In which Avaaz works out where the Serengeti is

This is a brief follow-up to my post yesterday about the lack of supporting detail to go with Avaaz’s campaign to stop the evictions of Maasai pastoralists from “the Serengeti”. The campaign and bluster response from the Tanzanian government were picked up in a piece in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

The response from the Tanzanian government is 100% correct, quite understandable and yet slightly ludicrous in declaring that there are no evictions planned from Serengeti NP. It is both correct and understandable because while Avaaz may well be accurate in stating that “the Maasai lands in question are commonly understood to be within the Serengeti ecosystem” (as I hypothesised yesterday), it is 100% understandable that anyone who is not a wildlife ecologist will assume that by Serengeti one means the world famous national park. It is also quite reasonable for a Tanzanian government official to alternatively interpret the term to refer the district of that name in northern Tanzania.

So whilst I do not particularly disagree with Avaaz’s Emma Ruby-Sachs when she accuses the Tanzanian government of “playing cynical word games”, I suspect she might find that many people in Tanzania (the most important constituency of all here) would disagree with her. If the Avaaz campaign petition had made clear that they were actually referring to the Loliondo Game Controlled Area that immediately abuts the Serengeti NP then this obfuscatory response would not have been an option. So, in my view, Avaaz have only themselves to blame if this campaign backfires.

As for me, I am wondering whether I should sign the latest Avaaz petition to land in my inbox about an allegedly scandalous plan to build a big polluting coal port right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Once again the web-based petition does not present any supporting facts despite the fact that, apparently, UNESCO are against the idea. The email is a bit better, with a few links, although none give a very clear background to this case (e.g. tell us what damage UNESCO think the port might do). Avaaz clearly espouse some very good causes, but until they can convince me that they have their facts right I am going to have to pass on any future petitions.

Hat Tip: Just Conservation

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