Make parks
not war

Rebecca M. Nyabato

For as long as I can remember, my family and I have depended on our natural resources, our environment, for life and survival. Our economy is based on them, and maintaining them in a healthy and productive manner is the only way we can face the challenges of the next decades. It is an issue of the utmost urgency.

In the last five years, the entire eastern area of my country, a formerly flourishing region, has been plundered and stripped of its natural resources, many unique. We witnessed the brutal destruction of the infrastructure of its parks and much fauna, especially monkeys, elephants and okapis. We have eight natural parks in my country. Five – the Salonga, the Garamba, Virunga, the Kahuzi-Biega and the natural fauna reserve of okapis – have been recognized as World Heritage sites. But these and other natural reserves have been unprotected right from the beginning of the war to this day. What will be left behind for our tourism industry? For our children and our grandchildren?

The head of my eco-organization, Placide Mobomi, says: ‘Our country has undergone a deep crisis. Its recent history has bruised our families in a pitiless way. Endless abuses against the national heritage are ignored and result in permanent depredation. We are tired of wars and conflicts that kill our brothers, our sisters and our natural heritage.’

We must turn to conservation and protection of our natural resources. My friend Vera Okatsa, from Kenya, reports a very different situation in her country (below), and we must practise eco-tourism like they do there.

Nothing is more important for the future of humanity than putting a halt to the destruction of our environment and its resources. National parks do not belong to us. They are a precious treasure that we all must take care of for the good of our children and grandchildren

Rebecca M. Nyabato is a student at the University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.


...Vera Okatsa from Kenya writes:

‘Kenya is renowned as one of the most unforgettable safari destinations, and it’s no wonder. Even having lived here for 20 years, I never cease to be amazed by the wonders of my natural heritage. It’s no surprise that the tourists come flocking to see what God blessed us with.

National parks protect wild animals and plants, many of which are rare and of great interest to science. They also conserve fragile ecosystems. It is in this spirit that Kenya practises eco-tourism. One such initiative is in the Samburu National Reserve, where local communities open up tracts of land to wildlife, with which they have been coexisting for centuries. The revenue raised from the tourism generated is used to finance community development.’

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Töpfer | Biological backbone | Benefits beyond boundaries | Common inheritance | Beauty or beast? | Wonders of the world | Protecting heritage | People | Parks and participation | At a glance: Protected Areas | Profile: Harrison Ford | Scorecard, catalyst, watershed | Coral Reef Fund | Coral jewels | Reef knots | Brief window for biodiversity | Books & products | Conservation amid conflict | News | Green, red or black? | Keeping faith with nature | Make parks not war

Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on WSSD, 2002
Issue on Biological Diversity, 2000
Issue on Culture, Values and the Environment, 1996

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment: