose limits on the temperatures of water that is poured back into rivers after cooling reactors to protect the environment and river life. In Germany two states agreed to lift the permitted water temperature 2 degrees, from 28 degrees Celsius, to 30 degrees Celcius.
The New York Times, August 12, 2003
John Tagliabue

Canadian scientist Jan Veizer’s new research suggests that the force behind climate change over the past 545 million years has been “galactic cosmic ray flux” – the varying intensity of thermal energy from the sun and stars – rather than carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere. Veizer and Israelis scientist Nir Shaviv, found that peak periods of cosmic ray activity consistently coincided with lower global temperatures. He emphasized that unprecedented carbon dioxide emissions in modern times may eventually ‘overtake’ cosmic rays as a chief factor in climate change.
The Gazette, Montreal. July 3, 2003

Few Canadians act to cut greenhouse-gas output, even though between 1998 and 2001 the federal government spent $30 million trying to convince Canadians to care about climate change. In fact, Canada’s total greenhouse-gas emissions rose from 690 million tones in 1998 to 730 million tonnes in 2000. The question arises as to whether future spending on Kyoto initiatives will be any more effective. Michael Gareau, Environment Canada’s manager of public education and outreach for the Climate Change Action Fund, says that while the government told people to reduce emissions, it did not provide enough concrete programs and financial incentives to actually help them cut the energy used to run their homes and cars.
The Gazette, Montreal. May 20, 2003
Canadian Policy

Al Gore harshly criticized the Conservatives’ new environmental platform, a strategy supposedly focused on reducing GHGs and improving air quality. Gore described it as being a “complete and total fraud” and “designed to mislead”, and David Suzuki was noted as saying that it wasn’t enough.


CanWest news Service/Agence France Presse/Canadian Press. April 29, 2007. A1, A6.


Al Gore
Canadian Policy

A thorough study undertaken by scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics reveals that the 20th century, contrary to the alarmism of the environmentalists, was neither the warmest century in the past millennium nor the one marked by the most severe weather. The study was funded in part by NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Belief that the globe is warming faster than ever before is the result of examining variations in temperature over too short a time span, the study suggests.
The Gazette, Montreal. April 26, 2003
Lorne Gunter, Canwest News Service

President Bush has been denounced by mainstream scientists, deserted by his progressive friends in industry and sued by seven states over his abandonment of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global climate change. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain has made a speech stating he regarded environmental degradation in general and climate change in particular as just a devastating in their potential impact as weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.
New York Times, Editorials. March 1, 2003
Kyoto Protocol
United States Policy

Global warming is forcing species around the world to move into new ranges or alter habitats. This could disrupt ecosystems. In some cases, species’ ranges have shifted 60 miles or more in recent decades. Some species are also being pushed into areas of higher threat from human factors.
Andrew C. Revkin, January 2, 2003
GLOBAL WARMING – range shift

Babies born to mothers who suffered the full brunt of the 1998 January ice storm had lower IQ scores and took longer to speak, a study by researchers at McGill University and the Université de Montréal reveals.
The Gazette, Montréal
Peggy Gurran, University Life Reporter
1998 Ice Storm

The term “global warming” is simply not frightening enough to inspire people to act. In fact, many Montrealers even welcome the idea of a warmer climate. Some alternative terms that might be more intimidating include: “global harming,” “global planetary plague,” “defective international epidemic syndrome (DIES),” “sick universe virus (SUV),” or “satanic planet syndrome.”
Josh Freed, The Gazette, Montreal

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cabinet approved the Kyoto Protocol and will put it into effect within 90 days. The United States and Australia are the only industrial nations that aren’t ratifying the treaty and the United States is the biggest carbon-dioxide polluter contributing one quarter of global emissions. Critics say that the United States could be hurt by Russia’s decision to ratify the treaty as European nations will have to pay for pollution controls to reduce their emissions whereas the United States does not. European countries may try to punish U.S. companies with tariffs on U.S. goods.
The Gazette, Montreal.
Kyoto Protocol
United States Policy

The government needs to cut more than $1 billion from existing climate change programs in the next five years in order to deliver part of its “made in Canada” solution for reducing greenhouse gases. The money will be reallocated to give tax credit to bus pass users. A Greenpeace spokesman states that there is little else that the government has mentioned besides the bus pass incentive about how to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The spokesman also said that the new budget is more of a “climate change catastrophe” than anything else.
Mike de Souza, The Gazette, Montreal, p. A7

While carbon dioxide is not a pollutant when occurring naturally in the environment, the same does not hold true for unnatural emissions. How human-induced climate change and how natural-climate change fluctuations affect glaciers is complicated, but we should never stop researching them in the name of science and human welfare.
Letter to The Gazette, Montreal
Dylan Perceval-Maxwell, Montreal

The entire Pacific archipelago nation of Tuvalu is literally vanishing as we speak.

British researchers have evidence that global warming has cut the frequency and duration of common cold season. This would be one incidence where a warming global climate would reduce, instead of spread, infectious disease.
Tom Spears, The Gazette, Montreal – p. A14

A friend of mine named Kenny who runs a beautiful heifer farm in Orwell, Vermont, and is keenly observant of the weather and the seasons, told me that last April started as the latest spring on record and ended as the earliest. Due to the lingering heavy snowcover, followed by weeks of no rain and record heat, which probably had something to do with global warming and brought out the leaves and flowers weeks ahead of time and messed with the timetables of the returning birds. This provides anecdotal support for Dr. Terry Root’s chapter about the disruptive climate change-related effects on bird migration at the onset of spring and fall, in the latest report of the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change.

As part of the strategy to spread the word on climate change, Desiree McGraw, a long-time green activist will be bringing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth presentation to Montreal. The former American Vice President has been training people (1000 so far, mostly Americans) to adapt his slideshow for smaller, local groups. McGraw is one of the twenty Canadians chosen to learn, modify, and present An Inconvenient Truth. She has adapted it to connect on a personal level and has provided a translation into French.


The Gazette, Michelle Lalonde. April 16, 2007


Al Gore
Germany has proposed to go beyond EU targets of CO2 reduction, and cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent within 13 years. This objective will make it the most energy-efficient country in the world. Plans to reach the ambitious target will include enlisting industry’s help, as well as the promotion of incentives to change domestic travel from plane use to rail transportation.


The Gazette. Agency France-Presse. April 27, 2007. A3



An international study published in the April 26th Issue of Science, has revealed that destructive global warming occurred 55 million years ago. Volcanic activity caused the release of greenhouse gasses and raised surface water temperatures. History could be repeating itself: as Earth temperatures increase, melting polar ice caps and changing weather patterns are considered by scientists as evidence of global climate change.


Agence France Presse. April 27, 2007. A3


A UN report on climate change was allegedly watered-down by officials from a handful of countries who offered no scientific evidence for their changes. It went from being a summary made for policy-makers to one made by policy-makers to delay calls for urgent action. This emphasizes the need to ensure that the final document be based on the best science.


The Gazette. Mike de Sonza (CanWest News Service). April 16, 2007.



Within the next few years, China is expected to surpass the U.S.A. to become the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG). Official Chinese targets aim to increase energy efficiency and drop industrial pollutants by 10% between 2006 and 2010. However, the matter of other countries having polluted their way to development, and America and Europe’s high per capita pollution are still a concern.


The Economist, in The Gazette. April 30, 2007. A17.



Mothers who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs, such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, during the second half of their pregnancy are six times more likely to give birth to babies with persistent pulmonary hypertension. 99% of mothers would deliver without a problem, so the probability of complications is low. The possibility of the effect of the drug on a fetus can only be observed after the medicine is on the market and in use because for ethical reasons you can’t test medications on pregnant women.
Stephanie Nano, The Gazette, Montreal – February 9, 2006, p. A15

Human Personality
Sharing secrets is a bonding experience. But knowing other people’s secrets also empower us. Interestingly women share more secrets than men do. Why? Women tend to be more verbal and talk more, psychologist Mary Harsany says.
The Gazette, Montréal – D1 – 15 January 2007 – Monique Polak

Human Rights
Ivory Coast produces 70% of the world’s cocoa. It also has a disturbingly high number of child labourers working to grow that cocoa. One study showed that 388 of 500 surveyed children in Oumé district were either temporary or permanent cocoa plantation workers. American politicians, foreign aid groups, and the International Labour Organization have all been working towards ending the practice of child labour that is so prevalent in Ivory Coast and neighbouring Ghana, another major cocoa producer. The impoverished region will need aid, say officials, in order to hire adult workers to farm the land.
Todd Pitman, Associated Press – July 4, 2005
HUMAN RIGHTS—child labour
Hydro-Québec announced a 5.3-per-cent rate hike. This article reviews the cost of the raised prices for individual home owners and businesses as well as asks experts about their views on the huge price increase. The consensus is divided between whether or not the increase will help conservation.
The Gazette, Montreal, March 4, 2006 – p. A3

The term “Londonstani” refers to South Asian youth living in London. Journalist Gautam Malkani was afraid the term would be altered from one of pride to one of insult after the July 7th bombings in London that killed 53 commuters and four bombers, three of whom were of Pakistani descent. Malkani’s fear prompted him to turn the term into the title of a book about the life of troubled Asian youth in London. The book, geared toward the kids who “normally play their PlayStation,” was a huge success. Malkani notes that Asian youth seem to have become more assertive and aggressive in the early ‘90’s. Criticism of the novel is that it is too conventional and at times cliché.
Jill Lawless, The Gazette, Montreal, July 8, 2006, p. j6

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, and other major cities to fight against proposed immigration reform in the United States. Protestors said that they “wanted to prove to people that the United States depends on us.” The multi-city protest, called A Day Without Immigrants, brought several U.S. cities to a standstill to protest against legislation that would crack down on 12 million illegal workers in the country. Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the country, with 1.1 million to 1.2 million new migrants, both legal and illegal, entering the United States each year.
Cox News Service, The Gazette, Montreal, May 2, 2006, p. A2
Sheldon Alberts, Canwest News Service, The Gazette, Montreal, May 2, 2006, p. A3
Infectious Diseases
Avian flu reached Nigeria and the Middle East, killing wild birds en masse. Officials have done little to stop the spread despite citizens’ pleas.
Associated Press, The Gazette, Montreal, February 15, 2006 – p. A17

There have been reports of pet birds being destroyed in Abu Dhabi and other regions are temporarily prohibiting the import of wild birds destined for pet trades. These are defensive measures against the spread of avian flu, a potential pandemic that has thus far infected 120 people since 2003. Most cases of the flu originate from human to poultry contact and experts have not reached a consensus regarding migratory birds spreading the disease.
David Bird, The Gazette, Montreal, October 30, 2005 – p.B8

Polio has returned after an outbreak in Nigeria reached Yemen. Children have received vaccinations against polio because Yemen had been polio-free for four years. As a result, one fourth of all polio cases in 2005 occurred in the poor region of Hudaydah, Yemen.
Paul Garwood, The Gazette, Montreal, October 5, 2005 – p. A16

As though the big ice storm in Quebec in 1998 didn’t cause enough problems, this lingering effect appears to be at least as frustrating a challenge for some people in the Montréal area. Carpenter ants have flourished in the “wet, rotting conditions” created by fallen trees and branches.
The Gazette, Montréal – A1 – 9 June 2005 – Susan Semenak
Ice Storm of l998

Robert Hall from the University of Missouri is a forensic entomologist. The species and size of the larvae maturing in murdered human bodies can help identify the location and time of death. These two pieces of information are sometimes crucial to solving crime cases. Evidence provided by these insects haved help convict or clear people and have even been useful in civil cases.
The Gazette, Montréal – A3 – 6 January 2007 – Claudia Dreifus
A new term, “adultescence”, describes adults who choose to live with their parents because of the benefits of housing and economic support. The number of twenty-somethings living with their parents in Canada has reached 41 percent over the last two decades. This could have long term effects on society.
Misty Harris, The Gazette, Montreal, February 20, 2006 – p. A10
Knowing two or more languages delays onset of senile dementia for about 5 years. Crosswords and other similar mental games are similarly helpful in delaying memory loss.
The Gazette, Montréal – A9 –12 January 2007

Engineers at the language Technology Research Centre in Gatineau, Quebec, are developing a translator software that will distinguish and pick the proper contextual meaning for a word with multiple definitions and will accurately transcribe expressions. They are first working on translating French Québécois idioms into English but plan to expand from Spanish, German, Chinese and Finnish translation into English.
The Gazette, Montréal – A16 – 27 January 2007 – Dave Rogers

Graham Fraser asserts in his new book that bilingualism is failing in Canada.
But in Montreal exchanges between individuals often occur in two languages. He argues that there has been a remarkable adoption of French by Montreal Anglophones. The author cites many instances where bilingualism hasn’t been a complete failure, such as parents lining up to get their children into French immersion schools in B.C.
The Montreal Gazette, March 7, 2006

Few non-francophones ever grasp the fine art of swearing in Québécois because it sounds closer to prayer than profanity. To swear in Québécois, you must stop thinking sexually and start thinking spiritually, using religious words like calisse! (chalice!) and tabernac! (Tabernacle!). Only Quebec has kept religion at the core of it’s swearing. An Internet dictionary called the “Swearasaurus” lists major curses for more than 150 languages – and all except Quebec French use mostly sexual slurs.
Josh Freed, The Gazette, Montreal, May 27, 2006
LANGUAGE – Swear Words
The English language does not have an equivalent to the Yiddish machetunim, meaning the members of a spouse’s extended family. Despite the large vocabulary of English, it lacks many words that are common in other languages that describe specific family relationships. Latin has distinctions between maternal and paternal uncles (avunculus and patruus), as does Swedish (morbror and farbror). On a similar note, in the last 200 years, more than 80 suggestions have been made for the pronoun of unknown gender. “thon” served this purpose and was printed in Webster’s Dictionary until the 1960’s.
Howard Richler, The Gazette, Montreal, March 18, 2006, p. J8

It is common for twins to speak their own language, but Luke and Jack Ryan, at 4 years old, have created a language incomprehensible to anyone but themselves and are incapable of speaking in English sentences. In an attempt to break the habit, they have been sent to school.
Paul Stokes, The Gazette, Montreal, March 4, 2006 – p. A26
LANGUAGE – kinship

The European Union has decided to recognize Irish Gaelic as an official language of the EU. One reader, Michael Helfield, parallels Irish Gaelic’s suppression at the hands of a colonial power to that of the Sioux language of the American plains. Helfield advocates the preservation of aboriginal languages and the recognition of those languages as not only valid but as valuable.
Michael Helfield, letter to the editor, The Gazette, Montreal — June 15, 2005
Language extinction

In 2021 half the languages spoken in the world are under threat, according to UNESCO. In Africa alone, 250 languages could be lost forever of 1400 languages spoken by 700 people or more, with another 500 on decline. The danger of language extinction appears to be most serious in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Sudan. A language is in danger when spoken by fewer than 30 % of its children. Over the past several centuries, languages have died at an increasing rate, especially in the Americas and Australia. One bright sidenote is Cornish, a language extinct in l777, which is now back from its near-dead in the eighteenth century, spoken by 1000 people currently as their second language.
UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing
Language extinction

Malapropism are common in everyday language. A large amount stem are spoken by children, such as backyarden and frontyarden, and a rainbrella. Yet adults have spoken them too. More often then not, francophones speaking English slip up.
Howard Richler, The Gazette, Montreal
LANGUAGE – words

The world’s foremost phonetician, Peter Ladefoged, passed away. He worked on Hollywood sets, with police and forensics, and in remote villages worldwide documenting endangered languages and examining speech patterns. He wrote the widely used book, A Course in Phonetics.
Margalit Fox, The Gazette, Montreal
55% of Canadians cannot properly read and follow the instructions on medication labels. Seniors score the worse: 90% of them are misreading the instructions. Deficiency in “health literacy” leads to problems such as dosing errors, misinterpretation of blood glucose scores for diabetics and overlooking warning labels. Contrary to our U.S. neighbours, no health literacy test exists in Canada. How can we solve this puzzling glitch? Prescriptions need to be worded in simpler terms or pharmacists ought to teach people how to read labels.
The Gazette, Montréal – A14 – 27 January 2007 – Sharon Kirkey

Can the argument between evolution and creationism be extended to the field of literature? David and Nanelle Barash argue for a Darwinian interpretation of literature and art, attempting to explain why art has evolved as it has. But, in a letter to the editor, Billy Toufexis of Pierrefonds, Quebec took exception to such a concept, calling it a “simplistic” and “dehumanizing” idea that cheapens not only artists but also human existence as a whole.
The Gazette, Montreal – June 5, 2005

The International Parliament of Writers opens its website. The journal Autodafe, appearing in eight languages, adds a multilingual Internet site christened www.autodafe.org, which serves as a relay and an extension of the publication¹s initiative. A wide selection of writings published in the review Autodafe is available on the site in four languages (French, English, Spanish and Portugese), and original articles in French and English will also be inserted regularly. The site’s three captions respond to its aim of addressing current world affairs, literary efforts and issues
dealt with by writers today:
-Writings of authors giving their perspectives of given social or political situations, such as violence or the death penalty in the United States, the Basque dilemma, the Zapatista movement in the Mexican province of Chiapas, war in the Balkans, contemporary Russia, etc…
-Interviews with authors from all points of the world such as Afghanistan, Congo-Brazzaville, Cuba, Algeria, China and Iraq, who are being hosted in Asylum Cities and whose individual experiences strike a singularly common note with those of their colleagues.
-Analyses and thoughts on literary creativity, on its link to the society that produces it and on the current status of cultural activities and the examples of censoring currently practiced in the world.
Autodafe.org provides more general coverage of the International Parliament of Writers and the Asylum City network. The Parliament’s history, a complete description of the Asylum Cities program, a list of cities and regions that are members of the network, as well as a presentation of writers hosted there and selections of some of their works are included on the site. The site also houses a “Bookstore” section containing unpublished literary works that have been censored throughout the world. The editorial section of Autodafe, both the publication and the Internet site, is intended to provide the following:
-reactivate exchange—nowadays injured not only by censorship but also by the hegemony of the
media—between writers of the five continents.
-to make known contemporary literary works that are difficult to obtain because they appear in minor
languages, are excluded because of a lack of funding, or are censored by political or religious powers.
-to give the opportunity of self-expression, not only to individuals but also to peoples and experiences struck mute, to vanishing cultures, to endangered languages.
The international journal Autodafe is published through a partnership of nine editors including Agra in Athens, Asa in Porto, Anagrama in Barcelona, Denoël in Paris, Feltrinelli in Milan, Pangloss in Moscow, Serpent’s Tail in London, Seven Stories Press in New York, and Ikusager in Vitoria, in the Spanish Basque country.
Issue number two can be accessed at: http://www.autodafe.org/autodafe/autodafe_02/autodafe_02.htm.
Human rights
Lives of the Naturalists
S.J. Gould is dead. Among the theories, discoveries, and ideas credited to his name: punctuated equilibrium (evolutionary change is not slow and steady, but advances rather in sudden spurts and spasms followed by long periods of sameness); ontogeny and phylogeny; the thesis that not every feature of an organism exists for some adaptive purpose (cf. spandrel in architecture); the structure of evolutionary theory.

David Suzuki has written an autobiography touching on features of his childhood, such as his time spent in internment camps in B.C’s interior during World War II. Later in his childhood he moved to Ontario. He was bullied as a child for being Sansei, a grandchild of immigrants, and being unable to speak Japanese. He has always had a sense of being an “other”. As an adult he has tried to warn an international audience about looming environmental disasters. Through his television show he has educated the public about the fight to save the Amazon Rainforest, and to end clear-cutting on B.C’s Queen Charlotte Islands. As a university professor he spoke out against the potential abuse of genetic research. He says that after he dies his hope is that his grandchildren will say his life work has helped the world become a better healthier place.
Lisa Fitterman, The Montreal Gazette, May 27, 2006
David Suzuki
Canada has declining herds of woodland caribou. The government needs to act to protect them to ensure their survival. This species could disappear from Alberta with in the next decade. Their decline is evident in provinces from the Yukon to Newfoundland. The Caribou are extremely vulnerable to industrial landscape pressures. A report by CPAWS calls for connected protected areas to be developed and for governments to change land use policies. Newfoundland, Alberta and Manitoba have initiated plans to help the caribou. Part of the challenge is garnering public support.
John Cotter, The Montreal Gazette, May 29, 2006

World’s oldest known beaver was swimming around 164 million years ago in China. This beaver, now extinct, seems to be an amalgam of animals. Finding mammals that existed during this period is rare because mammals didn’t take over as a dominant group until 100 million years after Little Castorocauda luxtrasimilis went swimming. It is the largest known Jurassic early mammal, and the first known to have lived in water.
Tom Spears, The Montreal Gazette, February 24, 2006

Translocated lynx individuals from Canada have helped the dwindling Colorado lynx population to rebound. However, despite some new evidence, the state of New Mexico does not recognize the lynx as a native species and permits the cat’s hunt. A court case is underway to decide on the lynx’s fate in New Mexico.
The Gazette, Montréal – A29 – 13 May 2006 – Randy Boswell

How deep underwater can emperor penguin go? 1,650 feet or 500 meters. Interestingly, a team of scientists found that the energy spent by the penguins during their fish hunting dives was minimal. That is, they spent the same amount of energy racing after their prey 500 meters below than they would if they just were handed the food. How can they do it? They decrease their heart beats by two or three times its normal rate, thereby minimizing energy loss.
Wildlife Conservation® – June 2005 pages 38-42

The Atlantic Walrus, whose range used to span over Nova Scotia and Massachusetts, has been declining in numbers at an alarming rate. Unsustainable hunting in Greenland appears to be responsible, but scientists fear that lack of a management plan for the species, added to global warming effects, will only make things worse. COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, is pushing for a Special Concern status for the species.
The Gazette, Montréal – A12 – 29 May 2006 – Dene Moore
Bruno was part of the reintroduction program of bears into Northern Italy. The bear crossed the Italian border into Germany and was shot by government-sanctioned hunters. This was the first wild bear seen in Germany since 1835. The Environment Minister of Germany who gave permission to kill the bear has received death threats.
Roland Losch, The Gazette, Montreal, June 27, 2006, p. A12

Canada’s leading polar bear expert, Ian Stirling, challenges Tim Flannery’s claim that polar bear will be extinct around the year 2030. While Stirling states that climate change poses a serious threat to polar bear, they will not disappear in this time period. Stirling argues that polar bear will only disappear when there is no year-round ice coverage, and this will only happen for “thousands and thousands of years.” While Stirling challenges Flannery’s statement about extinction, he has studied the effects of climate change on the species. The Hudson Bay polar bear population, which he has studied for decades, has decreased in weight by 15 to 20% and has 20% fewer individuals.
The Gazette, Montreal, April 29, 2006, p. A18
Polar Bears

Bridgitte Bardot stated she is appalled by Canada’s seal hunt and calls for “the massacre” to stop. The 71-year-old French actress said she may never return to Ottawa on account of the hunt.
Bruno Shlumberger, The Gazette, Montreal, March 23, 2006, p. A10

Ottawa has set the 2006 harp seal hunt limit to 325,000 animals, which is similar to the limit that has been set for the last three years. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans state in response to concerns about ice conditions for hunting, that they are not ideal but not unprecedented in the area. The International Fund for Animal Welfare says the quota is “unbelievable.” Currently, the harp seal population off Canada’s east coast is 6 million, triple what it was in the 1970’s. The industry of seal hunting is valued at about $16 million a year. For the years 2003 to 2005, the quota was set at 975,000. In the early 1990’s hunters killed about 60,000 animals a year, but that number has been rising. Baby seals (less than 12 days old), known as white coats are illegal to hunt, and most seals are hunted when they are about 25 days old.
The Gazette, Montreal, Thursday, March 16, 2006, p. A14

Luna, the solitary male orca who has lived off the coast of Vancouver since 2001, was killed by the propeller of a tugboat. Luna sometimes damaged equipment of fishermen, upsetting them and rumors began that some fishermen wanted to harm Luna. However, the death of Luna appears to be completely by accident. The Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation believed Luna (known by them as Tsux’iit) was the spirit of their deceased chief. The federal government had a $10,000 stewardship program with the First Nation to keep the whale away from boats.
The Gazette, Montreal, Saturday, March 11, 2006, A12

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a new plan to protect the Florida panther, which is federally listed as endangered. At the same time, opponents are questioning authenticity of the distinction between the Florida panther and the common cougar. Genetics tests show they are more similar than previously thought, this could change the needs to protect this predator.
Peter Whoriskey, The Gazette, Montreal, February 26, 2006 – p. A23
MAMMALS – Big cats

Elephants in Uganda with the equivalent of pachyderm post-traumatic stress disorder, are taking revenge on humans for the breakdown of elephant society. The stress is remnant from witnessing the slaying of family members or being orphaned in the 1970s and 1980s. To protect themselves, humans are shooting ferocious gangs of elephants but this perpetuates the problem.
Roger Highfield, The Gazette, Montreal – January 6, 2006, p. A22
MAMMALS – elephant poaching
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A new species of dolphin has been identified. The Australian Snubfin Dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni) was confirmed as a new species by observations made by scientists in Queensland, Australia and by a genetic study in La Jolla, California. Isabel Beasley (of James Cook University’s School of Tropical Environmental Studies and Geography), one of the two Australian researchers) pointed out that the Australian Snubfin Dolphin is at risk of accidentally being caught in fishing nets because they live in such shallow waters. Beasley also noted that the dolphins were under threat from “the effects of coastal development.”
Associated Press – July 6, 2005
Endangered species

Thought you were special? Well, think again. Macaque monkeys have been found to have in their brains something called Broca’s area, which had been thought for a long time to set humans apart from other primates in our ability to speak and express sophisticated ideas.
Peggy Curran, The Gazette, Montreal – July 4, 2005

A research study claims to have proved that dolphins have culture, which is defined in this case as “a behaviour that is acquired by imitation and passed on in a population.” Behaviours are, of course, consistent from one generation to the next of any species, but the distinction is that some species learn behaviours because they are genetically predisposed to do so, whereas others—like the dolphins in question—do so because they observe the conduct other members of their community. The study found that a group of dolphins near Australia had passed on to its children (exclusively from mothers to daughters) the practice of using a sea sponge as a protective tool during foraging by wearing the sponges on their noses. It had been previously believed that only primates passed on cultural practices.
Rob Stein, The Gazette, Montreal – June 29, 2005
On June 5, 2005, a grizzly bear killed a jogger in Canmore, Alberta. Isabelle Dubé, a Quebec-born mountain biker, was jogging with 2 friends when they were attacked by the bear. The bear was identified as the same one that had been removed from the area just a week before the attack. In this first encounter, officials were able to tranquilize the grizzly and transport it to a location inside Banff National Park. The bear was being monitored after having been fitted for a radio collar, but was nevertheless able to leave the park. Fish and wildlife officers killed the grizzly later in the day that Dubé was attacked.
Robert Remington, Canwest; and Alex Dobrota,
The Gazette, Montreal – June 7, 2005

Canada has increased its quota of baby harp seal skins to record levels. The clubbing of baby seals, as young as twelve days old, caused a global outcry from animal rights activists and environmentalist in the 1970’s successfully shutting down the US and European markets and forcing a virtual collapse of the hunt. New markets emerging in Russia, Ukraine and Poland have fueled the revival of the industry, raising the price paid for a top grade skin to similar prices of the 1970’s. The revival is made possible because the seal population was allowed to replenish during the long hunting slump, tripling in numbers since 1970.
The federal government will allow the killing of up to 350,000 baby harp seals, or one in three born. Tougher hunting rules and regulations will try to put to an end the inhumane actions of the 1970’s such as clubbing very young seal pups and then skinning them alive. Seal hunting is worth about $39 million annually to the Newfoundland economy.
Clifford Krauss, The Gazette, Montréal, April 5, 2004

Winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, author J.M. Coetzee’s new novel, Elizabeth Costello, raises the question: By raising billions of animals a year in often squalid conditions before brutally slaughtering them for their meat and skin, are we all complicit in ‘a crime of stupefying proportions?’ Coetzee thinks that history will one day “judge us harshly as it judges the Germans who went about their ordinary lives in the shadow of Treblinka.”
The Gazette, Montreal. October 14, 2003

How often do porcupines do it? Very carefully and very often. Improbable as it seems, a porcupine copulates every day, 365 days a year, whether it is in breeding season or not.
Natalie Angier, The New York Times, 7/10/01

A male insect-eating mammal known as an almiqui, native to Cuba but believed for years to be extinct, has been found in the island’s eastern mountains. The creature looks like a brownish woolly badger with a long, pink-tipped snout and can measure up to about 19 inches.

It is believed that a series of domestication events that took place in East Asia that have lead to the dog becoming mans best friend. Initially, dogs would have adopted humans as a protector, provider and best friend. In return the early wolf-like animals helped humans hunt. After that, the dogs followed where humans went, including migrating to the Americas. Living with humans and sharing the environment for thousands of years also caused dogs to develop some of the same genetic health problems, from cancer to night blindness. Researchers are now mapping the dog genome, as it is closer to the human genome than the mouse. From this researchers hope to learn the genetic basis for many diseases that affect both dogs and humans.
The Gazette, Montreal
Paul Recer

The two-part documentary “The Rise of the Dog” and “Dogs by Design” follows the history of the first domesticated animal and its proliferation around the world. It explores the theory that the explosion of breeds has made dogs the most varied species on the planet.


The Gazette, by David Krouke (L.A. Daily News). April 22, 2007



Japan intensified its efforts to end an 18-year international moratorium on commercial whaling, contending at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission that nearly 3,000 Minke whales could be safely hunted annually in the seas around Antarctica without threatening that species. Japan threatened to pull out of the organization, created in 1946 to protect whales, if it did not gain concessions.
The New York Times

According to Great Britain’s Daily Express newspaper, Charles Dickens coined the term “polar bear,” which was called a “white bear” before.
Michael Kesterton, The Globe & Mail, Toronto

The news about the 100 to 400 remaining spirit bears, a recent item in the Montreal Gazette reports, is much more heartening. The 100,000-hectare Great Bear Rainforest has been set aside in British Columbia for this rare white subspecies of black bear, also known as the kermode.

In an attempt to avert their extinction by a contagious cancer that causes facial tumors, Tasmanian Devils are being relocated to an island off Australia’s coast. There is hope that the disease will be wiped out and that healthy individuals can eventually be reintroduced. However, concerns remain that the relocation will have an unpredictable impact on the island’s ecology.


The Gazette, Red McGuirk (Associated Press). April 21, 2007


The slaying of 39 Labrador caribou, some from herds near extinction, is currently being investigated. The mammals are protected under Newfoundland and Labrador’s Endangered Species Act. Efforts towards a Labrador-Quebec Caribou recovery plan have been hindered by the recent slaughters.

The Gazette. Canwest News Service. May 1st 2007.


Caribou (n.c.)
When issuing a press release regarding the depiction of Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jullands-Postend, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights equated the offensive cartoons and ensuing mayhem and bloodshed. The article accentuates the double standards of the entire incident.
Dan Gardner, The Gazette, Montreal – p. A11

The International Press Institute (IPI) reports that an unprecedented number of journalists, 100 worldwide, were killed in 2006. Of these, 46 victims were in Iraq, 10 in the Philippines, 7 in Mexico, and 5 in Sri Lanka.


Norman Webster. The Gazette. April 29, 2007. A15


Mineral Consumerism
Less than 1% of the marketed diamonds is funding armed conflicts. However, if one considers smuggled diamonds and deplorably abusive mining labour conditions, it is rather 20% of the diamonds on the market that supports somewhat fraudulous activities. The recent Hollywood flick, Blood Diamond, raised awareness on this issue but awkwardly too late. The central African “diamond wars” denounced in the movie are now finishing and governments are building a system aiming to legitimize the market. This system, the Kimberly Process, although still flawed and inefficient, is a step forward to giving the diamond more legitimacy.
The Gazette, Montréal – A19 -8 January 2007 – Lynne Duke
Conflict diamonds

Alcan Inc. is the second largest producer of Aluminium in the world and operates in 61 countries. Would it be possible that such a large company distinguished itself through its efforts to put in place sustainable development measures? Indeed, Alcan Inc. was awarded the Prize of Sustainability in 2006 and the World Environment Council’s gold medal for International Corporate Achievement in Sustainable Development in 2007. Yet, environmentalists are blaming Alcan for “greenwashing” its activity, suggesting that the company whose production has increased by 40% cannot decrease it emissions by 25% at the same time..
The Gazette, Montréal – C1 -5 May 2007 – Lynn Moore
Noranda, a Canadian mining company, hopes to built an aluminum smelter in Patagonia, Chile. Opponents are afraid that past cases of Noranda not fulfilling their promises of high environmental standards will jeopardize the beauty of the land. Noranda believes they are technologically advanced and can economically help a poor region.
Michelle LaLonde
MINING – aluminum

Modern Grid
On Thursday August 14, 2003 at 4:10.48, the New England power grid shutdown, resulting in a massive blackout. This occurrence was not the first massive electricity blackout, but it is a reminder of the fragility of the system and our growing dependence on its existence.
James Glanz, The New York Times, August 17, 2003 – section 4-1
MODERN GRID – electricity
Modern Culture
French officials warn Canada that although the country has an impressive multicultural policy, it needs to integrate immigrants more into the “Canadian way of life” to prevent the type of disruptions that France experienced with the Muslim riots recently. Toronto is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, and 13% of legislators are foreign born, compared to 11% in Australia and 2% in the US. Currently there are 650 million people in the world that live outside their native countries, and that number is expected to double in the next 30 years.
Hubert Bauch, The Gazette, Montreal, June 15, 2006, p. A13

Is globalization on the decline, and is this a positive thing for national sovereignty and governmental social programs? Canadian essayist John Ralston Saul believes so, as he writes in his book “The Collapse of Globalism,” published in 2005. Jay Bryan, a columnist for The Gazette (Montreal) disagrees, citing, in essence, the inevitability that globalization and its inherent (in his opinion) economic benefits will win out over nationalism and government regulation, particularly in places like China and India.
Jay Bryan, The Gazette, Montreal — June 19, 2005
MODERN CULTURE—globalization

Leather basketballs are being replaced by “composite” leather basketballs in the NCAA Championships. These composite balls are, in fact, not leather at all. One more example of a synthetic substance (the excrement of oil as Mailer calls plastic) replacing a real one.
MODERN CULTURE—denaturalization

Wayne Grady has written a book, “Bringing Back the Dodo,” which suggests that Homo sapiens may be the most domesticated species of all. In the book, Grady brings up topics such as what is a species that originated in subtropical grasslands doing with millions of individuals living in regions where the temperature drops to -20? He touches upon topics such as what is natural and what is unnatural, and how have we adapted our environment instead of adapting to our environment, as Darwin would have suggested? Grady describes the poor state of our Earth, but stays away from doomsday predictions.
Eric Boodman, The Gazette, Montreal, April 1, 2006, p. J5
Natural History

These days, children are spending less and less time playing outdoors, and when they are outside, it is rare to find them without the supervision of a coach or parents. The situation has become so bad, that one parenting magazine included tips on how to play backyard games and climb trees. One newspaper columnist has coined the term “nature-deficit disorder.” At the same time, obesity rates are on the rise. There is growing concern about the next generation of environmentalists if children today are more likely to be inside playing video games than exploring outside.
Peggy Crowley, The Gazette, Montreal, March 31, 2006, p. A21
The eight-meter tall fossil of a mysterious organism, found on the Gaspé Peninsula, has stumped scientists for 150 years. A US research team has recently determined that the specimen was a “humongous fungus.” Their findings are published in the May issue of Geology.


Randy Boswell. The Gazette. April 24, 2007. A1.


Sam Gesser received the heritage award from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Thanks to Gesser, more than 100 Canadian folk artists were produced on the New York label Folkways. He also brought out to Montréal Janis Joplin, Glenn Gould, Peter Seeger, and Joan Baez to name a few. Before him nobody has distributed Folkways in Canada.
The Gazette, Montréal – D1 – 26 January 2007 – Juan Rodrigez
Folk music

Electronic media such as video games are to blame for “nature deficit disorder.” Kids are experiencing virtual nature through their TV and Xbox and are neglecting to go out and experience the wild “live”.
The Gazette, Montréal – i4 – 13 January 2007 – Tyler Todd
Nature deficit disorder

Quote of the day in the Montreal Gazette, “The subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of the senses and understanding.” (Sir Francis Bacon).
The Montreal Gazette
definitions of
Asymmetric tail wagging in dogs gives clues about how they feel about someone or something. In the 20th issue of Current Biology Italian, scientists revealed their results: when a dog is wagging its tail to the right they feel secure and on familiar ground When the animal is facing danger, the tail wags more to the left. Thus, just like for humans, dogs’ left brain controls the right side of the body and is stimulated by positive feelings like love, feeding and calmness, while the right brain, stimulated by energy expenditure, fear and rapid heart beats, controls the left side of the body.
The Gazette, Montréal – A3 – 25 April 2007 – Sandra Blakeslee
Animal neurophysiology
The word’s first study of chronic déjà vu has begun at University of Leeds. Chronic déjà vu sufferers are constantly overcome with the sensation that something new has happened before and the more novel the event, the more likely they will get sensations of déjà vu. This can be very problematic, and before these people were often misdiagnosed.
Sharon Kirkey, The Gazette, Montreal, February 13, 2006, p. A2

To sleep on a decision is a good thing according to researchers at the University of Amsterdam. When presented with complex decisions, participants better selected the best option after sleeping rather than in consciousness. Sleeping, therefore, is not procrastination but an effective tool.
Health Canada urges Canadians to replace half of their daily grain intake with enriched white flour that contains folic acid, a preventative against birth defects. Other experts, such as professors at the Harvard School of Public Health, says the benefits of a reduction in whole grain products is unlikely to help more than whole grain products.
Elizabeth Payne, The Gazette, Montreal, March 4, 2006 – p. A12
NUTRITION – health
A new small inshore cod fishery for the northeast coast of Newfoundland has just been opened. This commercial fishery is a one-year pilot project. It is the first time in three years there has been a commercial cod fishery in the region. The fisherman said this project would prove if there are fish to be had in the region. Fisheries Minister Hearn said the fishery would be shut down if it were abused. The previous fishery was shutdown in 2003 because of fears that stocks had not recovered enough.
Barb Sweet, The Montreal Gazette, June 9, 2006

Scientists have successfully equipped narwhals with satellite tags north of Greenland. The tags will record time, depth and water temperature as the narwhals travel through up to 1.5km below sea surface in the frigid waters. Measurements like these are rarely taken in the winter months. Therefore, the valuable information they bring will help monitor the effects of climate change.
The Gazette, Montréal – j10 -5 May 2007 – Juliet Eilperin
Climate change

Reminiscent of the 15 years-old historic cod fisheries collapse, the Newfoundland fisheries face today the plummeting of shellfish export prices. 700 jobs have already been lost and more are forecasted. Since the ban on cod fisheries in 1992, the industry turned to crab and shrimps. But competitors such as China and Alaska are too powerful and Newfoundland has no other alternative fisheries to exploit.
The Gazette, Montréal – A12 – 22 May 2006 – Tara Brautigam

Paleontologists in Italy uncovered the remains of a 5-million-year-old and 10-meter-long whale. This region of Tuscany where the whale was found was under water at that time.
The Gazette, Montréal – A23 -22 March 2007

Killer whale sightings in western Hudson Bay have increased by 5 times in 20 years. This increase is unexplained, but seems to be correlated with the decrease in sea ice. On the top of the food chain, pumped-up killer whale numbers means no good for other large mammals such as belugas, narwhals, walruses and bowhead whales, on which Inuit people depend. However, it is unclear if the increase in killer whales is a result of global warming or due to the termination of commercial whaling activities since the 1970s.
The Gazette, Montréal – 19 January 2007 – Bob Weber
Global warming
The world’s marine life is in serious trouble. The World Wildlife Fund states that catches of bluefin tuna are occurring at a rate 40% higher than internationally agreed limits. Controls of commercial whaling have been lifted. There are dangerously low levels of anchovy populations in the Bay of Biscay. The Canadian government has reopened small-scale cod fisheries and is allowing “recreational” cod fishing, with the fishermen in charge of catch limit enforcements.
The Gazette, Montreal, July 6, 2006, p. A18
Marine Life

“Deep Sea 3D” is a documentary about the earth’s oceans. 90% of big fish of big fish have disappeared over the last 50 years. The film speaks about the ever-changing balance between predator and prey, and rare footage of spawning of coral reefs, which happens once a year on the 8th day after the full moon in August for only two hours.
Kathryn Greenway, The Gazette, Montreal, May 5, 2006, p. D10

A group of right whales has been sighted in the Bering Sea. This is good news for the species, as it is endangered after almost being hunted to extinction in the 1800’s. in 2004 a group of 17 were seen, and up until then the most that had been seen in one place together was six.
The Gazette, Montreal, April 29, 2006, p. J11

Pirate fishermen are decimating fish populations. The bandits are too wide-ranging and swift for regulatory agencies to respond. Large-scale extinction are on the horizon if nothing is done, according an assistant professor of biology at kalhousie University. Fikret Berkes, a researcher chair at the University of Manitoba’s Natural Resources Institute, states that cooperative stewardship at multiple levels of authority needs to be implemented. Villy Christensen from the University of British Columbia states that different levels of management have been aware of the situation for over a decade and have practiced this type of suggested cooperation.
Charles Mandel, The Gazette, Montreal, March 17, 2006, p. A10

The slaughter of sharks – they have suffered a 90% decrease in the last 50 years– has destabilizing consequences for marine ecosystems, as shown by a 2007 Atlantic Ocean study. They are not only being hunted for their flesh but dying en masse as bycatch in nets cast for other fish. Sharkwater is a documentary that emphasizes the need for environmental concern and policy ‘below the surface’. It seeks to rectify the public perception of sharks as a deadly predator, and aims to increase awareness of other keystone species. More info can be found on the website: www.sharkwater.com


The Gazette. Rob Stewart. April 22 2007.



Due to its tendency to get caught in commercial salmon nets, the basking shark was, until 1970, subject to a deliberate eradication program instituted by the Canadian Government. This policy is reportedly to blame for the disappearance of Canada’s longest fish, which has been seen only six times in the past decade.

The Gazette. Dennis Bueckert (Canadian Press). May 1st 2007.





A toxic algae bloom from Maine to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, called a “red tide,” forced the closure of shellfish harvesting in those areas in the summer of 2005. It was the largest in decades, according the AP report. The red tide can poison shellfish and the people who consume them.
The Gazette, Montreal – reproduced from an AP report

The Great Turtle Race, between Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast and the Galapagos, aims to raise awareness on leatherback turtles in a creative way. The eleven female race contestants can be monitored online.


April 16, 2007



Guards foiled the first ever attack on a Saudi oil facility before it caused any damage to the crucial facility. The attack did not affect operations. Suspicions fell on Al-Qa’ida-linked militants, a group that Saudi Arabian officials have been targeting in the past three years.
Hasan Jamali, The Gazette, Montreal, February 25, 2006 – A16
OIL – Saudi Arabia

The world needs 85 million barrels of oil every day. With no insulation (surplus production) against disruption to the production side of the oil market and growing consumer demand, oil prices will continue to rise.
Jay Bryan, The Gazette, Montreal, February 25, 2006 – p. C1

Iraq’s oil revenues should be used for humanitarian needs, not to pay for the cost of war. How the United States determines to use the oil will effect their worldwide reputation.
Editorial, The New York Times, April 11, 2003 – p. A24
OIL – Iraq

Nigeria, the world’s fifth-ranking supplier of oil to the United States – only has the capacity to produce half of its own supply. The international market, violence in the Niger Delta, and politics have resulted in long lines at gas stations, vandalism, and black markets in Lagos and other cities.
Somini Sengupta, The New York Times, April 11, 2003 – p. A4
OIL – Nigeria

If oil is the lifeblood of the modern economy, the so-called ‘chokepoints’ such as the Strait of Hormuz are the primary arteries. They allow the transportation of millions of barrels of crude oil, yet are so narrow and theoretically could be blocked. Any move to block these conduits would choke energy markets, causing prices to soar for consumers and businesses. While the probability of squeezing a chokepoint remains small, it can’t be discounted in such volatile times.
The Gazette, Montreal. March 12, 2003
Chris Varcoe, Canwest News Service

Crude oil prices soared as the world waited to see if the United States would invade Iraq. Experts assure that if the USA invades victory will be swift and oil prices will drop like the last invasion in the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War.
Chris Varcore, The Gazette, Montreal, March 10, 2003 – p. A14
OIL – world production and consumption

Militants’ ransom for the nine foreigners they held captive was a greater share of oil wealth for Nigeria. They threatened to continue to wreak havoc on the industry until changes were made. Nigeria is Africa’s top crude producer but remains poor.
Edward Harris, The Gazette, Montreal, p. A7
OIL – Nigeria

UV radiation from the sun is expected to be even higher than last summer, when the UV index hit a record high of 11 on June 12. Several factors have attributed to these high UV levels such as, the depletion of the ozone layer, the 11-year sunspot cycle, and global warming.
Marian Scott, The Montreal Gazette, March 27, 2006

A coalition of health groups, including the Canadian Cancer Society and seven other health agencies, says it’s safe to go outside briefly without sunscreen. Ultraviolet radiation in modest doses can help prevent Vitamin D deficiencies. Although the health agencies do not recommend hours a day or baking in the sun, a couple of minutes outside the peak UV period, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. will benefit. Evidence is mounting that UV radiation, a known carcinogen, can paradoxically lower the risks of colorectal, prostate and breast cancer.
Sharon Kirkey, Canwest News Service, The Gazette, Montreal, May 26, 2006
Solar Radiation
The zero-tolerance policy for sun-exposure may expire soon: new research shows that the sun’s ultraviolet rays benefit some key parts of the body and help reduce risk of some cancers. Vitamin D and skin cancer researchers will meet at the inaugural North American conference on ultraviolet rays to discuss vitamin D and health.
Don Harrison, The Gazette, Montreal, March 2, 2006 – p. A3

Ozone levels above the South Atlantic Ocean have doubled since 1977 says a study in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science. They state the increase is probably due to a doubling of African energy emissions, mostly increasing in the southern part of the continent. As ozone levels rise, so too are hospital admissions and emergency room visits as elevated ozone levels aggravate asthma and other respiratory ailments. Ground level ozone has also been shown to interfere with plant’s ability to produce and store food, reducing yields of farmed soy beans, wheat and cotton.
Jack Kasey, The Gazette, Montréal, May 14, 2004

New evidence confirms that humans spread out of Africa 50,000 years ago. A few teeth, stones and tools made of ivory were found near Moscow and were dated 45,000 old. A link was made between these items and a skull from South Africa of the same time frame revealing the direction of the journey our human ancestors took to leave Africa. Modern humans originated in the African rift valley 160,000 years ago.
The Gazette, Montréal – A21 – 13 January 2007

Paper Industry
The budget of the Conservative party offers advantageous financial incentives to the paper and pulp industries that switch to more environmental practices. For instance, pulp and paper firms recycling one of their wastes, the “black liquor,” by using it as a form of energy source.
The Gazette, Montréal – A10 – 12 May 2006 – Glen McGregor

Bowater Inc, purchaser of Abitibi-Consolidated Inc., suffered important first-quarter losses. Continued decline in newsprint consumption and weak lumber markets have led to price declines. Fueled by a decrease in newspaper circulation and the growing popularity of the internet, US newsprint consumption has decreased by 26 percent since 1999.

For more information on Bowater, see Dispatch #20 : The Rape of the Cumberland Plateau


Christopher Donville and Rob Delaney. The Gazette. April 27, 2007. B7.


British scientists claim to have found 40,000-year-old footprints in volcanic ash in Mexico. It had been previously believed that humans arrived in the Americas 13,500 years ago.
Associated Press – July 5, 2005
Prehistory of the Americas

A nearly complete skeleton of the sabre-toothed cat Hoplophoneus was purchased by the Canadian Museum of Nature for display in the museum’s new tertiary period exhibit. The Hoplophoneus specimen came from South Dakota where paleontologist Japheth Boyce found it on a ranch owned by his family. The museum also purchased a pair of pygmy camels from the same time period.
The Gazette, Montreal.
George Kampouris
Dr. Ron Matsusaki claims he sees abnormally high cancer rates in West Prince Country, P.E.I. due to high use of agricultural chemicals. Health authorities dispute his claims but are looking into the use of agro-chemicals anyways. The province has recently released new legislation to crack down on overusing these chemicals.
Charles Mandel, The Gazette, Montreal
Despite the 1989 ivory ban, elephant ivory is still being confiscated at the U.S. border. In 2004, attempts to import illegal ivory were five times greater at the U.S. border than for other countries. Americans buy the illegal goods through the Internet from China, which feeds the fraudulent trade. However, some ivory can be marketed. It is the case for mammoth ivory, trophies from African countries that have negotiated the practice and for the ivory that pre-dates the ivory ban. This dual market (legal/illegal) is certainly complicating the law enforcement against illegal ivory.
Wildlife Conservation® – p. 22 – June 2005

Poachers killed Olga, the first ever radio-collared Siberian tiger. She was 14 years old and the most studied tiger. Out of the 23 tiger deaths recorded by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Siberian Tiger Project, 17 fell under the bullets of poachers, who also destroy the radio collar to avoid to be tracked down.
Wildlife Conservation® – p. 12 – June 2005

Wilma McDaniel, an American poet died at 88. Her work spoke to the people from Oklahoma who restarted their life in central California during the1930s Great Depression. Nicknamed the “biscuits and gravy poet” from one of her poems, she praised folk wisdom. McDaniel had to wait her 50s to be discovered and published.
The Gazette, Montr
Here’s a bulletin forwarded by David Simpson, a freelance environmental editor in Kenya: For the last twenty years, 10,000 bears in China have been imprisoned with catheters draining their gall bladders for ingredients to produce shampoos, aphrodisiacs, and “miraculous” remedies. As well, there is heavy poaching of the black bear in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, also for their gall bladders, which are sold to Asian agents, who also make monthly stops at local convenience stores to buy ginseng roots as far north as Vermont.


Hundreds of atmospheric scientists are culminating a month long research project about the air quality in Mexico City. The poor air quality in Mexico City is due to many factors: it is surrounded by mountains, the valley contain about 9 million vehicles, oil refineries, a volcano, hundreds of thousands of leaky propane tanks used with cooking stoves, and a population of 20 million people. Effects of current air conditions include lodged particles under contact lenses and in lungs as well as a worsening of allergies, asthma and colds. Research is being done on the secondary pollutants that are created when the suns rays alter emissions that are released into the air, as well as how particles affect cloud formation and rain fall. Although conditions have been improving over the past few years, they are still below basic health standards.
The Gazette, Montreal, Sunday, April 2, 2006

A recent medical study shows that mercury previously common in some vaccines does not increase the chance of developing autism, as was commonly believed. About 200,000 Canadians live with the disorder today.
Charlie Fidelman, The Gazette, Montreal, p. A7
Toxic Contaminants
The Pope Benedict XVI wrote a book on Jesus where he draws parallels between the evangelical story and modern day “rape” and “pillage” of Africa by richer consumerism-oriented states.
The Gazette, Montréal – A16 – 5 April 2007
“Children of Men” is the must-see movie that shows an apocalyptic world inspired by today’s concerns. An unidentified and incurable pandemic disease prevents childbirth in the world’s human population, whose youngest representative is 18 years old. Terror and war ravage all countries; refugee camps abound and immigrants are caged and treated as if they were brutal criminals. Yet, among this doom and gloom world, an ordinary man, acted by Clive Owen, is trying to bring the only known infant and his mother toward an uncertain safe place.
The Gazette, Montréal – D1 – 5 January 2007 – Jay Stone
The perilous population growth rates predicted in the 1970s never became reality. In fact, population growth has dropped from 2.1 percent per year to 1.1 percent per year. We will reach out peak in 2050. This is good news, but problems with the high population of the world will still occur.
Charles Enman, The Gazette, Montreal, February 25, 2006 – A19

A publication supported by the United Nations called “World Resources: Managing Ecosystems to Fight Poverty” advocates stronger environmental protection in order to reduce worldwide poverty. The report claims that foreign aid and debt relief are oversimplified methods of fighting poverty. Many of the world’s poor rely heavily on the environment: 75% of people in poverty live in rural areas and are dependent on the environment for their livelihoods.
Richard Black, BBC News online environment correspondent –
Modern culture

Primary school teachers in New Delhi have been ordered to find two volunteers for sterilization. The order, given by magistrate Amrit Abhijat, is a new attempt to combat India’s population explosion.
Peter Foster, The Gazette, Montreal, p. A26
The debate about Quebec’s nationality and sovereignty was kindled after Stephen Harper’s speech in Quebec City on St. Jean Baptiste Day. Harper said the debate was, “a semantic argument that doesn’t serve any real purpose.” Distinction is made between recognizing Quebec as a nation in a sociological sense, and a political sense. Also, that not all nationalists are sovereignist, but all sovereignists are nationalists. Lastly, there is concern about who is truly Quebecois and whether native-born Quebecers extend the definition to Anglophones and immigrants.
The Gazette, Montreal, July 2, 3006, p. A13
Sovereignty Culture
Nation- Statehood

7000 hectares of rainforest reserve in Uganda will be cut for a sugar plantation in order to enhance the agriculture and industrial based economy.
The Gazette, Montréal – A19 -22 March 2007

Sexual slavery
Worldwide, 10 million of children (17 years old or younger) work in prostitution.
The worst brothels are in Cambodia, Malaysia, Nepal, India and Thailand. Children are often drugged, then kidnapped and forced into prostitution. The AIDS epidemic renders things worse. A myth widely believed in East and South Africa circulates the idea that having sex with a virgin cures from AIDS. As a result, young girls are sold at a higher price and end up dying before they reach 20.
The Gazette, Montréal – A19 -8 January 2007 – Nicolas D. Kristof
Human rights

John Allen Jr., a respected Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, has finished a book about Opus Dei and sates that they are largely a misunderstood, harmless group. The group exists within the Roman Catholic Church and has fewer than 100,000 adherents. Supporters describe the group as devout, like-minded believers who find salvation in routine, daily work. Critics describe the group as elitist, masochistic and anti-clerical. Allen says that the conception of members self-inflicting pain is a tradition of the past and largely abandoned today. The Da Vinci Code has recently brought Opus Dei into the public eye, but the group has endured criticism long before this popular book hit the printing press. Having been founded in Spain in 1928, it was quickly associated with Facism.
The Gazette, Montreal, Saturday, March 11, 2006, p. H9

Rough Crossings, a non-fiction novel by Simon Schama, is about the loyalist response of the colonist’s slaves during the American Revolution. Thousands of slaves deserted the plantations to fight against the revolutionaries. It is a historical account written by an academic scholar. The slaves are the center of Schama’s story which tells of their flight from the plantations; of their perch, temporary for most, but permanent for a few, in Nova Scotia; and of the migration of many others, in a great fleet of sailing ships to Sierra Leone.
Neil Cameron, The Montreal Gazette, May 27, 2006
Sexual Slavery
Worldwide, 10 million of children (17 years old or younger) work in prostitution.
The worst brothels are in Cambodia, Malaysia, Nepal, India and Thailand. Children are often drugged, then kidnapped and forced into prostitution. The AIDS epidemic renders things worse. A myth widely believed in East and South Africa circulates the idea that having sex with a virgin cures from AIDS. As a result, young girls are sold at a higher price and end up dying before they reach 20.
The Gazette, Montréal – A19 -8 January 2007 – Nicolas D. Kristof
Human rights

Fights between Islamic insurgents and Somali-Ethiopian troops killed 170 people in two days. Despite 14 attempts at peacemaking since 1991, the country remains in a constant civil war. 40,000 people have fled Mogadishu in February 2007 to escape the violence. The African Union troops are insufficient to stabilize peace.
The Gazette, Montréal – A16 -23 March 2007 – Emmanuel Goujon

In her latest book “Infidel”, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee and former Dutch parliamentarian, recounts her life as a journey “from a world of faith to a world of reason.” Known for denouncing the abuse of Islamic fundamentalism, the 38-year-old black woman struggled to escape her fate: to marry a man she has never met. She also describes her childhood, going from countries to countries as a refugee, and how different her life as a black Muslim woman was in each country. In the Netherlands, she received death threats because she denounces the abuses done to many Muslim women. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C.
The Gazette, Montréal – J3 -10 March 2007 – George Walden
Women’s right

French-language publisher Gallimard has gone green by using the most ecological paper available and by centralizing printing and binding to produce the new Harry Potter book. The paper used is classified as 100% post-consumer fiber, and certified as processed chlorine-free. This paper, Enviro 100, is 3-10% is more costly than virgin fiber paper. Demand for post- consumer paper still represents a small portion of the market; however, it is growing.
Lynn Moore, The Montreal Gazette, September 28, 2005

Survival Tips for Travelers
I recently recovered from another severe bout of resistant falciparum malaria (I nearly died of blackwater fever, one of its complications, in the Peruvian Amazon in l976) which I picked up in Congo and came down with in the Adirondacks. The minute you get the splitting headache, that means your lariam tablets aren’t doing any good. Don’t ask any questions, just pop three fancidars and a cocktail of the antibiotics kotexin and doxycyline.

Traditional People
“Bio-piracy” refers to acquiring biological resources without giving the country of origin a chance to negotiate some of the profits. Often, the chemicals are discovered by talking to locals who have used the substances for hundreds of years; they deserve recognition, remuneration, and respect. The International Convention on Biodiversity says a country has the right to know if its genetic resources are being accessed but there are no powers to police violators.
Steven Edwards, The Gazette, Montreal
TRADITIONAL PEOPLE – intellectual property
The preferred wood for violin bows is something called Pernambuco wood. But there are only 2000 Pernambuco trees left in the world, in northeastern Brazil. For some reason, they aren’t being cultivated. My source, a Montreal violin-maker, doesn’t know why. Maybe they can’t be cultivated.
An estimated 600,000 Western women have been sex-travelers at least once in the past 25 years. Is this a type of prostitution in which the roles are reversed, or the expression of women’s rights? At any rate, money is involved, and this time the women from rich countries create havoc in poor countries of the Caribbean. The men hired for sex are called ‘beach boys” or “sanky panky” are also becoming professionals at it. They investigate for possible sugar mummies targeting the over 40-years-olds or young but over-weight women and start a seductive game without mentioning money. At the end, the ties will be kept and many Caribbean men use this situation in order to immigrate to Canada. In the end, the person who is being exploited may not be clear.
The Gazette, Montréal – B3 – 6 January 2007 – Jeff Heinrich
Sex tourism

Traditional Culture
On Siquijor, an island of the Philippines, local herbalists use their knowledge to heal diseases that modern doctors have failed to cure. The traditional healers collect their plants once a year during the 40 days preceding Good Friday. One of them, Endoy, has cured people of diabetes, seemingly incurable rashes, breast cancer, and bloated stomachs. Patients fly in from as far as New Jersey and Denmark to be healed.
The Gazette, Montréal – h12 -5 May 2007 – Karl Wilson

The German movie, The White Masai, recounts the improbable story of a Swiss woman who falls in love, marries and has a child with a Masai tribe man in Kenya. But this story is no fiction and was based on the bestseller by Corinne Hofmann. Maybe because it really happened, this story allows the viewer to reflect on cultural adaptation and different cultural values.
The Gazette, Montréal – D4 -16 March 2007 – John Griffin

Traditional People
“Bio-piracy” refers to acquiring biological resources without giving the country of origin a chance to negotiate some of the profits. Often, the chemicals are discovered by talking to locals who have used the substances for hundreds of years; they deserve recognition, remuneration, and respect. The International Convention on Biodiversity says a country has the right to know if its genetic resources are being accessed but there are no powers to police violators.
The Gazette, Montréal – Steven Edwards
Intellectual property

There are 3 millions Kuchis, a minority in the 25 million strong Afghan population. The Kuchis are being driven away from their traditional nomadic life style. In the past and for more than 3000 years, the Kuchis were distinguished transporters and traders, making business happen between Asia and the Middle East. Today, they are violently discriminated against by the Afghan government and the rest of the population. Moreover, the desert they travel is scattered with land mines dating from the Soviet occupation of 1979-1989.
The Gazette, Montréal – A13 – 14 May 2006 – Paul Garwood
Nomadic people

They have roamed and survived in the deep jungle of Columbia, but the Nukak Maku tribe, discovered in 1988, is facing a crisis. The Marxist army of Colombia, which controls over a third of the country, is annexing the tribe’s land. The Columbian government is now asking the Red Cross and UNESCO to help the indigenous people herded into detention camps to preserve their way of life.
The Gazette, Montréal – A13 – 4 April 2006 – Jeremy McDermott
Nomadic people
Nukak Maku tribe

In Southern Niger, Tuareg people are forming rebel groups and attacking villages. They accuse the Malian government of preventing them from leading their ancestral way of life consisting of traveling through the desert as nomads do, ignoring political borders.
The Gazette, Montréal – B3 – 29 May 2006
Nomadic people

The preferred wood for violin bows is something called Pernambuco wood. But there are only 2000 Pernambuco trees left in the world, in northeastern Brazil. For some reason, they aren’t being cultivated. My source, a Montréal violin-maker, doesn’t know why. Maybe they can’t be cultivated.

Alice Lakwena was a Ugandan warrior and priestess who founded the Lord’s Resistance Army, got her followers to believe that they would be protected from bullets if they covered their body with special oil. She was like the Jeanne of Arc of the Acholi tribe of northern Uganda, claiming she was hearing god’s messages. She led her troop for a year fight against Ugandan president Musevini but was defeated in 1987. Alice Lakwena died from illness in a refugee camp of Kenya while she was only in her 40s. Her nephew, Joseph Koni, took over the LRA after her arrest and is responsible for doing many atrocities to the children and villagers in northern Uganda.
The Gazette, Montréal – 22 January 2007 – David Ochami

The Environmental Protection Agency released the first comprehensive analysis of the quality of the environment in 2003. They said that the air, water, and land were better protected than 30 years ago but problems remained. The pace of land development increased in the 1990s as conservation efforts increased. Overall, the report has a positive outlook.
Katherine Q. Seelye and Jennifer Lee. The New York Times, June 24, 2003 – p. A28
U.S.A. – Environment
Paul-Antoine Pichard, a French photographer, is showing the people who live by picking the garbage dumps in the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Senegal, Madagascar and Mexico. But Pichard did not just take pictures. He lived with the poorest people who eat the food they find in the refuse and dig out recyclable items to sell them. Pichard also raised funds in France and went back to the dumps he visited with medicine.
The Gazette, Montréal – E4 – 13 January 2007 – Katheryn Greenaway
McGill civil engineering student Kealan Gell has co-founded Gorilla Composting, an organization that has brought composting to McGill campus in full force. He discusses the ease of making your own composting with a plastic bin and red worms.
Chris Barry, Montreal Mirror, February 9 – February 15, 2006 – p. 7
WASTE – compost

Groupe Conporec, Inc., a Montreal waste-management firm, has developed a marketable composting product which can convert organic waste into compost and generate a revenue in the process. This could be the future of reducing landfill waste. Toronto has become one of Conporec’s clients and the company is discussing contracts in Paris, Quebec, and south of the border.
Mike King, The Gazette, Montreal, October 25, 2005 – p. B1
WASTE – compost
The Jeans factories offer thousands of jobs in Tehuacan, Mexico, but are pouring dangerous chemicals in the rivers irrigating adjacent cornfields. Levi Strauss and Gap buy some of the jeans coming out of these factories.
The Gazette, Montréal – A20 – 3 May 2007

Private, multinational companies are discovering that they can make more money building big dams and selling bottled water than they can by developing public water systems in developing countries. Sales of bottled water in China have risen 250% between 1999 and 2004, tripled in India and doubled in Indonesia. Activists look towards corporate interests and lobbying campaigns by the World Bank as the incentives for developing countries to agree to build large dam and hydroelectricity projects.
The Gazette, Montreal, Wednesday, March 22, 2006, A18

The issue of fresh water accessibility is being approached both at the small scale and large scale. Worldwide, about 1.1 billion people are without clean, drinking water. In Morocco, simply moving water taps closer to villages has a resounding effect on school attendance, bringing female student attendance up by 20% in six provinces. The water minister of Chad believes that poverty can be reduced if Africa invests in large-scale hydroelectric power dams. Other critics state that large dams are not part of the solution because the water rarely gets as far as the really poor areas, where it is needed most. However, others argue that large dams are easier to manage and inspect because there are fewer and they are more centralized.
Mark Stevenson, The Gazette, Montreal, March 20, 2006, p. A19

Eighty-four recent cancer diagnoses in Shannon, Quebec may be linked directly to water pollution created by nearby Canadian Forces Base Valcartier. Trichloroethylene (TCE), a known carcinogen, was used by the Canadian Forces to clean munitions for fifty years. Shannon residents are demanding that the Quebec Institute of Public Health conduct a study on the plausibility of their claims that TCE is responsible for the abnormally high cancer rate in the town (200 cases in 3,700 residents).
Charlie Fidelman, The Gazette, Montreal – June 11, 2005, p. A1

Canada ranks second in the index of best and worst water situations, yet they rank 19th from bottom in the list of efficiency of water use. International conferences such as the World Water Forum look for solutions to a world water crisis.
Anne-Marie Tobin, The Gazette, Montreal, December 12, 2002 – p. A12

Eco-activists are concerned that developing countries don’t have the sewage infrastructure or water availability to support a sharp increase in flush toilet use among their populations. Instead, they suggest the use of dry-toilets that may increase the spread of bacteria but can be used as compost. This suggestion has been met with high amounts of criticism.
Tom Randall, June 20
WATER – toilets

Experts and activists will speak at an environmental conference to be held in Montreal, where fresh water and health are the main themes. The focus is on fresh water as it is inextricably linked to other issues such as health, climate change, energy sources and more. Other speakers at the conference will address issues such as privatization of water supplies, environmental impact of oil and gas exploration, accessibility to fresh water in the third world and Canadian environmental law.
The Gazette, Montreal
John MacFarlane

Justin Trudeau has recreated his father Pierres’s canoe trip along the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories. Justin Trudeau recalled recalls his father describing the Nahanni as ‘being probably the greatest river in Canada’. There are plans to enlarge the park around the Nahanni in the hopes that industrial development on the park’s fringes will be stopped.
The Gazette, Montreal
Nelson Watt, Canadian Press
Canadian Rivers

Plant-eating organisms might explain density of algal blooms in Lake Chamolain and Missisquoi Bay.

Water shortages are one of many problems plaguing the world. The root crisis is overpopulation, which we are doing little to stop. In fact, the Canadian government’s policy is to double the population within the next half century.
Robert Bériault

Women’s Rights
About 2,000 men marched in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, to protest against acid attacks that permanently disfigure many women each year. A total of 268 people, mostly women, were attacked with acid last year in Bangladesh, a male-dominated traditional society. Most victims are attacked by spurned lovers, but recently more men and children have been splashed with sulphuric acid in family arguments or disputes over property. Bangladesh’s constitution guarantees equal rights for women, but still the attacks continue, as the chemical is easily obtained from battery shops or jewelers. The protesters included celebrities, teachers and students, who carried placards and banners.
Julhas Alam, Associated Press, date unknown.

The need for an international tribunal that tries crimes against the planet

This is an institution that I have long felt should be established. When you see the carcass of an elephant with its face and tusks hacked out, it is a murder scene, not some petty wildlife crime. The Alberta tar sands are unquestionably an ecocide. Where can such crimes be held accountable ? Here is  a story in the Guardian about a movement to get this tribunal going :

Trial tests whether ‘ecocide’ could join genocide as global crime

Top lawyers put fossil fuel bosses on trial in the UK’s supreme court in a mock case to explore the crime of ecocide – environmental destruction – which is being considered by the UN

The extraction of oil from the tar sands of Alberta is one case being considered for prosecution in a mock trial at the UK’s supreme court. Photograph: Orjan F. Ellingvag/Corbis

It’s a grim list: genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression (such as unprovoked invasions) and war crimes. All are recognised by the UN as crimes against peace and prosecuted through the international criminal court.

But should the bosses of polluting companies and the leaders of environmentally-unfriendly states join those responsible for mass murder in the dock. They could if a fifth crime against peace – ecocide – joined that list of human evils? The United Nations is now considering the proposal and the first test of how a prosecution for ecocide would work takes place on Friday, with fossil fuel bosses in the dock at the UK supreme court in London. It is a mock trial of course, but with real top-flight lawyers and judges and a jury made up of members of the public. The corporate CEOs will be played by actors briefed by their legal teams.

The crime of ecocide is the brainchild of British lawyer Polly Higgins, who in her UN submission defined it as:

Ecocide: The extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.

Crimes being considered for prosecution in Friday’s trial include the extraction of oil from Canada’s tar sands, a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, fracking for shale gas in Nigeria and bauxite mining of Niyamgiri mountain, India. The real world parallels are not accidental, I’m sure.

An international law against ecocide, enforceable in the UK, will be assumed for the purposes of the mock trial. But there is no script and the jury’s verdict is theirs alone to decide. “It is nerve-racking, it is not a done deal,” says Higgins.

She argues the link between ecocide and genocide is that damage and destruction to the environment depletes the Earth’s resources, which leads to conflict. Only by making ecocide a crime for which individuals can be jailed, will we change the norm which allows profit to be put before the planet, she told me.

Higgins says a key inspiration is William Wilberforce, whose campaigning led to the abolition of slavery in the UK. He changed to norm of how black people were treated, she says, and ecocide law would change the way the planet is treated. “We have go to the point when the ethical imperative trumps the economic imperative,” she says. At the moment in many countries, she points out, the first responsibility of CEOs is a financial one to their shareholders. If environmental destruction is not illegal but can boost profit, it will happen, she says.

But she is not anti-corporate or anti-profit, she says: “I started as a corporate lawyer. Now I want to make the problem part of the solution.” She says companies should be making profits from solving the problems of global warming, habitat destruction and the extinctions of animals and plants. The companies that traded in slaves did not go out of business after slavery was abolished, she claims.

I asked her about the problem of proving causation between the acts of companies and environmental damage, which has doomed previous attempted prosecutions in the US.

“Genocide is a crime of intent, but ecocide is not,” she says. An ecocide law would create a pre-emptive responsibility to prevent ecological damage, she explains, in the same way that “superior responsibility” or “strict liablility” enables people to be prosecuted whether or not they intended to cause damage. “I am really not wanting to see lots of CEOs locked up,” she says, but wants them deterred from ecocide in the first place.

I also asked her about the phrase in her ecocide definition that says “whether by human agency or by other causes”. If there is a natural disaster, who can be prosecuted? The “other causes” term is there, she says, to place an obligation on governments to intervene in disasters to minimise damage.

If this all seems utter fantasy to you, it is worth noting that Bolivia has already passed laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. Furthermore, ecocide could become an international crime by amendment of the ICC’s Statute of Rome, which would need 86 nations to back it. Are there 86 states backing the ICC who feel climate change, the crisis in the oceans and other environmental problems are trashing their “peaceful enjoyment” of the Earth’s bounty? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were.

Note: The trial, organised by the Hamilton Group, begins at 0900 BST on Friday 30 September and will be broadcast live by Sky News’s Supreme Court web channel. Members of the public can attend. I’ll post updates on this page. Michael Mansfield QC leads the prosecution against Nigel Lickley QC for the defence. Michael Norman will sit as the judge and the jury are members of the public recruited through Facebook and other social media and vetted for conflicts of interest.

Posted by Thursday 29 September 2011 15.56 BST guardian.co.uk

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The Skipper and the Dam

New Yorker, Dec 1st, 1986

BECAUSE California is such a crazy mosaic of habitats and plant communities, many of the nation’s rarest butterflies are found there. Lange’s metalmark, for instance, a fiery-red variety of the normally orange-and-gray Mormon metalmark, lives on the Antioch Dunes, east of San Francisco, and has a total range of only fifty acres. The Palos Verdes blue was limited to half an acre on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in Los Angeles. Four years ago, the spot was converted into a ball field, and that was the end of the Palos Verdes blue-a particularly bitter loss, because it resulted from poor coordination between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the local people, who thought they were putting the ball field where the butterfly wasn’t. The mountain West also has some rarities. Up in the Colorado Rockies, the so-called Pawnee montane skipper ranges over twenty-five or thirty square miles in South Platte Canyon, southwest of Denver. Unfortunately for everybody, this section of the canyon-where the main stem of the South Platte is joined by its North Fork, and for a considerable distance up both rivers-has been proposed by the Denver Water Department as the site for a huge dam and storage reservoir. Perhaps fifty per cent of the butterflies will drown if the dam is built. But building a dam in the West these days is a complicated process. A detailed environmental-impact statement, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, must be submitted. Two separate population and distribution studies of the Pawnee montane skipper, and dozens of other studies as well, have been required for the impact statement for the Two Forks Dam, as the Colorado project is called. A task force of some four hundred people has been working on the document for the last two and a half years. The bill for it so far is coming in at thirty-six million six hundred thousand dollars -a sum that William Miller, the exasperated manager of the Water Department, recently declared to be “approaching a national scandal.” Small, subtly camouflaged, darting from flower to flower, the Pawnee montane skipper belongs to an enormous family of butterflies-the Hesperiidae, or skippers-with some thirtyfive hundred species, distributed over every continent except Antarctica. As butterflies go-and they are among the most highly evolved insects, with four life stages-the skippers are rather primitive. They are, in some ways, closer to moths than to other butterflies. Like moths, they have stout bodies, and they sit with their wings flat out or partly open, but unlike most moths they fly by day and have knobbed antennae. The North American skippers, of which there are two hundred and ninety-two species, not including those in Mexico, tend to be drab-again, like the majority of moths-and sombre-colored. They have names like dusky wing, cloudy wing, sooty wing. It is only to the south, in Central and South America, that dazzling skippers, some with iridescent blue or orange stripes, zip around in the jungle understory. Because the North American skippers are small (seldom more than an inch from wingtip to wingtip) and subdued, and hard to catch and identify, they have been neglected by collectors, even though from an evolutionary and behavioral standpoint they are one of the most interesting groups. Take the two-spotted skipper, which lives in bogs and marshes and ranges from Colorado north to Canada and Maine, and south to West Virginia and Texas, yet never occurs in a group of more than a hundred or two. Only three colonies of the two-spotted skipper are known in all Colorado, one colony is known in Nebraska, none in Kansas. To find the next one, you have to go all the way to Iowa. The explanation for this highly local distribution pattern is that the colonies are believed to be stranded remnants of populations that were much larger during the last Ice Age. The Pawnee montane skipper, found so far in only one place in the world, is also thought to be what zoologists would call a “Pleistocene relict.” The first Pawnee montane skippers -eleven of them-were collected in the summer of 1883 and were sent that fall to W. H. Edwards, of Coalburg, West Virginia, a lawyer and coal-mine owner who was the leading lepidopterist of his day. Only two of the specimens were completely labelled. The labels identified their place of capture as Salida, Colorado, and their captor as one David Bruce. Edwards described more North American butterflies than anybody before or since, but he never got around to these, and they ended up, with the rest of his collection, in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, in Pittsburgh, which at that time was the center of American butterfly studies. There they languished for several decades, until, in 1911, they finally came to the attention of a specialist in Western lepidoptera named Henry Skinner. He described them and gave them the Latin name Pamphila pawnee montana, having decided that they were a subspecies of a Plains species, Pamphila pawnee, which had been described in 1874. Indeed, the differences between the Pawnee skipper and the Pawnee montane skipper are slight: montana is a bit smaller and usually browner than the consistently lighter, more yellowish pawnee, and montanaparticularly the female-has distinct ochreous-white spots on the undersides of its hind wings, while pawnee’s spots are poorly developed. But the brown of some montana is greenish. Others are russet, and still others are yellowish, almost indistinguishable from pawnee. It’s not an entirely clean situation. Nothing more was heard of montana until 1967, when it was independently rediscovered in the South Platte Valley by two collectors-Ray E. Stanford and James A. Scott. Scott is a reclusive soul who has a doctorate in entomology from the University of California at Berkeley, and he makes his living building duplexes. His book “The Butterflies of North America” has just been brought out by the Stanford University Press. He caught his montana near a gold-mining ghost town in South Platte Canyon called Nighthawk. Stanford is a pathologist at the University of Colorado. He took his montana on a tributary of the South Platte named Sugar Creek. The two men didn’t meet and compare their catches until a year later. At the time Scott collected his montana, he thought they were a dark variety of pawnee. Stanford suspected he had something new. Back home, he put them under a microscope, and saw that their valvae, or claspers-lateral structures of the male genitalia which enable butterflies to mate and butterfly taxonomists to tell one species from another-were definitely pawnee, but the coloration of the wings was wrong. It wasn’t until 1972, when he went to Pittsburgh and, after pulling out dozens of drawers of skippers from their cabinets at the Carnegie Museum, finally matched his specimens with Hesperia pawnee montana Skinner, that he realized what he had. (The generic name Hesperia was reestablished in 1922 for skippers widely but erroneously classified as Pamphila during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.) There was still a problem, however: Salida, in Colorado’s Chaffee County, is seventy-five miles from South Platte Canyon, where both Scott and Stanford had caught their montana. In the summers that followed, the two men combed Salida and the rest of Chaffee County for the insect, but they couldn’t find a single one. Stanford began to wonder about the labels on the type specimens in Pittsburgh. He conveyed his doubts to F. Martin Brown, a retired prep-school science teacher and the doyen of Rocky Mountain-butterfly collectors, who had sorted out similar discrepancies in the past. David Bruce, who had been identified as the collector, was an English housepainter who lived for many years in New York. There had been problems with his labels before. Brown managed to reconstruct Bruce’s itinerary in the summer of 1883 from his correspondence, and he discovered that during the period when Bruce supposedly collected the montana in Salida he was in fact in a hospital in Red Cloud, Nebraska, recuperating after a fall from a scaffold. Sleuthing further, Brown learned that Bruce had left a butterfly net that August with the children of one William W. G. Smith, in Buffalo Creek, which is in the South Platte Valley, only a dozen miles from Sugar Creek, and that on September 7th the Smith children had mailed him several boxes of butterflies from “the Platte Canyon Valley.” Buffalo Creek today consists of a store and maybe a dozen houses. Its population is perhap$ fifty. If anything, it’s smaller than it was a hundred years ago, when it was a stop on the old Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad and the Smith children were romping around with Bruce’s butterfly net. It’s still a great place to find Pawnee montane skippers. On the basis of Brown’s detective work and their inability to find montana anywhere in Chaffee County, Scott and Stanford decided to change the type locality-the place where the type specimens were collected-from Salida to Buffalo Creek. They also decided, after months spent doing field and laboratory work, and poring over more than a thousand specimens in museums and private collections around the country, and mapping out all the places of capture, that montana was not a subspecies of pawnee but, rather, both were subspecies of another species, leonardus, which ranges to the east. A lot of the taxonomist’s work in every branch of the natural sciences consists of splitting or combining species and subspecies in the light of new information. Here Scott and Stanford were combining pawnee and leonardus; they were, in Stanford’s words, “revising the leonardus complex.” Not until 1981 were their findings published, in the Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera. Apart from the excitement it stirred in the small fraternity of Rocky Mountain-butterfly buffs, their paper, “Geographic Variation and Ecology of Hesperia leonardus (H esperiidae ),” went unnoticed. The Pawnee montane skipper went from being Hesperia pawnee montana to being Hesperia leonardus montana. It still didn’t have a common name, and nobody except a handful of Scott and Stanford’s colleagues had ever heard of it. THE South Platte River, in greatly altered form-diverted for treatment and consumption, returned as treated waste water-flows through Denver on the way to its meeting with the North Platte, in N ebraska, and their eventual merging with the Missouri, below Omaha. From Denver’s beginning, in 1859, as a cluster of cabins and tepees at the South Platte’s confluence with Cherry Creek, the river has provided the city with most of its water, and it still does. The first effort to obtain a stable supply for the city by impounding South Platte water was made in 1905, when the Denver Union Water Company, a private outfit, created Cheesman Reservoir, some twenty miles upriver from the Two Forks dam site. Cheesman Reservoir can hold seventy-nine thousand and sixty-four acre-feet of water. (An acre-foot of water, which is about three hundred and twenty-six thousand gallons, covers an acre of flat ground to a depth of one foot.) The first substantial onstream municipal water-storage facility in the mountain West, Cheesman Reservoir was hailed as the answer to Denver’s water problems for all time. In 1918, the Denver Water Department was chartered as a self-regulating utility to provide water to Denver residents roughly at cost-which is now around forty-four cents a day for the average customer. The department acquired Cheesman Reservoir and also a shallower reservoir fifty miles upstream-the Antero Reservoir, with a capacity of fifteen thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight acre-feet. But by the nineteen-twenties the population of metropolitan Denver had reached three hundred and fifty thousand, and the demand for water had almost caught up with the supply. Drought during the Dust Bowl years of the thirties aggravated the situation, and in 1932 the department put up a third dam on the South Platte, between the two others-the Eleven Mile Canyon Dam, which added ninetyseven thousand seven hundred and seventy-nine acre-feet of storage to the system. These three reservoirs provided enough water for Denver through the end of the Second World War. But by the mid-fifties demand had caught up with supply again, so the department looked across the Continental Divide to the Colorado River drainage. (Western water people speak not of basins or river valleys but of drainages.) Until that time, Denver had been relying mainly on East Slope water-water east of the Divide, caught by the South Platte. The South Platte drainage is huge-just the part above Denver is twenty-seven hundred square miles-but it collects only ten per cent of the state’s water. Seventy per cent of the water flows down the great Colorado. That most Coloradans live east of the Divide and most of the water is west of it is one of the state’s geographical problems. Another problem is that none of the substantial rivers that run through Colorado stay there. According to the Colorado River Compact of 1922, roughly half of the Colorado’s flow must be passed out of Colorado and down to its Lower Basin, where it is piped to cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and, as of a year ago, Phoenix. Colorado is entitled to only fifty-two per cent of the water that remains. (The other Upper Basin states-Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico-share the rest.) Some Coloradans feel that they’re getting the short end of the stick, but twenty-five per cent of the Colorado is still more than all of the South Platte. In the twenties, George Bull, an engineer working for the Denver Water Department who had done some surveying on the West Slope, quietly filed for water rights to two of the Colorado’s tributaries-the Fraser River and Williams Fork. The problem was how to get the water over the Divide and down to Denver. The answer, effected in stages from 1936 to 1959, was this: line with concrete the pilot bore of a railroad tunnel that goes under the Divide (a pilot bore is a tunnel used by tunnel diggers to probe the geology and remove debris from the main tunnel) and run Fraser River water through the pilot bore into South Boulder Creek, on the East Slope; dam South Boulder Creek near Eldorado Springs and shoot the water by a series of tunnels, flumes, siphons, and canals over to Ralston Creek, two streams to the south; dam Ralston Creek and run the water by conduit from there to the city’s Moffat Treatment Plant. More tunnelling, of the Vasquez and August P. Gumlick Tunnels (longtime Water Commissioner Augie Gumlick had done so much for the Denver water system that he got his own tunnel), made it possible to divert Williams Fork water into the Fraser, so that today Moffat Tunnel, as the former pilot bore is known, can deliver a maximum of twenty-five hundred and thirty-nine acre-feet of West Slope water a day to Denver. But the Moffat Tunnel was only the first “transmountain diversion,” as Denver water people describe the process of bringing water under the Divide. George Bull had also filed for water rights to three other Colorado River tributaries-the Blue River, the Snake River, and Ten Mile Creek. All that the department had to do, again, was figure out how to bring the water over. This time, it outdid itself, digging between 1946 and 1962 what the department believes is the longest water tunnel in the world-the Harold D. Roberts Tunnel, twenty-three and three-tenths miles long-and constructing Dillon Reservoir, which can hold two hundred and fifty-four thousand and thirty-six acre-feet of Blue, Snake, and Ten Mile water. The chief value of Dillon Reservoir is as a backup. When there’s a dry year on the East Slope and the other reservoirs are down, water from Dillon is piped under the Divide through Roberts Tunnel into the North Fork of the Platte to make up the deficit. The filling of Dillon Reservoir, in 1963, doubled Denver’s water storage. The department thought that it had the city’s water problems licked-if not for good, at least through the year 2000. But no one foresaw the explosive growth that took place in and around Denver in the decades that followed. New suburbs blossomed in the surrounding plains and foothills, and the old ones spread riotously: Englewood and Littleton to the south; Lakewood and Wheat Ridge to the west; Arvada to the northwest; Thornton, Northglenn, and Westminster to the north; Aurora to the east. Vast unincorporated areas of Arapahoe, Adams, J efferson, and Douglas Counties changed practically overnight from open range into dense subdivisions. It’s the familiar Los Angeles pattern; slowly merging with Fort Collins to the north and Colorado Springs to the south, greater Denver is in the process of becoming a sprawling megalopolis-one vast strip city along the Front Range, the eastern flank of the Rockies. A number of factors have helped make Denver the seventh-fastestgrowing metropolitan region in America. Only Washington has more federal agencies; the defense industry is a particularly big presence. Then, there are numerous defense-related industries, like Martin Marietta, an aerospace outfit, which put Littleton on the map. A lot of microchip and other high-tech companies have started up in Denver. After Interstate 70 was completed through Denver, in the early sixties, Denver became the hubthe marketing and distribution and banking center-of the High Plains and the Rocky Mountain region. People flocked to Denver because there was work and because the mountains, with their year-round recreational possibilities, were so close. But the plains and foothills around Denver are dry-they get only fifteen inches of rain a year-and all these new places needed water. Englewood, having arranged its own supply of transmountain water back in the fifties, was set. (Englewood acquired water rights in the Winter Park area, on the West Slope, and has an exchange arrangement with the Denver Water Department whereby it can draw South Platte water in return for delivering an equal volume of Winter Park water through the Moffat Tunnel.) Aurora cornered a piece of the South Platte action in 1981 by building its own onstream reservoir, the Spinney Mountain Reservoir (capacity fifty-three thousand eight hundred acre-feet). But the other suburbs were mainly dependent on pump water, as ground water is referred to in the West, and the more they pumped the lower the water table got and the more expensive the pump water became. Some wells had contamination problems, too. Trichloroethylene, a common degreasing agent and suspected carcinogen, turned up in the water in Commerce City, a northern suburb. The first source to be identified was the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, just out of town. The Army had to give the Environmental Protection Agency seven million dollars to build carbonfiltration plants for the South Adams County water district, which includes Commerce City. East of Aurora-the fastest-growing part of greater Denver, where new subdivisions are springing up almost by the hour-the pump water is in danger of being tainted by the Lowry landfill, where industrial wastes were dumped for a period of fifteen years. Parents of prospective students at a high school that is being built near the landfill have taken to calling the school Toxic High. Although the Denver Water Department had a number of long-standing suburban contracts, its initial reaction to the rampaging growth outside the city limits was to have nothing to do with it. “Even before Dillon Reservoir came on line, the Board of Water Commissioners, our executive arm, drew a blue line around our hundredand-fifteen-square-mile service area and told everybody that’s it,” Edward Ruetz, the board’s manager of community affairs, recalled not long ago. “But the growth rolled on merrily over the landscape-or, rather, it hopscotched. Anywhere some developer could sink a well big enough, a subdivision popped up. Our blue line didn’t put one dent in the growth of the suburbs, whether we were in a position to help them or not.” In any event, as the new independent suburban water districts began to have problems with their water sources they turned to the Denver Water Department, and gradually the department relented and entered the business of selling water. Today, it has water contracts with almost a hundred suburban agencies. It has total-service contracts with several water districts, under which it assumes complete responsibility for their water needs, at roughly double the insidecity rate. It has a raw-water contract with Arvada, a northern suburb, which takes care of about a hundred thousand people. RELENTLESS growth appears to be in store for greater Denver. According to the best study, there may be two million four hundred thousand people by 2010 and more than three million by 2035. In the late seventies, the Water Department began to worry again about an impending shortage. “The nightmare of every utility is that one day your customers are going to turn their faucets on and nothing will come out,” Ruetz told me. The direst prediction had a “tap gap” developing by 1987. The department had been aware of the potential of the Two Forks site for decades. (Some people call the main stem of the South Platte above the North Fork the South Fork; hence the name Two Forks.) Its predecessors had filed for water-storage rights in that section of the canyon in the late nineteenth century, and the department itself had filed for a right-of-way with the Forest Service, which owns most of the land there, in 1931. As a place to put up a dam, the Two Forks site has a lot going for it. Ruetz describes it enthusiastically as “the best remaining site in Colorado.” The Front Range is riddled with faults, but there are no active ones at Two Forks. A mile and a half below the meeting of the two rivers, the gap between the walls at the bottom of the narrow, Vshaped canyon is only a hundred feet. From a dam builder’s viewpoint, it’s just asking to be plugged with concrete. The geology of the rocks that would hold up the two abutmentsthe anchorage-is absolutely sound. Furthermore, the site is close to Denver, so there would be easy access for the construction force. On top of this, very little of the eleven thousand-plus acres to be flooded is privately owned, and not many people live there. Only a few weekend cabins are perched on the steep walls. In 1942, the Water Department began buying up what private land there was, and it now owns about two-thirds of it, so the dispossession problem is minimal. And, best of all, Two Forks “would give us operational control over our system that we don’t have now,” Robert Taylor, the environmental coordinator in the department’s planning division, told me. “When there’s a good water year on the West Slope, we can’t capitalize on it, because of lack of storage. During 1983 and 1984-years of heavy snowfall on the East SlopeDenver lost about a million acre-feet of spring runoff, because there was nowhere to store it. Two Forks would enable us to collect high flows wherever they occur, including West Slope water released through Roberts Tunnel into the North Fork.” This time, the department wanted something really big-a deep, narrow lake backing up the South Platte twenty-nine miles and the North Fork maybe seven, with a total capacity of eleven hundred thousand acre-feet. But that didn’t mean that all those acre-feet would be available. The storage capacity and the annual safe yield of a water system are two different things. Two Forks would increase the Denver system’s yield by only ninety-eight thousand acre-feet. The 1980 yield was three hundred and seventy-nine thousand acre-feet-uncomfortably close to the total annual metropolitan consumption.of three hundred and fourteen thousand. By 2010, consumption is projected to be around five hundred and ninety-nine thousand, but the yield of the existing system will have increased (because wells for which permits have already been issued will have been sunk, among other things) to only four hundred and fourteen thousand, so there won’t be enough water for Denver even with Two Forks on line. The balance will have to be made up by recycling and conservation. But not everybody was as keen on the dam as the Water Department was. Few words, in fact, are likely to start a fight faster in the West these days than “dam.” The seventies were not only years of sprawling growth around Denver but also the time when the environmental movement was spreading. Its messages hit home with many Coloradans, and strong antigrowth sentiment developed in the state. Some environmentalists felt that the only way to stop the development was to shut off the water. Early in the decade, with greater Denver’s population approaching a million and a half, the Water Department became concerned about its treatment capacity. There was enough raw water for the city but not enough treated water for peak summer demands. On July 6, 1973, the temperature went up to a hundred and three degrees, and five hundred and six million gallons of treated water-an all-time record-was consumed. The combined output of the treatment plants at the time was only four hundred and sixty million gallons a day; fortunately, there was three hundred million gallons more in underground storage. But that was too close for comfort. So the department proposed the construction of a diversion dam on the South Platte at a place called Strontia Springs, a few miles below the Two Forks site. The dam would divert some of the river into a tunnel through the southern wall of the canyon to a treatment plant in the foothills on the other side. A waterbond issue to pay for, among other things, the Strontia Springs-Foothills project was defeated in 1972 but was approved the second time around, a year later; a barrage of lawsuits involving environmental groups, including the Colorado Open Space Council, Trout Unlimited, and the Water Users Alliance, created a terrible legal tangle, however, and froze the project for five years, hanging up the rightsof-way that the department needed from the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, and the dredge-and-fill permit that it needed from the Army Corps of Engineers. Finally, in 1978, Colorado Representative Timothy Wirth brought the disputants together, and in two intensive weekend negotiating sessions in Denver they reached what became known as the Foothills Accord. One stipulation of the accord was that the federal agencies involved would not approve expansion of the Denver water system until a review of the system-a system-wide environmental-impact statement-was made. The Foothills Treatment Plant came on line in June of 1983; it now contributes a hundred and sixty million gallons a day to the system’s treatment capacity, and fifty million gallons of storage. IN 1977, Ray Stanford heard that the Two Forks project was next on the department’s agenda, and he began to worry about the effect that the lake would have on the Pawnee montane skipper. He called an old friend, Paul Opler, in Washington, and filled him in on the situation. He and Opler had caught butterflies together in California in the fifties; now Opler was in charge of listing invertebrate endangered species for the Fish and Wildlife Service. Opler decided that the skipper was a good candidate for the list. The bureaucratic definition of a species is different from the scientific one. According to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, a subspecies can also be considered as a species, so montana qualified. For a species to be “endangered,” it has to be “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant part of its range.” Its habitat can be designated as “critical habitat,” whereupon it becomes illegal for federal agencies to destroy or adversely modify it, or to take any action that would “jeopardize the [species’] continued existence.” The status of an endangered species whose habitat is in private hands is less certain; it is easier to get protection for the habitats of animals, including insects, than for the habitats of plants. A “threatened” species is a step down the ladder: it is in danger of becoming endangered. After a species has been proposed for the list, its name is published in the Federal Register. Then there is a ninety-day “comment period,” during which people can send in written opinions on whether the species is really endangered (the same sort of public review process, also ninety days long, that the Two Forks dam proposal will be going through, probably early next year). The difficulty with montana was that nobody except Scott and Stanford was familiar with its true identity and distribution, for at the time montana was proposed for the endangered list-in July of 1978the two of them hadn’t published their paper. Even the eminent F. Martin Brown confused montana with pawnee; he didn’t realize that there was a smaller, darker form in the mountains, different from the common one on the Plains, which ranges all the way up into Saskatchewan, and he argued that montana wasn’t endangered. Other lepidopterists, who weren’t familiar with the butterfly and so were unqualified to voice an opinion-among them, Stanford recalled, were conservative amateurs who oppose the federal government’s sticking its nose into what specimens they can or can’t collectwrote in against listing it, so the proposal more or less died. Montana wasn’t listed, but it wasn’t removed from the list of proposed endangered species, either. During the comment period, there was considerable correspondence between the Denver Water Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service, which wanted to know if the department knew anything about the butterfly. It didn’t. Bob Taylor was put in touch with Stanford, and Stanford told him that he thought the lake would severely jeopardize the butterfly’s chances of survival. Up to then, every place he had collected montana was below the proposed waterline. Around this time, the insect made its first media appearance, in a weekly column in the Denver Post called “Spotlight on Clubs.” Part of that week’s column was devoted to the local chapter of the Xerces Society, an international organization dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates-primarily butterflies -and it mentioned that a “tiny, unobtrusive butterfly, with a wingspan of less than an inch,” called the “montana skipper” was “causing discussion” among the members, because it was “found almost exclusively in the area of the proposed Two Forks reservoir .” Stanford was misquoted as saying that he thought the butterfly would be “wiped out.” He didn’t feel quite that strongly. During the early eighties, the montana issue was quiescent. Scott and Stanford brought out their paper in 1981, but it wasn’t widely read. Not until 1985 did montana reemerge on the scene. This time, it took center stage. The Water Department had started work on its obligatory system-wide environmental-impact statement, and also on a site-specific impact statement for the Two Forks Dam. It wanted these documents to be legally defensible from every angle-watertight, as it were. If there were questions about the Pawnee montane skipper, it wanted them settled now, before construction started. The last thing it needed was a snaildarter situation on its hands. The snail darter is a small fish-a perch-that delayed the filling of the Tellico Dam, on the Little Tennessee River, and nearly scuttled the project altogether. It became an environmental cause celebre during the seventies. After the Tennessee Valley Authority had the site preparation for the dam well under way, and early stages of construction had begun, the darter, a previously undescribed species, was discovered in the water below. A lawsuit was filed on its behalf. When the suit was filed, the T. V.A. immediately shifted to a twenty-four- hour-a-day construction schedule-a common practice among builders who are being sued, for they know that the more of the structure they can finish the better its chances are of staying up. By the time the darter was described and put on the endangered list, the concrete portion of the dam had been completed, but the Fish and Wildlife Service gave a “jeopardy opinion” on the fish’s behalf; that is, it decided that the fish’s continued existence would be jeopardized if the dam was filled. There matters stood, with dam and darter deadlocked, until the case was referred to the Endangered Species Committee, which had just been created by Congress to resolve irreconcilable differences between construction projects and species for which a jeopardy opinion has been rendered. Some of the highest officials in the land sit on this committee: the Secretaries of Agriculture, the Army, and the Interior, the administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and a representative of each state concerned. Environmentalists nicknamed it the God Committee. Snail darter v. Tellico Dam was its first case, and it ruled in the darter’s favor, saying that the dam would cause the fish’s extinction and that the T .V .A. hadn’t explored all the alternatives. But then Senator Howard Baker, of T ennessee, incensed at the trouble the little fish was making, introduced a bill in Congress exempting the Tellico Dam from all federal law. Congress passed the extraordinary bill, and the dam was filled. The T. V .A. hired frogmen to catch the darters below the dam and transplant them to other rivers. Subsequently, the snail darter was found to be more widely distributed than had previously been supposed. Tiny populations turned up not only in several other rivers in Tennessee but in a couple of adjacent Alabama and Georgia rivers as well-and its status was downgraded to threatened. So in the end the T. V .A. got its dam (even though Boeing had by then backed out of a proposal to build an industrial city near the dam, and one of the main reasons for building the dam had disappeared). But it was a traumatic experience, and one that the Denver Water Department had no desire to repeat. In the spring of 1985, the department hired two biologists-Scott Ellis, who was with an outfit called E.R. T. (for Environmental Research and Technology), and Lewis Keenan, of PEST (Professional Entomological Services Technology)-to do a study of the Pawnee montane skipper. Thirty-five thousand dollars was allocated for the study, and Ellis and Keenan hired a number of assistants, including Ray Stanford. He spent a lot of time in South Platte Canyon that summer. It was the first time he had been paid for what he likes to do best-go out and look for butterflies. By then, the press, sensing a potential snail-darter situation, had picked up on the butterfly. The Denver Post printed a story on April 20th, with a photograph of the insect, that was headlined “DO BUTTERFLIES SWIM? TWO FORKS A COSMIC QUESTION FOR RARE SKIPPERS.” In July, the Rocky Mountain News put a much-larger-than-Iife montana on the cover of its Sunday magazine and captioned it: IN DANGER THE PAWNEE MONTANA SKIPPER IS ITS FUTURE WORTH A DAM? The story inside spoke of an “olive drab speed-demon” that had been “suspended in silk every Colorado summer for a million years, maybe.” It went as far as to quote a famous remark made by the Chinese philosopher Chuang-tzu upon awakening from a strange dream some two thousand years ago: “I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.” The Post story called the insect “the Pawnee montane skipper,” and the Rocky Mountain News “the Pawnee montana, nicknamed montane”-the first crude attempts to give the insect a common name. While Stanford was interviewed in both articles, apparently neither reporter was aware that he and Scott had reclassified pawnee and montana as distinct subspecies. Either “the montane Leonard” or just “the montane skipper” would have been more apt, but “Pawnee montane skipper” it became, joining the ranks of “the American Indian,” “New Jersey the Garden State,” and all the other misnomers that have made their way into the language. I WAS alerted to the flurry that the skipper was causing by a letter from a woman who lived in Boulder, Colorado, and was aware of my interest in butterflies-an inherited one, which has run in my family off and on now for six generations. Catching and mounting butterflies and making watercolors of them had been part of growing up for me, as it had been for my father and his uncle (both did scientific work as adults) and his grandfather, who grew up in the mid-nineteenth century, when a rounded education included a solid dose of natural history. Enclosed with the letter was a recent article in the Denver Post headed “$65,000 OK’D FOR STUDY OF TWO FORKS BUTTERFLY.” What had happened, I learned after making a few calls, was that the 1985 study by Ellis and Keenan had concluded that only about seventeen per cent of the montana population would be inundated-an estimate that Stanford, Scott, Opler (who by then had moved to Colorado and become more involved in the skipper’s future), and James Miller, Fish and Wildlife’s regional listing coordinator, all thought was far too low, Miller raised a number of questions about the methodology of the study. The census had been conducted only in places where the skipper was already known to occur, he complained, and was therefore not representative; the census plots should have been chosen at random. So Fish and Wildlife, which was in a position to declare the reservoir site a critical habitat and to stop the dam in its tracks, recommended that a second study be undertaken. “We insist that the species remain around,” Miller told me over the phone. “When you’re in the West, there are two sides: the people who want it and the people who don’t. If you go out to the canyon and look at the scenery, you’ll see that it’s asinine to put a dam in there. But the water needs of Denver are getting larger by the day.” Though the Water Department was “initially teed off,” Miller recalled, it complied with Fish and Wildlife’s recommendation. Sixty-five thousand dollars was allocated for the new study, and ten thousand more for the assistance of Fish and Wildlife entomologists; Scott Ellis, of E.R. T., was again retained. This was a modest sum to invest in the future of a rare life form, and a tiny fraction of the cost of the whole environmental-impact statement. Early in September, I took a plane to Denver. My plan was to see the butterflies in the morning, get the Water Department’s side of the story in the afternoon, and then discuss the skipper and its prospects over dinner with Stanford, Miller, and Opler. At nine o’clock, Scott Ellis stopped for me in a big blue-and-white Blazer, and we drove over to the Water Department to pick up a biologist in the environmental section named Chip Dale and then headed out to South Platte Canyon. Except for one overnight stay, I hadn’t been to Denver in nearly twenty years. The place was unrecognizable. In the last decade, with the help of Canadian and oil money, a dense stand of tall glass towers had shot up downtown. One of them was shaped like a gigantic cash register. Ellis said that that was the United Bank Center. “We’re living in a growth syndrome,” he explained. Tall, blond, lanky, earnest, Ellis was thirty-seven. He had grown up in western Colorado, in a little town called Hotchkiss, in a family of fruit farmers (apples, plums, peaches). One day when he was eight, a cousin came over with a butterfly net. “I got kind of hooked,” he told me. “I wrote F. Martin Brown, and he gave me a lot of encouragement.” Ellis went away to college-Cornell-and graduated with a degree in English and biology. “I thought I’d become a bio-poet,” he said, “but after spending a year living in a trailer in Fort Collins and getting a good taste of poverty I decided I didn’t want to be some kind of hippie general-purpose ne’er-do-well, because it was so damned miserable.” He got a job with E.R. T., a new environmental-consulting firm based in Concord, Massachusetts, and he’d been with it ever since. “Our main game is air-quality analysis and hazardouswaste management,” he said. He had been doing a lot of plant-ecology and endangered-species work. With his background in butterflies, he was tailor-made for this assignment. Leaving the city limits on a freeway, we passed through the southwestern suburb of Lakewood-a maze of attached two-story or three~story condominiums and apartments and detached, densely clustered single-family houses. The buildings were brandnew and quite handsome, with narrow, slanted natural-finished board siding, portholes under the eaves, stained-glass windows, greenhouses, patios, and other nice touches. Glamorous, nostalgic versions of the local vernacular architecture that they had replaced, they were best described, we decided, as ersatz mine shack-the Rocky Mountain subspecies of modern American tract housing, a Colorado cousin of New Mexico’s ersatz pueblo, Kansas’s ersatz grain elevator, Vermont’s ersatz country store. Even the shopping malls harked back to the clapboard hammer mills where ore was ground, or to the headframes that had perched over shafts in the old mining days. Chip Dale, who was thirty-one, had grown up in suburban Aurora but had been drawn to the backcountry; he liked to hunt and fish and be outdoors. For a master’s degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University, he had spent a year observing a herd of bighorn sheep that have a lambing site where the north abutment of the dam is supposed to go. “Between 1978 and 1980, the herd rose from forty-eight members to seven~-sevenj then it suffered a pneumonia die. off, and it’s now down to around fifteen,” he told me. “Bighorns have a highly integrated social structure and a strong collective awareness. One sheep sees a predator-a cougar or a coyote-and does an alarm display. The others key to it, and they all head for the rocks, where they can outrun it.” Dale explained that he was “scoping out” the field studies necessary for compiling the system-wide impact statement. The impact on the terrestrial wildlife, excluding the bighorn herd, was being assessed by a Boulderbased firm called Stoecker-Keammerer Associates, which was getting two hundred and forty-three thousand dollars for its study. The sheep were going to be a problem. Dale himself was weighing the alternatives: improve the adjacent habitat to entice the sheep off the sitej move them temporarily during constructionjpermanently relocate themj or leave them alone and see how they did. E.R. T., whose total slice of the impact-statement was four hundred and eighty-eight thousand dollars, was looking into the matter of peregrine falcons that had once nested in the canyon. Their aeries were no longer in use, but with the endangered birds making a comeback in recent years they might return to them. E.R. T. was also responsible, with several other consultants, for determining the impact of Two Forks on the critically endangered whooping cranes, on the magnificent but not yet endangered sandhill cranes, on the locally endangered interior least terns, and on the locally threatened piping plovers, all of which visit or nest along the Platte as it flows through Nebraska. How would their delicate existence be affected by changes in the water regime hundreds of miles upstream? Chadwick & Associates, of Littleton, was receiving just over six hundred thousand dollars for the aquatic study. The South Platte is one of the most productive trout streams in the state. And another firm, R. A. Valdez and Associates, was studying the effect that increased dIversion of the Blue, the Snake, the Ten Mile, and other West Slope rivers would have on the endangered bony tail chub, the humpback chub, the Colorado squawfish, and the state-endangered (that is, not federally listed) razorback sucker in the Colorado River. A substantial amount of the ninety-eight thousand acre-feet of water a year that Two Forks would add to Denver’s water supply would be taken from the West Slope, and this might alter the flow of the Colorado enough to disturb the spawning grounds and nurseries of the fish. “As you can see, we’re leaving no stone unturned,” Dale told me. We rose out of the suburbs, and out of the short-to-mid-grass prairie, into grassy tablelands-pawnee countryand then into the foothills of the Front Range. Chaparral-savanna bristling with ribs of tipped-back Jurassic red rock known as hogbacks and flecked with such shrubs and low, stunted trees as mountain mahogany, Rocky Mountain juniper, Gambel oakbegan to take over, with ponderosa pine fringing the hillcrests. The freeway narrowed to a two-lane highway, which led through dense secondgrowth coniferous trees-“dog-hair stands,” Ellis called them. Gray skeletons of Douglas fir-victims of the spruce budworm-were scattered among them. We turned left onto a smaller road, which passed through Pine, an austere cluster of mountain cabins, with a sparkling little creek twisting through it. The creek, I was surprised to learn, was the North Fork, the transporter of much of Denver’s West Slope water. We went on down through even smaller settlements-the famous Buffalo Creek, and Foxton, which will probably be at the edge of the lake and overrun by lakeside enterprises if the dam goes through. Then we made another left, onto a dirt road that dropped into a steep, narrow canyon, with room just for it and the greenish, mineral-tinted pools of the North Fork, plunging among huge orange boulders to our right. After maybe half a mile, Ellis pulled over, and we got out. We were perhaps thirty feet below the projected waterline now. The air was thin and clear and dry, and was scented with the vanilla odor of ponderosa pine mingling with the pungence of fringed sage. Ellis scrambled up a steep slope of coarse orange nuggets of crumbled Pikes Peak granite, too fine and firm to be called scree but not organically developed enough to be called soil. “F. Martin Brown calls it Grape-Nuts,” Ellis said. “It’s real stressful for plants, because it has no water-holding capacity, and whenever it rains the stuff comes right down. Look at this rill.” He was straddling a crevice cut into the slope by runoff. “There must have been a gully washer here last night. The sliding helps keep the slope open. Open is what montana likes-the parts of the canyon that are most like the Plains, especially the south-facing slopes, which get more sun and are drier, so the pines are more widely spaced. The premier habitat of montana is ponderosa-pine parkland, up to seventy-four hundred feet.” Looming high above us were the smooth, rounded orange crags, spattered with green lichen, known as Cathedral Spires. Such a majestic formation must have been sacred to the Indians. I asked who the Indians had been around here. “Cheyenne and Arapahoe may have made seasonal use of the canyon,” Dale said. “They never lived here full time.” The Water Department was lucky that it had no Indian rights to contend with. A large bird of prey, which Ellis and Dale agreed was a goshawk, flew over. All around us, male grasshoppers were crepitating-snapping their wings-in an effort to attract mates. HOSTILE though the slope was for plants, quite a few species had managed to take hold on it. Some were ubiquitous roadside plants, like smooth sumac and velvet-leaved mullein. Others were xerophytes, adapted to the dryness-yucca glauca, Plains prickly pear. “Here’s some blue grama -montana’s food plant,” Ellis said. We knelt before a clump of grass whose spikelets, unlike any grass I’d ever seen, shot off from their stalks at right angles, like a pennant. Equally unusual was the arrangement of kernel-like flowers: they were on only one side of the spikelet-the undersideand it looked like a toothbrush. “Blue grama is one of the dominant grasses of the short-grass prairie,” Ellis said. “It’s also the food plant of pawnee. The feeding ecology of the two subspecies is the same. In fact, the differences between them are purely visual. Montana is a penetration of leonardus that may have been isolated in this canyon sometime after the last Ice Age, and, once here, it began to develop characteristics of its own. Only five miles of hostile habitat, at the bottom of the canyon, separates it from pawnee. Given the opportunity, the two would interbreed. Maybe they do on occasion. Maybe every once in a while, a pawnee blows in here from the foothills.” At that moment, a little orange butterfly-so small and swift and well camouflaged against the orange Grape-Nuts that I wouldn’t have noticed it on my own-landed on another clump of blue grama, several yards away. “A female montana,” Ellis whispered excitedly. He crawled until it was within a foot of his nose. “All right! I think she’s going to oviposit. This has only been seen a few times. Come on, baby.” But the montana flew off, leaving Ellis searching vainly for an egg. “It’s big and bright and pearly white,” he said. “You can’t miss it. The females lay one at a time, maybe fifty to a hundred during their brief lifetime.” He got to his feet and slapped his thigh. “Damn! That’s what’s so frustrating. They sit and fly around all day and nothing happens.” Another female landed on my shoulder. “She likes your shirt,” Ellis explained. “It’s the same color as Liatris.” Liatris punctata, which has several common names-blazing star, prairie gay-feather, dotted gay-feather -is montana’s nectar plant. Not far away, under a ponderosa pine, we found a clump of it. It had half a dozen flower clusters dripping with feathery lavender petals and bristles. The lavender was a little rosier than my shirt. As if on cue, a third female montana landed on one of the clusters, delicately uncurled its proboscis, and tapped the nectar deep within one of the plant’s little trumpets. We were so close we could see velvety green hairs coating its chunky brown body. Still another landed on Dale’s jeans. Suddenly, there were dozens of them, flying all around us. Had they come to check us out, or had they been here all the time and were we just now getting them in focus? Ellis explained what all the montana were doing here: “They are locally abundant wherever both components of their habitat matrix-Liatris and blue grama-come together. But there aren’t many spots like this. Over their entire range, their distribution is patchy.” That August, he and five assistants had counted montana in forty-eight belt transects. A belt transect is a strip four hundred metres long and ten wide. The transects were selected at random, both above and below the proposed waterline. The counters found an average of only one montana per transect, maybe from one to three individuals per acre. I asked how many there were altogether. “That’s a hot controversy,” Ellis said. “Everybody wants a number. Very cautiously-we haven’t really looke at the numbers yet-I’d say anywhere between seventy-five and a hundred and fifty thousand.” And how many of them would be flooded? “We don’t know that yet, either. But a lot more than the seventeen per cent we came up with last year. I’d say maybe even as many as forty per cent.” IT was getting hot. We sat under the pines, and Ellis reviewed the butterfly’s life cycle from the moment, in late August or early September, when the female lays one of her big white eggs on a blade of blue gramaactually glues it on, with some kind of secretion. The egg hatches in a week or so, and a little larva comes out: pale pinkish, nondescript-no horns or tufts, gaudy spots or stripes. Secretive and solitary, the larva feeds on the grass only at night, and when winter comes it burrows down into the base of a clump of the grass and passes into a torpid state called diapause. Around April, it revives, and probably in the last half of July it pupates. It emerges from its cocoon no earlier than July 31st (at least in the laboratory). By August 15th, the emergence of the males is well along. The females really start coming out between August 20th and 25th. By now-September 5th-the females were dominant. The only males still around were occasional “rags”-old, tattered butterflies. Why the sexes emerge at different times is a mystery. It would seem to be maladaptive, since it reduces the opportunities for reproduction, unless it is a mechanism for population control. The adult males spend a good deal of the time patrolling-flying from flower to flower taking nectar and trying to find females. Unlike hummingbirds and bees, they don’t have a fixed route, a sequence of plants that they visit-they don’t “trap-line.” They wander around haphazardly within their rather small home range. Few of them probably go more than several hundred yards from where they are born, although they are such strong fliers that they can go a hundred yards in one burst. “They’re aggressive, pugnacious little butterflies,” Ellis said. “They’ll challenge all comers.” We watched as a male rag sunning on a boulder was dive-bombed by another male, into whose area he had evidently intruded. They rose to a great height in a kind of dogfight. With their robust bodies, skippers have thermal-mass problems. They have to start the day warming up on a rock, vibrat ing their wings, as bumblebees do. “When a male spots a female, he flushes her and tumbles around in the air with her and maybe wafts sexually arousing pheromones in her direction from his stigmas, or wing glands,” Ellis said. “If she’s receptive, she’ll land and remain stationary while he walks around her a couple of times. Then he comes up parallel to her and, bending his abdomen into a U -butterflies have the most awkward sexual practices-latches on to her abdomen with his claspers, and they copulate. If she isn’t receptive-which is usually the case-she flaps her wings briskly or, if she’s into a major rejection, opens them, then flies away. The male gets the point.” We drove on down past a group of cabins. Somebody had built a boat in his back yard which looked like a small ark. I wondered if he knew the plans for the canyon. “He must be waiting for the flood,” I said, to which Ellis replied, “The species diversity is going to be really low when he sets out.” There was an abandoned hotel at the meeting of the North Fork with the main stem of the South P1attea relic of the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad. Otherwise, the canyon there was pristine, gloriously wild, sun-drenched, and filled with butterflies. We stopped to investigate a stand of musk thistle that was a mecca for them: half a dozen montana (musk thistle is one of their next-favorite nectar plants), several Hesperia comma (same genus, but much more common, ranging over Eurasia as well, differentiated from montana ,by well-defined whitish chevrons on the hindwing undersides), a ragged Aphrodite (a large, silver-spangled orange fritillary). We drove up along the South Platte to the little town of Deckers and stopped for lunch at a log-cabin restaurant, slated to be under a hundred and forty feet of water. I felt like a condemned man eating his last burrito. Even if the future of the Pawnee montane skipper weren’t at stake, I thought, the loss of this canyon would be a real shame. THE West has always been a land of lucrative contracts. Th.e big money in the nineteenth century was made by the people who won the contracts to survey and build the railroads and to supply beef and grain to the Army and the reservation Indians. Since 1969, the year of the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the federal government, before it makes any major decision affecting the environment, to evaluate the decision’s consequences, consulting for environmental-impact statements has become a big business in the West, where so much of the land is federally owned. As a genre of writing, the environmental-impact statement is-in a word-deadly. It has a standard form, dictated by the Council on Environmental Quality: Chapter 1 contains the executive summary; Chapter 2 explains the purpose of and need for the project; Chapter 3 lays out the project proposal and its alternatives; in Chapter 4, the existing environment of the site and its flora and fauna, and the environment and flora and fauna of other sites on which the project might have an impact, are identified and described; in Chapter 5, the impacts and the possibilities for minimizing them are assessed; and the rest is boilerplate -who wrote what, and that sort of thing. The study for the Two Forks project-including the system-wide and site-specific impact statements-is thought to be the most extensive and expensive in history, and it is being financed locally. The technical documentation it has generated so far stacks to six feet. By the end of this year, its millions of words and accompanying art will be boiled down to a three-hundred-page draft; the final version will be published by the Corps of Engineers, the “lead federal agency,” a year from now unless it is delayed by negative feedback from the other contributors. Fifty-eight consultants and consulting firms, five principal federal agencies, a group of environmental consultants, and thirty Denver Water Department employees have been working on it. The Corps is getting $1,450,651 for its participation, and is asking for threequarters of a million more. To “coordinate” the statement, Engineering Science, a California outfit, has been retained by the Corps and is being paid $4,602,057, which the Corps feels should be increased by eight hundred and fifty thousand. And fo~r and a half million dollars is being paid to the Water Department for supplies, salaries, and services. Twenty per cent of the document’s cost is being passed on to the Water Department’s existing customers in the form of a three-to five-dollar annual increase in their water bills. The remaining eighty per cent is being billed to forty-four suburban “participants,” who will get most of the additional ninety-eight thousand acre-feet; each one’s share of the water will vary according to its contribution to the costs of developing and operating the dam. That afternoon, the department’s special-projects coordinator, Stephen Work, traced the history of the system-wide statement for me. It was on Halloween of 1982 that work on the statement began. The growth projections and the water-demand-andavailability figures all had to be verified. “Fifty-some alternatives for increasing storage had to be evaluated, and all but three scenarios, each with two long-term nuances, were ruled out for environmental, economic, engineering, or geological reasons,” Work said. “We asked what’s going to happen after Two Forks, and looked fifty years down the road, at what the Corps calls the linkage issuewhether Two Forks would predispose the system to further environmentally undesirable transmountain diversion projects. Our conclusion was that it wouldn’t. The system-wide statement came in at six million nine hundred thousand dollars-very near the estimate of six million seven hundred thousand.” The original estimate for the entire document was nineteen million dollars, but by May of 1984, when work on the site-specific statement started, the new estimate was twenty-five million. By 1985, it had gone up to twenty-seven; by March of 1986, it was thirty-four; today, it was thirty-six and a half. “And I doubt that’s the end of it,” Work went on. “The site-specific statement got into heavy cost. First, there was the pre design effort-the feasibility and geology studies. The size and type of dam had to be selected.” Should it be a gravityconcrete, an earth-fill or rock-fill, or a double-curvature dam? In the end, a six-hundred-and-fifteen-foothigh thin-arched, double-curvature dam was settled on. Double-curvature dams curve both from side to side and from top to bottom-a configuration that gives them double strength. The main engineering contract, worth $8,165,720, was awarded to Harza Engineering, a Chicago firm. Micro Geophysics, of Wheat Ridge, got $1,677,580 for the seismic studies. “And we hired a number of individual geotechnical consultants-geology professors with expertise in areas like dating faults,”